British general elections have often evolved from contests between parties into battles between two opposing themes or ideas. In 1964, it was modernity vs the grouse moors; 1979, trade unionism vs individualism; 1983, Cold War strength vs unilateral nuclear disarmament. This year was supposed to be the Brexit election, yet instead developed into something loosely associated with that, but at the same time quite different: it became the intergenerational election.
On 6 July 1535, the severed head of England’s former lord chancellor, Sir Thomas More, was carried across London Bridge to the gatehouse on the southern bank. There it was parboiled and set on a spike. Another head, that of the bishop and theologian John Fisher, was removed to make way for it, and thrown into the Thames. Both men, rather than accept Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church of England, had willingly embraced martyrdom at the king’s hands.
At 8:06 on Tuesday morning the Tweeter-in-Chief reached for his Android phone and told the world: ‘During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar — look!’ At 9:36 a.m. we heard from @realDonaldTrump again. ‘So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding… extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar.
For as long as there have been politicians, they have lied, fabricated and deceived. The manufacture of falsehood has changed over time, as the machinery becomes more sophisticated. Straight lies give way to sinuous spin, and open dishonesty disappears behind Newspeak and Doublethink. However, even if honesty is sometimes the best policy, politics is addressed to people’s opinions, and the manipulation of opinion is what it is all about.
Who’s afraid of the dark? Who now fears shadows and bumps in the night? Where do you even find any dark to be afraid of when your phone is only a pocket away? One swipe and the screen lights up blue-white like the old explorer’s match in a cave. If I wake in the night I don’t bother with the bedside lamp. A bar of light comes under the blinds. Lights from the flats opposite. Fire-escape lights from the hotel next door.
My taxi was about 90 seconds behind the murderers who struck on London Bridge last week. My wife and I saw their victims on the road. It made no sense until we stopped and got out. Then with horror we realised what we were witnessing.
As everyone has already said, the emergency services’ response was flawless. A police 4x4 screeched up behind and two officers jumped out with submachine-guns. Within minutes, we learnt afterwards, the jihadis had been shot dead — but only after they had killed eight people, and injured scores more.
Regardless of who leads it, the Conservative party now has the opportunity to cling to office, possibly even for the rest of this five-year Parliament. They’re the biggest party and a deal with the DUP is the basis for forming a new government.
But that’s only the start. To remain in office, the Conservatives are going to have to accept a lot of compromises. They’re going to have to compromise on Brexit, and thus on immigration.
I would direct you to Liddle passim for why we are now in this state of chaos. Even if Theresa May hadn’t run the worst election campaign in living memory (again, passim) she still wouldn’t have increased her majority by much at all. I knew that as a fact, an absolute certainty, on the day the election was called, and explained why, no matter that the polls were showing a landslide. The decision to call an election was arrogant and complacent — and so was the subsequent campaign.
Comeuppance is a dish best served scalding hot. That’s the first thing to be said about this glorious election result. Like Ted Heath, Theresa May asked ‘Who governs Britain?’ and received the answer ‘Preferably not you’. Her election campaign — a word that grants it greater dignity than it merits — will be remembered for decades to come as a classic example of what not to do.
Until yesterday we had thought her victory would be tainted by the fact she had only beaten Jeremy Corbyn; now we might reappraise our view to note that poor Jeremy Corbyn has been such a hapless leader of the Labour party he couldn’t even beat Theresa May.
If there is ever an inquest into who torpedoed Theresa May’s chances of winning the 2017 election outright, the answer should not be in doubt. The Prime Minister was the author of her own destruction – or, at least, the staggering and needless destruction of her party’s majority. The decision to hold an early election was taken not in political cabinet, but on a walking holiday with her husband. None of her cabinet colleagues advised her to personalise her campaign to such a bizarre extent; her disastrous manifesto was as much of a surprise to them as it was to the public.
If the election result has severely weakened Theresa May, it has correspondingly strengthened another female politician – Arlene Foster, the Democratic Unionist Party leader, who could be seen beaming with delighted party colleagues at the election count in Northern Ireland.
After a stormy year there — in which the devolved Assembly collapsed amid allegations that Foster was to blame for a costly renewable heating scandal — the Westminster election has restored the DUP’s fortunes beyond its wildest dreams: with the ten seats it has won, the party could now take on the role of ‘kingmakers’ in a minority Conservative government.
Sterling plunges on the currency markets. Middle Eastern oil money flees London. A prime minister resigns in mysterious circumstances, and a government clings on to a vanishing majority. Sound familiar? In fact, it is a description of the run-up to the sterling crisis of 1976, which forced the then Labour government to crawl to the IMF for an emergency bailout. But the parallels with today are spooky.
You have probably been hearing a lot about doorsteps recently. Politicians love to demonstrate how much they care about ordinary, hard-working voters by banging on about how many front doors they’ve knocked on. Standing on a doorstep, preferably in the driving rain, proves how dedicated you are to getting your message of ‘hope’ and ‘change’ across.
An hour or two pounding provincial avenues, camera crew in tow, pays dividends back at the TV studio where you can then boast about how many of the electorate are on your side.