The problem with making promises in elections and manifestos is that they have to be kept. The next problem is that so rarely are kept. The next problem is that there is no real recourse for politicians in a General Election for when they don’t keep the promises. By the time anyone gets to find out that the promise won’t be kept it is too late and we’re stuck with it for five years.
This snap general election has moved the goalposts, throwing us into another very quick process with little time to make big decisions. Many have accused the Tories of being somewhat cynical in their presumption that the “cat is in the bag” given their lead in the polls.
But you shouldn’t put cats in bags. It’s cruel.
Especially not when there is a chance the bag might sink, given the rocks that have been thrown in to weight it down. Besides the constant battery the lower end of British public are getting in benefits cuts, NHS failures and threats to their welfare, there is also the issue of the repeated u-turns on immigration policy when it comes to EU workers. Brexit has been a shambolic mix of assurances turning into promises, then such promises being reneged, and so many migrant workers being left unsure what will happen to them.
What is the General Election message going to be?
In truth, no-one knows, and no-one will do until the manifestos begin to appear. Then we have to consider the audience of those manifestos. There was a huge anti-immigration narrative stirred up by the Brexit campaign that has been somewhat gazumped by later revelations that the promises to curb net migration were never going to be met. Which is to say, they were lies – base on the logic that making a promise you know you can’t uphold is basically a lie. So we know the net migration number cannot be slashed in one go, so we can only assume such an unwise promise won’t be made in manifestos again.
Furthermore, the movement of EU workers is even more uncertain, given the fact that our politicians had to finally resign to the truth that it is not just the UK that get to decide that – which was always obvious to anyone who stopped to read genuine information rather than just the populist media. one major issue was about allowing current EU immigration automatic Permanent Residency. But since Brexit we have also seen many professionals who have lived and worked in the UK for years suddenly facing deportation threats and panicking over putting in PR applications, which is clogging up the system. Amongst the confusion, some are rushing British Citizenship applications, worried about where they will stand post-brexit.
The Building Blocks of Brexit
One of the biggest concerns for the UK economy and infrastructure that is expected to feature in the general election is the issue of EU workers and the construction. I wrote about this in February in our blog Brexit Manufacturing Mess, but the context of the construction industry has changed significantly since the snap election was announced. Taking London as an example on its own, there are well over 150,000 non-UK Citizen skilled construction workers who play a key role in the industry. These people don’t have a vote in the election, but the role they play is significant. Without them the housing development projects would collapse. This means that the manifestos cannot and must not take the same divisive approach that Brexit took since the long term damage to our own industry and economy could be devastating.
That creates a campaign catch-22. The anti-immigration parties try to hang a lot on the shortage of housing being caused by having too much immigration. However, if promises are made in the general election to slash away at immigration numbers in Brexit we could end up with a deskilled industry lacking in the people with the ability to build the houses we need. Some experts have been saying this for quite some, only to be hushed by the more far-right, UKIP-style scapegoating of social mobility issues being caused by migration. The irony is that migration might be the solution and not the problem.
So which way will the parties go?