HAVE you had yours yet? Mine dropped through the letter-box yesterday. Just fancy – a letter from the Prime Minister just for me. Sadly, this letter will not be going into the old tin box where treasured items are placed. It wasn’t a love letter so much as a letter I didn’t love, so it will be joining all the other rubbish in the bin.
An elderly woman interviewed for last Sunday’s Observer was thrilled with her new pen-friend. “I had this lovely letter the other day,” said 86-year-old Brenda Firth from Halifax. “I think she is the new Margaret Thatcher. I’ve never had a letter from a prime minister before.”
Oh, I don’t know about that. Last time round – in that period of ancient history known as two years ago – David Cameron sent everyone a letter and a copy of a glossy brochure with the title: “An invitation to join the government of Britain.”
Will Brenda be so chuffed with her new friend and her cynically personalised letter after learning that the Tory manifesto, launched yesterday, could force her to pay for her own social care until she has less than £100,000 to her name (including her house)? Or that the triple-lock on pension is going – and along with it the universal winter fuel allowance?
Launching her manifesto in Halifax yesterday, Mrs Maybe urged voters to “join me on this journey” as she whipped the covers off a manifesto that spurns free-market Thatcherism in favour of “country and community” (whatever the rubbery hell that means).
While it’s tempting to say that all manifestos are barely worth the hot air with which they are delivered, the one Theresa May brandished in Halifax yesterday does aim to break with the free-market liberalism that has defined her party since Thatcher. Yet does this un-costed pitch for middle-England really add up to a coherent philosophy?
Labour’s manifesto is at least costed, but it contains plenty of old-style Labour policies, and isn’t all that different to the one published by Ed Miliband two years ago – and that didn’t exactly win voters over.
Anyway, back to my letter from Theresa. It begins with a bit of chitter-chatter in bold type: “MAKING BREXIT A SUCCESS IS CENTRAL TO OUR NATIONAL INTEREST.”
Once she has stopped whispering nothing sweet in my ear, Theresa carries on with her plea – “If we don’t get the Brexit deal right, your economic security and prosperity will be put at risk, and the opportunities you seek for your family will simply not happen.”
Then she turns all personal again – “But with your help…and your votes locally in the York Central constituency, together we can get it right.”
The letter carries on like this for quite a while, throwing in a few of Theresa’s greatest hits – “Strong and stable leadership with me… or a hung parliament and coalition of chaos with Jeremy Corbyn.” Now remind me: who was in that last coalition of chaos we had?
Corbyn is unlikely to be in a coalition with anyone other than his fans – and that won’t hold a government together. This is just another bit of empty scare-mongering.
But I can’t leave without passing on another of Theresa’s barbed blandishments – “If Jeremy Corbyn wins in the York Central constituency, his position is strengthened and my negotiating position is weakened.”
It is easy to agree with that. You can just see Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, saying: “York Central’s stayed Labour so Theresa is in the shit now.”
Tellingly, the world ‘Conservative’ appears once in this letter, right near the end. Everything else is the usual me-me-me hurricane from the presidential Mrs Maybe, who seems to become increasingly giddy with self-belief with every new, stage-managed day.
There are many reasons to regret such a presidential election, but one is surely the damage this does to local democracy. As I live in Central York, I shall look at the ballot paper and choose the candidate who has done the best job locally.
In Rachael Maskell, York has a good and hard-working sitting Labour MP. If I vote Labour, it will be for reasons that have nothing to do with Theresa or Jeremy, but all to do with Rachael. And that’s how it should be.
“So Julian, please give me your backing and your vote. Together we can get on with the job of making life better for all of us.”
No thanks, Theresa. You’re heading for the bin.