Saturday, 10 June 2017

After the election

Despite being on holiday, I sat up very late in my caravan on General Election Night, all in accordance with family tradition.

Pre-election events had changed the picture, and I thought it was going to be no landslide victory for the Conservatives, and that the unfolding story would be well worth listening to (I was photo-editing with the radio on). It was. The first shock was the Exit Poll that said the Conservatives would be the largest party but lose their majority in the House of Commons. Many commentators immediately went into disbelief and denial about that. But the Poll was incannily accurate. And by the morning we saw that it had predicted the broad picture correctly, although it had not forseen the Conservatives' astonishing success in Scotland.

As a Conservative voter, was I dismayed? (That just might be a decent pun) No. But the result was bound to cause difficulties for running the country effectively, and playing a bold hand at the Brexit negotiation table.

But I wasn't altogether surprised. Labour had made the better running out in the country and on TV, and had deserved to win seats from the Conservatives on account of the sheer effort put in. I'm not saying that I'd have half-welcomed a Labour victory as an outcome well-earned. Certainly not. I'd have shuddered at the inevitable consequences of their grand spending plans. But they had put peoples' welfare at the heart of their programme - people young and old - and that looked so much warmer and more caring than the Conservatives' prudent but rather chilly programme.

It emerges now that the Conservatives had employed two senior outside consultants to advise on the best manifesto - and they messed up. But that's scapegoating. Everyone who allowed that manifesto to be published should take the blame, including of course Mrs May herself. There were things in it that should not have been there, some of them politically unwise (such as bashing older people), and apparently some things that were downright silly (was there really a promise to relegalise fox-hunting?)

Just as (touching on Brexit again) no deal would be better than a bad deal, no manifesto would have been better than a bad manifesto!

Well, the electorate was worried or took offence, the result is now plain, and the question is: where do we all go from here?

It's all very well for Labour to claim they are an alternative government ready to serve. Mrs May and her Conservatives did, very clearly, win most votes and most seats, and that's some kind of mandate to carry on. Labour isn't going to get a look-in. The DUP in Northern Ireland are going to inflate the not-quite-enough Conservative seat total, so that so long as both parties' interests continue to coincide - and so long as they don't fall out - the country will push ahead on Conservative lines, though not necessarily as the manifesto envisaged.

A lot of people are worried about the DUP, not so much for what they may demand for their assistance, but because they have in the past been strident and unprogressive, defending 'moral standards' that seem out of place in modern mainland and mainstream Britain. And I have to say that were I a lesbian, or a pregnant woman looking for an abortion, I'd be highly concerned about what they might be able to do to water down my legal rights. They will find however that getting a chance to exercise real power exposes them to scrutiny and potential censure from the country at large. If the DUP misbehaves, the consequences won't stay in the back yard of Northern Ireland: all the rest of the country will howl at them. I think they do see that, and will conduct themselves with discretion.

It looks as if IndyRef2 is dead in Scotland for now. The independence tide has decisively ebbed. I have personally never objected to any distinctive country running its own affairs under its own flag, but it's nice to know that Scotland isn't going to drift off into the Arctic anytime soon. So it's still the 'United Kingdom'. That's an achievement, although I'd say it was the Scottish Conservatives' leader's efforts that brought it about, and not Mrs May's.

What of Mrs May? I feel quite sorry for her. Unless she finds a way to achieve something new and important, the poorish result of the election will have permanently damaged her. A leadership contest is bound to follow. Forget Messrs Gove & Johnson. I predict that one of the untainted younger women will succeed her.

1 comment:

  1. I was frankly amazed that May chose to bash the OAPs, where the core of her voter loyalty surely lay. The loss of the Winter Fuel Allowance would represent £4/week off pensions, which might not sound a lot but truly felt like the thin end of an unwelcomed wedge. Do turkeys vote for Christmas?


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