Ayesha Hazarika: Like Thatcher, May has chance to shape nation for a generation

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May  goes to the polls in an early general election on  8 June 8. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May goes to the polls in an early general election on 8 June 8. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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The verdict on 8 June will have profound consequences on our daily lives, warns Ayesha Hazarika.

Imagine you’re busy preparing for a stand-up tour all about politics and you think you’ve just about locked it down.

Imagine the Prime Minister calls a snap general election and you have about six hours to rewrite your show. That. 
I know there is plenty of grievance against the Prime Minister but will no-one think of the poor comedians on their opening night.

My show is called State of the Nation and it’s all about politics, power and how we lost the plot, so it was perhaps fitting that a snap general election was called out of the blue just to add to the recent mayhem.

The first thing to say about the whole thing was the element of surprise.

It is very difficult to keep big fat juicy secrets in politics and the fact that everyone’s jaw hit the floor including the Cabinet and Theresa May’s director of communications (who promptly resigned) shows how small her circle is and just how controlled the operation is.

May means business and one is reminded of the Spitting Image sketch where Margaret Thatcher is treating her Cabinet to lunch, orders the steak and when the waiter asks, “What about the vegetables?” she surveys the room and replies imperiously: “They’ll have the same.”

This election could deliver May the opportunity to shape the nation for a generation just like Thatcher, and it could not be more important.

May says the general election was called because those pesky parliamentarians were trying to block and sabotage her plans for Brexit even though as Yvette Cooper deftly pointed out at the last PMQs, the Article 50 Bill had been passed.

By the way, it is the duty of parliament to scrutinise, contest and impede if bad ideas are being inflicted on the country.

It’s called democracy.

May is being disingenuous with the public.

What was it about the 20-point lead over the Labour party that made you think about calling a snap general election?

Hmmmm. You could argue it’s shrewd politics to ambush your opponents when they are weak, divided and all over the place on Brexit, and dithering over calling an election cost Gordon Brown dearly back in 2007.

But at least have the guts to be honest about it.

May wants to bury the Labour Party and land as big a majority as possible. She wants power for herself and not for a clear purpose as such. Even Thatcher was not that audacious.

Brexit will pervade this election despite what the politicians of all parties are telling us but we need to be cautious to not let it become the defining issue.

It would be easy for the next six weeks to become a re-run of the EU referendum and I think that would be a mistake. Of course, it will feature high on the agenda and we will see the Lib Dems tour the Remain area hustling hard; Gina Miller is pleading with people to vote tactically on Brexit and yesterday Labour was frantically trying to reposition themselves as more anti-Brexit to curry favour with the 48 per cent.

But remember that much of why people voted to leave the EU was because of a deep discontent over how domestic politics was affecting their lives and communities.

Many people who voted for Brexit weren’t really that into the minutiae of what was going on in the corridors of Brussels or the specifics of the Customs Union, but they used the vote to express their frustration about what was going on around them – not being able to secure decent work; their kids not being able to afford a home; schools getting hammered; not being able to see a GP; living standards being squeezed and anxieties over immigration.

These things matter. These are the fabric of our lives and communities.

And are we going to give the sitting governments in Westminster and Holyrood a pass on holding them to account on their record and their plans for the future?

Because that will happen if we just allow Brexit and indyref2 to dominate the airwaves.

It troubles me deeply that Michael Fallon was out on the airwaves on Tuesday saying the Conservatives didn’t want to outline too many “restrictive manifesto commitments.” Excuse me. Surely that is the whole point of an election? You put forward your ideas and promises so the country can choose in good faith and if you win, you are meant to honour them.

Now I know this probably sounds pitifully naïve and Pollyanna like, but in these times of spin, lies on buses and fake news, the basic principles of our democracy have never been so important and we should at least try to uphold them.

So of course Brexit, indyref2 and indeed other big international trade issues will be important themes, but do not forget the importance of the local as well as the global.

Domestic bread and butter issues matter especially when we have a PM who has been somewhat loose with the truth. She categorically ruled out calling an early general election on several occasions.

In the last few days she has been hazy on tax increases which means there’s a high chance of VAT increases which will affect families already squeezed.

The verdict on 8 June will have profound consequences on things that really affect our everyday lives. We must go into the voting booth with our eyes wide open.