Yvonne Ridley: Blair, Brexit, bluff and media bluster over #GE17


CommonSpace columnist Yvonne Ridley says there are two big questions filling her mind in the aftermath of the General Election announcement

THE clatter of chatter on the social networks has been almost deafening since Theresa May made her dramatic snap General Election announcement on the steps of Downing Street.

Of course, every party has shouted “bring it on” and the clashes so far have been without mercy and unrelenting from some quarters, spurred on no doubt by such lurid headlines as the Daily Mail’s ‘CRUSH THE SABOTEURS’ front page attack on those who voted to Remain within the European Union.

But there are two questions the media (TV in particular) have avoided during the rough and tumble of the last manic 24 hours.

Read more of our #GE17 coverage – Ben Wray: Here’s what Scotland needs to do in #GE17 to beat the Tories and get closer to indy

The first question is why Theresa May is calling another General Election when detectives are still investigating around 30 allegations of fraud in Tory seats during the last General Election.

It’s a perfectly valid question since some Tory MPs and officials could be charged with electoral fraud just days before the election called for 8 June. Accused of breaching spending limits in the 2015 election, the Tories have been accused of sending teams of activists into key constituencies and charging their expenses to the national campaign rather than constituency spend, which has a smaller budget.

A decision on whether to bring charges on up to 24 MPs just days before the 8 June General Election will be announced, and it could have disastrous consequences. However the fraud allegations, as serious as they are, are being completely ignored by TV and radio journalists – with the exception of Channel 4 News, which broke the story. 

Most of the mainstream print media have also given the issue a wide berth. Why? Is it a case of professional jealousy because Channel 4 News took the lead on what is a growing political scandal?

The second question – I’ve never had a straight answer from anyone in Labour about it – is this: Why is Tony Blair still a member of the party when it could be argued that he brought it into disrepute over Iraq? Surely the damning verdict of Chilcot should have prompted an investigation at the very least. And now, it seems, he may be lending his support to the Lib Dems!

Read more – Nicola Sturgeon confirms SNP would back ‘progressive alliance’ to oust Tories from power

The former prime minister reckons voters should pick candidates from whichever party is prepared to hold Theresa May’s government to account over Brexit. According to the London-based Independent, he said that “unique circumstances demand a unique response” which “should cross party lines”, with many speculating he will campaign alongside the Liberal Democrats ahead of the vote. 

And according to a report in the London-based Telegraph, there is a strong suggestion Blair “could” join forces with Lib Dem leader Tim Farron to campaign against Brexit during the election campaign. Farron has already positioned his party as “your chance to change the direction of your country … if you want to avoid a disastrous hard Brexit”.

A statement released by Blair on Tuesday said: “There has to be a way of ensuring that voters can put candidates for parliament under sustained pressure to say whether they would vote against a deal which does not deliver the same benefits as we enjoy with the single market or against no deal if that transpires to be as damaging as many fear; and that they are prepared to hold the government properly to account in the interests of the country.

“The political situation the country faces is unprecedented and dangerous. We risk a parliament which is lop-sided in its make-up; which has a big Tory majority — in part delivered not because of the intrinsic merits of Brexit or the Tories themselves but because of the state of Labour; where they will claim a mandate to take us wherever they will; when we desperately need representatives who will at least keep an open mind.

“This requires the electorate in every constituency to know where the candidates stand; and the mobilisation of the thousands in each constituency to make it clear that for them this issue counts when it comes to their vote.”

Read more – Fiona Robertson: Voting Tory in #GE17 is a vote to kill people like me, and you need to know why

Surely it is a valid question to ask: Why is Blair still in the Labour party? With friends and members like him, who needs enemies? At the very time when parties need to come together and unite, it appears he’s telling voters to choose the Lib Dems.

Thankfully with only one Labour, one Lib Dem and one Tory MP from Scotland sitting in Westminster these are issues that need not concern us too much north of the border. The mainstream media, along with successive Tory governments in Westminster, have never served us well.

Our focus needs to be on achieving independence and the best way we can achieve that is a landslide victory for the SNP in the local council elections and a sweep of the board on 8 June for the SNP candidates. Both can be achieved and both will give Scotland the mandate to cut free from Westminster and all that is rotten there.

Picture courtesy of Brookings Institution

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