Well, that election was a bit shit wasn’t it?
There’s really no other way of dressing it up. From the moment the exit poll dropped not only were all my worst fears realised in a brutal flash of stupefying reality, but the grim inevitability of living under five years of a Boris Johnson led government was no longer confined to my nightmares. For all his deceit, for all his blunders and in spite of the six months we’ve already suffered through offering alarming clarity on the fact that he’s fundamentally unsuited to the job, none of this seemed to matter – the man who hid in a fridge to avoid an interview is going to be Prime Minister for five years. At least.
Still, that’s where we are and we’ve got little choice but to deal with it. So in that spirit, let’s take a look back at election night and see if any small scraps of hope can be salvaged from the still burning wreckage, shall we?
Boris Johnson Wins – With a Terrifying Majority
Yes, I’m afraid it’s true. As much as I’d love to soothe your woes with the revelation that the events of election night were all just a bad dream and you’ve actually woken up in 2014, in a move which apparently vindicates a campaign entirely characterised by cowardice and chicanery, Boris Johnson has been granted a “stonking majority”.
The sad truth is that this victory wasn’t especially surprising, with the only real shock being in the staggering margin by which it was won. Nevertheless, this didn’t prevent the visceral reaction from those in opposition being one of indignation, bewilderment and a hefty side portion of self righteous anger.
Which is a reaction that I personally, could completely understand.
However embittered protestations, irrespective of how vociferous or accurate they may have been, were worthless at this point. The day had been lost and the die had been cast – there was nothing left to do but accept our fate and attempt to obtain some understanding as to how best to deal with it.
Stonking majority or not, the delusional nature of what Boris Johnson had successfully flogged remains unchanged. The relentless, often ludicrous barrage of meaningless slogans and tenuous at best metaphors may have succeeded at the ballot box, but will prove to be horrifically exposed on the merciless battlefield of international negotiations and diplomacy.
Of course Boris has always been the consummate bullshit salesman – it’s just that now the opposition have no real means of hindering him. They (and by extension, the entire country) are now helplessly strapped along for the ride, able to do little more than scream objections to terminally closed ears as they’re dragged ever deeper into the rabbit hole of mindless exceptionalism and excruciating metaphors.
Talking of which:
The Fight to Remain Hits an Insurmountable Brick Wall
Contrary to what the ‘will of the people’ narrative would have you believe, 2016 was an awfully long time ago. In the intervening years between the regrettable then and the unfortunate now there’s been enough twists, broken promises and governmental incompetence to last a lifetime and the cause to Remain fought their corner valiantly – never missing the opportunity to put forward the apparently unfashionable notion that this whole Brexit malarkey which nobody can agree upon was just a mite bit ridiculous.
But alas, to the dismay of a movement which had clung desperately to the faintest of faint hope through each and every tribulation which came its way, that fight came to an end with Boris’ resounding victory. Unceremoniously snuffed out in a blink of an eye the second the damning exit poll desecrated our screens.
We tried guys – but it’s over.
Defeatist – perhaps. Realistic – I’m afraid so. Brexit is happening. There’s simply no viable route left through which to stop it. The People’s Vote, which was always just tantalisingly out of reach, has now been consigned to the dustbin of history, never to re-emerge. Now all that’s left is a dismay inducing smattering of ifs, buts and maybes.
Understandably, many of its most fervent proponents now feel at a loss. Where is there to really go from here? Unfortunately, an obvious, conveniently inspiring answer isn’t especially forthcoming.
You can point out the flaws, but nobody with sway will be listening. You can observe that, in terms of actual vote share, parties in favour of a second referendum actually received more votes, but no tangible success will be forthcoming. As flawed as a first past the post general election is in serving as a de facto rerun of the referendum, it’s the closest we ever got to one – and the outcome is binding, logic be damned.
However, there is one important thing to bear in mind. While democracy didn’t fall into line with your wishes on this occasion, you still have your democratic right to expression. The result may have given Boris Johnson a mandate for Brexit, but it does nothing to vanquish its insurmountable flaws – nor should you be expected to ideologically fall into line behind it.
Your voice is still important and, let’s face it – with the Tories set to face severely limited opposition in Parliament – it’s arguably more important than ever.
Opposition Parties Collapse – The Blame Game Begins
Ah yes, the blame game. An inevitable consequence of crashing disappointment and, with so many vested interests at play in this election, there’s been many accusatory fingers on display – gesticulating wildly in every direction imaginable, while curiously averting attention as far away from themselves as possible.
Whether it be Brexit, Corbyn, the Lib Dems or the entire opposition’s starling inability to put their differences aside for the greater good to name but a few, the uncomfortable reality remains unchanged. The opposition, irrespective of which colour rosette adorns their clothing, lost – badly.
I’m sure you’ve each got your own personal theories – I sure have – but whatever bias tinted explanation we may have, the attribution of blame is a largely worthless endeavour. Not only because the truth most likely lays in the ultimate failure of the collective, but the dubious value of scapegoating pales into insignificance when compared to the harsh lessons ready to be learnt.
And believe me, “harsh” in an understatement.
I appreciate that the sense disappointment is still raw amongst many of us, the gaping wound of defeat causing tempers to fray while being painfully exacerbated every single time the perplexing sight of Prime Minister Boris Johnson shambles into view. It’s bad, I get it – but given how dispiriting the prospect of five years living under this preposterous chancer is, the possibility of it being extended to an entire decade is a fate we should all seek to avoid – collectively.
However, in order to even stand the faintest hope of achieving what would be a gargantuan reversal of fortunes, drastic changes need to be made.
The Corbyn project, for all the virtuous intent it may have indeed had, is not going to fly anytime soon, if ever. Bemoan the rigged system and note the claimed doorstep popularity of the policies all you like, the electorate rejected it – resoundingly. A hurtful predicament for aspirational idealism to find itself in no doubt, but it’s time for cold, hard pragmatism to come to the fore.
The situation is desperate. We just don’t have time to wait for a plan heavily reliant on improbable circumstance to maybe reign supreme in decades to come. As unappetising a prospect as it may be, the hearts and minds of the moderate Tory voter are not going to be won over by a far left candidate – and these are the votes you’re going to need should you ever hope to seize back power.
It may not be a proposal which sits comfortably, in fact it will likely chill the average momentum activist to the bone – but elections are there to be won. You don’t win anything for remaining mired in the minority, not even a wooden spoon – and all your good intent will simply disappear into the void, of no use to those who most need it.
As for the Lib Dems, should they wish to ever hope to gain any electoral ground again, anyone who had even the least bit of involvement in the notorious coalition should be kept so far away from the leadership they’re in a different galaxy altogether. Until then, they’ll continue spinning their wheels hopelessly in the mud as their influence and relevance fades with each year that rolls by.
Sometimes you just have to grin and bear an impure approach. The Tories didn’t win because their ideas were better – far from it – but they sure as shit knew how to game the electorate.
I don’t doubt that the battleground is slanted in the Tory’s favour, but it’s not going to change anytime soon. You can complain, but it didn’t yield anything of value this time. So the choice is really simple – adapt to the situation at hand, or remain on the fringes forever.
Speaking of fringes:
Fringe Simpletons Claim Boris’ Victory as Their Own
In the wake of Boris Johnson’s electoral victory, it’s often been pondered, most likely in a bid to scavenge any hint of a silver lining from the darkest of horizons, whether or not he’ll make another spontaneous ideological shift.
After all the man is essentially a blank moral canvas, ready to paint with whatever ideological stance best suits his career at any given time. Plus, with the lingering concern of a threadbare majority now firmly in the past, he no longer has to cater to the unbridled numbskullery of the ERG. Maybe he’ll finally become the warm hearted, liberal slanted centrist his most obsequious of acolytes have always insisted he is?
While I can’t completely rule this out, there are two significant problems which undermine this, perhaps fatally, as a potential reprieve.
Firstly, we have to consider the influx of new Tory MPs who have ridden the crest of the Boris wave all the way into Parliament. Now it’s become almost a cliche that the Tories are the “nasty party” but, if the flimsy grasp on the apparently outmoded concepts of compassion and decency demonstrated by some of the new arrivals are anything to go by, they’re not just confirming such a characterisation, rather proudly proclaiming it via a loudhailer from atop the Tower of London.
For a case in point, take Lee Anderson – the new Tory MP for Ashfield.
Even putting his past record of sexism, staged managed doorstep encounters and a penchant for anti-Semitic conspiracies somehow to one side, his electoral campaign was characterised by one key policy which seemed very dear to his heart – the introduction of forced labour camps.
No really, I’m not joking – though I dearly wish I was.
Not only does this highlight an alarming acceptance within the senior ranks of the party towards the reprehensible, but it’s also a disconcerting reminder of the moral repugnance Boris Johnson will be expected to appease.
Which brings us, rather regrettably, to the second problem: the rather unsavoury crowd Boris Johnson and his campaign of jingoistic dick waving has attracted – who are currently swarming around his victory like flies zeroing in on an especially pungent shit.
There’s little worth in naming names at this point, we all know the main offenders. The real issue lies not only in what it represents, but what it could precede.
Boris Johnson has spent a lot of time recently attempting to craft a cooperative facade, droning on about how now is the time for “healing” and bringing the country back together – having previously been torn asunder by the Boris Johnson.
Some would argue that this is a sign of leadership, though to do so would be to miss the important context – his campaign was specifically designed to pander to the very nationalists who want nothing to do with diverse social cohesion. They want to keep Britain British – and now he’s got to keep this fringe yet sufficiently substantial demographic onside.
Ignorance will be plead and sophistry will be spun, but it isn’t a coincidence that such characters are swooping in to claim Boris Johnson’s majority as vindication for their poison. They were sought out.
While Boris Johnson winning a majority have left many on both the centre and the left feeling somewhat disenchanted and bereft of fight, the parasites clinging to his coattails give you more reason to be vocal than ever.
Because while they’re on the fringes now, if the flow of travel continues unabated, it’ll seep into the mainstream – and from that point onward the infiltration will be complete.
The country you knew will have changed forever.Follow @grahamlithgow