Saturday 14 December 2019

A Famous Victory

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The most significant elections in modern British history are 1906, 1918, 1931, 1945, 1997 and 2017. 

I would not put Mrs Thatcher's three landslide victories in the same category, nor the 1957 or 1966 elections, the Khaki election of 1900 or the National Government's landslide victory in 1935. 

The 1979 election was a big turning point because of what Mrs Thatcher did with her victory, not because of the election result itself. Though it is what Boris does with his victory that is what matters.

1935, incidentally, was the last time when Labour won fewer seats than on Thursday.

In the very painful, dying days of Theresa May premiership (how far away the recent past seems) those close to her (though vno-one ever was close to her) talked of 'Gordon Brown Day', the day she overtook him in length of time as Prime Minister. Prime Ministers care very much about such things. She outlasted him by two months and beat the Duke of Wellington too, though not Jim Callaghan.

Boris overtook George Canning on 20 November, so he would not have been the shortest serving Prime Minister had he lost the election. (Lord Bath's two days does not count, as he was trying and failing to form a government). But he would have been a footnote to history had a Labour SNP government been formed yesterday. 

Instead he has made history. Even if he, God forbid, were killed today he would be an important and heroic, not a pathetic historical figure. As it is he is, whatever else he is, an undoubted genius - as his former boss Charles Moore said today.

Few geniuses have become British Prime Minister. Let's think. Churchill, Lloyd George, Salisbury, Gladstone, Disraeli, Palmerston and the Pitts. Not Margaret Thatcher or Asquith. Anyone else?

Yesterday's result means the Conservative share of the vote has risen for each of the last six elections and for the first time, at least since 1832, the governing party’s share of the vote has risen four times in succession.

Everyone who knows tells us that it will take ten years for Labour to return to office and everyone is probably right, though each voter possesses free will. There is no reason why the Liberal Democrats should not win an outright victory next time, but they won't.

The Tories won a huge majority - their first since 1987 - and it's the first time since 2005-2010 when the government has a comfortable majority, of the sort that is rare in Europe but used to be normal in the UK.

The most repellent party of all, the misnamed Liberal Democrats, did badly. So did the DUP. More Catholic Nationalist MPs were elected in Northern Ireland this time than Protestant Unionists, because of demographics. The SNP won a lot of seats but will not be granted their wish to have another referendum.

Brexit will happen within seven weeks. Really. 

Boris, if not World King, has a free hand with the next and much more complex stage of the Brexit talks, after we leave, and free hand to shape foreign and economic policy. 

He will want to do so in a way that avoids people imagining his is a continuation of David Cameron's or Theresa May's ministries. He would like to be to them what New Labour was to Old Labour, but this is impossible because he, like them, is a left-wing One Nation Conservative, a Macmillanite except on Europe.

Immigration policy, of course, was the policy of the Macmillan government which has had much the most lasting impact on Britain. I expect Boris's immigration policy to continue allowing sixty thousand or more immigrants from Africa and Asia to settle each year in the UK , but to admit fewer from the EU.

Do the British public still care any more about immigration? Of course they do and will do more and more, until it becomes almost the only issue. Boris will be opportunistic enough to take note at some point, but he is instinctively pro-immigration, like most of the Tory leadership and like big business. 

Theresa May was the only British politician who saw the importance of restricting immigration, but did not succeed in doing much about it in nine years as Home Secretary and then Prime Minister.

Will the union with Scotland be weakened by the election result? No, I think secession will be much less likely after Brexit. 

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne agrees with me that there will not be a second referendum on Scottish independence. 

“I don’t think he will ever concede another referendum on Scottish independence. I don’t think any Conservative leader who went through the experience of 2014 would want to repeat that … I think he will withstand any amount of pressure from Holyrood and Nicola Sturgeon … for the very simple reason that he might lose. No one wants to be the prime minister who loses the union.”

Strange that such obvious things are not clear to everyone. 

And will Northern Ireland end up leaving? That is impossible to tell. 

Few in Great Britain would care if the Six Counties left the UK, though the Powellites and right would care.

Jeremy Corbyn has said he will resign by next autumn, but is the Corbynite, semi-Marxist hard left finished? 

Mr Corbyn asked the party for a period of reflection, which is a good idea, though he himself has not reflected much, or at least not had a new idea, since 1968. Polls show it was Jeremy Corbyn's leadership much more than Brexit that pushed Labour voters into voting Tory.

Mr Corbyn is not an antisemite but sees Israel as imperialist and racist. This outlook can easily seem like antisemitism and very easily like anti-white racism. If the Labour Party looks as if it favours non-whites above whites it is doomed to lose the working classes and doomed to lose elections, unless the working classes die away or are replaced.

Donald Trump, who is greatly disliked by most British people, though he has some admirers, tweeted

“Congratulations to Boris Johnson on his great WIN! Britain and the United States will now be free to strike a massive new Trade Deal after BREXIT. This deal has the potential to be far bigger and more lucrative than any deal that could be made with the E.U. Celebrate Boris!”

Boris is the hero - all his decisions, from resigning as Foreign Secretary onwards, have been vindicated (except the prorogation, but the Supreme Court was a very wild card). 

Equally a hero is Dominic Cummings, at whom Twitter sneered ('classic Dom'). He is not stepping down. This makes me happy. He is to Boris what Steve Bannon was to Donald Trump, the clever strategist and court intellectual.

But in fact luck plays a huge part in history. As Stephen Tall writes in the Spectator,
"If Boris Johnson had gone for his Plan A – a snap election in September threatening no-deal – I think the result would have been very different. Plenty of suburban Remain-leaning Conservative seats would have seriously been in play for the Lib Dems. But the double act of Hilary Benn and Dominic Grieve thwarted the Prime Minister, who was instead forced to the negotiating table. The rest, as they say, is history."
The Lib Dems' schoolmarmish leader Mrs 'Jo' Swinson lost her seat and made a mendacious and demagogic speech about nationalism and racism. Sky News caught Nicola Sturgeon punching the air when she learnt Miss Swinson had lost. Watch here.

All the Labour turncoats lost their seats. They blew their big chance to form a centre party - partly because former deputy Labour Leader Tom Wilson begged many moderate MPs not to leave. He has now left Parliament to become a gym instructor.

All the Tory renegades who joined the Lib Dems lost their seats: Anna Soubry, Dominic Grieve, David Gauke, Philip Lee, Stephen Dorrell, the exceptionally stupid Heidi Allen and Antoinette Sandbach (crazy name, crazy gal). 

I am delighted that Amber Rudd, who wanted to make it an offence punishable by 15 years inside to read extremist material on the internet, did not stand again. Ken Clarke said she was Prime Minister material, so England dodged a bullet. 

But independent of whether one likes the Tory rebels or not, it means the Tories are now united on Brexit and united behind their leader. What is important is that Boris purged his party of irreconcilables. It is his party now.

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