When polling stations closed for the UK General Election at 10pm on 12th December, news channels immediately began reporting that it appeared the Conservatives were going to win with a large majority of around 65 seats (in the end it was 80)! As the final Friday the Thirteenth of the decade dawned, the unlucky auspices of the day took on a nightmare reality for those not enamoured with the idea of another Tory government. Especially hard hit was the opposition Labour Party, who after campaigning so vehemently believing victory was in their grasp, appeared shell-shocked at the results. Particularly incomprehensible for Labour and its voters, was the stark fact that many traditional Labour areas this time round supported Boris Johnson instead. Yet to me it wasn’t a surprise at all, I said in a June blog that Boris Johnson would call an election, and had the bravado to win.
On social media (Twitter and Facebook for me) I noticed an immediate vicious backlash from angry voters that wasn’t pleasant to see, so I didn’t hang around much in either forum. What was clear however is this election may prove to be as divisive as the Scotland Independence and EU Referendums. The blame game was in full force, as news media outlets analysed the results trying to find some hidden meaning to the Boris Ballot Box phenomena. But the evidence toward this remarkable Tory victory was there for all to see throughout the campaign trail. However, those seeking a higher office than MP didn’t want/or seem able to hear the rumblings of discontent, emanating from TV news clips. Boris Johnson latched on to that discontent and milked it for all it was worth, and in doing so made people think their voice was being heard. Pre-election prime examples were:
A couple re-housed in Hartlepool, after being homeless living in a hostel in the south. Both were going to vote, the woman still undecided, the man effectively said “I know I’ll be shot down for this but I’ll vote Tory. We know what we will get with him”.
Harris Tweed Worker in the Outer Hebrides (company trade abroad could be affected adversely by Brexit) “so sick and tired of it all, just get Brexit over with, so voting Tory”.
A young woman aged 19 on Twitter innocently enquired why a NHS worker would vote Tory. The replies I spotted were a combination of disproportionate abuse toward her, and a large number of NHS Tory voters, to my surprise. Bots, fake accounts influence I don’t know, but it was a sobering read.
After the election I spotted a news item, two twenty something guys working zero hour contract jobs living in a bedsit, both voted Tory believing Boris would sort something out!
Most definitely this election was a Brexit one to its core, although it shouldn’t have been, and Boris Johnson’s “Get Brexit Done” mantra spoke to a huge swathe of people. The original Leave voters had a figure head who promised to deliver. Anyone who was sick and tired of the paralysis of Parliament for the last three years (regardless of their referendum vote), had someone who offered a finale to the sorry saga, with the hope other business would finally be dealt with as well. By comparison, Jeremy Corbyn from the very beginning of the Brexit era showed ineptitude of leadership, by consistently offering no real Brexit mandate for his party. This left Labour heartlands that voted Leave in the EU Referendum, such as Stoke Central, feeling marginalised and ignored. No surprise then this seat and many like them went to the Conservatives last week. Labour lost seats in Scotland and Wales too. Remain EU referendum voters had a natural ally in Jo Swinson the Liberal Democrat leader, who stood to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit altogether. A bold brave, but suicidal stance, as the party alienated virtually all the voter type profiles mentioned above. Add in the long held embittered memory of the Con/Lib coalition years and she had no chance, and sadly lost her parliamentary seat too. As I watched the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s euphoria as her party swept up seats, including Swinson’s, I couldn’t help thinking “where is woman’s political solidarity here, Jo was no threat, yet Nicola seemed to be dancing on Jo’s political grave”. Not the palatable side of politics I must say. The Scottish Conservatives who campaigned almost solely on saying “No to IndyRef 2” regarding Scotland’s independence, hacked off a sizeable portion of the electorate, combined with Labour heartland marginalisation, awarded the SNP an impressive 48 from 59 seats victory. And in Northern Ireland the nationalist support increased as well. So Boris Johnson didn’t get it all his own way, and his “one nation Conservatism” isn’t an accurate statement. He MUST REMEMBER that we live in the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, four nations under a union flag, all of them with their own types of legislation and government to a greater/lesser extent. Forget that Boris at your peril, Scotland will be your Achilles heel. You can (and are) indicating there will be no new independence referendum in Scotland. But the hand grenades thrown by David Cameron into British politics with the Scottish and EU referendums still have shrapnel flying about. Winning this election with a promise to get Brexit done won’t make the “Scottish Question” injury free.
Particularly in the first 24 hours after the polling stations closed, the Labour Party demise was largely blamed on Brexit and a partisan media. The leadership refused to admit any culpability for the result, and expressed pride in a manifesto that failed to convince the electorate. This “divorce from reality” mindset goes further back in Labour history however, when Ed Milliband backed by the Unions won the leadership contest in which his brother David stood. David had Tony Blair associations and was far more politically savvy than his brother, so he had to be put in his place. After Ed, Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader but had to face down several votes of confidence from within his own party. Obviously differences of opinion on party policy were behind these challenges. As a result, Corbyn’s style of leadership to keep his party in line saw several people shafted to the side. It looked like he wanted “yes men & women” around him, who followed the Corbyn mantra without question. There was no room in the shadow cabinet for people who could inform the party leader about the realities of grass root feelings. It appeared dictatorial rather than democratic to me, did nothing to make me (and many of the general public) trust Corbyn’s judgement, and left a bad taste in the mouth. Ironically, Boris Johnson took away the party whip to several high profile Tory MPs who voted against him on Brexit issues, so his grip on Conservative Party power this summer was no better either. Yet somehow Boris comes across as an affable bumbling chap (or obnoxious buffoon) with his finger on the pulse, whilst Jeremy seems cold, clinical and remote despite his manifesto claiming to make society fairer for all. Although well meaning, and saying all the right things, those very hard left leaning policies, with unclear funding issues, appears to have scared a lot of people.
Today, the Queen attended the State Opening of Parliament and dutifully read out her government’s policy mandate for the next session. As the MPs processed in to hear this missive, Jeremy Corbyn was stony-faced and looked like he wanted to be somewhere else, whilst Boris Johnson with his House of Commons majority smiled (smirked some might say) at the thought of getting his work done. It was a lengthy tome of hoped for edicts, with Brexit being delivered first and foremost. There seemed a lot of initiatives, reforms and promised funding to be made, including getting Stormont back to functioning in Northern Ireland, NHS visas for extra doctors and nurses, immigration points system for quality workers entering UK. More money for education, NHS funding enshrined in law, housing mandates all addressing key issues that really matter to the electorate. Although I can see holes in the ideas already, and many may say its sticking plasters on open wounds, once again a politician seems to be saying all the right things, but will Boris Johnson deliver? That is the big question….