For the fourth time in three years, Britain is once again at a moment of reckoning. Since 2014, powerful forces have threatened to pull us apart. Bonds of trust and respect have been damaged by a series of votes that have divided us from each other and the rest of the world. Next week, the British people have a chance to change that: to begin unwinding a political project of isolationist policies that with Brexit has seeded a fear of the future; to dispense with an economy where chief executives’ pay races ahead while the poorer half of the population sees income fall; to jettison the Victorian idea that moral courage and enterprise could replace the state in securing people’s freedom from want, ignorance and disease. The opportunity to reverse direction is the outcome of a series of votes that have shaken post-crash Britain. These started with SNP dominance in the wake of the Scottish independence referendum. The vote last year on Britain’s membership of the European Union has also shrunk, for very different reasons, Ukip and the Liberal Democrats. The result is that, in England and Wales, we have the return of two-party politics and a straight choice between a Labour or a Conservative government.
An unnecessary election
These votes have shown an undoubted, if perhaps inchoate, wish for a different, fairer, better and more decent Britain – one that is less divided and more socially just; one that is more hopeful and less fearful. People are worn down by an economy that depends on stagnating pay to shore up employment and a hollowing out of civic life.
The Conservatives do not deserve our vote. Their claim that they will use the power of the state to help people and promise to raise the living wage, build affordable housing and deal with spiralling energy prices is a welcome development but one not matched by their policies. Their uncosted manifesto is a diversion from the consistently callous and negligent record in office.