Sunday 15 December 2019

The genius of Boris, Brexit as a mental health issue, the embourgeoisement of Labour and the return of Disraeli

This is from an article by Charles Moore, the former doyen of the Young Fogeys and now best known for having been Boris's boss, who knew the good and bad in him.
"When I was his editor on this paper, he often drove me to distraction with his lateness and unreliability. But I also formed the view that he is one of the very few people I have ever met who can be described as a genius. For all his defects and peccadilloes, Boris is the man.
It was clear to me long ago that he is a genius and there have been few of those at No 10.

Gladstone and Disraeli are the obvious ones, and the Pitts. Churchill perhaps.
"Yesterday morning, parents of children at a school in London received an email which began: “Sometimes, things happen in the wider world, in the country ... that can be difficult to understand.” It went on to explain that while it was good for children to talk to “trusted adults” about “things that worry us”, it was important that “we won’t talk about negative events to other children”. Although the email did not say so, the “negative event” here referred to was the result of Thursday’s general election."
I find this absolutely incredible, though I know schools in New York sent similar emails out when Mr Trump won. 

There is a long article in Metro explaining that Brexit is apparently responsible for an epidemic of psychological disorders among Remainiacs. I post the link here in the hope that it might be useful, gentle reader, should you or someone you know be suffering.

The 2019 election is a pivot, like the ones of 1945, 1979 and 1997. But the biggest pivot, at least since 1945, was the 2016 referendum, whose result the last Parliament refused to implement. As Charles Moore has been repeating, since the 2008 financial crisis everything is different. Everything is now even more different.

After the 1983 British election, had you drawn a line on the map between the Wash and the Wirral, you'd have found that Labour won no constituencies below the line outside London, except for one in Norwich. Above the line the seats it held were deprived places with low living standards. 

Now it holds many more in London, even though it has suffered a terrible defeat, and it holds many prosperous, leafy places. It holds Cambridge, solid Tory when I was up, it holds one of the two Oxford seats (the other returned one of the twelve Lib Dem MPs), Canterbury, Exeter and other beautiful university towns. Labour lost Kensington (save the mark!) by 150 votes, thanks to the Liberal Democrats putting up the Tory renegade Sam Gyimah.

Every country in Europe in the 19th century had a Conservative party. Only in England, by which I mean Great Britain, has one survived. Survived by being an unprincipled whore, interested mostly in power, but survived.

This is my old supervisor, now Professor Robert Tombs points out that the working classes are turning to the right but only in the UK, thanks to our electoral system, is this happening via an ancient centre right party, within the two party system.

As in the 1930s, a popular centre-Right is the strongest barrier to the far-Right.

So Boris has adopted a formula that is both new and old: “One Nation Conservatism”. This is supposedly the invention of that ingenious tactician Benjamin Disraeli – even if, some historians argue, the idea was largely developed after his death.

His many enemies on the Left accused him of being an irresponsible and unprincipled charlatan. But it was Disraeli who memorably pointed to the scandal of “the two nations”, the rich and the poor, who lived entirely separate existences – as to our shame they still do.

And it was Disraeli who insisted that the Tory party was “the national party … the really democratic party of England.” And by saying it, and doing something about it, he made it happen: the old moribund Tory party became the natural party of government, and acquired a significant working class following, not least among those who disliked the Victorian varieties of political correctness.

Lewis Baston has an interesting analysis in the Guardian:
Each election invites us to revisit the lessons of the previous one. Just as the 2017 election showed that while a lot of people had an appetite for change and Labour policies, they had not been willing to embrace Ed Miliband as a leader in 2015, the 2019 election sheds a harsh light on how poor a campaigner Theresa May proved to be in 2017. Boris Johnson, avoiding the media and repeating platitudes as banal as the Maybot, unlocked the mandate that she sought last time around. It was an expertly timed election, thanks as much to the blunders of Jo Swinson and Jeremy Corbyn as to the Machiavellian planning of Johnson and Dominic Cummings. Running against chaos worked for Cameron in 2015, and even more so for the Tories in 2019.

The Conservative victory was comprehensive. Their share of the vote, at 43.6% across the UK, was slightly higher than Labour achieved in 1997 (43.2%) but not quite up to the achievements of Thatcher in 1979 (43.9%) or Heath in 1970 (46.4%). But it is fair to say that it is the biggest share of the vote for a party in the contemporary era. Their achievement after nine years of government of receiving swings of 10-15% from the main opposition across swathes of constituencies is unequalled. Other than on slightly technical occasions such as 1931 and 1906, when a government was formed slightly in advance of an election, the Conservatives have enjoyed the most emphatic upgrade to their mandate of any government in British history. Their popular vote lead of 11.4% over the main alternative is more or less what Thatcher achieved in 1987 but a little less than what Blair and Thatcher managed in 1997 and 1983. Although the Conservative majority stopped short of three figures, it is not unreasonable to think of the 2019 election as a landslide.
Here is from an affecting article by Alison Pearson, a writer who is growing on me. It makes my skin tingle.

I didn’t realise how anxious I was until, around mid-afternoon, I got an email. “There is now a significant probability the Conservatives will come first in Wales in both votes and seats,” it said. I actually started to cry at the thought of my valiant little homeland teaching its complacent Labour overlords a lesson. A friend called from Swansea and, amidst screams of laughter, confirmed that her ex-miner uncle had only gone and voted Tory and - get this - he loves Boris!

If Uncle Carl’s Boriscene conversion was anything to go by, then this wasn’t an election any more, it was a revolution. On Twitter, a Yorkshireman confirmed that locals were “coming down from the hills to see off the dark forces”.
Our people were rallying to save their country from the Corbynists. Quiet millions pulled on their coats, braved the rain and went down to the polling station for the fourth time in three years, if you please, to vote for Boris who promised that, this time, we would actually Get Brexit Done.

Well, the Remainers said they wanted a People’s Vote and they bloody well got one. And the people, they said, No.


  1. Pete Flanagan commented: 'Soft propaganda for the status quo, 56% of voters voting for parties promising a second vote on any deal is hardly the"people" rejecting a second vote. A huge majority in parliament just means a minority can impose their vote on a majority using a non existent constitution and pretences of precedent quoting Disraeli to try to legitimise one worldview, look at what the PR results would have yielded and see why the belief a democratic deficit exists.'

    1. Everywhere I campaigned, I heard the same thing. It was less about Brexit and more about belief. In these places of generations of Labour voting, they did not believe a Labour government would or could deliver for them. They didn’t trust us.

      Jess Phillips

    2. The people are wiser than the politicians. At least the working and lower middle classes are. The graduates are less so.

  2. I don't see what is there to get excited about. People don't like the far left and Boris is a popular and, allegedly, charismatic figure so of course the Conservatives won this election by a wide margin. Furthermore, even though the public is not keen on outright socialism, they do agree with many of its policies or at least they're resigned to their existence (For example there is much less stigma attached to benefits than there used to be. The days when people were, rightfully, outraged about them are gone. I never hear anyone complaining about them nowadays. If you say you are receiving them nobody has much of a negative reaction). There is also the little elephant in the room that neither Boris nor the Conservative party are particularly conservative and that they both have a cosmopolitan/internationalist bent.

  3. Gayest parliament in the world

    'A new type of young Conservative MP in the 2019 intake: state school-educated, working class, Brexit supporting and socially liberal... Looking at this youthful group gives a fascinating insight into the future of the Tory party. There is not an Old Etonian in sight, and 24 are openly gay or bisexual, the most of any party. Labour has at least 18 — boosting the total to more than 50 LGBT MPs. Westminster is now the “gayest parliament in the world”.’

    Sunday Times

  4. We won the argument, but I regret we didn’t convert that into a majority for change.

    Jeremy Corbyn

  5. I notice that the fact that Boris got a crushing 42% of the vote is being quietly overlooked. This election may have been many things but it was hardly a triumph for democracy.

    1. In the 2005 general election Labour took a majority of the seats with only 36% of the vote...
      A party’s share of the popular vote nationally is irrelevant in a First Past The Post electoral system.

    2. In Labour's famous landslide victory in 1945, which changed the political landscape for more than a generation, they won 393 seats against the Tories' 197 and the Liberals' 12. In 1945 Labour won only 47.7% of the vote. It is very much harder for a party to win a percentage as high as that again, because of the size of the Scottish Nationalist and Labour Democrat votes. In 1945 we had a two party system and the Liberals ceased to matter until they came back, renamed, in 1997.

      Labour's second great landslide victory, in 1997, was even bigger than its victory in 1945. It the biggest landslide won by a single party, rather than a cross-party coalition as in 1931 and 1935, since the Liberal landslide in 1906, but they won in 1997 with only 43.2% of the vote. The Tories won 30.7%.

      By contrast Labour this time won 32 per cent of votes cast, more than they did under Gordon Brown in 2010 (29 per cent) and under Ed Miliband in 2015 (30 per cent). In 2010 Labour only lost pretty narrowly in terms of seats and we had a hung parliament.

    3. The Conservatives increased their share of the vote by just 1.2 per cent compared to 2017. The Labour party was down 8 points and, strange to say, the Liberal Democrats had a five-point increase!

    4. General election results 2019 - national swing

      Labour to Conservative: 4.70%

      Conservative to Lib Dem: 1.36%

      Labour to Lib Dem: 6.06%

  6. "It could not have happened without Boris. When I was his editor on this paper he often drove me to distraction with his lateness and unreliability. But I also formed the view that he is one of the very few people I have ever met who can be described as a genius. For all his defects and peccadilloes, Boris is the man."

    Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph