Mark Cantrell, Author

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Blog: Fear And Loathing As Polls Draw To A Close

Posted by Mark Cantrell on June 8, 2017 at 4:10 PM

Apprehension reigns as we wait to learn our fate

With just under an hour to go until the polling booths close, Mark Cantrell shares some quickfire thoughts on the divergent path presented by the UK’s snap general election…

This is a strange election.

It’s strange for many reasons, but I’m saying this now on account of the nerves. This is the first election, as far as I remember, that I’ve ever had such a sense of apprehension about the outcome.

In part, it’s because I don’t know how to call it. On previous occasions, I’ve had a gut feeling that come the day wasn’t far off the mark, but this time – nothing but the fluttering butterflies of fear. I don’t know how it will pan out.

The word is – still, even after Corbyn playing a remarkable game of catch-up in the polls, and Theresa May’s lacklustre performance – that the Tories will win. But what do polls know, really?

In 2015 we were predicted another hung parliament; we got David Cameron’s slender majority Tory Government. In 2016, we were set to remain in Europe; Brexit slapped us in the face.

Now, Theresa May is predicted to win tomorrow. I just don’t know.

The Conservatives deserve to lose. The party’s election campaign has barely merited the word. Theresa May’s performance has been diabolical, shambolic, absurd.

Philosophically, she might have sought to break from her predecessor’s neat neoliberal liquor, but offered little more than the platitudes the vicar might give to the poor waiting at the rich man’s gate.

As for the policies she presented, u-turns normally come in office, not on the campaign trail, but she has offered no respite from austerity, no end to the grind of falling living standards and rising inequality.

Labour, for all the accusations of harking back to the 1970s, actually offers a solid programme of costed measures; a clean break not only with Labour’s past, but with the failing Tory neoliberal machine too.

Ironic, perhaps, but it feels fresher, forward-looking, progressive and modern. In short, it offers a glimmer of hope that we can crawl out of the abyss of austerity.

Corbyn himself has come across as calm, confident, even statesmanlike; all the more remarkable considering his inexperience of front rank politics, and the hostility he has faced from within his own party, the media and from the Conservatives.

The man may not win, but he’s no Neil Kinnock (or Theresa May, for that matter); certainly, he’s not this unelectable catastrophe we were warned about in the beginning.

The Labour offer – and performance – has been far from perfect but it’s one that in more ‘normal’ times ought to be in with a winning chance. Even so, these are not normal times.

My fear is this: if Theresa May wins by a landslide, then Labour will collapse to a rump and the Tories will be in power for decades. Even if they win with a slender majority, the damage they can do – after seven years of brutalising ‘reforms’ and austerity cuts – will do untold damage to the social and economic fabric of this country.

If Theresa May is Prime Minister this weekend, then we can look forward to the NHS vanishing in all but name. Universal healthcare, free at the point of delivery, will be phased out. Millions of people will be deprived of everything but the most basic, routine healthcare coverage – all else being priced beyond their means. Even that may prove rather optimistic.

Our human rights as citizens, employees, and indeed as human beings will be eroded. Our children will be abandoned to poor quality provision of education. What remains of social housing will be lost; homelessness will rise, inequality will worsen, ad so many of the ‘left behind’ places will be abandoned to rot.

For the rich and the powerful, in tax haven Britain, life will go on – rosy as ever.

All of this won’t happen overnight, but to cut a long-story short, if Theresa May wins I fear we will end up in a real-world version of my novel, Citizen Zero, albeit without the fancy AI technology.

Corbyn offers a different route, and I’m not just saying that for partisan reasons.

All told, I’d have to say this is the most critical election of my adult life. It’s not just about deciding the country’s future direction – it’s about deciding whether we mere ordinary mortals have any kind of future at all.

So, you’ll excuse me if I indulge my apprehensions, crawl into a corner, make like The Scream… and hope.

Mark Cantrell,


8 June 2017


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