As I start to reflect on the week that has passed, I can’t help feeling more despair than optimism. Not only was this the week that Donald Trump outdid himself by withdrawing the USA from the Paris agreement, Saturday night brought yet another senseless terrorist attack in London. All of this on the back of even more lies and personal attacks that have become the hallmark of the current General Election campaign.
I must admit that as far as the election is concerned, I have become increasingly impressed by Jeremy Corbyn. Despite everything he has faced since becoming the Labour leader, he remains calm and collected and true to his values. It is obvious he has also learned the need to compromise and the importance of gaining trust and a consensus. Yes, there are till those in the Labour Party who do not agree with him, and many I suspect who oppose him, but to me his leadership style is refreshingly open and honest. Whether or not he would make a good Prime Minister I couldn’t say, but his style and policies may just be what we need to bring us back from the brink. After all, the alternative is Theresa May who has proved herself to be uncaring, shifty and blinkered to the needs of the country.
Throughout the campaign so far, Theresa May and her team have been continually put onto the back foot, struggling to defend policies aimed at dismantling the welfare system and removing almost all protection the less affluent and those less able to defend themselves. The “Dementia Tax” debacle was probably one of the most damaging policy changes of any outgoing government. And to claim they have not been forced to make a U-turn on the proposal is nothing more than lies.
But lies are at the heart of this campaign. Personal attacks on Corbyn and blatant lies about Labour’s policies have formed the thrust of the Tory election campaign. It is easier to twist the words of your opponents to make out they are saying something they are not than to come up with anything original of your own.
And the constant harping on about a strong Brexit is just a smoke screen. When negotiating Britain’s departure from the EU, what we want is a team prepared to negotiate and if necessary make some compromises to get the best deal we can. Anyone who believes that by shouting, throwing tantrums and making unrealistic demands we can get the best deal for the UK is living in cloud cuckoo land! As we negotiate to leave the European club, the remaining members have no interest in making it easy, and everything to gain from making the divorce painful and costly. If we were on the other side with, say, France wanting out, who are we kidding if we think our government would try to make it easy? On the contrary, we would be doing everything we could to ensure that they retain none of the rights of membership without paying a hefty price. So, who can blame the French, Germans and the rest of the community doing the same.
May’s autocratic approach is very similar to Donald Trump’s, but without the added paranoia. This week saw Mr Trump follow through on another of his election pledges, to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change. He has consistently maintained that he believes the climate change issue to be a fake, a hoax conjured up by the Chines. He sees it as an attack on the American economy. It’s as if he honestly believes that the rest of the word have conspired against them, as if the whole agreement is targeted at damaging American businesses and interests. But what is most frightening is just how many people in the US agree with him!
Having said that, I suppose we shouldn’t really be surprised. Whilst America has for several generations been at the heart of technological and social change, it is also one of the most conservative nations in the world one of the last to abandon slavery and recognise equal rights. It is also the country where they still ban the teaching of evolution, because it goes against the teachings of the bible!
But bad as all of this is, Saturday night’s terror attack in London reminds us that we face more problems than the strictly political. Another seven innocent deaths at the hands of extremist cowards reminds us of the fragile state of the world as a whole. The UK is far from unique in having to face an increase in acts of terror. This weeks has also seen the bombing of a funeral in Kabul and the massacre of innocent men, women and children in Mosul. The need for a strong and united front to face these growing threats to our freedom and liberty has never been more apparent, but selfish and arrogant leadership of the likes of Donald Trump actually make it more difficult.
Knee jerk reactions and calls for radical action against immigrants make good headlines, but are poor policies. Whilst we must do all we can to prevent such atrocities happening again in our streets, we must not resort to the kind of draconian measures and illiberal policies that many seem to be advocating. It is easy to point the figure and find a scapegoat for the ills of the world.
But there signs of hope with the election of Emmanuel Macron as French President and Leo Varadkar as the new leader of Ireland’s Fine Gael party. Both elections fly in the face of the more extreme and conservative views being expressed in some quarters. I for one would hope that when it comes to deciding this country’s future at the polls this week, we don’t turn our back on the opportunity to turn away from the current right-wing path and instead take the more socially responsible and considered approach being put forward by Jeremy Corbyn. In an ideal world, I would prefer to see a LibDem government or coalition but I am not naive enough to consider this to be a possibility in the current climate. But never say never…