Labour Centrists Bend The Knee To Jeremy Corbyn, Once Again

Yvette Cooper

No courage, no backbone, no vision of their own

Telegraph sketchwriter Michael Deacon reports on the rapturous reception given to Jeremy Corbyn by the Parliamentary Labour Party when he entered the Commons yesterday:

Labour MPs cheered Jeremy Corbyn.

Genuinely. They really did. And when I say Labour MPs, I don’t just mean John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and the other members of his little band of loyalists. I mean all of them. As Mr Corbyn entered the Commons for the first time since the election, his MPs rose as one and awarded their leader a delirious standing ovation. Yes, the same MPs – well, apart from the 47 new ones – who not so long ago sat in scowling silence while Mr Corbyn floundered at PMQs, and voted by four to one that he must stand down.

On and on they clapped and whooped. Beaming from ear to ear, like a Wimbledon champion greeting his adoring public, Mr Corbyn waved, shook hands, did the thumbs-up, and basked in the acclaim. On the opposite side of the House, Tory MPs – including Theresa May – stared glumly.

What a sight it was. If this is how Labour celebrate losing an election, imagine what they’d do if they actually won.

Well, well, well.

It’s almost as though I wrote something warning about the spineless Labour centrists and their yawning lack of principle a year ago, after Jeremy Corbyn saw off their pathetic, ineptly executed leadership challenge. Oh wait, I did. Twice.

And just as they did when Corbyn vanquished the hapless Owen Smith, now the Labour centrists are prostrating themselves at their leader’s feet because his big government manifesto managed to bribe sufficient voters to win Labour a handful of additional seats, if not the general election. They are jostling for position, eager to worm their way back into the the Shadow Cabinet – which many of them previously deserted or refused to join, in an effort to destabilise Corbyn – because they taste the tantalising prospect of toppling Theresa May’s government, forcing another election and creeping across the finish line as part of some “progressive alliance”.

Yvette Cooper, Chuka Umunna, Owen Smith – all of the usual suspects quickly dropped their plans to revolt against Jeremy Corbyn after what they anticipated to be an electoral wipeout, and instead took to the airwaves to praise their leader and lay the groundwork for what they clearly hope is a return to power and prominence.

Jeremy Corbyn’s hard left worldview will destroy the Labour Party, we were once told. But more than that, his policies are wrong! So said the sanctimonious Labour centrists, despite failing to clearly articulate their own centrist vision for Britain or clearly explain which parts of the Thatcherite revolution they want to keep, which ones they want to reject and which ones they simply want to pretend to oppose in order to project the right image to their base. And now they come crawling back, ready and eager to serve, all previous ideological and moral objections to Corbyn having been conveniently compartmentalised and forgotten.

The Labour centrists have no courage and no backbone. This is Jeremy Corbyn’s party now, not theirs. Labour’s 40% vote share was driven by Corbyn, not by any of the B-lister centrists who can barely inspire their own family members to the polls. If the centrists meant what they said when they wept at Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader, resigned from his Shadow Cabinet in a huff or explicitly repudiated his leadership on the campaign doorstep, they would break away and found a new party of the centre-left. But they won’t. The prospect of power – even hard left power which not so long ago they found utterly objectionable – is simply too alluring.

This blog will make time to hear a multiplicity of political perspectives, but I have no time for people who cannot manage basic ideological consistency. And I have no time for oleaginous political swamp creatures who stab their leader in the back one day only to lay garlands of flowers at his feet the next.

Such degeneracy can be rivalled only by the rootless Conservative Party, who seem to have concluded – God help us – that the best way to bounce back from Theresa May’s disastrous election campaign is to race the Labour Party in a sprint to the political Left.

 

UPDATE – 14 June

Lobbyist and former Labour MP Tom Harris concurs with my assessment, and lays into the Labour centrists – particularly the so-called “big beasts”:

They were the epitome of principled opposition to a philosophy that, although alien to Labour Party traditions, was, for the time being, in control of it. They would not overtly oppose Corbyn (out of respect for his mandate, naturally), but neither would they be complicit.

Until now. Because it turns out – and who could possibly have predicted this? – that their “opposition” was not founded on principle at all. At least, not the principle we all thought.

Jeremy Corbyn stood in silence to honour IRA terrorists. He said that the homophobic, misogynist, anti-Semitic terrorists of Hamas, when they weren’t chucking trade unionists off the top of tall buildings in Gaza, were “dedicated towards… bringing about peace and social justice.”

He called for Nato to be disbanded. But it turns out that the “big beasts” had no problem with any of this, oh no – shame on you for thinking that!

Their only concern – and, to be fair, it was one that was shared by many of us – was that Corbyn just wouldn’t have an electoral appeal that would be great enough to warrant their participation on his front bench.

These are important people, after all, whose time is more precious than everyone else’s – they can’t be expected to spend their days asking parliamentary questions and leading opposition debates unless there’s the serious prospect of ministerial office at the end of it.

And now there is. After last week, there is the every chance that Jeremy Corbyn will be Prime Minister of this country, conceivably by the end of the year.

Before that earth-shattering exit poll was published at 10.00 pm last Thursday, at least a couple of those “big beasts” had already sought the support of their colleagues in anticipation of a return to the front bench, not as Shadow something or other, but as Leader of the Opposition. Labour’s 40 per cent of the vote changed all that.

Now, those of us with less political abilities and intellect than the “big beasts” might take a cautious step backwards at this point. In our naïveté we might fear that extremists who prove themselves popular are even more dangerous than extremists who are unpopular. But we would be wrong to think so.

With the sudden realisation that, contrary to expectation and logic, there are no votes to be lost in anti-Semitism or in friendship towards terrorists, the “big beasts” have made it clear that they are willing, after all, to get with the programme.

Some sore losers might harbour the hope that Corbyn will tell them to sod off and that he’s doing just fine without them, thank you very much.

But whether they return to their (as they see it) rightful place at the heart of Labour’s front bench, or whether they continue to sulk (with principle, of course) on the back benches, the term “big beast” will always be preceded by the descriptive “so called”, and will always be used with inverted commas, in order to indicate irony.

Principle has no place in British politics anymore, at least as far as the political/media elite are concerned. Pragmatism is king. And if your route back to power and influence means executing a deft 180-degree turn on supposedly inviolable principles, so be it. This is the rotten core of the Labour Party’s centrist wing.

 

 

Jeremy Corbyn speech

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General Election 2017: Tory Apocalypse / Brexit Salvation Reax

Theresa May - Lord Buckethead

A self-inflicted catastrophe for small-C conservatives with one – potentially enormous – silver lining

Who knew that Theresa May was quite so staggeringly incompetent? I mean, we all knew that she wasn’t a real conservative, at least in the best Thatcherite traditions of the party. That much was made clear from successive party conference speeches and her idiotic manifesto’s all-out assault on the libertarian or free market wing of the party.

But her years plugging away in the Home Office and quietly manoeuvring herself into the most powerful job in the country belied the fact that as prime minister, Theresa May would be revealed as little more than a puppet manipulated by her two closest aides (also both cuckoos in the conservative nest) with almost zero reliable judgment of her own.

Through her sheer campaigning ineptitude and inability to articulate a positive conservative vision (remember how this blog kept banging on about the need for one of those?), Theresa May has allowed Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of 1970’s style socialism to regain a foothold in British politics, and for this unforgivable high crime alone she needs to be sent to political Siberia with no undue delay.

But as I made clear in my election night live-blog, Jeremy Corbyn also deserves enormous credit for improving Labour’s electoral position and enthusing so many people with socialist politics. Sure, in one sense it is easy to sway people with the promise of endless free stuff, always paid for by someone else. But as I noted a couple of weeks ago, it is still necessary to overcome voter scepticism that the promised Utopian land of plenty can actually be achieved.

Jeremy Corbyn successfully made the pitch to lots of people – or at least got them to temporarily suspend their disbelief. And he did so in the context of a still-centrist Parliamentary Labour Party which hates his guts and has been trying to undermine him since before his leadership even began, not to mention a hostile television news media which only fell into something approaching balance when election campaign rules took effect, and a pro-Tory print media which pulled out all the stops to get Theresa May over the finish line. That is no small feat.

The other major factor was the youth vote. While we still don’t actually know how many young people voted or quite to what extent they broke for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, it seems clear that the promise of free university tuition – and let’s face it, just an ounce of empathy for a generation coming of age at a time when the prospect of home ownership is more distant and potential career paths more disjointed and precarious – won the support of millions of young people.

Apparently when it comes to closing time at nightclubs, young people are spontaneously breaking into the sung refrain “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!“. The naive chant of mostly low-information voters who wear their political views more as a trendy fashion statement than a considered position? Sure. But also a demographic which Theresa May and her campaign team, in their infinite wisdom, did absolutely nothing to court.

I blogged about this in the heat of the moment on election night, and then split out my thoughts into a separate piece here. And it seems clear to me that British conservatives (I use a small C deliberately) simply cannot go on writing off the youth vote and ceding it to the parties of the Left. We have been doing so for far too long, at our peril, and now that a charismatic conviction politician (in the unlikely form of Jeremy Corbyn) has come along who can actually speak to this demographic we are totally defenceless.

And then there’s Brexit.

The one silver lining of this confused election result is that Theresa May’s stubborn insistence that “Brexit means Brexit” – by which she means that Brexit means abandoning the EEA, denying the existence of non-tariff barriers to trade, demanding a bespoke comprehensive free trade agreement within two years and threatening to walk away with no deal if the EU failed to acquiesce – may now be moderated by more sensible voices which lean toward the once-maligned “Norway Option”.

The DUP, on whose support the Conservatives must now rely to command a majority in the House of Commons and remain in government, are against a hard Brexit, as are many Tory Remainers and many small-C conservative Brexiteers across the country. While the Tory Brexit Taliban (a wonderful phrase concocted by Pete North) will kick up an almighty fuss if they sense any dilution of their maximalist approach to Brexit, suddenly it has become a lot harder to see the pathway toward that goal. Good.

Aside from these thoughts, I am still digesting the surprising election result and the potential ramifications of a new political reality with many moving parts. But below are some of the hot takes and more considered reactions which have resonated most with me in the hours since the fateful exit poll was released.

Author and blogger Paul Goldsmith rips into the Tories’ awful manifesto, the incompetence of their leadership and their small-minded, fear-based campaign:

Let’s not beat around the bush here. Theresa May’s manifesto was almost like saying ‘come on, I dare you to vote for us’. The idea that people who had worked all their lives and paid taxes and national insurance to build up a nest-egg to pass onto their children and grandchildren should run down that nest-egg to the last £100,000 to pay for care they thought was part of their social contract with the state in return for those taxes and that insurance? A return to a grammar school system that might look superficially advantageous to poorer children but with no clarity on how it wouldn’t once again abandon 75% of the population to the mental slavery of under-education? A free vote on fox hunting? A determination to insist that the ‘will of the people’ had been clearly expressed for the hardest of Brexits including withdrawal from the Single Market and customs union and immigration controls that include the preposterous 100,000 a year immigration cap?

Let’s add that to the person delivering this, it turned out, far more madcap scheme. Theresa May came across as arrogant, complacent, prickly when challenged, and downright mendacious when insisting ‘nothing had changed’ during her unprecedented manifesto u-turn on social care. Then there was the refusal to engage in TV debates. I wonder if any leader will do THAT again. Her refusal to properly involve her Cabinet in creating that manifesto left them hung out to dry when defending it, as they were reduced to constant ‘dead cat’ strategies of shouting ‘IRA’, ‘MARXIST’ and ‘TERRORIST SYMPATHIZER’ at Jeremy Corbyn, because they had so little positive to say.

Then look at what she was up against. Every night I would watch the news with Mrs G. We are not, and never will be ‘Corbynistas’, but by g-d did he look good compared to the Prime Minister. Mrs G often said it herself “every night he seems like the only person in this election who really believes what he is saying.”

This last point is particularly valid. Don’t underestimate the attraction of a political leader who (regardless of the rightness or wrongness of their policies) actually sincerely believes what they are saying, and has the courage to defend those beliefs.

When Theresa May first called this general election, I wrote a piece pondering whether Jeremy Corbyn’s likely defeat would spell the end for conviction politics altogether. How wrong I was. If anything, the Tory implosion and Corbyn’s solid showing (and the enthusiasm he has generated among many young people) have reminded us that having strong principles and the willingness to defend them can actually be attractive to voters. If only the conviction politician in this case had been on the Right rather than the Left.

Daniel Hannan, writing for the Washington Examiner, reaches for some low-hanging fruit about how young people voted for Free Stuff:

It’s true that the Conservative campaign could have been better, but that is true of every campaign in history. The prime minister, Theresa May, was criticized for calling an unnecessary election and then refusing to participate in the televised debates. But that doesn’t come close to explaining how Labour rose from 30 to 40 percent support during the campaign.

No, I’m afraid we’re down to the simplest and most depressing explanation. Quite a few voters will support any party that seems to be offering them free stuff.

Labour’s manifesto was a ridiculous list of public handouts. More money was promised for healthcare, schools, the police, public sector pay rises, pensions and free university tuition. All the extra cash was vaguely supposed to come from “big business” and “the rich.” In the event, an awful lot of people liked the sound of goodies that someone else would pay for.

The Labour vote came disproportionately from people under the age of 25, who turned out in unprecedented numbers, confounding every opinion poll. Few of voters of that generation know about the IRA bombing campaign in the 1970s and 1980s, which far surpassed today’s Islamist terror in its scale. They do not remember the Cold War. They do not even recall, except in the vaguest sense, the last Labour government which, in 2010, left Britain with a deficit higher than Greece’s.

On polling day, a Labour activist tweeted a photograph of students queuing outside a polling station. It was, she said, a sign of the political upheaval that was taking place. But my immediate thought was: “If your guy implements the socialism he wants, we’ll all have to get used to queuing.”

He’s right. The case for free markets and fiscal conservatism has to be made anew in every generation. Many of the young people who helped power Jeremy Corbyn to victory are at best dimly aware of the extent to which post-war consensus, socialist policies doomed Britain to slow and steady decline up to 1979. They didn’t experience the Winter of Discontent themselves, just as I didn’t.

But if nobody makes the case for the kind of policies which rescued Britain from near-terminal decline and which are at the root of the historic prosperity and plenty which we now enjoy, then they will take this stability and prosperity for granted, assuming that it is the baseline, the default setting. They will wrongly assume that things can only be improved by overturning conservative policies and attacking the free market, when in fact conservative economic policies and free markets underpin nearly every good thing in their lives, from the clothes they wear, the variety of food in the grocery stores where they shop to the smartphones in their hand from which they glibly re-tweet “For the many, not the few”.

Here’s Margot James, Conservative MP for Stourbridge, making a similar point in Conservative Home:

Apart from a level of debt which is unsustainable over the long term, the economy is now in good shape.  We have brought sanity to the public finances, as we promised we would. Consequently, the economy has not been to the fore when people have been deciding how to vote.  Labour have been able to latch on to this relative economic security by peddling a message that the state should provide more at every turn.

The election descended into a profligate binge over how much taxpayers’ money Labour proposed to give away: keeping the triple lock for pension increases, maintaining winter fuel payments for older people as a universal benefit, thousands more police officers (regardless whether or not they are needed, given the changing nature of crime), more money for schools, health, and social care…all this was added to the billions needed for the nationalisation of the railways and the Royal Mail. And finally, the game-changer: an end to tuition fees for higher education.

The moment I heard Labour’s policy of free university education I knew young people would turn out to vote in unprecedented numbers.  This was a policy that would deliver votes in the same way that the sale of council houses did for us during the 1980s.

At a radio hustings I took part in, we were asked what we would do for young people.  Labour was all about handouts: free higher education with no regard for how universities were to be funded, the reintroduction of housing benefit for 20 olds and an equal minimum wage.  I was a lone voice calling for improving opportunities for young people to gain skills, start businesses, and access better jobs brought about by encouraging investment.

Paul Goldsmith picked up on this point, too:

Many right-wing commentators have pointed out that all Jeremy Corbyn was doing was bribing people with other peoples’ money. One said that the election could be summed up in six words: ‘young people vote for free stuff’. Yes, there is an argument for both. But this is why it was incumbent upon Theresa May and the few people she takes advice from to present an optimistic picture of the benefits of the free market, or maybe stepped back, considered that if you keep on cutting spending per pupil in education the country will pay the price for generations, and changed course in a way that stays true to the now normal Conservative consensus that instead of spending a load of money to manage demand, money should go towards increasing productivity and supply, and demand will take care of itself.

But no. Instead we got the cowardice of fear. Fear of proper debate, fear of the demands of those on the Eurosceptic right who  will not stand for a single penny going to the EU and who insist with no justification that the world will simply dance to our tune, and fear of antagonising those who fund her party. Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn offered the audacity of hope, a hope that economic theory might be turned on its head, a hope that people who would be milked for money would turn it over quietly, but more importantly a hope that no-one in this rich country will live in desperation anymore.

It is astonishing, the degree to which the Conservative Party fought the election and generally structured its messaging according to the terms of the socialist Left. Restraining the growth of the state has continually been portrayed as a regrettable necessity rather than a good thing in itself. And that’s when certain ex-advisers who shall not be named (cough, Nick Timothy) were not busy advocating an even more activist role for the state altogether.

When you start speaking in the other side’s tone of voice, using their turns of phrase and echoing their agenda (Theresa May’s first act as PM was to stand on the steps of 10 Downing Street and talk about how government could help the “Just About Managing” rather than getting out of the way and lowering their tax burden) then you legitimise their arguments. If you concede that it is the job of an activist, paternalist state to help everybody by shovelling benefits in their direction and artificially limiting their choices, why would anybody vote for the Tories when Labour promise to do the job so much more enthusiastically?

Sam Bowman, of the Adam Smith Institute, is not in a forgiving mood:

The Tories did so badly in part because they did not give people a reason to vote for them; in part because they doubled down on a hard Brexit strategy; in part because they neglected and even attacked their own base. For many years they and almost everybody else have totally failed to make a broad-brush case for free markets, with the honourable exception of a few think tanks and newspaper columnists. With that in mind, why is it surprising that someone who despises markets is so popular? How good the moderate and coherent Osborne brand of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism now looks.

[..] The Tories did not offer anything to voters or to their own supporters. A free market manifesto could have energised Tory campaigners and candidates who would have had a reason to go to bat for May when she stumbled. It could have included policies that would have been popular with voters, like stamp duty and inheritance tax cuts, or ways of unlocking more infrastructure investment, that could have been sold on the doorstep as a reason to vote for them if you didn’t like them on Brexit. Fox hunting doesn’t count.

[..] Virtually no time at all was spent on the economy. What a colossal mistake. Many people’s incomes are the same in real terms as they were ten years ago, which is unprecedented. It was insane to ignore this and not to offer policies that might have boosted investment (chronically low in Britain by international standards) and people’s wages. All we got was a crude parody of continental European industrial policy, which in practice meant hectoring firms about worker representation on their boards and baseless claims about price gouging. What good is a polling lead on the economy for a right-wing party if you’re only interested in talking about business to attack it?

The Conservatives could have had a powerful and, to their base, exciting election platform. More homes, more investment, and better infrastructure could all have been delivered through smart, density-focused planning reforms, by restoring capital allowances in the corporation tax and cutting the part of business rates that falls on property investment, and by allowing local government to finance new infrastructure from private investment.

These ideas are free market to the core but are about fixing the problems that ordinary people have. Standing for free market conservatism does not mean having to be a dogmatic ideologue — something May and her team never understood.

Over on Facebook, Brendan O’Neill – who does himself no favours with his strident insistence that his is the only One True Brexit – does make some good points, first about the nature of the current Labour Party:

As more election number-crunching is carried out, it’s becoming clear that the Tories and Labour now play entirely different roles to the ones they played just 20 or 30 years ago.

The first thing that’s becoming clear is that people have overstated the extent to which Labour won over Leave voters. According to Lord Ashcroft’s exhaustive national survey, 60 per cent of Leavers voted for the Tories and only 25 per cent voted for Labour. John Curtice, the BBC’s key number-cruncher, reports that the biggest swings to the Tories were in Leave areas, while it was in “seats which voted Remain last year [that] Labour pulled off some of its best performances”. This means the Tories had huge swings in very poor areas like Boston and Skegness and working-class areas like Bolsover — which are Leave areas — while Labour made enormous gains in Hampstead, Kensington and Canterbury, which are Remain areas and / or well-off areas. The Tories made inroads with the poor, Labour made gains among the posh. This is fascinating.

More number-crunching is needed, but two things are becoming clear. 1) The idea that the Brexit issue or the Brexit divide has gone away is a fantasy. It merely takes a different form now, with Leave largely orientating around the Tories and Remain around Labour. Ashcroft says 68 per cent of Tory voters are Leavers and 64 per cent of Labour voters are Remainers. That is extraordinary. It’s the divide of our time, and we shouldn’t deny that. And 2) Labour, even led by Corbyn, is not a party of the working class. In fact it is becoming something else. It is morphing, or at least might morph, into being a party of the middle class that wants to *keep in check* working-class anger with institutions like the EU. Let that sink in. And let’s see what happens next.

And:

Okay, the wild Labour celebrations are getting weird now. Labour didn’t win. Even against grey, dull, U-turning May — the worst Tory leader of my lifetime, by far — it didn’t win. It is testament to Labour’s low ambitions that it is getting so excited about this. This is clearly a party that never expects to be in government again and must therefore welcome upward blips and handfuls of gains as the best it can get, proof it still has a pulse.

I also agree with O’Neill on the excessive celebration of the youth vote, as though their participation in the democratic process is somehow more valuable than that of older voters:

The message we’ve been bombarded with since Brexit and the Corbyn surge is that when the old vote, everything goes to shit, and the sooner these selfish, nostalgic bastards die, the better; but when the young vote, it’s all milk and honey and roses and light, and the sooner this fresh, caring generation takes over society, the better. The old are demonised, the young sacralised, giving rise to what must surely be one of the nastiest divides in our society right now. I can’t get behind the enthusiasm for the youth vote, I’m afraid, because much of it seems to me to be driven by a culture-war sense of entitlement against the apparently unfeeling, uneducated elderly. The culture war has come to the ballot box.

Now of course we should celebrate when a normally apathetic demographic group actually turns out to vote, but there is a worrying narrative building of young people, furious at having had their “futures taken away” by the selfish Leave votes of older people, finally striking back by supporting Jeremy Corbyn.

As well as being false, this is highly offensive. As though old people – many of whom sacrificed and laboured to give their EU-supporting kids the best possible chances in life – were not thinking about their children’s futures when they voted for Brexit, and as though young people – literally members of generation Me Me Me, consumerists who struggled to frame the EU referendum debate in terms other than what it meant for them and their own travel opportunities, love lives, mobile roaming charges etc. – were high-mindedly voting for the good of society and the future of our democracy. I have no time for this sanctimonious, false narrative, and it is good to see O’Neill also forcefully pushing back.

Turning to Brexit, here’s Pete North, angrily rebutting those who continue to fatuously declare that “the people” voted only for their specific, idiotic brand of Brexit:

As to the assertion that remaining in the single market is not leaving the EU, this is a zombie argument used by liars. The single market as it stands now is a collaborative venture between the EU and Efta states – and Norway etc only adopt about one in five EU rules by way of a system of co-determination – laws which we will likely have to adopt even if we left the single market – but without any means of disputing council decisions. Not least since many of them are rooted in global conventions.

I won’t go into the gory details because I will revisit these issues in the near future. The point of this post is simply to say that leavers do not get to call the shots on how we depart. They were given that opportunity over a year ago and declined the opportunity. It is therefore up to all of us to debate. Democracy is a continuum and though the decision to leave may well be sacrosanct the mode of departure still hangs in the balance and there is everything to play for.

You probably already know my views on this. There is no economic gain or utility in terms of sovereignty from leaving the single market. The main objective and the the single most important one is that we end political union with the EU and an off the shelf treaty is the fastest and safest path to that outcome. The rest can be sorted out later and revisited by way of EEA review.

There is no scenario where we don’t have to make compromises and fetishising sovereignty for its own sake is pointless since absolute sovereignty no longer exists unless you’re a regulatory superpower like China or the USA. Diverging from the existing regime brings us no efficiencies and comes at the cost of European trade. That was a tough pill to swallow for me being a long standing critic of EU regulation – but that is the reality of it nonetheless.

[..] In that regard do not let anyone tell you the debate is settled or let them interpret the result of the election for you. The question of how we leave has always been open ended and there is every reason to get involved. Plenty of people want to close down the debate by telling lies. The usual suspects. I’m not standing for it and this ain’t over til it’s over. The fight over Britain’s destiny did not end in June last year. The referendum was only the beginning and hardline leavers do not own this debate.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker can’t believe our good fortune in having inadvertently steered a course between two dangerous options (Corbynite socialism and Mayite Brexit illiteracy) with the electorate’s inconclusive verdict:

After a very short night, I was woken before 8am on Friday by a call from my son Nick, 5,000 miles away in India, who had been following the drama 8,000 feet up in the Himalayan foothills. “This is yet another amazing tribute,” he said, “to the unconscious political genius of the British people. They have somehow managed to steer between the Scylla of Corbyn’s suicidal economic illiteracy and the Charybdis of Mrs May’s hard Brexit.”

“She will only be able to govern with the support of 10 Northern Irish MPs who insist that we must keep a ‘frictionless border’ with Ireland and the 13 Scottish Tories who, with Ruth Davidson, are equally insistent that we must somehow remain free to trade in the single market. That is brilliant for the Union, because both Northern Ireland and Scotland are crucial to her survival.

“With all the other parties also somehow committed to staying in the European market, plus many of the less reckless Tories, that means that it will be extremely difficult for her to press on with her hard-Brexit, ‘walk away without a deal’ line. “I am now more optimistic about Britain’s future”, Nick concluded, “than I have been for a long time.” Many of my readers, I know, will be shocked, if not surprised, to hear that I agree with him.

Booker’s son is not wrong – and this is what makes the election result so bittersweet from my own perspective. Anything that moderates the nature of Brexit and injects some light rather than heat into the debate is clearly a good thing. But Theresa May has led the Conservative Party to a very bad place, perilously close to defeat, and there is no guarantee that either she or her replacement will learn the correct lessons.

The danger is that the Tories, rather than rediscovering their ideological backbone and making the case for free markets and a less activist state to the people, instead now join Labour in a full-on race to the political left, which would be devastating for conservatism as a whole as well as being a competition which the Right can simply never win. Must the price for Brexit be the shifting of the Overton window ten degrees back toward the Corbynite Left? It looks increasingly as though this may be the case.

Conservative Home’s Paul Goodman looks at the mechanics of the Conservative Party’s current predicament:

Better by far, say the wise old owls, to hang on.  An arrangement with the DUP would give the new Government a majority, they say.  There is no prospect of a no confidence vote succeeding.  And May can find shelter behind our old friend, the Fixed Terms Parliament Act.  Maybe she should see the Brexit talks through, some muse, and then depart with the thanks of a grateful nation.

Perhaps the old birds are right.  But this site is nagged by the uncomfortable feeling that they may be failing to see the wood for the trees.  May won the biggest Tory share of the vote since Margaret Thatcher, but the landslide she anticipated did not take place.  Voters seem to have mulled her refusal to level with them over social care, her reluctance to debate, her lack of ease with campaigning and engagement – and, having weighed her in the balance, found her wanting.  It is not certain that she has the flexibility and adaptability to share power with her Cabinet and Party and Parliament, as she must now do to survive.

It is all very well to take refuge behind fixed terms plus hope in the DUP.  David Cameron had a majority, and his government was crippled by rebellions.  May was at mercy of the Commons even before the election: remember the Budget and national insurance?  Conservative MPs may not yet have grasped that we face the possibility of five years of a Do Nothing Government – with all that this implies for the proper management of the country’s finances.  On paper, such an administration may be able to stagger on – at the mercy of tide and chance, with a Party leader vulnerable at any moment to a leadership challenge via letters to Graham Brady.  But in practice?

No, Theresa May needs to go now. None of the pieces I have read since that exit poll came out have convinced me otherwise, well argued though some of them are. In a sense, it doesn’t really matter that none of the likely options to replace her are any better (and Pete North forcefully explains why this is the case). The key is that the contenders could hardly be any worse, either in their zeal for a particularly destructive form of Brexit with almost no real thinking behind it, or in their dubious commitment to free markets and restraining the size of the state. And recall, May’s successor will be equally constrained in their Brexit approach by parliamentary arithmetic, so there is no need to keep May around for fear of a more hardline approach to Brexit.

Theresa May needs to go because she single-handedly destroyed her own authority, not just within her party or the country at large, but on the world stage too. These are momentous times, and with the metro-Left political elites of most countries currently scoffing at Britain for supposedly relegating ourselves from the ranks of serious countries by voting for Brexit, we need a strong, charismatic leader who is capable of going toe to toe with Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Donald Trump. Not a weak supplicant caretaker PM whose permission to continue representing us is extended only one day or one week at a time.

Perception matters, and right now Theresa May is correctly perceived as a loser with no authority. Better to make the change now, even if it means enduring five more years of aggrieved leftists who don’t understand how our system of government works (or make any effort to change it) moaning about another unelected Tory prime minister. Better to make the switch now rather than changing horses midstream in the middle of Brexit negotiations. And while whoever replaces Theresa May will probably be just as, uh, problematic from a conservative viewpoint, we should compensate by using the turmoil to finally promote some of the more Thatcherite, liberty-minded backbenchers – the likes of James Cleverly or Kwasi Kwarteng – to cabinet positions so that next time around we have a better talent pool to fish in.

The only problem is that by the time of the next general election, the Tories will have been in government (mostly in coalition / confidence and supply agreement, but also alone) for the past seven-plus years. The window for making radical changes to the way the country operates, tantalisingly opened after the Great Recession but stymied by David Cameron’s failure to win an outright majority against Gordon Brown, will have fully closed again. How many political parties or administrations can you think of which suddenly burst to life with original ideas and bold new policies 7+ years after first coming to power? Surely none. Anything radical must happen at the beginning, before the impetus wears off, steady state sets in and the people ultimately tire of the party of government and demand a change.

Regrettably, the Tories have wasted their years of potential firstly in coalition with the LibDems, then alone after the 2015 victory and now in some still-to-be-decided arrangement with the DUP, and accomplished very little save holding the EU referendum which gave us Brexit and presiding over a reduction (but not eradication) of the budget deficit. It is now quite possible that we must soon suffer through some form of left-wing government – perhaps a progressive alliance of the childlike Left, though who can now put it past Jeremy Corbyn to secure a majority of his own if May’s government falls? – before the Tories can then return once again to fix or limit the damage.

And yet in mitigation of this depressing fact, there is now a fighting chance that the new parliamentary arithmetic will see Brexit taking a more sensible, palatable and less destructive form, which is what this blog wanted all along.

Politics giveth and politics taketh away.

 

These are my current thoughts on the fluid post-election situation, together with some reactions from other people which have resonated with me since election night. I have quite a busy few days coming up so the blog may go a little bit quiet for the next week with only an occasional sporadic update, but normal service should be resumed by next weekend.

Stay tuned to the Twitter feed @SamHooper for more short-form ranting in the interim.

 

Theresa May - Downing Street speech

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General Election 2017: Conservatives Cannot Give Up On The Youth Vote

Jeremy Corbyn - Youth vote

British conservatives can no longer afford to cede the youth vote to the parties of the Left without putting up a fight for their hearts and minds

One thing seems absolutely crystal clear to me: the Conservative Party can no longer allow itself to glibly write off almost the entire youth vote and cede youth politics to the various parties of the left.

In some ways, Jeremy Corbyn seems like a most implausible politician to court the youth vote – an old, grey haired career politician with absolutely zero interest in doing anything fashionable, sartorially or politically. But my god, he is an authentic conviction politician. And if your average voter hates overgroomed, telegenic bland politico-bots then young people clearly hate them even more. Canned soundbites don’t work on social media-savvy young people, if they work on anyone. And yet the Conservatives went into battle – largely thanks to the “genius” Lynton Crosby – with an arsenal made up almost exclusively of glib, canned soundbites in place of anything remotely authentic.

Not that authenticity alone is enough. Right wing politics are clearly hugely toxic to many young people, who would sooner die than consider voting Conservative, let alone admitting any conservative leanings to their social circle. The Tories are too closely associated with grey, uninspiring “austerity”, even though austerity is largely a myth. The Tory brand, fair or unfair, is still toxic to many people. And the parties of the left have perfectly tapped into the consumerist politics of Me Me Me by promising to firehose endless sums of money into the gaping, insatiable mouth of Britain’s public services.

It seems painfully apparent to me that we need a prominent, national vessel for the development and promotion conservative policies (and personalities) separate from the Conservative Party, which simply can no longer be trusted to make the case for its own worldview. I wrote ages ago, back in 2015, that we need a British CPAC – a well funded and media savvy conservative campaign group which exists outside the dusty, dysfunctional Tories.

CPAC is the Conservative Political Action Conference in the United States, and while it has had its share of controversies it serves an important role in nurturing small-C conservative talent, seeding new ideas and generally providing an opportunity for advancement and self-promotion outside the structures of the Republican Party. It also plays a role in youth outreach, as do other organisations like Ron Paul’s Young Americans for Liberty.

The seeds of such a movement already exist – there is the excellent Conservatives for Liberty group, for which I am proud to have written numerous times. But for all the good work they do, they remain associated directly with the Tory brand and are too easily sidelined when a rabid anti-Thatcherite like Theresa May seizes control of the party and tries to drag it to the statist centre-left. Meanwhile, other think tanks which sometimes do good work (and sometimes not so good) – the Adam Smith Institute, the IEA, the Centre for Policy Studies – are very much of the political elite and by the political elite. They have neither the makings of a mass movement, nor the inclination to become one – and quite rightly, for this is not their speciality.

Worse still, the Conservative Party’s own efforts to build a youth wing tend to attract the kind of tweed-wearing teens and twenty-somethings who only further the perception of the party as being for posh, wealthy and generally insufferable types. Conservative Future, their most recent attempt, seemed to operate like a kind of pyramid scheme with promises of future candidacies dangled in front of naive young activists, and was rife with a bullying culture which led to the group’s closure.

No. For reasons of branding and basic administrative competence, any future small-C conservative movement hoping to gain traction with young people must be distinct from the Conservative Party, free of that residual toxicity and free to criticise the Tory party in government and in opposition when it proposes policies which either betray core values or threaten the interests of young people. A British CPAC and Young Brits for Liberty-style organisation could nurture talent of its own, outside the corrupting, nepotistic influence of the Conservative Party hierarchy, and would greatly increase their collective clout by helping or withholding support from future Tory election campaigns and individual candidacies based on policy, not party loyalty.

It is only through outside groups like this that the image of conservatism stands a chance of being rehabilitated among young people. It is only through a British version of CPAC or YAF that young conservative or agnostic students at university stand a chance against being steamrollered by the fashionable left-wing identity politics which are almost de rigeur for social acceptance and advancement.

Look at the people who might be considered contenders to take over from Theresa May when she is rightly consigned to the dustbin of conservative political history. Do you see the youth vote ever breaking in significant numbers for Philip Hammond or Michael Fallon? David Davis or Michael Gove? Maybe Boris Johnson might win a few, but he is widely hated by starry-eyed young Europhiles for supposedly “taking away their future”.

No, the future Conservative leader who stands even a chance of fighting the parties of the left for the youth vote must come up from outside the existing party structure, if they are to emerge at all. They must articulate a message of conservatism as being pro-freedom, pro-opportunity, pro-dynamism. Some compromises must be made, with the party finally addressing issues which screw the younger generation and force them into the waiting arms of the Labour Party – a serious housebuilding programme (not council houses, but houses for private sale and rent) for example. The end of universal benefits being lavished upon rich, self-entitled pensioners who don’t need them.

The Tories need a leader who can make self-sufficiency and freedom seem cool rather than callous, admirable rather than shameful, particularly to younger voters. I don’t see anybody on the Conservative front bench who stands a chance of doing that. Maybe James Cleverly or Kwasi Kwarteng from the backbenches, if they were to step up and gain some ministerial experience? Priti Patel?

Regardless, one thing is clear: the Tories can no longer be relied upon to keep the torch of conservatism lit by themselves. Theresa May half extinguished it with her statist left-wing manifesto, half stolen from the Labour Party, and her inept campaigning and toxicity among young people provided the final coup-de-grace.

We need a strong external repository for conservative principle, capable of engaging with young people who have been continually taught that leftist progressivism = forward-thinking “compassion” while liberty, independence and self-sufficiency from government are evidence of greed and moral failure.

Theresa May’s Conservative Party shamefully surrendered the youth vote without so much as trying to win them over. The broader British conservative movement must learn from this dismal failure and ensure that it is never repeated.

 

Rand Paul - CPAC

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General Election 2017: Results & Analysis Live Blog

General Election 2017 - polling station sign

Live Blog: General Election 2017 Results & Analysis

Polls Close: 10PM UK Time

Contact: semipartisansam@gmail.com

 

9 June – 05:15

INTERMISSION

My brain has temporarily ceased to function, so I am going to get a few hours’ sleep. I’ll resume when Theresa May emerges to make her walk of shame plea for forgiveness “victory” speech, and continue live blogging throughout the day. Thanks for joining, and stay tuned!

9 June – 04:48

The state of play

The Tories no longer expect to outperform the exit poll, which is quite bleakly funny considering how they were all pouring scorn on the poll’s dismal prediction just a few hours ago:

This has just been an unmitigated disaster for the Conservatives. But it is a disaster which Theresa May fully owns. It was her arrogance which prompted this general election – called with almost no consultation with cabinet members or MPs. It was her aloofness which saw the publication of an atrocious Tory manifesto which plagiarised freely from leftist Labour Party doctrine, discarding Thatcherism and embracing a larger role for the state in every aspect of our lives. It was her sheer ineptitude which led to such an awfully prosecuted campaign.

But more than all of that, it was Theresa May’s absolutely stunning lack of a positive, vision for Britain which led to this dire electoral performance.

Theresa May has defaced her own party, both ideologically and in terms of the MPs who have lost their seats. Ministers have lost their seats. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary – the Home Secretary! – squeaked through in Hastings with a majority of just 346, on the third recount. This is an humiliation.

But none of this should detract from the job that Jeremy Corbyn did guiding his party to near level pegging with the Tories in terms of national vote share, increasing Labour’s number of seats by more than thirty and consolidating his position as party leader. Remarkably, one can watch the news networks recalibrating their expectations of Corbyn in real time as the morning wears on. Whereas 24 hours ago nearly everybody expected Corbyn to lead the Labour Party to glorious defeat, now the talking heads are suggesting that he should be booted from the leadership for failing to win an eminently “winnable” election. What nonsense. Like him or loathe him, Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of conviction politics found traction.

Even formerly antagonistic centrist MPs are now forming an orderly queue to bend the knee to their emboldened leader:

On the BBC Chuka Umunna has just said he would consider serving in the shadow cabinet (or cabinet?) if offered a job by Jeremy Corbyn. Umunna, who was shadow business secretary under Ed Miliband, is on the opposite wing of the party to Corbyn, and has not been a vocal supporter of his.

But all night Labour figures previously sceptical about Corbyn have been lining up in the broadcast studios to pay tribute to him. And they have done it quite sincerely even if, in some cases, perhaps reluctantly. Corbyn’s achievement really has been striking.

On the plus side for those of us who supported Flexcit and a phased withdrawal from the European Union with continued transitional access to the EEA, the kneecapping of the Tories makes a more reasoned form of Brexit somewhat more likely. It may enrage those absolutists who have convinced themselves that sovereignty = reverting to WTO rules, consequences be damned, but it would be the right thing to do. Quite why Theresa May staked her “Brexit means Brexit” position on such extreme ground is mystifying – it certainly did nothing to endear her to Conservative Remainers, many of whom seem to have deserted the party in key constituencies.

While the final breakdown of the new parliament – and the composition of then next government – remains to be seen, this much we know: Theresa May is a zombie prime minister. ITV News reports that she is currently huddled with her closest advisers (still excluding ministers and the wider party from her deliberation processes, even now) and writing a speech, while it remains 50/50 as to whether she will announce her departure or not. We will know soon enough.

But as things stand, the prime minister’s arrogance and incompetence have grievously harmed the Conservative Party and plunged Britain into chaos at the worst possible time. This is an appalling legacy.

9 June – 04:15

Andrew Sparrow’s Guardian live blog reports that John McDonnell is stirring up some mischief:

In his victory speech at his count John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said he expected Boris Johnson to launch a leadership challenge immediately.

To be fair, he probably won’t need much encouragement.

9 June – 03:54

One of the things I love about British parliamentary elections is the fact that all candidates, from the most powerful minister to the lowliest of fringe or independent candidates, have to stand next to each other on the stage as their results are read out by the constituency returning officer.

And what humiliation could be more appropriate for Theresa May than having to share a stage with Elmo and “Lord Buckethead”?

Buckethead for prime minister!

Theresa May - election count - Lord Buckethead

9 June – 03:41

Whatever Theresa May says about her future, her cabinet ministers clearly have some forceful ideas of their own.

James Forsyth in the Spectator live blog:

So, what happens to Theresa May? Her gamble in calling an early election has backfired on her spectacularly. Her authority is now shot, even if she can find a way to stay in Number 10.

But will her party remove her? Some ministers are clearly keen to, there has been chatter about possible unity tickets and the like. However, some senior Tories think that the ‘national interest’ and the proximity of the start of the Brexit negotiations means that May should be allowed to carry on as PM, but with a whole new approach to government.

I am told ‘Do not underestimate the fury in the parliamentary party. They are absolutely spitting’. Certainly, the Tories will be reluctant to go into any second election with her as leader.

I don’t see how she stays. She betrayed conservatism with one of the worst Tory manifestos in recent decades. Her leadership style is exclusionary and reliant on a small cadre of advisers who have now been conspicuously shown to be utterly useless. She is a wooden campaigner with zero charisma in an age when the public are clearly crying out for some kind of inspirational politics. And now she has been humiliated, her authority utterly blasted away.

Do we want a puppet prime minister, reliant on the forebearance of other powerful cabinet members who pull the strings in the background? Surely not. There is no way that May can now stand alongside Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron or Donald Trump and project authority. Rather another unelected prime minister with charisma than the shredded remnants of the May premiership.

9 June – 03:28

Theresa May in denial

And now we have Theresa May’s speech at her count in Maidenhead. One might have expected a degree of contrition for squandering a huge lead in the polls and leading her party off the cliff. But no – the prime minister breathed defiance, insisting that the country needed “stability” (which of course she provides in such copious amounts) and that she would therefore plan to remain in 10 Downing Street if the votes come in as expected:

As we look ahead and wait to see what the final results will be, I know that the country needs a period of stability. And whatever the results are the Conservative party will ensure that we fulfil our duty in ensuring that stability so that we can all, as one country, go forward together.

Notably, though, Theresa May didn’t use the word “I” when saying that the Tories would plan to remain in government. Her conspicuous use of the words “we” and “the Conservative Party” suggest that she realises deep down that her hours in Downing Street are now extremely numbered.

9 June – 03:22

For whom the bell tolls

Jeremy Corbyn used his victory speech at his count in Islington to push our malfunctioning prime minister, already teetering on the brink, over the edge.

Corbyn said:

“The prime minister called the election because she wanted a mandate. Well the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence. I would have thought that is enough for her to go actually.”

Corbyn and nearly every Conservative MP, activist and supporter. She has led the party to abject, ignominious defeat. RESIGN.

9 June – 03:14

The people have spoken. But what did we say?

A common platitude uttered by winning and losing politicians in the United States is to declare that “the American people have spoken”. It’s supposed to indicate that politicians should gracefully accept the verdict and allow the victor to have a chance to enact their agenda.

But if the British people have spoken, what on earth did they say?

Apparently we punished the Tories for their awful campaign and wooden, inept leader. Except in Scotland, where the Tories are picking up seats and may make the difference between the Tories remaining in government or moving across to the opposition benches.

Apparently we voted against Theresa May’s vision of “hard Brexit” with the possibility of crashing out of the EU with no deal. Except key architects of the establishment Brexit campaign like Boris Johnson were returned to parliament, while Jeremy Corbyn – who was ambivalent about EU membership at best, and who made only lacklustre efforts to help the Remain campaign – is set to be the night’s biggest winner.

Apparently we are rewarding politicians with principle and political courage like Jeremy Corbyn. Except politicians who made difficult decisions in the national interest, like Nick Clegg, have been cruelly punished.

The British people showed us by their treatment of the Liberal Democrats in 2015 that they dislike coalitions (or at least that they will ruthlessly punish any minority party to enter into coalition with the Tories) and yet we look set to return a split of MPs which almost cries out for some kind of coalition or intra-party cooperation.

In short, there is no clear message, either in terms of the individual winners or losers, or the likely composition of the next parliament. We apparently shouted very loudly, but it is far from clear what we actually said – and it is almost certain that half of us will be squealing with self-righteous outrage when the next government (in whatever shape) is formed.

9 June – 02:35

What’s happening in Scotland?

The story in Scotland seems entirely different to what has been happening south of the border. The SNP’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, has lost his seat, while the Tories are picking up seats in Scotland – one of the only forecasts that actually seems to be coming true for them.

Given the Tories’ astonishing weakness across swathes of England, it could be that various gains in Scotland (of all places) are the only thing which keeps them afloat with a chance of remaining in government.

9 June – 02:23

Corbyn triumphant

Jeremy Corbyn looks triumphant as he arrives at his Islington count to huge roars of approval and a prolonged ovation from local party activists. This is just surreal. This blog has always been mindful of Jeremy Corbyn’s authenticity and the danger that his conviction politics posed when the conservative opposition was so rootless and bland, but I still didn’t envisage an outcome where Labour was in celebratory mode on election night, with at least an outside chance of taking 10 Downing Street.

Tom Watson gave quite a punchy victory speech, in which he skewered Theresa May by her own logic:

We still don’t know what the final result of this election is. It is too early to say. But it looks likely to be a very bad result for Theresa May.

She said: “It is a fact that if we lose just six seats, we will lose our majority and Jeremy Corbyn will become prime minister”. We do not yet know the final result, but we intend to hold her to that …

The next few hours – maybe the next few days – look very uncertain. But one thing we can be sure of is that Theresa May’s authority has evaporated. She is a damaged Prime Minister whose reputation may never recover.

One thing is for certain: people want hope. And when they’re offered it, they vote for it.

Theresa May can’t possibly remain as PM. She has strengthened Corbyn and given hard-left 1970s socialism a foothold back in our politics – an unforgivable crime.

9 June – 02:00

We need to talk about the youth vote

One thing seems absolutely crystal clear to me: the Conservative Party can no longer allow itself to glibly write off almost the entire youth vote and cede youth politics to the various parties of the left.

In some ways, Jeremy Corbyn seemed like a most implausible politician to court the youth vote – an old, grey haired career politician with absolutely zero interest in doing anything fashionable, sartorially or politically. But my god, he is an authentic conviction politician. And if your average voter hates overgroomed, telegenic bland politico-bots then young people clearly hate them even more. Canned soundbites don’t work on social media-savvy young people, if they work on anyone. And yet the Conservatives went into battle – largely thanks to the “genius” Lynton Crosby – with an arsenal made up almost exclusively of glib, canned soundbites in place of anything remotely authentic.

Not that authenticity alone is enough. Right wing politics are clearly hugely toxic to many young people, who would sooner die than admit to voting Conservative. The Tories are too closely associated with grey, uninspiring “austerity”, even though austerity is largely a myth. The Tory brand, fair or unfair, is still toxic to many people. And the parties of the left have perfectly tapped into the consumerist politics of Me Me Me by promising to firehose endless sums of money into the gaping, insatiable mouth of Britain’s public services.

It seems painfully apparent to me that we need a prominent, national vessel for the development and promotion conservative policies (and personalities) separate from the Conservative Party, which simply cannot be trusted to make the case for its own worldview. I wrote ages ago, back in 2015, that we need a British CPAC – a well funded and media savvy conservative campaign group which exists outside the dusty, dysfunctional Tories.

CPAC is the Conservative Political Action Conference in the United States, and while it has had its share of controversies it serves an important role in nurturing small-C conservative talent, seeding new ideas and generally providing an opportunity for advancement and self-promotion outside the structures of the Republican Party. It also plays a role in youth outreach, as do other organisations like Ron Paul’s Young Americans for Liberty.

It is only through outside groups like this that the image of conservatism stands a chance of being rehabilitated among young people. It is only through a British version of CPAC or YAF that young conservative or agnostic students at university stand a chance against being steamrollered by the fashionable left-wing identity politics which are almost de rigeur for social acceptance and advancement.

Look at the people who might be considered contenders to take over from Theresa May when she is rightly consigned to the dustbin of conservative political history. Do you see the youth vote ever breaking in significant numbers for Philip Hammond or Michael Fallon? Maybe Boris Johnson might win a few, but he is widely hated by starry-eyed young Europhiles for “taking away their future”.

No, the future Conservative leader who stands even a chance of fighting the parties of the left for the youth vote must come up from outside the existing party structure, if they are to emerge at all. They must articulate a message of conservatism as being pro-freedom, pro-opportunity, pro-dynamism. Some compromises must be made, with the party finally addressing issues which screw the younger generation and force them into the waiting arms of the Labour Party – a serious housebuilding programme (not council houses, but houses for private sale and rent) for example. The end of universal benefits being lavished upon rich, self-entitled pensioners who don’t need them.

The Tories need a leader who can make self-sufficiency and freedom seem cool rather than callous, admirable rather than shameful, particularly to younger voters. I don’t see anybody on the Conservative front bench who stands a chance of doing that. Maybe James Cleverly from the backbenches, if he was able to step up?

But one thing is clear: the Tories can no longer be relied upon to keep the torch of conservatism lit. Theresa May half extinguished it with her statist manifesto, half stolen from the Labour Party, and her inept campaigning and toxicity among young people provided the coup-de-grace.

We need an external repository for conservative principle, now.

9 June – 01:29

The men in grey suits prepare to make their move:

9 June – 01:24

Jeremy Corbyn emerges

This sounds suspiciously like a tentative victory speech:

I’d like to thank all our members and supporters who have worked so hard on this campaign, from door knocking to social media, and to everyone who voted for a manifesto which offers real change for our country. Whatever the final result, we have already changed the face of British politics.

Regardless of what happens with the formation of the next government, all of those restive Labour shadow cabinet members and backbenchers are now going to have to bend the knee:

9 June – 01:20

Credit to Jeremy Corbyn, ctd.

Peter Hain now on the BBC giving credit to Jeremy Corbyn, much as this blog has done, for having fought a passionate and principled campaign which actually generated grassroots enthusiasm rather than making people cringe (like Theresa May’s Conservative campaign).

9 June – 01:06

A recipe for instability

Robert Peston is counting the days until the next general election, which he thinks will be sooner rather than later?

And who can disagree? Assuming a minority government of either stripe (or a majority Tory government with a miniscule majority, riven by infighting and beset by external shocks), it will be immensely vulnerable to no-confidence votes or having its budgets voted down at any time. Assuming a fractious Progressive Alliance, the restive Tories will have ample opportunity to destabilise such a government and try to quickly win back power.

Either way, Brenda from Bristol is likely to be pretty angry.

9 June – 00:59

What about the UKIP vote?

The received wisdom was that voters abandoning UKIP would flow back to the Conservatives, primarily because that’s where most of them came from in the first place, steadily abandoning the Tories in 2010 and 2015 until David Cameron’s promise of an EU referendum stopped the bleeding.

Early results and the exit poll show this analysis to be wildly misjudged. From the Spectator:

The UKIP collapse in Broxbourne – where their vote is down 15.7% – has boosted Labour (10.5% gain) more than the Tories (6.1%). The constituency went two-thirds for Leave in the referendum.

This goes against the expectations of most pundits, myself included, who assumed that the UKIP vote would wash straight back to the Tories, where it came from. But instead of this reversion to normality, it seems that these voters have moved to the left while hanging out with UKIP, and have increasingly moved to the Labour Party instead. UKIP has essentially laundered a load of voters and turned them from wavering conservatives into tentative Corbynites – which is quite stunning really.

9 June – 00:49

More Conservative anger

The Telegraph’s live blog catalogues more of the bubbling fury at Tory HQ:

Theresa May is facing a mounting backlash over her “catastrophic” election campaign after an exit poll suggested that her snap election gamble had failed to pay off.

[..] Senior Conservatives said this morning that she had made “fundamental strategic errors” and said that her closest aides should be “banished” from Downing Street.

They complained that the campaign had been centred around a “cult of personality” and “central control”, adding: “It has completely blown up in our face”.

One senior Tory told The Telegraph: “This is bad, it’s worse than bad. Her advisers should walk out of the door now never to return, regardless of the final result.

Yep. Let’s not forget the role of the SpAdocracy in this calamity.

 

9 June – 00:37

Credit to Jeremy Corbyn, ctd.

Andrew Neil agrees with me. We shouldn’t let Theresa May’s magnificent, luminescent incompetence detract from the equally important story of Jeremy Corbyn’s shrewd, principled (yes – you don’t have to agree with the principles but you must acknowledge their existence) and dogged campaigning.

He worked hard for this result, battling a regicidal parliamentary party and a furiously oppositional media. Almost nobody saw it coming. Fair play.

9 June – 00:30

Signs from Ipswich that Ben Gummer, nepotism beneficiary extraordinaire, barely closeted Europhile and – most famously – architect of the Conservative Party’s dismal “Blue Labour” manifesto, is in danger of losing his seat. Good. Anybody who had any hand in Theresa May’s lurch toward the statist centre-left needs to die a lonely death in the political wilderness.

9 June – 00:14

Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, has just predicted on BBC News that Labour will form the next government.

Who would have seriously suspected that she could even make such a speculative boast (with a straight face) this time 24 hours ago?

God help us all.

9 June – 00:05

Dissent among the Conservative cabinet is already bubbling to the surface.

James Forsyth reports:

Tory Cabinet Ministers are complaining that they unilaterally disarmed in this campaign. That just as Labour was offering young voters free tuition fees to fire up their youth base, the Tories were alarming their elderly base with the so-called ‘dementia tax’.

More:

Tory Cabinet Ministers are still in shock at the exit poll result. The mood is that even if May gets a majority of 12, her ‘authority will be shot’ and—at the very least—her governing style will have to change drastically. There is some very early talk of leadership options too. I am told that ‘the men in grey suits are livid’.

Oh, she’s gone. And this is only the start of what will be some of the bitterest post-election recriminations ever.

8 June – 23:55

Credit where credit is due to Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum

As much as the story of this general election may be Theresa May’s miraculous ability to snatch defeat (or something perilously close to it) from the jaws of victory, we should not forget that this remarkable turn of events is also a reflection of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party – in impossibly difficult circumstances, undermined by the Labour centrists and doubters at every turn.

The fact that Labour clearly have not collapsed as earlier polls suggested shows the continued importance of real world physical campaigning, having a candidate who actually inspires enthusiasm and draws crowds of people who want to hear him speak (rather than groups of sign-waving party activists bussed in from far afield) and who – shock horror – actually has core values and the courage to articulate them.

You can disagree with Jeremy Corbyn all you want – I certainly do. But the man has political courage. He stands by his loopy, outdated (and sometimes downright offensive) views and keeps on plugging away trying to sell them to the people. He spent years in the political wilderness as a result, until fortunes changed and his unlikely leadership bid caught fire back in 2015. He doesn’t bend, flatter and shapeshift in an attempt to get into the public’s good graces. He rarely compromises on his core beliefs – Brendan O’Neill made a valid critique that Corbyn abandoned his euroscepticism to vote for Remain, but his position as leader was directly at stake and he did everything he could to signal his insincerity to the electorate – and it seems that people actually respond quite well to that kind of consistency.

As much as Theresa May did everything humanly possible to throw this election away, we should not ignore the fact that Jeremy Corbyn has apparently massively outperformed the low expectations that many pundits set for him.

8 June – 23:33

A Brexit perspective

We need to look at things from the all-important perspective of Brexit, and what effect a hung parliament, progressive alliance government, weak Tory majority or minority government will have on Brexit negotiations.

From my perspective, this is potentially one significant silver lining in this cloud. Anything that forces a more realistic assessment of Britain’s need for a comprehensive Brexit deal (and avoiding a “no deal” cliff edge) is a good thing. Theresa May’s government showed no signs of acknowledging this basic reality, or awareness of the impact that crashing out of the EEA to WTO rules would actually have. For all their faults, the likes of Labour’s Keir Starmer do at least seem to be functionally aware of non-tariff barriers and the serious threat they pose to Britain if we do not exit the EU in a sensible, planned way. Anything that amplifies the voices of reason when it comes to securing a mutually beneficial Brexit deal is clearly a good thing.

Unfortunately, the slim ray of hope that this inconclusive election result might lead to a more intelligent form of Brexit is clouded by the fact that a weak Tory government or Progressive Alliance would wreak havoc with domestic policy, dramatically expand the state, throw fiscal rectitude out the window and potentially even seek to subvert Brexit altogether.

Pick your poison.

8 June – 23:24

George Osborne twists the knife

Andrew Sparrow’s Guardian live blog quotes ex-Chancellor and current Evening Standard editor George Osborne:

I worked very well with Theresa May and I think she has intelligence and integrity.

Clearly if she’s got a worse result than two years ago and is almost unable to form a government then she I doubt will survive in the long term as Conservative party leader.

But you know we are all talking about a poll. So I’m nervous of making certain statements but look, the problem she will have if it’s anything like that number, she’s got Irish unionists … that does not get you necessarily to 326 and the Liberal Democrats on 14 here … are so unlikely to go into coalition with the Conservatives this time round, not least because they’ve made commitments to things like a second European referendum.

So I look at those numbers, I helped put together the Coalition in 2010 and you could make the numbers quite easily add up if you could get the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives to come together. I look at these numbers, you can’t make them add up.

The best case scenario (assuming the margin of error falls entirely in her favour) has the Tories ending up with about the same number of seats they currently have. This would mean that they dragged the country through the hassle and disruption of a general election campaign only to effectively tread water.

Theresa May will have resigned by sundown tomorrow, and her departure from frontline Conservative politics cannot come soon enough.

8 June – 23:12

1945 all over again?

As my mind reels from the exit poll and the increasing likelihood that Theresa May has presided over a self-inflicted calamity of historic proportions, I keep thinking back to the post-war election of 1945. Churchill guided the country through the war and saved us from existential threat only for the Conservatives to lose the peace to Clement Attlee’s Labour Party, opening the doorway for the socialist post-war consensus.

Similarly, we prevailed in the battle for Brexit but look in serious jeopardy of losing the post-referendum peace to Jeremy Corbyn’s resurgent socialism. In 1945, this fateful choice led to 34 years of slow and painful national decline. We can only hope and prey that the ramifications of this election – whatever the final result may be – are not as painful or long-lasting.

8 June – 23:05

Still waiting for the shock to wear off while we wait for some contestable seat results to come in. Labour increased their majority in Newcastle Central, a safe seat. The Tories were never going to win, but if they can’t even make inroads…

8 June – 22:57

A couple of silver linings in this Force 5 tornado funnel cloud of doom: oleaginous pro-EU cheerleader Anna Soubry is forecast to lose her seat, as is the SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson.

From the Spectator:

In what might be one of the biggest upsets of the night, the BBC forecasts that Angus Robertson, the SNP’s group leader in Westminster has a 99 per cent chance of losing his seat in Moray to the Conservatives.

8 June – 22:50

So if/when Theresa May falls on her sword (or is pushed into it), who on earth could take over? It’s hardly as though the Conservative front benches are brimming over with plausible heavyweight talent? Or rather, what heavyweight talent there is – Philip Hammond, Michael Fallon – tend to be as dour and uninspiring as she is. If Jeremy Corbyn can outmanoeuvre Theresa May then he can certainly do so to her grey haired male backing dancers.

So…Boris Johnson? Michael Gove? No.

Amber Rudd? Maybe, assuming she doesn’t lose her seat.

We need new blood to step up. James Cleverly? Kwasi Kwarteng? Priti Patel?

8 June – 22:40

The thing is, Theresa May has done nothing to ingratiate herself with the Conservative Parliamentary Party. Her leadership style has been closed and insular. As Home Secretary she nurtured feuds with other cabinet members, and as PM she has been unwilling to delegate and trust many of her cabinet colleagues with the kind of autonomy that a strong, confident leader might otherwise extend.

The upshot – almost nobody will leap to her defence when the long knives are drawn…

8 June – 22:33

Yes, Ruth Davidson would make an infinitely better UK Conservative leader (and prime minister) than Theresa May. Mind you, so would my left shoe…

8 June – 22:29

Dan Hodges is right. I can’t find the words to express my anger and contempt for Theresa May. The only possible excuse for her shameful jettisoning of core conservative small government principles was that it might be a clever way of triangulating and winning a whole additional tranche of centrist votes. Well, the exit poll suggests that it didn’t exactly work out very well. She betrayed conservative principles and her ineptitude has actually put Britain at risk of a Corbyn-led Labour government.

8 June – 22:24

Menzies Campbell on the BBC, talking down the prospect of LibDem participation in a progressive alliance, if the astonishing exit poll results are confirmed or exceeded from a left-wing perspective. I’m frankly stunned that we are even considering this dystopian possibility.

I think that if the numbers add up for them, the parties of the left have to go for it. Surely they do? Labour, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens (and to a lesser extent the LibDems) have spent the past two years shrieking about how the Evil Tories are perpetuating a holocaust of the sick, disabled and generically “vulnerable”. Surely if the Evil Tor-ees are as evil as the parties of the left have continually implied, they have a solemn duty to club together to stop it, no matter what political damage it may do to them in the long term? Or will they leave the “vulnerable” to their fate with a minority Conservative administration?

8 June – 22:18

Calmer voices than mine are preaching caution:

8 June – 22:17

Already warning signs that Conservative MPs are imperilled and in danger of losing their seats. This is incredible. This tweet pretty much sums up the mood in the Hooper household right now:

 

8 June – 22:15

Putting my non-partisan hat on, this exit poll is enormously encouraging to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. If it carries through to the results, it will show that there is indeed public demand for authentic politicians who actually have consistent principles and stand through them through good times and bad, popularity and unpopularity. It will show that there is tremendous public appetite for authenticity and conviction politics – all those things that we were so confidently told were old fashioned and passé.

8 June – 22:12

So the Conservatives are in denial, with senior sources telling Andrew Marr that it simply cannot be true. Theresa May had better bloody well hope so, otherwise she needs to be taken out back by the 1922 Committee and…politically disposed of.

8 June – 22:09

Whoever thought that the moments after the release of the exit poll would see John McDonnell frantically trying to tamp down expectations on the BBC election show. Wow. This is a disaster – *if* it carries through to actual results.

A hung parliament is the absolute last thing that Britain needs at this difficult time. Theresa May’s policies may be misguided in a myriad of ways, but the idea of a minority Conservative administration or a shaky left-wing coalition trying to implement domestic policy, respond to the twin terror attacks in London and Manchester *and* negotiate Brexit? Absolutely untenable.

8 June – 22:04

If – IF – this exit poll is correct, then Theresa May is a dead woman walking. She needs to go, almost immediately. I don’t care that we will be back to whiny lefties droning on about an “unelected prime minister”. Anything would be better than this walking catastrophe of a failed prime minister, a useless campaigner, a tone deaf speaker, a political coward and someone who tried to subvert the party’s best Thatcherite traditions (or what’s left of them) with her own brand of nasty authoritarianism.

This is absolutely unacceptable for the Tories, if carried through to actual results. Theresa May was facing off against Jeremy Corbyn. JEREMY FREAKING CORBYN! And she can’t muster a landslide against somebody who has spoken warmly of terrorist organisations and wants to implement hard left socialist policies consigned to the dustbin of history in 1979. What? No, this is ridiculous.

No. This is unacceptable. If this exit poll carries true, Theresa May needs to go. It doesn’t matter who replaces her. My left shoe could do a better job, and would sound better on the stump. Unacceptable.

8 June – 21:55

POLLS CLOSED – EXIT POLL RELEASED

Conservatives largest party

No overall majority predicted

Con 314, down 17 – my goodness me

266 Labour, up 34

SNP 34 – yeah, not buying that one

8 June – 21:55

Ready for the exit poll

Ten minutes before the exit poll was released for the 2015 general election, David Cameron was mentally rehearsing his concession speech while the messianic Ed Miliband was daring to hope that he might become the next prime minister of the United Kingdom. We all know how that turned out.

In 2017, there are probably no such expectations within Labour high command that the party might be returned to power. When it comes to the horde of Labour-supporting youngsters and Momentum zealots, it is a different matter, of course – cocooned safely in their self-affirming left wing bubble, once again many of these left-wing activists are about to collide hard with reality.

It is almost unimaginable that the exit poll will show anything other than a projected result which sees Theresa May return to 10 Downing Street as prime minister. The real question is the majority of Conservative MPs she brings back to Parliament with her, and whether the Tories’ electoral performance can possibly be good enough to make up for the incompetent, error-strewn campaign presided over by May. She will need a very solid performance indeed, otherwise Conservative knives will begin to sharpen…

8 June – 20:55

A local update from Hampstead & Kilburn

We are now in that strange hinterland where the television news is legally required to frantically pretend that there is no general election taking place, so as not to influence the vote. As I took the opportunity to make dinner, once again I was interrupted by a Conservative Party canvasser, another enthusiastic young man sent to check that I had followed through on my pledge to vote Tory.

I reassured him that I had indeed voted Conservative (but spared him my anti-Theresa May diatribe) and we then spoke about the state of the race here in this ultra-marginal northwest London constituency of Hampstead & Kilburn.

Apparently it is very close indeed, and the campaign is uncertain which way it is going to break (though just how privy a canvasser would be to the latest campaign intelligence is disputable). I was told that the Tories are indeed picking up much of the ex-UKIP vote (UKIP are not running a candidate in the constituency this time) as expected, but that they are also haemorrhaging a number of votes to the Liberal Democrats, specifically angry pro-EU people who have not reconciled themselves to Brexit. And this despite the fact that local Tory candidate Claire-Louise Leyland was an ardent Remainer and campaigned for Stronger In (though she now supports the prime minister’s agenda).

This seems to be in line with my earlier analysis of the state of the race here in Hampstead & Kilburn. With the polls indicating that the Tories should pick up seats nationally, the specific dynamics of the local race in this strongly pro-EU constituency may mean that Tulip Siddiq is able to hang on to the seat for Labour in the face of a strong Conservative headwind.

The Tory canvasser also had a very dim opinion of Theresa May’s leadership and campaigning ability. Almost unprompted by me, he said “oh my god, she’s terrible, isn’t she?!”. Quite. He also thought that a majority of 60 or 70 would be “amazing”, suggesting that expectations have been lowered inside the party as well as to the media.

One thing is certain, though – if the ground troops are openly questioning the leadership of their general on the doorstep then Theresa May should be very worried about her long-term position unless she pulls off a very strong performance tonight.

8 June – 19:40

The conspiracy-minded fringe is now on the Left

Fringe conspiracy theories have typically been associated with the political Right – one thinks of figures such as Alex Jones, David Icke and so on. But increasingly we are seeing paranoid conspiracy theorising emanating from a segment of the political Left which simply cannot understand why its brand of shrill, hectoring, illiberal, identity politics-soaked campaigning is not more popular with the electorate.

One thing is for sure – when the exit poll is released and when the final vote is tallied in the last constituency to report, there will be a stubborn band of left wing zealots who simply refuse to accept the result as a repudiation of their agenda, but rather as evidence of a sinister conspiracy by the Evil Tories.

One of the most disturbing trends has been the number of fringe lunatics on social media openly speculating that the awful Islamist terror attacks in Manchester and London were in fact “false flags” planned (or at least allowed to happen) by the Conservatives in order to shore up support for Theresa May’s government.

Here is one such crackpot:

I’m not doubting that it’s likely Radical-Islamists who carried out the terror attack in Manchester, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the figures in the Tory government might have known the possibility of a potential attack, but for reasons of political expediency did nothing to prevent it from happening. We know prior to 7/7 bombing the security services had kept tabs on members of the terrorist cell which carried out the attack, it’s now a matter of record that the Bush administration had been briefed in the summer of a 2001 there was highly likely to be a terrorist act in the autumn of that year involving aircraft, so tell me again if I’m being fucking ridiculous in suggesting Theresa May might have had prior warning of the Manchester terror attack but did nothing to prevent it from happening to bolster her chances in the General Election because I know that’s what you’re thinking!

I find it a very suspicious coincidence that when Labour are closing the gap in the opinion polls, despite the Tory press being chockfull of accusations attempting to smear Jeremy Corbyn is a terrorist sympathiser, when the Tories are launching attack upon Jeremy Corbyn & Labour being weak on terrorism & national security, there’s suddenly a horrific terrorist attack which enables Theresa May to play the strong leader in a crisis etc, it’s quite possible that the Manchester terror attack is to Theresa May what the Falklands were to Margret Thatcher.

And of course it is perfectly fine to engage in such disgusting speculation, because after all, the Evil Tor-ees kill people all the time as a result of their heartless refusal to firehose endless sums of money at the welfare state:

There of course will be Tory supporters who’ll will be thinking absolutely appalling I accuse Theresa May & the Tory government of allowing peeps (including children) to be killed to win an election, as if the Tories haven’t killed thousands of peeps with disabilities to give their wealthy chums tax cuts, as if successive government haven’t sent young soldiers off to wars for oil & profit, so I really don’t think the establishment would have any qualms killing a few children to win them an election which for them has a great deal riding on it.

And for every one unhinged blogger who openly deals in fringe conspiracy theorising such as this, I’ll wager that there are ten more left-wing activists who nod along with the sentiment if not the details – who believe that the Tories do in fact deliberately want to kill or harm innocent people through their policies (rather than simply believing that the path to self-sufficiency and prosperity doesn’t run through big government and mass dependency on welfare).

This is going to become a real problem for the British political Left. Their uncontrolled fury at the world, at their countrymen who fail to see eye to eye with them, is making them ever more extreme in their actions (vandalising war memorials, physically harassing politicians) and in their public rhetoric. Worse still, the prestige left wing media are starting to indulge in the same unhinged behaviour.

The country at large sees this. The people are watching, taking note and recoiling in disgust. The Left needs to disown these people and exorcise them from their political parties, groups and organisations if they want to maintain even a shred of credibility following this general election.

8 June – 19:15

Getting out the Tory vote

It looks as though the vaunted (and feared) Conservative online / social media marketing effort is humming along quite nicely as they try to get out their vote. Interestingly, the ads showing on Facebook today still make prominent mention of Theresa May over the Conservative Party – it had previously been speculated that the Tories might dial down their focus on the prime minister given her awful, uninspiring election campaign.

Conservative Party - Theresa May - facebook ads general election

8 June – 18:55

An unlikely Tory recruit

In 2015, Brendan O’Neill declined to vote and penned an eloquent defence of his decision. But now in 2017, O’Neill – a fierce and determined critic of the “middle class clerisy” who have infected and taken over the Labour Party – is going a step further and casting his vote for the Conservative Party.

O’Neill explains in Coffee House:

Today, for the first time in my life, I voted Tory. And somewhat disappointingly I haven’t sprouted horns yet. I haven’t been overcome by an urge to pour champagne on homeless people’s heads or to close down my local library and guffaw at any rosy-cheeked child who pleads: ‘But I want books, mister.’ I don’t feel evil. Maybe that stuff comes later. Maybe it takes a few days before you turn into a living, breathing Momentum meme, screaming ‘Screw the poor!’ as you ping your red braces.

In fact I feel good. It always feels good to vote, of course, to hold the fate of the political class in your hands. Election Day is such a wonderful if fleeting reminder of where power ought to lie in a democracy: with us, the crowd, whether we’re clever or thick, good or bad, old or young. I love this feeling, and the undoubted terror it temporarily induces in those who rule over us. But it also feels good to have lost my Tory-voting virginity. For one simple reason: I believe in democracy and press freedom, above everything else, and only the Tories have committed themselves to defending those two things.

And concludes:

In recent years, nothing has better summed up the left’s vicious turn against the plebs it once claimed to like than its disgust with Brexit and its fear of a free, raucous press. In its Brexitphobia, we see its deep discomfort with the whole idea of democracy, with allowing even ‘low information’ people a say in politics. And in its constant, shrill state of fury with the allegedly dangerous red-tops we see its fear of the reading public and what they might start to think if they have access to all sorts of strange, outré opinions. The left’s abandonment of democracy and press freedom really signals the death of this once great movement. Well, I still believe in those two things, and so today, happily, I voted for the only party that says it believes in them too.

O’Neill, recall, is editor of radical left-leaning magazine Spiked Online. And while it’s fair to say that Brendan O’Neill doesn’t represent a particularly large or influential wing of the Labour coalition, the fact that left-libertarians are crossing the floor to vote for Theresa May’s Conservatives (of all parties!) is a damning indictment of the direction of the Labour Party since 1997.

For how much longer can Labour stand in general opposition to Brexit, free speech and the interests of their one-time working class base without provoking a reaction even more extreme than the Corbynite takeover?

8 June – 18:15

How about those LibDems?

Remember when this was going to be the year of the Great LibDem Comeback, when the “voiceless” 48% stood up as one to assert their status as Citizens of the World and Proud Europeans, and rewarded the Liberal Democrats for their strident anti-Brexit stance? Well, it doesn’t seem to be amounting to much.

The day before polls opened, LibDem leader Tim Farron could be found shoring up the vote of Foreign Affairs spokesman and Carshalton incumbent MP, Tom Brake:

Clearly the Liberal Democrats are not on the march up and down the country if Farron is fighting a rearguard effort to cling on to a marginal seat (majority 1510) rather than barnstorming around the country putting the fear of God into marginal Labour and Tory seats.

But how badly would the LibDems have to do for Tim Farron’s leadership to be in danger? While you don’t hear many grumblings in public, I can’t help but wonder whether the LibDem membership (and what’s left of the parliamentary party) might not secretly relish the opportunity to get rid of a leader whose awkward traditional Christian beliefs on the subject of abortion (historically) and homosexuality (potentially still today, though Farron equivocates) have cost the party some bad press and lost momentum.

Of course, this would be hugely unfair. The real reason that Tim Farron should go is that he makes the name “Liberal Democrat” into a laughing stock by often being neither liberal nor democratic – see his eagerness to hold another vote on the terms of our departure from the EU, purely in the hope that this will present an opportunity to thwart the whole thing. By contrast, the fact that Tim Farron holds private religious beliefs which he has no interest or intention of legislating or foisting upon anyone else is surely the calling card of a true liberal – and bizarrely the main root of his unpopularity. Go figure.

8 June – 17:30

No, it doesn’t have to be like this

Let me just slip in this promotion before people start bemoaning our electoral system and the paucity of real democratic choice available to people – a shout out for the Harrogate Agenda.

Their six demands:

1. Recognition of our sovereignty – the people, not the government
2. Real local democracy – devolving power to the counties
3. Separation of powers – separating the executive from the legislature
4. The people’s consent – no treaty ratification without approval
5. No taxation or spending without consent
6. A constitutional convention

This blog has been a long-time supporter. If you find yourself dissatisfied beyond the usual partisan grievances as the results roll in tonight, give the Harrogate Agenda your consideration.

Brexit – in whatever form it ultimately comes – should not and must not be the ultimate end point of this journey. Leaving the EU will not renew our democracy – it merely makes the renewal of our democracy possible. But from that point onward, we must seize the opportunity to reshape our democratic institutions, recover power for ourselves and hold public servants to better account. We need to be more active citizens, not passive consumers who sit about, petulantly demanding More Stuff from the government. This seems as good an opening as any.

8 June – 16:00

The intolerant, illiberal Left do their thing

There have been numerous disturbing reports of left-wing activists buying up all of the copies of right-leaning newspapers from their local shops and newsagents, and then publicly burning them so as to deprive other people of the opportunity to read their pro-Tory headlines, editorials and endorsements.

Brendan O’Neill’s response is absolutely correct:

This is a new low. Members of the Twitterati are boasting about buying up all the tabloids from their local newsagents and either binning them or burning them. Why? To protect the allegedly gullible plebs who read these papers from their anti-Labour editorials in the hope of stopping them from slavishly tramping to the polling station to vote Tory. They are using money and fire to try to deprive the lower orders of political reading material on Election Day. This is one of the foulest acts yet by the Twitterati. Hot tip: when you’re burning literature, you’ve lost the fucking plot.

Even the New Statesman realises that this fascistic action is counterproductive:

Let’s leave aside the obvious similarities between burning newspapers and certain German rituals of the late 30s (Sorry Godwin’s law), there’s another reason this tactic stinks.

Sure, you can accuse the right-wing press of smearing Jeremy Corbyn, cheerleading for the Tories and doing everything they can to stop progressive politics advancing. But trying to deny people the ability to read these newspapers doesn’t just suggest censorship, it is censorship. It’s actively taking away people’s access to information they want. And if anyone thinks they are protecting the poor befuddled Sun or Mail readers from the noxious views contained in those pages, they should probably consider quite how patronising that is.

If we really want people to break free of misplaced right-wing views, to lift the veil placed over their eyes by the right wing press, then we should probably be talking to them.

Talking to conservative voters as intelligent peers rather than hateful or ignorant dupes. What a novel idea.

But if the Left’s violent wing are already burning things before voting has even closed, we should all be concerned about a repeat of the 2015 riots and vandalism. These people do not take defeat well.

8 June – 14:30

Welcome!

Welcome to this semi-partisan live blog of the 2017 general election results. Updates will probably be sparse until later in the evening, picking up pace as we approach poll closing time and the release of the exit poll at 10PM. I’ll keep going for as long as things remain interesting and there are still issues and arguments to dissect, advance and rebut.

Please feel free to share your thoughts using the Comments feature, by emailing me at semipartisansam@gmail.com or engaging with me on Twitter @SamHooper.

For an overall summary of my take on this dismal election campaign as it progressed, see these recent posts in particular:

Theresa May Calls a General Election: First Reaction

Stop Applauding “Election Fatigued” Brenda From Bristol

Will The Snap General Election Damage Trust In Politicians?

2017 General Election Campaign: The Last Stand For Conviction Politics?

The SpAdocracy And Theresa May’s Flawed Plans For Social Care

The British Left’s Cunning Plan To Reach Working Class Voters: Insult Them

Labour’s Cynical, Disingenuous National Debt Hysteria

Voters Know Left Wing Policies Are Individually Alluring But Collectively Foolish

Labour And The Left Simply Do Not Get Patriotism

Is It Time For The Conservatives To Get Over Thatcher?

General Election 2017: The Unbearable Light-weightedness of British Politics

General Election 2017: We Get The Politicians We Deserve

General Election 2017: An Unpredictable Race in Hampstead & Kilburn

General Election 2017: Decision Time

Regular readers will know that I have struggled to summon any kind of enthusiasm for this general election given the circumstances and the state of the main parties – particularly the current state of conservatism – but I’m sure that the election bug will finally bite at some point this evening, and then we will be up and away.

Thanks for joining, and stay posted!

 

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General Election 2017: Decision Time

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The most depressing choice since I became eligible to vote

I feel a little bit sorry for the poor, eager young Conservative Party canvasser who buzzed our door just as we were sitting down to dinner on the eve of polling day for the snap general election of 2017.

Would I be voting for Theresa May and her team, he enquired after I scampered downstairs to speak with him.

Would I?

Must I?

Can I really?

Yes, I will be voting Conservative in my northwest London constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn, a tight two-way marginal. It will bring me absolutely zero pleasure to do so, and I expect nothing good whatsoever to come from my vote, or a Tory victory here. This is purely an exercise in damage limitation, and even then you could almost still flip a coin.

I told the canvasser as much, and sent him away with a flea in his ear about the fact that I will grudgingly, despairingly vote for Ed Miliband in drag Theresa May over Jeremy Corbyn given the lack of any better option, but that I will be gunning for May’s Coke Zero Conservative administration and watching our somewhat nondescript local candidate like a hawk (should she prevail) as soon as this wretched business is over with.

I analysed the dynamics of the local race in Hampstead & Kilburn soon after the snap general election was called, and I think that the analysis still holds up – though as with most pundits I am probably guilty of giving too much credence to signs of a LibDem revival. What should be an easy gain for the Conservatives with any national swing in their direction is complicated here by the Brexit factor, and the fact that Labour incumbent Tulip Siddiq was staunchly pro-Remain and has pitched herself as saviour of the many “citizens of the world” who live within the constituency. Hampstead & Kilburn voted 75% to 25% against Brexit, and unlike some areas of the country I sense no diminution of that zeal. EU flags still flutter from the windows of several flats along the high street.

The dynamics of the national race are much harder to discern, with polls all over the place and many pundits hedging their bets. We will know soon enough, so I see little point in exposing myself to ridicule by venturing a prediction of my own, but if I had to make one I would expect to see a solid but uninspiring Tory majority, well short of the fabled 100 seat level. Labour’s electoral floor was always higher than some of the more excitable commentators were willing to acknowledge, and after a terrible campaign the Tory majority will likely be dull, workmanlike, unimpressive and find its efficacy increasingly questionable, much like our prime minister.

I have already surveyed the utterly depressing vacuity of this general election campaign several times on the blog – most recently here and here – and have little to add to this gloomy assessment. Obviously the heinous terror attacks in Manchester and London finally succeeded in changing the tone of the race and pushing national security up the agenda. But as with every other subject, discussing which party was best placed to protect Britain from further Islamist terror attacks only served to highlight the ineptitude of both main parties – the Conservatives for having presided over a drop in armed police numbers at a time when events in mainland Europe cried out for large increases, and Labour for their leadership being utterly compromised when it comes to terror apologetics and support for odious, murderous foreign regimes.

Ultimately, we get the political leadership that we deserve, now as much as ever. If you watched any of the televised election debates, watched any of the party political broadcasts, read any of the party manifestos or read any of the campaign literature it cannot have escaped your notice that the vast majority of this campaign has been devoted – particularly among the Left – to bribing the people with the eternal promise of More Free Stuff, always paid for by someone else.

Until terrorism shook us out of our complacency, public services were king in this miserable election campaign. Who could be trusted to spend more on them. Who would better defend Our Blessed NHS. Which party leader would most debase themselves by promising not to be a world leader but a mere comptroller of public services, a glorified parish councillor whose job is to make our every petty complaint their overriding personal concern.

The closest that anybody has come to painting an optimistic vision of Britain’s future is Jeremy Corbyn, and his policies would take us careening straight back to the Winter of Discontent. Theresa May sounded like a malfunctioning android for much of the campaign (strong and stable, strong and stable, strong and…) which actually turned out to be better than what came next, because when the Manchester and London terror attacks finally jolted the prime minister’s operating system out of it’s infinite loop she started evoking a stark, dystopian portrait of a country where civil rights are burned in sacrifice for the chimerical illusion of perfect safety, while the state perches over the shoulder of every citizen as a perpetually watchful, auxiliary parent.

No party has properly got to grips with the challenge of Brexit, specifically the need to ensure that we do not crash out of the EEA with no deal and find ourselves paralysed by a million non tariff barriers that even now many ministers and journalists are cheerfully pretending do not exist.

No party has yet arrived at a sensible, proportional response to the attacks on our country by Islamist terrorists – Labour scored some opportunistic points at the expense of the Tories for presiding over a fall in total police numbers but cannot be taken seriously thanks to the views of their senior leadership, while the Tories under Theresa May have made a few encouraging sounds about finally confronting the Islamist ideology and its roots in Britain’s Muslim communities but then pivoted dramatically to draconian talk about squashing civil liberties in the name of safety.

But most importantly, not a single political party – not even the minor ones or the nationalists – have asked anything of us, the British people. Apparently our job as citizens is just to sit back and petulantly demand More Things while politicians scurry around making false promises to deliver them to us. Nobody has called us to anything resembling a higher purpose or a common endeavour – something which matters more than ever as we confront an Islamist terror threat which emanates from non-assimilated communities who presently feel little connection to the country which gives them life and liberty.

It has become fashionable among political commentators to drone on about how the new division in politics is not between left-wing and right-wing, small government or big government, but rather between globalist and nationalist, those who want to keep vesting power in the current international or supranational institutions and those who believe that the status quo is not working, either for them or for the country as a whole. And while I would quibble with the idea that the left/right dichotomy is no longer important or relevant, of course there is a superficial truth to the globalist/nationalist idea which makes it easy to analyse the likes of Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump.

(Perhaps one of the reasons I resist this new way of framing the debate is because it cuts people like me totally out of the picture – people who are open to the world, comfortable with globalisation and immigration but who recoil from the antidemocratic EU and efforts to foist supranational government on an ignorant or unwilling population by stealth. Voting for Brexit was perhaps the most profoundly liberal thing I have done in my life, and to see that most unexpected victory portrayed to the world by self-assured New York Times reporters as some kind of reactionary hankering for lost empire is immensely frustrating, as being slandered and misrepresented with little ability to correct the record nearly always is).

But British politics is currently so debased, so superficial, that we are not even really having this newfangled globalist/nationalist conversation in a serious way. Brexit, ostensibly the reason for having a snap general election in the first place, has been largely drowned out of the debate, first by the aforementioned tedious obsession with public services and what each one of us can get out of government, and then by the twin terror attacks and the pivot toward national security. And in place of this discussion we are wallowing almost exclusively in the politics of Me Me Me.

What will government do for me? What can this candidate offer me that the other candidate won’t? How will this manifesto affect my mortgage rate, my benefits, my private school fees, my inheritance, my commute, my GP waiting times, my ability to access WiFi on the slow train from Crewe to Stoke. It has all just been so desperately small and parochial.

Or as I put it the other day:

Vote for me, I’ll keep you safe from terror. Just gonna need your Facebook password, please. No, vote for me, I’ll keep the economy strong because we all know the only point of a strong economy is to raise more tax to spend on the NHS. Liar! You want to destroy Our Precious NHS! You want people to die in the streets when they get sick, just like they do in America. No, we are now the true party of the NHS! Anything for Our NHS, oh god, anything and everything, my very life for Our Blessed NHS.

Oi! Look over here, free university tuition! Yeah, it’s subsidised by the taxes of other people who never went to university and whose earning power has not been boosted through having a degree, but still. Fairness! Young people are the future! No, no, no, it’s all about the environment. That evil party wants to build an experimental nuclear fusion plant in your grandmother’s basement, and frack for oil in the middle of Lake Windermere. But we will bulldoze nasty, Brexit-supporting Stoke-on-Trent and replace it with a massive solar panel field. Much better.

No, look over here! We will bring back British Rail; remember how great British Rail was? Who needs Pret when you’ve got a trusty British Rail egg and cress sandwich? Nice and warm, of course, just like the good old days. Let’s have car-commuting taxpayers in Gainsborough subsidise the travel of London-based city commuters, because fairness. British Rail? Scoff. I’ll see your British Rail and raise you British Leyland! Woohoo – nationalisation, baby! For the Common Good.

All immigrants are a godsend, to the last man. If it weren’t for immigrants, your inflamed appendix would have been dug out by a native-born, chain-smoking school dropout with a can of special brew in his spare hand, and don’t you forget it. No, of course we should have a sensible, measured conversation about immigration. It’s just that I’ll stand here and shriek into the TV cameras that you’re an evil, divisive racist if you disagree with me. But please, go ahead. No no, we should listen patiently to people’s concerns and then carefully explain to them why they are wrong. People love that.

Oh, you? No dear, you don’t have to do anything. We, the politicians, are here to promise you stuff, to pander to your every passing whim. If I’m prime minister, I will make it my overriding personal concern to fix the broken chairs at your GP surgery waiting room – I’ll come round and do it myself, I’ve got some tools in the shed – and make sure that New British Rail adds free wifi to your single-carriage metro train between Stoke and Crewe. Seriously, no worries. I’ll call the boss at 6AM every day until it happens. NATO summit? Geopolitics? Statecraft? Boring! Why be a statesman when I can be a glorified town councillor for 65 million insatiable people? I’m on the case for you, and your every last petty concern. I’ll read foreign policy briefings when I’m on the can, that stuff doesn’t matter.

Heavens no, of course we don’t need to properly empower local politicians to make decisions in the local interest, raising and spending taxes independently of Westminster. For I am running to be Comptroller of British Public Services, and my sole job, my only care in the world is to make your passage through life as easy and painless as possible. You and 65 million of your fellow citizens. The buck stops with me, because public services are everything. After all, Britain didn’t do anything of value or renown on the world stage until we starting implementing the Beveridge Report. Not a damn thing. And now we’ve jacked up the size of the state so much and you have to deal with it so bloody frequently that we’d darn well better make sure you come skipping away happy from every last interaction – too many bad experiences for you are political suicide for us.

I just can’t get inspired by any of this transactional nonsense. Thanks partly to Brexit, but also to the general populist rejection of the former centrist status quo, we are living in momentous times. But our politics refuses to catch up with the moment, to acknowledge this break from the past and the need for bold new thinking, not tinkering around the edges and having the same tired old debate about Saving Our NHS.

I’m sometimes accused of being too down on politicians in general, of setting my bar of approval so high that everybody is doomed to disappoint. I think my critics are a little harsh. Who can seriously survey the British political scene and rejoice at the options before us as we go to the polls on June 8?

Who can take comfort from the fact that a Conservative leader facing a terminally dysfunctional opposition decided, inexplicably, to move panderingly to the Left rather than boldly to the transformative Right?

Who can take comfort from the fact that one of the few Labour politicians with anything approaching conviction is simultaneously rendered unelectable by those very same convictions and principles, disturbing as many of them are? Or the fact that the Labour Party has drifted so far away from its one-time roots that many activists now despise their patriotic, pro-Brexit former working class base?

Who can take comfort from the fact that the Liberal Democrats have decided to demonstrate their liberal credentials by standing in proud, unrepentant and implacable opposition to the greatest electoral mandate in British history?

Who can take comfort from the fact that Scottish Nationalists, despite having lost an independence referendum less than three years ago and pledged not to hold another in a generation, have decided to keep on trying ad infinitum to break up our United Kingdom, or that the people of Scotland look set to return a massive contingent of their dubious MPs to Westminster despite that party’s utterly appalling record in Holyrood government?

The only people who can possibly be mustering any enthusiasm for this election are the naive young lefties who truly believe that Theresa May is orchestrating a holocaust of the sick and disabled and that Saint Jeremy Corbyn is coming to cleanse us of our sins, or equally idealistic young Toryboys who hope that sharing enough “strong and stable” infographics on social media might one day lead to a job as an MP’s bag carrier.

I have nothing original to close with as I get ready to head to the polls, so I will recycle the conclusion of another piece I recently wrote:

Yes, I’ll vote Tory this time. But Lord knows I’ll feel unclean and deeply depressed while doing so, with zero expectation that it will result in anything positive for the country and with considerably more admiration for the man I hope to see defeated than the woman I barely want to win.

Britain, we can do better than this. Probably not much better realistically, at least right now – because as a society we have fallen and been infantilised to such a worrying degree – but still we can do better than these paltry political party leaders. They’re all just so very…small.

Somebody, anybody else, please step up soon. Deep down, as a nation we want more than is being offered to us by Jeremy Corbyn, his provincial Mini Me’s and a confused Tory leader who thinks the path to victory involves dismantling – rather than building upon – the legacy of our greatest post-war prime minister.

Step forward, find the spirit of public service and call us to action, too. Ask us to set our sights beyond our own narrow interests, beyond our bank balances, our bin collections, our next step on the property ladder, the feelings of our intersectional identity groups, the fate of our free mobile roaming calls in Tuscany. Help give us a new purpose, a common purpose, a higher purpose.

Set us a challenge.

 

I will be live blogging the election results and aftermath here on Semi-Partisan Politics from Thursday evening through to the next day. It promises to be a very depressing and underwhelming event. Do please join me.

 

General Election 2017 - polling station sign

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