The chance to replace Conservative rule with politics for the many is reshaping society. Millions of people have registered to vote and Labour is surging in the polls.
Even so, masses are still likely to vote Conservative. While the Tory vote includes those making a killing from the current system, the Conservatives also bank on people from broader demographics: generally older, possibly richer, probably less represented in social media and more likely to read the right-wing press. They come from every walk of life and walk among us. You are probably related to some, live near others and see them every day.
So how do we persuade them? This election can be seen as a life or death choice for British society, the people who live here, and the planet. We can also go further: the Tories’ policies contradict their own messaging, creating a mis-match which should turn their own voters against them.
1. Financial incompetence.
The Conservatives set themselves up as the party of stable economics. The reality is quite different, even using their own metrics.
The Tories rolled out austerity in order to lower the national debt. It has not done that. In October 2010, public sector net debt was almost £846bn. By April 2017 it stood at over £1,722bn. Austerity has not only meant a drastic cut to vital services and welfare support, such as disability provision – it has also made the country’s economy far weaker.
Since 2007, real wages when adjusted for inflation have dropped by 10%, putting the UK at par with Greece. By contrast, in most other European countries wages have risen. Coupled with increasing living costs, spiralling housing costs and more zero-hour contracts, it is perhaps unsurprising that even some nurses rely on foodbanks.
Austerity has also caused personal debt to balloon, as more people rely on credit to meet daily needs. Research by the Office for National Statistics shows household debt in April 2017 at £1,825bn, up from £1,584bn in 2010, mainly based on high-interest personal loans. This is only expected to rise if the Conservatives remain in power, creating a situation resembling the circumstances that caused the last financial crash. Little wonder the next global financial crash is spoken of not as a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’.
Austerity is now widely condemned as an unnecessary, socially devastating and counter-productive economic policy, and this is even coming from mainstream economists such as Paul Krugman.
2. Attacking their own base.
The latest Conservative policies attack their traditional base supporters. For instance, until recently the elderly have arguably been less affected by austerity compared with other demographics, although they have been impacted by fuel poverty and cuts to disability benefits and healthcare. The Tories’ un-costed manifesto has come under wide criticism for both the ‘dementia tax’ and cuts to winter fuel allowance. Even The Sun said the moves could “eat the Tory vote”.
Farmers remain a strong contingent for the Conservatives. But they – or anyone concerned about British food production – could yet be tempted away from the Tories. A key issue is the planned UK-US trade deal, organised by Theresa May’s government which will likely lower food standards to US levels and may bring us things like chlorinated chicken. Another crucial lever is May’s ‘hard Brexit’ – leaving the single market could spell disaster for farmers, and other industries that receive EU subsidies.
3. Weak and wobbly.
The Tories’ partial U-turn after the dementia tax is hardly a new tack. Other high-profile U-turns have included support for Brexit, whether to have an election, the national insurance increase in May’s 2017 budget, taking in refugee children, foreign worker quotas – the list continues.
Coupled with her absence from debates and failure to attend public events, May has been effective at undermining her own propaganda of ‘strong and stable’ government. As Sam Kriss recently clarified, Theresa May is an empty shell without vision, direction or human warmth who steadily drops in popularity the more people know about her.
4. Insecurity crises.
In their messaging, the Conservatives like to position themselves as the party of security. The reality suggests otherwise. Police officers have been cut by 20,000 from 2009 to 2016. And the Tories have already tried – and would likely try again – to privatise what is hallowed turf for many of their core voters. The police themselves are another constituency who have traditionally been blue, but could now have personal grievances against the Tories.
The horrific attack on Manchester has revealed further how the Tories create insecurity, not only by cutting emergency services and the NHS. There are serious questions to answer about why British authorities did not act on intelligence about the suicide bomber, and the alleged ‘open door’ policy for British-born militants between Libya and the UK.
On a broader level, it has also been raised how Britain led the intervention in Libya, only to allow it to descend into chaos and crisis. Like Iraq, Isis now thrives there. A further question remains as to why the UK government is supporting countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, even though they are accused of supporting Isis.
5. Breaking up the UK.
For a party whose official name is the Conservative and Unionist party, it is easy to argue no party has done more to tear the UK as we know it apart. Their aggressive and uncompromising approach to the Scottish people is a crucial driver of independence, and when it comes to Ireland, hard Brexit is only making re-unification more likely. Flying in the face of their attacks on Jeremy Corbyn – who has worked to secure peace – the Tories’ Brexit plans could end the 20 years of peace brought about by the Good Friday Agreement.
6. The close alliance with Trump.
A further barrier to peace on a global stage is Donald Trump. Theresa May is not only holding hands with the billionaire; her policies reflect the US president’s. Polls suggest Trump is highly unpopular in the UK. He likely scores higher amongst core Conservatives but even so, his deep unpopularity across all groups ought to persuade Tory voters to become ex-Tory voters.