Too close to call. Unpredictable. A Youth Quake. In the end, it never materialised. It wasn’t even close. The UK wakes up this morning to a massive Conservative majority in Parliament. This is my take on what indeed was a political earthquake, and what happens now.
Labour lost the north
I live in the north of England. I said yesterday privately that people were underestimating the levels of discontent with Labour round here, in the same way people underestimated the Leave vote in the EU referendum. We don’t have much of a voice, other than at the ballot box, and when we’re not happy, we let you know.
Last night Labour lost the north, and not just by a bit, by huge margins in a lot of swing seats. Labour lost seats like Wakefield, Blyth, Redcar, Darlington, Bolsover, Durham, Workington. Labour’s vote in Workington was down 11.9% for example. These were seats that had been Labour for decades, but also areas that voted heavily for Leave in the EU Referendum. I cannot speak for the other areas, but I can speak for Wakefield as its where I live, and in an area that voted two thirds to leave, the embarrassing indecision and lack of leadership from Labour was a big frustration, so many will have been happy to vote for the party that could conclude at least phase one of Brexit as quickly as possible. That party was the Tories. The Brexit Party did well in certain areas, Barnsley, Normanton/Pontefract/Castleford for example. If you look at the results, had they chose not to stand, those areas would have fallen to Blue as well.
Brexit was one major factor, there is no doubt in that. But Corbyn and his policies were a major problem here too. Enormous nationalisation programmes, his dubious past, his inability to show true leadership, his perceived attacks on business. He was the most disliked leader of a party. Labour became very left-wing, to some it looked like a cult, with the name chanting and Momentum driving much of the changes in the party. So many people where I live said its no longer a party of the working class, the Tories are. To be seeing comments like that in my neck of the woods is astonishing.
Jeremy Corbyn has said that he is going to remain place to help facilitate the election of a new leader. What that actually means he will stay and ensure that someone of his ilk is among the candidates to be leader. That won’t happen until April, which leaves 4 months for the Conservatives to relentlessly hammer home their win, doing more damage to Labour until they choose another leader. For me, he should be stepping down now and Labour should be taking a swift, but also incredibly humble and honest look at itself.
I’ll say this as well, if Labour don’t change course, and if the northern seats the Tories have won this time feel as though Boris has done a good job come the end of 2024, Labour are going to find themselves out of power for a very long time.
What continues to astound me is that the ultra-Corbyn MPs have come out and said this was a purely Brexit vote and next time round it will be different. Thats just plain wrong. The Labour vote was down 6.4% in Remain areas. People have said they did not like his policies or the leader. If Labour do not come out of their own echo chamber and understand that their party members are not the only ones they have to please, they will be the reason they don’t win power in the future.
No golden choice
Lets be clear, the UK wasn’t given a quality choice of leaders to choose from. Jo Swinson and the Lib Dems wanted to completely revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit, that was never going to win votes in the north or other leave seats. Boris ducked interviews, hid in fridges and failed to show empathy with a young child ill on the floor of a hospital. Jeremy Corbyn’s plans to borrow immense amounts of money and nationalise hige swathes of public life and utilities had people worrying about the UK’s financial future and Government control of the internet.
Trust in politics and politicians is at an all time low. People who voted leave feel many MPs tried hard to block Brexit. Those who votes remain are frustrated that opposition parties could not unite to reverse the decision. Lies and spin have replaced fact and truth. So whilst the Conservatives have won a massive victory here, their job now is not only to get phase one of Brexit over the line, but to try and settle everything down, rebuild trust in the way we are goverened. Their other job is to repay the trust the millions of natural Labour voters have given him this time round. Its a very big thing for people to abandon their natural party, their trust needs to be rewarded.
As we move forwards, politics has to be better. The current crop of leaders, if you can call them such, are not what we should come to expect from those we elect. We’re only a few short years past the likes of Cameron, Blair, Brown, the more statesman-like figures who actually felt like leadership figures. You didn’t have to agree with their politics, but these were characters you would expect to be a leader of a political party. We’re a long, long way away from that. Some would argue we don’t need those types any more, but we have had a few years now of the less typical type of leader, and I don’t think we’re any more impressed.
Relief for business
For three years we have been in a state of flux not a single person would hope to ever see again. Businesses up and down the UK have sat on their hands whilst watching the shenanigans play out in Parliament, constricting investment, stopping decisions being made, money being spent. Whether companies agreed with Brexit or not, I am sure most, if not all, will have woken up this morning with a sense of relief that at least they now know the lay of the land. They know there is a solid majority in Parliament. They know the Withdrawal Agreement is going to be passed in the next few weeks and they know the UK will leave the EU on January 31st. What that means is they can now act on the plans many of them will have had in place for years.
Personally, I woke up this morning with a sense of relief. Like something had lifted. Progress can now be made. The idea of a 2nd referendum is now over. No more hung parliaments. No more coalitions. We know the road forwards now, and both business and the public can make their own plans.
That doesn’t mean this is going to be easy. Its not. Whilst phase one of Brexit is about to come to a close, the real hard work begins in forming a new trading relationship with the EU. Each side will have their red lines, their own positions to defend. But remember its in both side’s interest to make sure a deal is done that allows for a productive, seamless (as possible) and profitable relationship.
A time to reflect
Those who will have voted for Brexit and the Conservatives will be very happy today, and it will be a happy Christmas for them. But, we have to remember that there will be millions of people who are in equal measure worried, scared and anxious about the coming months and years. As a country, as friends, neighbours and families, we have to come together to reassure each other, support each other and help build a positive future.
The last three and a half years have been the most bruising, damaging, confrontational I have ever seen. I think its imperative that we disengage from politics for just a few weeks as we approach Christmas. Enjoy some time with friends and family and talk about literally anything else other than politics. We can deal with it all in January.
I will say this. I have seen some utter vile stuff on social media directed towards those who voted Tory and for Brexit. People being accused of being racist, hating the poor, hating the sick, hating those who have chosen to live here. This is not going to help, and there will be millions who will see this sort of abuse and feel ever more vindicated of their choice. We function as a democracy because the losing side accepts defeat and moves on towards working as hard and best as possible.
These are just my intial thoughts as the dust continues to settle on what has been a truly groundbreaking night for the UK. In the coming days I’ll be looking at what will be next for the UK, what it means for fenestration and the outlook for 2020.
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