Margaret Thatcher wanted to destroy socialism and promoted individualism at the expense of those who had no means. Her ideology elevated individual greed to the status of a moral good while social solidarity became an intrinsic evil. She more or less succeeded, and prepared the way for Brexit. Subsequent Conservative governments have carried on her legacy.
The stunning result of today’s vote indicates a desire for inclusiveness on the part of a public weary of Conservatives’ fear-mongering and divisiveness, and who have begun to see through the disparity between Conservative rhetoric and the callous reality of their policies which have left Britain poorer, less educated and more divided. This is one reason for the increasing numbers of young people who registered to vote – they want hope instead of hate, ambition instead of isolationism. The tide is beginning to turn.
The Labour party’s manifesto surprised and excited many beyond Labour’s traditional voter pool, and put forward a real bid to address the failures of the last decade’s social and economic model. During his campaign Corbyn was willing to talk about what is moral and immoral – the big questions at a time when corruption and deception, income disparity and inequalities of power are leitmotifs for dissatisfaction with political and financial elites. He has generated a real sense of the possible, not just for the disadvantaged but for everyone.
As no party commands a working majority, it means negotiations will have to take place for effective government. This will inevitably restrain the more hard-line elements of both main parties and could be seen as an advantage rather than the ‘recipe for chaos’ as was touted by May in her desire to be seen as ‘strong and stable’.
If all parties work together, avoiding party-before-country obstructionism, a coalition government should be able to engage both rural and urban populations to mitigate the damage done by years of Conservative rule. Looking forward to a fairer, better society will require a mind shift among the selfish – and this is long overdue.
At the very least, we can hope the NHS will no longer be starved of funds as a tactic to push privatisation of the health services, and that education will be given its due as the most important area in which to invest for future generations.
It is a scenario that looks wobbly, but the majority of European countries have an effective minority or coalition government and so do many other countries worldwide.
The key issue will be ensuring economic stability and jobs – and that means an intelligent, constructive Brexit and retaining access to the single market while reducing the deficit, without the extreme austerity we lived through from the Con-Lib coalition – by growth in green industries and benign technologies.
Although the Conservatives provoked the Brexit vote for purely internal political reasons (an abdication of responsibility to the British public that is reason enough for the party to be considered ideologically bankrupt), as we are faced with the challenge, we can now hope that Brexit negotiations will take place in an atmosphere of compromise and mutual interest rather than aggressive posturing and threats, and that the nonsensical and damaging mantra of ’no deal is better than a bad deal’ will give way to a more civilised attitude. Under this new ‘government’ the importance of retaining membership of the single market and guaranteed security for EU nationals here and UK nationals in the EU must be a priority.
In parallel with leaving the EU, the mandarins who will have to negotiate Brexit will also have to focus on relationships with EFTA and WTO. This will be hugely demanding on the civil service, requiring tact and appointees with impeccable credentials.
Does enough competence exist to do this? The result will raise questions as to who is driving the Brexit exit strategy. Or, with full political irony, will the bite-back be that there is no exit? A bite-back from our youth – whose futures were not considered by the elderly when they voted for Brexit?
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