The Sinister Reason Why This General Election Is So Boring

Bored of the Brexit election? Here's why you can't afford to tune out.

The Sinister Reason Why This General Election Is So Boring?

by Vicky Spratt |
Published on

Is this the weirdest election ever? Yes. If you’re an unpatriotic pro-European member of the liberal elite then this is also, probably, the worst election ever in your opinion. It’s also, arguably, one of the most it important and, somehow, the most boring.

Despite the gravity of the situation and the vertigo-inducing high stakes, how is it possible that this election is boring? Theresa May eating chips, I’d rather look at old Ed Miliband memes. Jeremy Corbyn getting angry on Sunday morning TV, yawn. Nick Clegg gave a speech, over it. Apparently, Tony Blair is making a comeback, sure. The Prime Minister is shamelessly spinning a fall out she had in Brussels and the Daily Mail are running with her conspiratorial version of events, try harder to excite me.

It’s possible that election fatigue is part of the problem. We have had a major election dominate British news every single summer since 2014: the Scottish referendum, the General Election in 2015, the EU referendum and now, this – the ‘Brexit means Brexit’ General Election. We are all Brenda from Bristol, and she is every woman shouting ‘not again’ at our smartphones and TV screens. If you haven’t reached saturation point, we salute you.

Could there be another, more sinister reason, why it all feels so desperately lacklustre? There something about the unenthused leaders and the repetitive messaging that smacks of design rather than happy accident. Last year we had a referendum which was, in at its core, fought like an election. This year we are going through a general election which is being treated like a referendum. A referendum on what? On Theresa May and Brexit. When David Cameron set off on the referendum trail he was treating the entire affair like a mere formality, the conclusion of the thing already foregone - of course, the country would vote to remain, chums. What unfolded slowly but surely throughout the campaign was a dogged battle between several groups and two ideologies. When it came to the vote on that thunderous and muggy day in late June, it became clear that people had resented the implication that they would play ball, stay safe and do what Cameron wanted them to but voting IN. As the votes were counted and night gave way to an incongruously warm and sunny results day, it was clear that everything had changed.

Theresa May is aping Cameron’s strategy to a certain extent. Her carefully curated campaign is presenting her nascent victory as a foregone conclusion, casting it as inevitable. This is the election strategy equivalent of ‘fake it ‘till you make it’, she and her team are practising some serious positive visualisation and projection right now. This feeds into May’s ‘safe pair of hands’ persona which is ratified by her ‘strong and stable’. It also taps into a wider sense, held by many, that their votes don't count so there's no point in voting. Last week in West Yorkshire, five people in a row told me that they didn't vote because 'there is no point' and genuinely believed that regardless of what they did in the polling booth 'the decision is already made.' Far from encouraging people to engage, May's strategy is to confirm that she's got it all in hand and mere mortals needn't worry.

More than this, the Prime Minister has also been very selective, so far, about the sort of interviews she gives and who she gives them to. In doing so, the margin for error is tightened but the likelihood of anything interesting happening is also diminished (see the most boring eating of chips in the history of eating chips).

On the other side, we have Jeremy Corbyn reportedly keeping newspaper journalists he doesn’t like away from his campaign and continuing to play the role we’ve come to expect from him. When it comes to the Labour leader, there are no plot twists. Corbyn is the very unrevolutionary revolutionary, he talks a good game but never actually delivers the insurrection which is his raison d’etre. There’s a chain of revolution in which May takes on the bureaucratic man in Brussels while Corbyn throws blunt arrows at the Tory establishment which never quite stick because he is also the establishment. It’s more of the same and we all look on, too jaded to be irked by what we see and hear.

Here’s the thing, apathy and boredom are toxic. They dull, nullify and lull us into a false sense of security. Theresa May repeats the same phrases over and over again, Corbyn doesn’t do much at all and the Lib Dems do their best, giving us the sense we’ve seen it all before but we haven’t. The subject of this election is epoch-making stuff and the outcome will decide the future of our country for decades to come and Theresa May wanting you to believe that her win is inevitable doesn’t make it so, you not engaging and switching off makes it so. The banality is, in and of itself, a diversion tactic.

General elections are, like American presidential races, a great illusion. They’re designed to distract people from the boring details which political nerds and journalists salivate over outside of election season. Elections are about simple messages which distil complicated issues down into their purest and most digestible form, they are not about the complicated minutiae of trade, tax and social policy which is the daily grist of our democracy’s political mill. See the Daily Mail’s wholesale printing of Theresa May’s claim that faceless Brussels bureaucrats are ‘plotting’ to interfere in our election when, in fact, reports suggest she’s retaliating to a leak about a dinner she had with European commission President Jean Claude-Juncker going rather badly, not because the food was crap but because the two are at loggerheads after he warned that Brexit ‘cannot be a success’. The headlines only tell part of the story and it feeds into May’s ‘difficult woman’ narrative, nobody cares about the details.[


This election is no different to any other in that respect, and because neither the Prime Minister of the leader of the Opposition will say or do anything interesting in an attempt to be cool and relatable (which Clegg, Cameron and Miliband were good at doing) the show itself is deliberately boring and the players hope we’ll all switch off.

It is difficult enough to pay attention to this election because we're supposed to experience major political campaigns once every five years, and this just feels like yet another complicated upheaval we're being forced to comprehend. We mustn’t give into the ennui, though. This election is about more than electing a Prime Minister, it’s about what sort of Brexit we will have and how it will affect our economy and institutions for years to come. We must pay attention because, as the saying goes the devil is in the detail. And, most importantly of all, we must vote because, as last year's referendum demonstrated, our votes really do count and they can change the status quo.

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Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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