It is a good election to be a firm Conservative leaver, a Liberal Democrat committed to overturning the referendum, or a Labour supporter who wants another negotiation followed by another referendum – if such a person exists. For everyone else it poses an uncomfortable choice.
Like any middleman, political parties take their cut from the punters they claim to serve, claiming a vote for them is a mandate for their entire agenda, and not a ballot for the least worst option. But this election feels more caught than most between a single issue and the broader agenda. A vote for any party supports the next step in our relationship with the continent, as well as the usual fare of taxes, spending and social reform.
Ironically the ambiguity of general election mandates is partly what has led to our present quagmire, with many pointing to the lacklustre electoral support for explicitly Eurosceptic parties over the decades as tacit consent for our membership of the bloc. Like watery tarts throwing swords, this is no basis for supranational union. And the prospect that many will vote in this election based on Brexit policy likewise compromises anything else the resulting government will attempt in office.
A metaphor is doing the rounds advising that if you can’t find a bus taking you to your destination then it’s best to board the one that brings you closest. This is fine advice when quibbling over minor policies, but less useful when you dislike entire sections of policy. Boarding one bus may require you to put your luggage on another going entirely the wrong way.
I still believe that we should leave the EU without holding another referendum (backed only by the last round’s losers), and preferably with a deal. The Tories are the only party backing this option. However, I dislike their instincts on economic equality, and note that even a liberal like Boris Johnson will have to contend with the social reactionaries in the party.
The other parties present similar problems for me. The Lib Dems are trying to nullify a democratic vote that politicians had largely agreed to implement. Labour back a second referendum, although this is less egregious that the anti-Western views of Jeremy Corbyn, and the risks therein. The other parties have their own unlikeable qualities, much of it unrelated to Brexit.
I won’t be alone in my distaste for the package deals on offer at this election, though others will have different reasons. Whatever the practical objections against a more direct democracy, it is disenfranchising when a vote for something you want is also a vote for something you don’t want. I’m confident we could do better.