Saturday 14 December 2019

The Unsaid: Final Thoughts

As reflection time takes place among some, I do have some final thoughts.

The General Election was conceded by the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats, as no one then could get through a second referendum.

The Liberal Democrats assumed they would be a focus for remain, but failed on two counts: one was they had a lack of publicity, including thanks to Prince Andrew's legacy when they launched their manifesto. It wasn't particularly the revoke policy at fault - they simply failed to explain it properly, as they were forced to do when more realism kicked in and the second referendum was emphasised again. But it is usually fatal to make policy adjustments in an election campaign. We also discovered the inadequacy of the Jo Swinson leadership, with far too much emphasis on her face, her image and her performance instead of on a team. Imagine if Ed Davey had won (I supported him) - there would not have been that attempted cult of personality. She was an unknown entity and this was too much of a gamble.

We forget, too, that Jeremy Corbyn was a block to the Liberal Democrats as he was to Labour. The difference was Labour MPs suppressed their criticism, but the Liberal Democrats expressed it. So two parties that would have had a referendum could not get together, because of the man that the Labour electorate so roundly rejected. It doesn't matter if the press did it, or the Marxism did it, or the antisemisism did it. Labour and he knew very many months back that he was no good, but his belief in his own necessity - to give socialism just one more push - had support and simply backfired. But it backfired for the Liberal Democrats too. Swinson was forced to be anti-Corbyn, and rule out Labour, and this was all a distraction to the emphasis that should have been on policy.

(I was opposed to a second referendum as I was opposed to the first. The argument for revoke needed explanation regarding parliamentary democracy but it failed to be explained, as it should have been long before the actual campaign. Parliament - the House of Commons - was not at fault: it did its job. But we saw that the opposition was easily dispersed, and this came into the campaign, and the personality of Corbyn was large in the actuality of the public response.)

The slight majority remain position was dispersed, and First Past the Post gives victory to those that are coherent. Farage let his own tyres down, and had further consequence to support voting Conservative from a leave perspective. Even then, although it told leaver people to vote Conservative, Farage cost Conservative not Labour seats.

Take Hull East. Had Farage's company not stood, a portion of his votes would have gone Conservative. The Conservatives would have won here too. The Conservatives nationally could have had a majority of 180 rather than 80, had Farage stood down completely - and that was with Labour getting more votes! (The quoted figure I've seen is 188.)

Labour must get rid of Corbyn and that whole approach he revived. It must find an alternative to State Socialism. Sometimes nationalisation is good, for some natural monopolies and services, but it must be managed at a more local and aspirational level. The Labour manifesto was a back to the seventies approach. It was a cluttered and gathering collection of State Socialist freebies. It did not appeal. The Liberal Democrats, as historically Liberals, identify themselves in relationship to the left (e.g. trade union based non-socialist Labour Liberal MPs) - even though they have, historically, lost people off to the right (think Joseph Chamberlain). Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy built a Liberal Democrat identity just to the left of New Labour, with the expected Liberal philosophical twist. But this cannot be done if Labour has an antagonistic leadership. This is partly why Jo Swinson, receiving ex-Labour anti-Corby people, became 'tribal' according to friendly critics. She went with the Scottish Nationalists for a General Election, but lost coherence as Labour tried to neutralise its own remain and leaver dilemma, and so the Liberal Democrats suffered as well.

That's my point, to remember in years to come: for Labour to get rid of State Socialism and its trapping membership, and for the Liberal Democrats to remember its more open, less tribal, left-ecumenism.

The Liberal Democrats also suffered because of the Coalition and their self-discipline to keep it going to the very end, after which the appreciative Conservatives turned on them with their electoral machine. The argument the Liberal Democrats could have used in defence against facilitating austerity was that at least government then was competent - proper cabinet government. They failed to make even this case for the defence. Jo Swinson simply did not do it, and so much rested on her shoulders.

As for active policies now, the opposition MPs are there to turn up and vote, but that's about it. The real opposition to policies will come from the Conservatives to the Conservatives. Let them get on with it. If they harm us, we will protest. Johnson will want to hang on to as many convert constituencies as possible, to go for a further five years and into a future quite possibly beyond my lifespan! Johnson went to captured Sedgefield, Tony Blair's constituency, to stamp his feet there, to reach out beyond, and to be the Tory Blair. Let's see if this is what happens, domestically. The Scottish and Irish have more immediate and strategic oppositional and future creating strategies, to be watched with interest. The European Union will become more co-ordinated and likely more powerful, and the UK will feel it from the outside. We will likely end up taking, and not contributing, but it will be decades before our opportunity to contribute may come about again. This is tragedy of the moment: a future of isolation for a diminished England and Wales, and even Wales itself considering its future identity as a political unit.

The future of Britain in the European Union really did matter. This is defeat. Let the victors take the spoils. We'll be back later, but much later, when the wheels come off the wagon, and when there are an alternative set of wheels and indeed a repair to be made to the wagon itself. All political careers end in failure, after all. We pro-Europeans know this for sure.

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