Sunak v Starmer: Networking, debates and rallies in the UK | The election race is on July 4th

from London

Between algorithms, TikTok, Instagram, media interviews and debates, the British keep their traditions alive. Both parties launched their election campaigns on buses transporting their candidates and heavyweights across the UK to promote their proposals face-to-face with voters. This happens in all campaigns and it won't stop happening in this campaign no matter what digital age we live in.

The double-decker vehicles were painted in party colors and carried a brief slogan symbolizing what would happen if they were elected on the Fourth of July. Labor did not have to rack its brains over the stark red logo covering its bus. This is what opposition parties of both the right and left have used successfully around the world: “change.” The Conservatives should have put more minds and “focus groups” into this, and the result was debatable. The Tory bus, painted in classic blue, reads: “Clear Plan. Bold Action. Secure Future” (Clear Plan. Bold Action. Secure Future)

One big difference with the “magic bus tours” that take candidates to the country's key constituencies is that the Labor leader traveled on the day of their launch. Sir Keir StarmerThe party's second member Angela Rayner, economic issues spokeswoman Rachel Reeves and other prominent figures in a clear sign of party unity after 14 years in opposition.

But in the case of the Conservatives, the absence was conspicuous: there was no member of the Cabinet Rishi Sunak, None of the well-known figures in the party. Former Prime Minister David Cameron, a historic name among Conservatives, was on holiday in Italy. Another, Michael Grove, who held almost every position during these 14 years of Conservative governments, had previously announced that he would not stand for election. Nor were the figures running to replace Sunak, who clearly did not want to pin their faces on defeat.

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Lost in the night

Opinion polls during these two weeks of the election campaign did not change the numbers of the past two years one bit. Labor has an advantage of around 20 points over the Conservatives: Starmer's percentage ranges between 42 and 44 percent, and Sunak's between 24 and 28 percent. Analysts and surveyors agree that it is a margin that is practically impossible to reverse in the next four weeks. At best, Sunak will be able to avoid a catastrophic defeat by preventing Labor from winning an overwhelming absolute majority in Parliament.

Britain's strange electoral system is working against the Conservatives this time. In the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister is not elected, but rather the MP who will represent the area in which voters are registered. There are 650 electoral districts: MPs of the party that wins the largest number of seats appoint their leader as prime minister. There is also no proportional representation. Whoever wins the region, even by one vote, takes the seat, leaving the rest empty-handed. It is a system that favors governments with strong majorities in parliament that do not reflect the political diversity of the electorate.. In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher ruled with an absolute majority that ignored the 60% of the population who rejected her neoliberal agenda.

Such a system inevitably affects the campaign. The buses focus on so-called marginal areas, where the difference in votes between party candidates is small. The Conservatives are putting in a lot of effort in areas where they have historically achieved large majorities, but today, with a 21-point drop in the polls, they look fragile against either Labor or the Lib Dems. In house-to-house campaigning by hardliners – a classic of British electoral campaigning – the Conservatives find it difficult to answer the inevitable question: What can they promise after 14 years of rule and declining living standards?

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Current Finance Secretary Jeremy Hunt is one of many facing problems. Under current circumstances, his victory by 8,817 votes four years ago is no guarantee in his traditionally conservative constituency of southwest Surrey. The pessimism is clear. Some 78 Conservatives announced they would retire from politics, forcing the party to choose impromptu candidates willing to face what looks like an inevitable guillotine.

Television debate and democracy

The Prime Minister has little lead left in the House for a return that, under the circumstances, would astonish Britons, pollsters and the world. One of those messages is the two head-to-head TV debates with Starmer. Tuesday was the first. Last week will be the second.

This week's discussion showed the cartoonish side of democracy when the system is limited to voting, and the influence of abstract slogans and increasingly present algorithms. Neither party has yet presented its programBut it is possible to see from their public statements that the differences are few and still exist because the Conservatives do nothing but constantly move to the right while Labor does not move from the centre.

On ITV on Tuesday, the two candidates decided to overplay these minor differences that wouldn't radically change anyone's life. The TV format didn't give them much space either. Sunak and Starmer had 45 seconds (not even a minute!) to answer questions from the audience or moderator Julia Etchingham.

One interesting point was the centrality of public spending and the issue of taxation. The public demanded improvements in the health, education, housing, and transportation sectors, but seemed to back down when the need to raise taxes to fund these improvements was mentioned. Oddly enough, the same standard was not applied to the increase in defense spending.

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Starmer's party has pledged to preserve the Trident nuclear system Which costs the equivalent of about 15 billion dollars annually. For their part, the Conservatives intend to increase defense spending by 2.5%. No one – neither the audience nor the broadcaster – asked them whether these expenses did not mean an increase in taxes.

There was no talk of the huge tax disparity that allows billionaires and multinational corporations to pay much less tax than the rest of Britain. The British companies' rate of 25% is the lowest among the G7 countries. But from this nominal percentage we must subtract the money that escapes through tax havens, and the more than $200 billion they receive from tax breaks. Neither candidate assumed that the funding urgently needed for public services did not necessarily come from raising taxes on the majority, but could be achieved by focusing on that privileged minority who have turned the UK into one of the most unequal countries in the world. developed world.

Sacha Woodward

"Wannabe writer. Lifelong problem solver. Gamer. Incurable web guru. Professional music lover."

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