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Thursday 5 December 2019

GENERAL ELECTION 2019

Our election diary: Week 5

Each week, several brave Tortoise members from across the UK have been sharing their thoughts on the election campaign

Five weeks into the gruelling winter election campaign few people wanted, our members across the country reflect how it’s all going. They assess the standout policies, and gives their verdicts on who has (so far) won the game of the televised debates.

Lydia, Belfast

After five weeks of non-existent campaigning, Lydia is in despair.

“I’m worried for the future of Northern Ireland in this election and neither local parties, Labour or Conservatives, can allay those concerns. They have no idea how to manage it, yet it will be priority number one on December 13th. The relative peace we’ve had is very fragile and it is under threat now in a way it hasn’t been within my life time.

Our health workers are striking this week, thousands of outpatient appointments cancelled and there is barely a local politician commenting on the issue. What does it boil down to? Stormont collapse. That is what we care about because we have little power to influence the national election. NI is grinding to a halt without Stormont and people are angry about it.

It is just so strikingly quiet. The main political news last week was that John Finucane, Lord Mayor for Belfast and current North Belfast candidate who could unseat Nigel Dodds, was caught urinating in the street last summer. That’s the best we’ve got in terms of political journalism, probing and accountability.”

Joel, Bristol

Following the London Bridge attacks, Joel calls for the depoliticisation of the justice system.

“How is it that after eight years of incarceration and de-radicalisation programmes, Usman Khan still felt the need to commit his crime? Google tells me it cost a little short of £500,000 to keep him inside for 8 years. Is that really money well spent when he came out and did what he did? We need to be investing in prisoners – in rehabilitation and (re)education so they can hope for a future as a contributory member of society.

The Justice system is one of a number of government departments that should be de-politicised, so we can plan for long-term reform not just the length of a parliament. Select committees seem to do a good job. Could some ministerial departments run along these lines?”

Your pick of the policies

Janet, in Edinburgh, goes for free broadband for all

“There’s a heartbreaking storyline in I, Daniel Blake, where he’s told to claim Universal Credit online, but has no means to do so. Internet access is becoming a basic need, an enabler. But, as with many universal benefits, the main beneficiaries would be people who do and can afford to pay for it already. Water is a basic need, but that’s not free.”

Mwenya, in London, chooses the Liberal Democrat ‘wellbeing budget’

“The policy that stands out above all others is the Lib Dem’s wellbeing budget. This is as ‘touchy feely’ a policy position as I can recall. To be impactful, the findings that emerge should drive better management of mental health and social challenges, ultimately taking some of the strain away from the health and social care system and improving national productivity.”

And Paul, in London, gives a golden rosette for worst policy to …

“Jo Swinson, and her ludicrous Revoke A50 plan. This has ensured that the Lib Dems have no appeal beyond the provisional wing of the Remain campaign, and has neatly funnelled moderate Remainers towards Labour. A masterstroke of principles over common sense. She’s had a dreadful election, and I’ve got a quid on her to lose her seat to the SNP.”

Who won the debates?

Nicola Sturgeon, says Janet (from Edinburgh)

“She’s at the top of her game; a confident and articulate, conviction politician. She’s been a member of the SNP since she was 16, before it was fashionable and clearly believes in her cause. The contrast with Boris Johnson, an opportunist and a liar, couldn’t be more stark. She was right to assert that the recent spike in drug deaths in Scotland is a legacy of hard drug use in the 80s and 90s, but she listened sympathetically to an audience member who had more recent experience and asked to see her afterwards. Good PR? Maybe, but impressive nevertheless. She might live in Bute House, but she hasn’t lost touch with her roots.”

Certainly not Boris, says Martha (in London)

“Far from his supposed Churchillian spirit, Johnson has shown a cowardly streak in failing to make himself publicly accountable. For my generation especially, his failure to turn up to the climate change debate feels particularly damaging. Most of us are aware by now that we’re running out of time in terms of the planet. He’s revealed how low this pressing matter is on his list of priorities. The melting ice statue was a poignant reminder of the ticking clock.”

Boris in absentia, says Paul (in London)

“Well-executed one-on-one interviews are more effective scrutiny than messy multi-participant debates. Andrew Neil’s dissections of Corbyn and Sturgeon were a sadistic art form and it’s no wonder that Boris is less than keen to expose himself to similar surgical precision. As a contrast, the PM was able to breeze through Andrew Marr on Sunday morning. Perhaps the overnight sonic boom had affected Marr’s preparation?”

The media, sighs Mike (in Tyne and Wear)

“As ever, the media is always pretty obsessed by the media, so the no-show by Boris on the climate change programme and the Andrew Neil in-depth interview has been taken up as much space as the actual issues.”

The ongoing mystery of the missing flyers…

Lydia in Belfast is yet to receive anything through the door.

“I signed up to volunteer to help with campaigning right after the election was announced. Since then, I haven’t even been contacted by the party. I haven’t seen any canvassing from any party anywhere. I haven’t even had a flyer through my door and I live on one of Belfast’s main roads. Is it the same in England?”

Mike in Tyne and Wear fears his weren’t worth the wait.

A couple of candidates’ leaflets have finally made it to the doormat. No sign or mention of Mr Corbyn on the Labour one and the Lib Dem one is the usual fare of percentage votes and ‘only we can win here’ stuff. All a bit uninspiring.”

Room for optimism?

With just a week to go, Mwenya in London dares to feel a tiny bit of hope.

“This campaign has exceeded my low expectations. While I don’t believe any party is proposing a platform that really meets our 21st century needs for the economy, climate, technology, justice and education, the political battleground has at least started to move beyond the miserable stalemate of Brexit and offers a glimmer of hope. All major parties have at least begun discussing the nation’s challenges more holistically and we need to build on this momentum. The campaign signals a tentative baby step in the right direction.”