Issue 226: 2019 12 05: Home Straight

4 December 2019

Home Straight                                           

Deep Straits

by J.R.Thomas

No, not a typo. The election contenders may be in the home straight, but it would be fair to say that the parties will complete the home straight – only to end up in deep straits.  A bold commentator would put much of the family silver on the Conservatives for a win at this point, but any sensible punter would lay off that bet with another for the Tories being the largest single party but not overall winner.  But even if it’s an outright win for Mr Johnson’s lot, the Tory Party will be far from out of the mire.  We will come back to that.  But let’s deal with the easy predictions first.

Arise, Lord Farage.  Or, at least, Sir Nigel.  The leader of the Brexit Party certainly deserves some recognition or his many achievements, not least a wonderful and witty ability to wind up many of his fellow European Parliamentarians.  We shall miss that, and so should they.  How many hours of British media exposure do you think the European Parliament would have had in recent years had it not been for Mr F and his Brexit colleagues behaving badly, and humorously?  But Nigel deserves thanks for more than that.  He has achieved (almost; near, so near now) his objective of getting Britain out of the EU.  Some Brits would like him in the Tower of London for that, for life; others would give him an earldom at the very least.  It is an astonishing achievement. As is founding two political parties and rocking the establishment.  Another earldom for that.  Sadly though, his mission would seem to be complete.  When (alright, “if”) Britain finally shuffles away from Euro-Mama in the next couple of months, the Brexit Party will have no further purpose; indeed next week’s results will show that its purpose has already ceased in the eyes of the public.   Dire straits indeed.  Thank you, Earl of Farage; and goodbye.

So, from the sublime to the ridiculous.  It is not impossible still that some weird accident of tactical voting might put Mr Corbyn in as resident in SW1 next Thursday.  Unlikely but who knows in this time of flux and finagling.  Jezza might yet have his fifteen minutes of fame.  Fifteen minutes is about what you might give him.  Remember Andrew Mackintosh?  Probably not.  He led Labour to victory in the first Greater London Authority elections; he got a little longer than fifteen minutes – about fifteen hours, before Ken Livingstone staged a coup and chucked him out the next day.  Jezza might mull on that as he watches his close supporters press ever closer.  “Et tu, McDonnell?”  Win or lose next Thursday it is a reasonable bet that Jeremy will soon be spending more time on the allotment.  That will probably be a relief to him.  One of life’s natural rebels he will be much happier opposing everything from the backbenches.

But whoever takes over from him will not be in for an easy life.  The Labour Party is essentially two parties now – the exBlairish party supported by the majority of Labour voters, and the Momentum created cabal that rules it for now.  That must be resolved, in office or out of it, and that will not be a peaceful process.  Life on the allotment would be much preferable.

The LibDems.  Ah yes.  They are not going to end up the majority governing party; indeed that old party minibus – repainted yellow with green stripes – may continue to be sufficient for the parliamentary party, we suspect.  But what may rumble on for a while is the aftermath of going into an election pledged to ignore the result of the Referendum.  It’s one thing to call for a second referendum, or best out of three, or whatever.  It is a bit more challenging to say you will ignore majority votes.  Cancel Article 50 notices.  Up yours to the winners – the Leavers did win, Jo.  Not by a lot, but by enough.  LibNoDem is not going to be an easy sell for a while, we would hazard.   A dire predicament indeed.  Jo’s survival will depend on whether there is any talent to succeed her, which may make her safe for a month or two.

We don’t normally mention the SNP in these parts but they too have not got a lot to look forward to.  They may win every seat in Scotland; they may just win most.  But procuring and even more, winning a vote for Scottish independence will not be easy.  Not with increasing muttering about the competence of Ms Sturgeon’s government, the groaning Hibernian finances, and the delights of the forthcoming Alex Salmond trial to amuse the media.  2019 may turn out to be the highpoint of SNP fortunes – victory for them in Westminster but increasing unpopularity at hame, och aye.  And a Tory resurgence based on the Union, if the Tories continue to remember Scotland is part of the United Kingdom.

We don’t normally mention Northern Irish politics here either; not least because nothing much changes in the Ulster parties.  And probably won’t, but having had a very strong hand and played it well the DUP, that’s Arlene Foster’s lot, will be as anxious as all the rest of us to know the result on the morning of the 13th December.  If Boris does well, Ms Foster has a problem; but if he does badly, she has an opportunity.  As we know, she knows how to play an opportunity, but in the shifting sands of party loyalties in Northern Ireland that chance may evaporate faster than snipe from a Fermanagh bog.

And so we come, as come we must, to the Boris party.  If the Conservatives gain an outright majority – which means more than twenty, to allow for disloyalty, disagreements, and deaths, then Brexit will…  What? Not go away, for sure.  We will Leave but then the negotiation begins.  With a new team in Brussels and a strong mandate in the UK, that may prove a lot easier than everybody suspects, especially as Mr Johnson knows that his next role is to become a unifier, a healer, a repairer of sundered souls.  But it does not solve that deeper problem that the Conservative Party, like Labour, is also two parties (at least), welded roughly together, and the welding is cracking under the harsh treatment of recent events.  The Thatcherite libertarian tendency has never sat comfortably alongside the Me-too paternalists, and a return to domestic issues post Brexit will throw all that stuff back onto the table.  This election campaign shows, if nothing else, that the Tories really don’t have a current underlying philosophy about anything other than winning.  The voting public will take so much opportunism, but not that much.  They like their politicians to have a sort of underlying dream – as Mr Corbyn does rather show (it may be old and discredited and simplistic but at least we all know what it is).   The Tory party would be well advised to find out fairly quickly what it is they believe in.  If they do not get a majority, then they will have longer to think about it, but first will need to have yet another leadership massacre to work out who gets to do the thinking.  Dire straits both ways.

So there you have it.  Come the end of next week, it may feel different.  But honestly, it won’t be, it will just be worse.


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