Tory candidates ambitious for the UK’s top job have rapidly descended to bargaining rooted in cruelty.
Despite the upheaval caused by Brexit, a move of self-sabotage politicians and voters alike only now seem to be grasping the ramifications of, the UK remains one of the richest nations on Earth with some of the most appalling social and financial inequality.
Britain in 2022 is riddled by fault lines of food insecurity and poverty, a spiralling housing crisis, obscene energy bill price increases, and seriously concerning staffing shortages in the fundamentally essential fields of teaching and medicine, the bedrock of any functioning society.
Alongside those suffering at the margins, already left languishing by policies of austerity, ordinary workers are feeling the squeeze. It is no exaggeration to say the UK is a country cracking under pressure.
But the Tory popularity contest we are all subject to observing has revealed the priorities of our would-be leaders: not to assume responsibility for the problems wracking modern Britain, but to preserve the cushy conditions of those, like themselves, who are already at the top of the food chain.
How quickly Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak and co have turned to tactics of distraction, waving red flags before targets for vilification. In doing this, they may be attempting to appease the hardest of Tory voters, but their words reveal a lot about the character and calibre of UK political leadership. It is always willing to find a scapegoat.
This week frontrunner Truss said she would simply “ignore” the First Minister of Scotland. This is a staggering denial of the democratic will of the people of Scotland – and while a ‘tough on Jocks’ stance might appeal to her base, it likely to push more Scots, already watching the proceedings with detachment and disdain, towards independence.
I was appalled to hear Sunak promise to “wage a war on woke". Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he said he was opposed to the “recent trends to erase women via the use of clumsy, gender-neutral language”.
Contrary to the barrage of paranoiac fearmongering of recent years, not only is gender inclusive language not ‘erasing’ women – hello, we’re still right here, and surveys show more of us support than oppose gender self identification – but since when has what Sunak calls “clumsy language” been a subject worthy of a prime ministerial campaign?
Putting a stop to bodily autonomy is the project not only of anti-LGBT bigots, who have grown in confidence in recent years, but anti-abortion campaigners who harass patients outside reproductive health clinics and hospitals. We need to stick together to counter US-style right-wing conservatism, and those who scapegoat minorities for the problems of a struggling country mismanaged by the Tories themselves.
What kind of morally bankrupt country is the UK that one serious candidate for leadership boasts of “ignoring” Scottish representation, while the other punches down at a tiny minority to shore up support? The punitive singling out of any minority group is absolutely terrifying – but it is 2022 and we are witnessing it happening in front of our eyes.