The real story behind the huge Conservative win at the British election. It could have been even bigger if not for ill-considered strategies and blunders from the flamboyant but flawed Boris Johnson.12 December 2019
The election yesterday (12 December 2019) for dominance of the parliament of the United Kingdom ended up with the Conservative Party holding an absolute majority of representatives (Members of Parliament or MPs).
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will now rapidly pass through the law enabling Britain to exit the European Union by January 31 2020, after which a trade deal needs to be negotiated.
Here are the reasons I think the Conservatives could have won even more dramatically. They failed to take full advantage of the weaknesses of the various Opposition parties, and in particular Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.
- The slogan “Get Brexit done” was repeated ad nauseam by Johnson, yet the simplistic formulation allowed the Opposition to point out that Brexit would not be “done” until a proper trade deal is negotiated. That, the Opposition said, could take several years – not the highly optimistic promise of it all being wrapped up by the end of 2020. There was no need for opening up one of the strongest Conservative assets to a degree of ridicule. All Johnson needed to say was “Let’s get us out of the European Union, and then we are in a far better position to get a trade deal where both sides benefit from little or no tariffs on imports and exports.” Johnson did make the point that underpinning Labour’s proposals was a wildly , there were being wildly optimistic claim that the EU would agree to any deal other than the one so painfully negotiated at the last moment a few months ago. And then, even with that agreement, Labour was not sure if it would back the new deal. All it would do would be to put the new deal to a new referendum. The alternative would be to go into reverse gear and actually stay inside the EU, after all. The long interim period would, the Conservatives could point out, have been very dangerous for British trade and in particular could have led to foreign investors avoiding the UK and to build factories outside its shores. Then too, the idea of a Corbyn-led government that was also reliant on the special and conflicting interests of three other parties – the Scottish nationalists, the Liberal Democrats, and the Welsh nationalists – would scare of almost all potential investors.
- The Conservatives did not produce sufficient figures and evidence as to the serious losses Britain would face if the Conservatives did not get an absolute majority. Yes they spoke of paralysis in government under a minority Corbyn administration. But the public needed graphic facts, and the Conservatives should have arranged for foreign investors to state this openly and on the British media.
- This would also have greatly added substance to a key Conservative argument: that Labour would not have the income to implement its extremely generous “everything for free” promises to throw money into the National Health Service, social services, education and even free ultra-fast broadband nationwide.
- The Conservatives had a major vote-winner in the argument that by being out of the EU Britain can restrict immigration from Europe to those people who the country really needs. The Conservatives talked of implementing an Australian-style points system, but failed to show how the eight million extra people now living in the UK compared with a decade ago was causing strain on social services, hospitals etc, without a commensurate increase in tax income. Yes this immigration question would have laid the Conservatives open to the accusation that Britain was being narrow-minded, even racist. But this immigration issue – and the idea that foreigners are taking jobs and undercutting salaries, and avoiding taxes via the “black economy”, would play well among the poorer urban areas that have in the last few decades lost a great deal of the old industrial base.
- The Conservatives needed to train their leader in not looking like an untrustworthy maverick prone to making racist or unwise statements. Predictably, Johnson blundered with a live television interview in which he pocketed a phone picture shown to him by a television journalist. It was of a small child who had to spend the night in a hospital sleeping on coats on the floor – indicating that hospitals were under-resourced. He also looked silly with stunts like him driving a bulldozer through a false wall that read – yes, you guessed it: – “Get Brexit done”.
- The Conservatives should have attacked the Labour leader much more on his coterie of hard-left Marxists who have in effect hijacked what was until recently a moderate left-of-centre party with widespread electoral appeal. Much more should have been made of the toxic mix of hard-left trade union leaders; the hard-left Chancellor-in-waiting (would-be Finance Minister); the huge coterie of hard-left Momentum groupies, former Trotskyites who are his close advisers; and the consequent exit of most of the moderate Labour Members of Parliament, harried and bullied by the hard left.
- There was very little benefit to the Conservatives in repeatedly pointing out Labour’s slow and inadequate disciplinary procedures against anti-Semites. It did reflect badly on Corbyn, but most of the voters really didn’t care, and in any case the Jewish community in the UK is very small. The more this issue came to the fore, the more likely it was that Labour would actually gain votes from the large number of Muslims who have a similar prejudice and believe the same (or worse) false tropes about Jews.
- Far better would have been for the Conservatives to have spent more energy revealing details of how Corbyn cultivated terrorist associates, including those he called his “friends”, during decades of being an anti-Labour MP masquerading as a Labour MP. That included the highly unpopular Irish Republican Army leadership and his cosying up to leftist dictatorships like that in oil-rich socialist Venezuela, which has lately collapsed.
- Johnson he failed to take advantage of a terrorist attack in London during the election period. It was carried out by a man who had only recently been released from jail for a terrorist plot after serving only half of his 16-year sentence and then stabbing to death two young people who saw him as an example of their rehabilitation programme. By immediately announcing a plan to stop convicted terrorists from getting any parole, Johnson seemed to be cynically making political capital from a tragedy.
All in all, the Conservatives won the most seats in Parliament for decades, but they could have secured the election much more emphatically. And in an uncertain era of post-EU rebuilding and the problems of Scotland, the government may just find that on certain issues even their current majority may not be enough.