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6 December 2019

What we want: A hung parliament

Neither Boris Johnson nor Jeremy Corbyn deserves to win the general election.

By Helen Lewis

I want a hung parliament, which is the closest thing the British electoral system has to “none of the above”. No one deserves to win this election. Boris Johnson’s promises are not worth the buses they’re written on: as just one example, he swore to leave the European Union on 31 October during the Conservative leadership contest, then reneged on his word once he was safely installed in Downing Street.

Which Boris Johnson would we get after 12 December, anyway: the socially liberal London mayor, or the Brexiteer of 2016 who compared the EU to Hitler? The friend of the dolphins, steered by his conservationist girlfriend, or the hang ’em and flog ’em avatar of Lynton Crosby? Possibly even he doesn’t know what kind of prime minister he wants to be.

Labour, meanwhile, has comprehensively failed to root out the anti-Semitic cranks it has attracted since Jeremy Corbyn became leader. The shadow cabinet is under-powered. Its foreign policy is commendably sceptical of Donald Trump, but gives an easy ride to any leader who can be painted as anti-imperialist. Its policy on single-sex spaces such as women’s prisons and domestic violence refuges is confused and contradictory, preferring virtuous sound-bites to any real consideration of the trade-offs involved in policymaking.

I don’t know if Labour has the ability to deliver its incredibly ambitious manifesto; I suspect the Conservatives do have the ability to deliver theirs, and pursue a Brexit that all the evidence suggests will make Britain poorer. Personally, I’m also depressed that both parties have indulged in conspiracies about the “mainstream media”, a hopelessly general term designed not to offer a proper critique but to stoke a general feeling of mistrust.

A hung parliament wouldn’t solve anything, you say? I’m not sure a Johnson or Corbyn premiership would, either.

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Helen Lewis is a staff writer at the Atlantic

This piece is part of our “What we want” series. Read the rest of the articles here

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