In a country still reeling from gruesome terrorist attacks, this election is like none other – a culmination of what happens when extreme polarization and isolationist populism collide. The disastrous result is a set of politicians with incoherent, inchoate policies that fall well short of the demands of the national interest.
What was intended as a bid to strengthen the prime minister’s hand is clearly backfiring. With May’s personal ratings rapidly plummeting, she appears to have no further message beyond her ‘toughness,’ and after the botched manifesto launch she seems to have largely given up on the campaign. Honestly, is there anyone who will be happy with Thursday’s outcome?
Labour of course is beaming with pride, having cut the Conservative advantage in half. Enjoy it while it lasts, friends. The once dominant party is a sad facsimile of its past, merely failing upward under Jeremy Corbyn’s unreformed leadership. As one campaign strategist privately told me, he’s never seen a campaign so short on ideas, low on energy, and so disconnected from the public.
It what would typically be an opportunity for the opposition, Labour has even less of a Brexit strategy than May, and a catastrophic economic plan that harkens back to 1970s socialism. As Nick Clegg writes in the Independent, all we hear from May are boasts of strength, while Corbyn just reads out “a shopping list of everything for everyone, where no one is expected to pay for anything.”
Many commentators say that Theresa May has benefitted from the strategic counsel of the highly regarded elections master Lynton Crosby, though ties between his firm and the Tories are less than clear with a significant amount of false stories being planted in the media.
Party leaders are thoroughly unable to articulate a way forward for the country, and even seem unprepared and confused on their own briefs. This was certainly the case during Diane Abbott’s deeply embarrassing appearance on the Andrew Marr show in which she struggled to make very basic statements on her past support for radical groups.
And yet, the implications of this election’s outcome are enormous. As the country attempts to navigate its exceedingly complicated separation from the European Union, many have lost confidence in the competence of the leadership class. If Brexit is mishandled, the potential costs are enormous, setting in motion a chain of events that threaten the integrity of the United Kingdom itself.
These politics of incompetence we are currently seeing in the UK compares with the profound dysfunction in Washington DC, where President Donald Trump’s administration appears unable to make it through a day without committing egregious self-harm.
Though it is often said that a country gets the leaders they deserve, it is difficult to ignore how much benefit from our misfortunate is being enjoying by the Kremlin.
While Russia is known to have interfered in the US election with hacks and leaks, supported Brexit (Nigel Farage is currently a person of interest in the FBI investigation), and sought to weaken Western unity, ultimately they have only been effective because we ourselves have allowed political debate to be become so devalued, uncivilized, and radicalised.
No matter who comes out stronger on Thursday, the future of the country will still be limited by the weakness of her leaders. We can only hope this provides the much needed wake-up call for a new generation to step up and push them aside.