The Prime Minister has called this election, ostensibly to seek a mandate for her misguided hard Brexit strategy. Having previously ruled out the possibility of an election, and despite a commitment, entrenched in law, that the Parliament would run its full term until 2020, she has instigated a cynical and tactical U-turn. Her objective is transparently obvious - to take advantage of the current political climate to seek an increase in the Conservative’s Parliamentary majority and to free her Government from scrutiny over the difficult questions that will inevitably arise during the negotiations with the EU. The stage has been set for a single issue election, the narrow focus of which the Prime Minister believes will deliver her a comfortable victory.
This election is not, and cannot be allowed to become, a rerun of the EU referendum. Nor can it be a dress rehearsal for any future Scottish independence vote. These constitutional issues are undeniably important but they mask the everyday issues that concern workers, their families and their communities. They allow politicians to all too easily abdicate responsibility for addressing the current challenges people face and to evade proper scrutiny of their policy proposals.
The focus of this election should be on the disastrous policies of the current Government and its immediate predecessor - ideologically driven austerity; tax cuts for the rich; deregulation; savage cuts to public services; the neglect of manufacturing and other key sectors; attacks on unions and on workers’ rights; and the systematic dismantling of the welfare state and social security.
It should be about the terrible impact of these policies - a struggling economy; declining real wages; the growth in precarious work; widening inequality and increased poverty; rising xenophobia; reduced access to pensions and social security; the crumbling fabric of our health, education and other public services; increased levels of household debt; and the mismanagement of the public finances.
Politicians cannot be handed a free pass to avoid the issues that matter. We must demand more from them and from ourselves. We should demand of all political parties an election campaign focused on issues that matter in the every day. We must demand that parties account for their actions and justify the policies they propose. We should demand an election campaign that is about ideas and evidence not soundbites and populism.
We must have a campaign that is meaningful. Where progressive, outward looking policies and a socially just vision for the future are rewarded at the ballot box, and where reactionary, insular policies, which aim to exclude and divide, are rejected for the destructive agenda they represent.
The MPs we elect in June will bear a great responsibility. The laws they make; the policies they implement; the scrutiny they apply to the Brexit negotiations and the ultimate agreements reached will shape our lives for years to come.
This General Election must be about the need for positive, progressive policies that support the interests of working people - fair work; strong unions; collective bargaining; an inclusive, sustainable economy; adequately resourced public services; fair and progressive taxation; decent living standards for all; and fair trade underpinned by global employment and environmental standards.
Working people will be ill served by the election of a Parliament dominated by blinkered cheerleaders slavishly toeing the line of a Government obsessed with the outdated, illusory concept of British sovereignty. We demand better. We demand a Parliament and Government with a progressive vision that genuinely represents the interest of working people, their families and communities.
Congress calls on affiliates to publicise this statement; to encourage voter registration and participation, particularly amongst young people; and to encourage union members to press candidates from all parties for commitments consistent with the progressive policy demands of the trade union movement and to address the everyday concerns of working people, their families and communities rather than focus on constitutional issues – the UK’s constitutional relationship with the EU and Scotland’s constitutional relationship with the rest of the UK.