May’s power grab demeans democracy
Martin Sime argues that the general election is a Tory coup - and draws parallels with the recent controversial referendum in Turkey
It is only because I have taken to walking to work that I heard the whole of the recent interview between the prime minister and Nick Robinson.
At home I would have turned it off after the first gratuitous soundbite because I have recently become quite allergic to politicians and the BBC in almost equal measure. Anyway, I’m glad I listened on.
Over what must have been 20 minutes, the shallowness of the whole snap election enterprise was laid bare, with some surprisingly acute challenges being met with superficial and far from convincing answers.
What became achingly clear is that this was a highly political strategy struggling to translate into anything which might even begin to sound plausible to the public.
Every effort will be made to avoid discussing the state of our country - the poverty and inequality which stalks our streets
A stronger mandate was needed to get the best deal? Electing a bunch of nodding donkeys is not what people think of when they go to the polls.
The public want a hard Brexit, it is only the politicians who are getting in the way? That’s what we pay them to do. Trust me to get the job done. Isn’t that what they all say?
So, Robinson asked, what is it about the 21 point lead in the opinion polls which changed your mind about a snap election? And here the whole truth unravelled in all its simplicity.
An election now would vanquish the opposition, pure and simple and in precisely the same way that Erdogan took advantage of the failed coup to cement his own position.
The Turkish parallels don’t end there. Over the weekend our Foreign Office was urging the president to have some thought for the large minority who didn’t support the new constitution, whereas the large minority who opposed Brexit aren’t getting a look in. The country is united? I don’t think so. It seems unlikely that electing more May supporters will improve our cohesiveness.
I’m not convinced this strategy is going to play well for the UK government. Initial public reactions, beautifully captured by someone called Brenda giving a thumbs down to another election (on the BBC again), suggest that there ought to have been a more substantial reason for such a volte face.
Hiding from TV debates won’t help either though I guess that appearing in them is an even bigger risk.
I read this morning that the PM sees this election as a chance for us Scots to reject independence.
This seems a rather curious ambition from someone who had been intent on denying us an opportunity to do precisely that. We remember that now is not the time - or perhaps it is.
What is blindingly obvious is that every effort will be made to avoid discussing the embarrassing state of our country, the poverty and inequality which stalks our streets, the callous cruelty of benefit cuts, the degradation of our environment and so on. Now we need to add to that formidable list the demeaning of our electoral democracy in pursuit of an even greater stranglehold on power.
Martin Sime is chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.