The Moody Blues
I’m normally prepared for things like this. Election nights are required watching, and I’ll have things ready. A selection of snacks, a bottle of wine, at least two different sources of information to hand. Not this time though. The exit poll was due to be announced at 11pm (French time) and as it was I stood on the bottom step of the stairs in my bed shorts, a chamomile tisane in one hand and a book in the other. I knew what was coming, a 50-80 seat majority, an increased mandate for Prime Minister May, a stronger than originally thought showing for Corbyn. It was as you were, so why not grab an early night?
I think I may have spilt my tisane.
‘What are you doing?’ Natalie asked a few moments later as she heard a cork pop in the larder.
‘Opening a bottle of wine.’ I replied, now dressed and grappling with a bottle of my favourite rosé, Les Tourettes. ‘It’s going to be a long night.’
There are so many theories as to why Theresa May failed in her power grab, partly I think because she got it wrong in so many ways. The sickening London attacks of June 3rd normally play into the hands of a right-wing candidate, but she got that wrong too. People, while rightly appalled were also reminded of just how superhuman the emergency services in the UK are. They were also reminded of cuts to those services too, so when the person who has been Home Secretary for 6 of the last 7 years says it’s an intelligence problem, in many ways she was spot on. The intelligence failure was hers.
Of the 8 people to die in that attack, 7 were foreigners. That’s how multi-cultural London is, that’s how many tourists and foreign workers, London and the UK needs. It’s part of who we are now, and it was precisely that kind of easy, multi-cultural living that was being attacked. I think to many, the shrill voices about immigration became somehow even nastier as a result of that attack. For the tabloids to then link the Labour Party front bench with hideous terrorism a few days later, also misjudged the mood entirely. The personal assault on Corbyn and his supposed links to the IRA was overplayed, and obvious too. I have friends who served in the army who said they would never vote for Corbyn because they had seen him share a platform with Sinn Fein, so I was expecting the press to play this card. To play it when people were still in hospital after a terrorist attack itself was beyond contempt. I think Corbyn, and many on the far left are naïve about who they consort with. Mostly it’s an innocent dalliance I suspect, like Pete Townsend and his ‘research’. Also, they never expected to be under the spotlight like this. But then, who did?
Dr John Curtace, the academic BBC go-to for statistics, a man so unkempt as to be straight out of mathematician central-casting, put the exit poll together and declared that this was the first Brexit election, but Brexit was nowhere to be found. Theresa May called it to clarify her stance on Brexit and then refused to discuss what that stance was. Labour were also happy not to discuss it either. The result then, unfortunately, was not to signal a reversal of Brexit but, I think, to soften the way it’s being handled. The sabre-rattling, stroppy approach of the Tory party has many people, Leavers as well as Remainers uneasy. This ‘No Deal is better than a Bad Deal’ nonsense means nothing. No anything is rarely better than a bad anything. Food? Breathing? Sex? You name it. It’s so negative, so childish. Labour doesn’t differ from the Conservatives on Brexit very much, but as they prepare for us to leap from the tree they seem less determined to hit every branch on the way down.
And that’s the difference for me. One side was nasty, one wasn’t. I am no supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. I think if he’d put half of this effort into the Brexit referendum we wouldn’t be on the road to economic self-harm, and society wouldn’t be as divided either, but he galvanised a larger vote than anyone thought possible. Though still 86 seats short of Tony Blair at his weakest in 2005 so don’t get carried away. What’s most important is that he motivated the young. He proved that this patronising attitude about the young preferring to stay in bed rather than vote was a lie. A lie that was propagated by the press and the Conservative party so that they could ignore them in their attitude and policies. They can’t do that anymore, there must be a sea change there. Even the right now has to stop hitting the younger generation.
There needs to be a fundamental change in how politics is conducted. The Tory party’s snarling aggression was wrong, the tabloid press got it wrong too. People have had enough of division and animosity. The country is being attacked from the outside, no-one wants to see unnecessary attacks from within now. There has to be a friendlier, more grown up, more conciliatory approach, with more inclusive policies to boot. Which is why May’s insidious unison with the Democratic Unionist Party is so wrong, and will do her no good. These terrorist sympathising, anti-abortion, anti LGBT rights, climate change deniers make Donald Trump look sane. As a party they’re the kind of fruitcake who stands at the funeral of a dead gay man, banging a tambourine and cheering. They are poisonous.
Twice now, Theresa May has indicated that a deal with these rabid halfwits has been reached. Twice they have responded with a ‘not yet, it hasn’t’. And yet, she seriously thinks she should be backed to negotiate with the EU. In a fairly wide field she is showing a winning propensity for rank, and charmless, incompetence. If you want to know how to do deals then I suggest talking to my 7 year old son Thérence. We were due to go to the cinema yesterday and see Pirates of the Caribbean 47 or something, but seeing as it was about 90 degrees only he wanted to go. He quietly negotiated a deal with each of the rest of us individually, and so when he finally relented we were informed of a list he’d been keeping. A family game of cricket, €15 from me, sleeping in his eldest brother’s room, some Match Attax cards… all achieved with charm. All of us done up like a kipper.
I think May should second guess Labour here. Create a cross-party ministry to deal with Brexit, Labour has essentially the same policy, so spread the blame when it goes wrong. That of course would require leadership, courage and skill and so is unlikely. What’s more likely is another general election, we also have the Legislative elections in France to come this week. Another UK General Election will be the third time in possibly 18 months that the ‘strong and stable’ ‘natural party of governance’ has caused chaos and division rather than address its problems internally. The EU would probably, if asked nicely via chief negotiator Michel Barnier, put Brexit negotiations on hold until the country sorts itself out. They want to know who they’re dealing with too so this result does no-one any favours. But again, that would take leadership and courage and diplomacy. It would also be seen as a bit naughty by some, so again, unlikely. Theresa May said famously, that the naughtiest thing she has ever done is ‘run through a field of wheat’, which is handy because I strongly suspect that the Tory party are about to kick her into the long grass. And frankly, I know how she feels. I set a hammock up in the orchard yesterday, once I had permission from Thérence obviously, and the plan was to listen to the cricket on a lazy Saturday off. That I immediately fell off was predictable, that I fell into a stinking pile of horse manure just gravy, as they say.
‘Oh,’ Natalie said, ‘I let Ultime into the orchard yesterday to eat the grass. Didn’t I tell you?’
Plans eh, Theresa? They don’t always work out.
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