Friday, 9 June 2017

Well, that went well! So who next to lead the Tories and (probably) become Prime Minister?

Damn! I had been looking forward to unleashing all the toxic spleen that's been building up inside me during the past month on Theresa May this morning. I had intended congratulating her on increasing her majority - to say, 50 or 60 - and then letting rip at her and her advisers for running the worst political election campaign since Michael Foot in 1983. It sounds like hindsight now - but I was going to tear into her for giving all sensible people a terrible fright, for failing to destroy the hard left as a force in British politics for the foreseeable future, and for putting Brexit in jeopardy. But let's just take that as read, and look at quite how she managed the extraordinary feat of turning a poll lead of 24 points into an actual lead of between one and two percent - thereby transforming the likes of Paul Mason and Owen Jones from ludicrous fantasists into political savants; look at what we learned from the election results; and take a wild guess at who will succeed her (with any luck she'll be announcing her resignation when she addresses the nation at 10 this morning).

(1) If you're going to run a personality-based campaign, first check to make sure that you have a discernible personality. You know, someone who doesn't see running through a frigging wheatfield as the naughtiest thing they've ever done. (I suspect Boris has done naughtier things than that.)

(2) If you're relying on old people voting for you, try not to announce three policies that will annoy/terrify them, and then fail to adequately explain the reason for any of those policies.

(3) If you introduce policies intended to address "generational fairness" in order to appeal to younger voters (who don't like you or your party) try to explain in some detail what's in it for them: they have short attention spans, so you really need to make the explanations punchy.

(4) Don't treat the election as a re-run of a previous referendum. Referendums and elections are entirely different things. Asking people to, in effect, turn out to vote in a second referendum so that you won't be forced to hold a second referendum is a fairly deranged and unappealing strategy. That was then - the election was now (or yesterday). And hanging everything on the Brexit negotiations - which a large number of your traditional supporters wish weren't happening at all - isn't really that bright.

(5) One thing the referendum proved is that trying to scare the pants off people doesn't go down that well. It didn't work in 2016, and it didn't work in 2017. Funny that. We're all a bit tired of doom and gloom and warnings of disaster unless we jolly well do as we're told. That's why your predecessor lost the referendum - and it's why you (in all but name) lost the general election. I've spoken to quite a few conservative friends and acquaintances over recent weeks, and every single one of them was utterly appalled by your horrible, lacklustre, fear-driven campaign. Even those of us who were fairly cheerful a month ago were thoroughly miserable by the time yesterday finally, finally arrived - and we're even more miserable now. It's a simple lesson: don't depress voters.

(6) There's no point, in the wake of two horrifying domestic terrorist attacks, of warning us that we'll all be less safe if your terrorist-sympathiser opponent gets into power. That is, of course, true. But as the Home Secretary and Prime Minister who cut police numbers while singularly failing to put bobbies back on the beat or to stop home-grown ISIS fighters waltzing back into the country or to prevent the spread of Islamism within our Muslim communities or to reduce immigration or to do anything about the pernicious, paralysing reign of political correctness in our public sector - well, it's a bit late to turn round and start telling us "enough is enough". Enough was enough a long time ago, only the message didn't seem to get through to you.

(7) Turns out the "vision thing" matters. You've been in government for six years - you've led the damned thing for most of the past year - and I still have absolutely no idea what you believe in. As far as I can make it out, you're yet another big government, social democrat centrist who feels a burning desire to meddle in every aspect of people's lives - except the ones that would make us all a bit safer. Workers on boards? Really? I can't remember you proposing a single genuinely right-wing policy. Did you imagine you'd satisfied right-wing voters by promising to deliver Brexit? Or because we had no one else to vote for? But, okay, Cameron got away with treating right-wingers with disdain - but then you forgot to appeal to the centrist wets who Cameron relied on. You seemed to imagine the right and the centre and the old would simply front up to vote for you on polling day "for fear of finding something worse." Not good enough! People like to vote for something - a vision, an idea, a change, in order to be part of something positive. You mouthed a few platitudes about the trading opportunities Brexit would deliver - but I didn't believe you believed a word of it. When Boris and Michael Gove and Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell talked about those opportunities during the Brexit campaign - about Britain reclaiming its role as a great trading nation free of the EU's socialistic shackles - I damn near peed myself with excitement. When you - who supported Remain - talked about the vibrant, sunlit, free-market uplands which buccaneering British adventurers and entrepreneurs would plunder to their hearts' content to the benefit of everyone, I saw nothing - felt nothing.

(8) Occasionally finessing the truth when addressing voters is part and parcel of a politician's trade - but you mustn't do it so brazenly that they feel positively insulted. When Cameron returned from Brussels and claimed he'd negotiated meaningful concessions from the EU, we all scoffed - he lost the referendum right there. When you did a horribly clumsy U-turn over the badly-explained "dementia tax" and then claimed you had done no such thing - we all scoffed. And you lost your party's majority right there.

(9) We can no longer rely on young people not bothering to vote. They evidently respond to simple messages, delivered with seeming sincerity, and they like to feel part of a movement (they're terribly conformist). And, because they don't know anything of life, have nothing to lose, and don't really understand how money and tax work (many of them live at home, with ready access to funds from the Bank of Mum and Dad, which they never have to repay), and as none of them has ever experienced socialism (lucky sods!), you either have to explain reality to them (good luck with that), or you have to offer them an exciting, alternative vision which will somehow sound compassionate - because they like that sort of thing - and which will convince them either that they'll be getting tons of free goodies, or that they're going to earn so much they'll be able to afford those goodies anyway. There's no point in telling them you're beating up pensioners so they won't have to pay for the greedy old buggers - they don't have a clue how tax works! Tell them how you're going to ensure that they'll be better off than their parents - not that they won't be. Enthuse them! Excite them! 

(10) When your top team includes the single most-popular, tried and tested vote magnet in British politics, give him a prominent role - more prominent than your own, if necessary. Boris Johnson was elected as mayor of a rabidly Labour city twice. He was one of the main reasons the British voted for Brexit. Yes, he makes blunders and he annoys many people and he's nobody's idea of a safe pair of hands. But, by God, he's popular. He's funny and witty and all-too-human and people respond to him as they do to no other politician. He's the only living politician who's known by his first name alone. I kept hearing news of Tory ministers losing their seats this morning - and I couldn't put a face to most of them. And I'm actually interested in politics. I'm sure you had some strategic reason for keeping Boris hidden - presumably you wanted to sack him, or you felt he'd overshadow you, or whatever - but you were catastrophically wrong to do so. He'd no doubt have lost you a few votes - but he'd have won you a shedload more. This bloke wins important elections - unlike you. What were you thinking?

(11) If this election proved anything, it's that you really have to be able to energise people. In order to energise people, you have to engage with them, talk to them, make them feel you understand them, that you're speaking from the heart, that you want to lead them somewhere interesting and fun and either emotionally or materially rewarding - preferably both - and that you know exactly where it is and how to get them there. Corbyn - silly, old, terrorist-loving, anti-British, Stalinist nincompoop - gained 22 percentage points during the course of this election. He talked bollocks. His manifesto was packed with utterly unaffordable, goofy promises - but he sold it convincingly by sounding like he meant it, and that he was genuinely excited by it. Your manifesto - the "vaguest suicide note in history" - was packed with policies that, while some of them may have been sensible, sounded more like threats than promises. Insofar as you painted a picture of the promised land, it was a grey, dull, enervating dump that nobody would ever wish to visit. Enthuse, excite, engage - that's the ticket!

(12) Be a lucky general. You either are or you aren't. You aren't.

There's more, but that's enough for now.

You have to go, Mrs. May. You gambled, you lost - the country lost. Having made a total fool of yourself by losing an election that should have been a cakewalk, you really need to step aside and hand the reins to someone else. If you cobble together enough support (from the DUP, obviously) to stagger on, the Brexit negotiations will be a disaster, you'll be regularly tortured by the opposition and the warring factions in your own party in Parliament - and if you lead your poor, battered party into another, inevitable early election, there's a very good chance that you'll deliver this wonderful country into the hands of an extremely dangerous idiot, and the much brighter and therefore even more dangerous puppeteers who control him . Please don't make us pay that dreadful price for your shortcomings.

So, who next? There's not a lot of choice. Phillip Hammond? That boring sad sack? The wally who thought it would be a good idea for a Tory chancellor to give the self-employed a good hiding? Yer 'avin' a larf! David Davis? I'm a fan - but the youth vote? Ruth Davidson, who really had a splendid night (what a star!)? Well, she isn't an MP, unfortunately, because, while a Remainer and a centrist, she has masses of oomph and charm, and she's funny and she communicates and enthuses - next time, definitely. Perhaps Mrs. May could resign as an MP and Ms. Davidson could be parachuted into her extremely safe seat? This time - and I know many of you will hate the idea - it has to be Boris. The hell with it - let's give it a go! After all, we've spent the last two years laughing at the idea of Corbyn as Labour leader - and the risible old git's done rather well, hasn't he?


5 comments:

  1. A fine and comforting post on a truly horrible morning.

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  2. "It sounds like hindsight now - but I was going to …"

    Me, too. Many paragraphs about the abysmal campaign and the threat to our ability to negotiate BREXIT were deleted from my earlier comment.

    Churchill on Lenin’s safe passage to the revolution:

    They transported Lenin in a sealed truck like a plague bacillus from Switzerland to Russia.

    Corbyn is a plague bacillus and Theresa May nearly gave him safe passage, with crowds of ululating useful idiots.

    Perhaps the DUP will save us from that disease. That's the top priority requiring total concentration.

    Then there's rescuing the BREXIT negotiations, if possible, which includes getting a new leader.

    My deleted paragraph on the failings of the UK Border Force seems quaintly irrelevant now. It seemed germane to point out that the intelligence services shouldn't take all the flak for letting terrorists in and out of the country. But that was yesterday.

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  3. Many disgruntled Tory supporters have commented that the DUP might reacquaint the Tories with some basic conservative principles. Which would be good. Meanwhile, I don't know if you've seen this blistering piece by Graeme Archer on CapX:
    https://capx.co/theresa-may-must-go-and-go-now/

    Here's a taster:
    "When I worked for Greg Clark, his Communities & Local Government ministry shared a building with Theresa May’s Home Office. I used to joke about how “Theresa May” didn’t actually exist, but was just some cement creature; an icon carved in stone, that her Spads would wheel into meetings to glare silently at officials, until after an hour of embarrassed fumbling they’d agree to turn the Spads’ ideas into policy.

    At least, I thought I was joking. It turned out that beneath that mask of granite lies a brain of pure stone, as the horror show of this election made clear. Watching the cement creature being wheeled around the country to glare at party activists, while voters were kept well back behind the tape (“Sorry mate, you’re not on Nick’s list”), you could feel the Tory majority leaching away.

    Compare that with the Scottish Tory experience. Ruth Davidson never spouts cliches, is the opposite of a caricature, and has just won seat after seat from the SNP, including those of their Westminster leader Angus Robertson, as well as the ghastly Alex Salmond’s.

    Ruth’s not a Westminster MP, so she cannot become leader of the national party — though can there be any doubt that were matters otherwise, she would be? She underlines the fact that it isn’t actually necessary for Conservatives to lose. Imagine what Ruth Davidson would have done to Jeremy Corbyn."

    Interesting.

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  4. The Tories have got exactly what they deserved, a bloody good hiding. Unfortunately the rest of us have also been punished for their arrogance and incompetence.
    I can understand the attraction to youngsters for Corbyn's simplistic rhetoric because at their age I was a Michael Foot supporter. But we were safe because Foot was up against Maggie who utterly annihilated him. Thank God! Theresa May has been exposed as being weak and indecisive. When the going gets tough she bends and buckles. This is not the person we want to negotiate our exit from Europe. i can't see her lasting 6 months. Then who? Boris, David Davis. For the love of God, not Hammond!
    Christ, what a bleedin' mess.

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  5. I doubt if she'll last until the summer recess - it depends entirely on whether Tory MPs rally round. But even if they do she simply has to be gone in time for the party to elect a new leader in time for the annual conference. 2/3rds of party members want her gone now. The papers - and bookmakers - always mention Boris, but last year we were being told he didn't have a support base among Tory MPs. I wonder if he's been busy putting that right since becoming foreign secretary. Given Hammond's brilliant budget attack on the self-employed - and the subsequent U-turn - and that he's another anal retentive without a personality, picking him would be astonishingly stupid. Doesn't mean it won't happen, of course.

    Agreed - a bleedin' mess. The fact that it was entirely self-inflicted is what makes it so infuriating.

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