“I want to make an Easter appeal to the many decent people in all of our main parties: please pull the next election campaign back from the brink."
The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has warned politicians from all sides against divisive and inflammatory culture war rhetoric ahead of the next general election, adding that it ‘could take the country to an even darker and more dysfunctional place’.
In an op-ed for the Evening Standard, Burnham tells readers: “Get ready for a general election like no other — the culture wars election. Don’t get angry with politicians presiding over the collapse of the NHS or living standards. No. Get angry with the trans community instead.”
He calls it a “simple “look-over-there” scapegoat strategy — and one which could be easily enabled by the toxic energy of social media”.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester drew parallels with the divisive general election of 1964, highlighting how it was a time of time of ‘wage freezes, political scandal (Profumo) and rail cuts (Beeching)’.
He adds: “When a cornered Conservative Party went to the polls, one of its candidates did something which is still, 60 years on, a unique stain on British politics.
“In Smethwick, the sitting MP campaigned on a straightforwardly racist slogan: “If you want a ****** for a neighbour, vote Labour.
“The Conservatives failed to call their candidate out. He held his seat but the party lost narrowly and then more heavily in a second election in 1966.”
The former Labour leadership contender warns that an ‘aggressive scapegoat strategy in our polarised social media age would risk real harm to people and the cohesion of our communities’.
He writes: “I want to make an Easter appeal to the many decent people in all of our main parties: please pull the next election campaign back from the brink.
“It could take the country to an even darker and more dysfunctional place.”
Divisive culture war rhetoric, he says, poses risks to growth and trade, to the basic functioning of our country and to community safety.
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward
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