I don’t think I’m bothered about the ‘U-turn’ comments as I think the reasons for this so-called snap poll are valid. The referendum on EU membership last year was a defining moment in UK (and European) history. It led to Theresa May forming a reshaped Government and taking on the challenge of delivering on the electorate’s wishes. Her ability to navigate a process with a time limit placed upon it was always trying, but more so when faced with the prospect of preparing for an election in 2020 a few months after the Article 50 process should be completed. She wants to have an approach to this task that provides for the best possible outcome for the UK, and she does not want a weaker negotiating position with the EU; she should be commended for that.
So we have an election to as she puts it to ‘provide her with the mandate’ she needs. While this election may be ‘all about Brexit’ I think it is important too that the electorate should also get some clarity on what a May-led Government of the future will mean for other areas of society, especially for the wealth generators in the economy.
We already know that those ‘just about managing’ in society are in her thoughts, and that she wants a society and economy that ‘works for everyone’. So we need definition about what this means as some in society – business for example – might also be just about managing. If you are self-employed you might think you’ve had a reprieve with the tax changes at the Budget being reversed, but we don’t know enough about future tax reforms that seek to bring a better equilibrium (if that can ever be achieved) among taxpayers. We have had potential action indicated on corporate governance and executive pay without understanding what this seeks to really do in terms of behavior change. And if the media are to be believed we have a feeling in Downing Street that there are enough foreign owners of UK businesses which to some is sensible management of key assets but to others is a beginning of an isolationist agenda.
So this election should afford us some answers to questions around Brexit and what kind of UK May believes she wants to forge. So in education, health, social reform, trade, international aid, and relationships with Europe and the world’s key superpowers we need to understand what a future Brexit Britain under May would look like. We need real insight on these and not just manifesto-inspired rhetoric.
Pollsters and others will predict what happens in this election and the prospects for success for any of the political parties, so I’ll pass on that for the moment. The British electorate may deliver another surprising result, but a prospect for a landslide win, while agreeable to some, may not be so good for the democratic process. Good governments are kept honest by a good opposition; let’s hope this election delivers both.
This article is part of our Spring 2017 newsletter.