The past few years in politics have been energetic, gripping, exciting – well, they should have been. Truthfully, it all got very boring very quickly. That’s nothing to do with the events, it’s to do with the handling of them. When previous prominent figures found themselves in unprecedented territory they would, unashamedly, take the opportunity to set the precedent themselves. Today, we don’t see that. It feels as though we are watching the leaders as they wait for someone to hand them a set of instructions. The only thing they are sure of is that they disagree, and they aren’t always about that.
When Theresa May stepped into Downing Street in July 2016, I was quite positive, impressed even. I was very aware of her voting record, I didn’t like it. I knew I wouldn’t like many of the decisions that she would come to make. However, I thought her progression to leader of the Conservative Party was one which showed strong-willed, good leadership. Volunteering to take control of a situation that she didn’t support, hadn’t been planned for, and without any real clue as to how it would pan out was bold. Even Leadsom and Gove dropped out of the leadership race despite campaigning for this Brexit mess. May was the only one with the guts to stick around – or maybe the only one foolish enough to take the job.
May’s first speech as Prime Minister was good. It was a call for unity and demonstrated social awareness at an incredibly divisive time. Unfortunately, this call was not met. A fractured party, divided cabinet, and frustrated electorate quickly followed. The actions of May and her government have perpetuated these feelings; indecisiveness and mixed messages – hardly a comforting image to send to the public. “There is not going to be a general election.” spoiler, there was a general election just months later. A British ‘Bill of Rights’? A forgotten idea. It’s okay though, we were assured that “Brexit means Brexit” and guaranteed a “strong and stable” government. Two phrases I’m hoping we can leave well in the past. Maybe John Rentoul could add them to The Banned List, for the sake of my sanity.
During times of weak government, we can usually rely on the opposition to provide a clear alternative. Unfortunately, we have been given an opposition that seems to be weaker and more divided than the Government. The current Labour Party is characterised by two leadership elections in as many years, incoherent stance on key issues, and a majority of the Parliamentary party not supporting their leader. Jeremy Corbyn rarely manages to ask even mildly challenging questions at Prime Minister’s Questions, failing to make use of chances most opposition leaders could easily capitalise on. However, the Prime Minister also struggles to answer these questions, responding with awkward quips and stuttered jokes. It would seem the pair are well-matched in their ability to make PMQs extremely dull.
One character I’ve come to miss is Angus Robertson. I’m not a fan of the SNP by any means, but Robertson had the ability to ask questions with a rigour Corbyn simply does not possess. It would, in part, make up for Corbyn’s ineffectiveness. I would look forward to his questions at PMQs, excited by the idea that someone was providing real opposition to the Government. Sadly, Robertson’s successor falls more in line with May and Corbyn. Ian Blackford often takes a lacklustre, predictable approach to the task. Sometimes he even asks the right question in completely the wrong way, leaving him and his party to be met with ridicule instead of even the slightest hint of an answer. The whole situation feels quite bleak.
Even if we widen the scope to leaders outside of Westminster I can’t see much more promise. The leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Richard Leonard, lives in a fantasy land. Any proof you need lies in his speech to the Scottish Labour conference, in which he called for radical tax reform and a fundamental shake up of the current economic system. I suppose it’s easy to make unrealistic commitments when you know you’re never going to be in a position powerful enough to deliver them. Still, it was a mildly refreshing break from the SNP’s calls for a second independence referendum. Every week it seems as though Nicola Sturgeon has found another reason for a second vote, although I can’t help feeling her energy could be better focused elsewhere. For example, NHS waiting times have been at a record low in Scotland.
The only leader in politics showing any promise at the moment, in my opinion, is Ruth Davidson. The leader of the Scottish Conservatives could prove to be a great asset to the Tories, a driving force in modernising the party. She understands why people have become disillusioned with the Conservatives, she makes rational arguments, and separates herself from the stale side of the party. As a young, gay woman, she is not your stereotypical Tory. That is why she is so good for them. She’s a break from the past, representing everything the party should aim to be, not what it has been. If the Conservatives choose to embrace this modernity they could be revitalised, drawing in new voters, making them far stronger than their current standing, and a real threat to all other parties.
What I’m saying is nothing new, it’s been the case for a while, many people have spoken about it. There is a lull in British politics with seemingly no end in sight. I would be the first to call for Tony Blair to make a comeback, but I think most people want new faces, new minds, and new ideas. Every party needs to find a way to move forward, why are they so reluctant to do so? I’m not sure, but hopefully they do soon.
If you’re wondering why I’ve neglected to mention the Liberal Democrats, it is because I believe that they remain as irrelevant as ever.