WELL, the United Kingdom ducked a bullet on Friday the 13th – certainly the business lunch I attended then was a very jovial occasion, far more than would be the norm approaching Christmas.
The great result was that we avoided becoming a Marxist economic basket case. Only those in the Labour Party, particularly the maniacs of Momentum, can explain how that ever became an option. This country has not elected a socialist government for thirty years – and when Gordon Brown tried to make Blairism (whatever that was) more socialist (or ‘progressive’ as those with a weak intellect seek to describe it) he lost. It is depressing that what passes for the intelligentsia in the BBC and the rest of the Westminster bubble can’t accept that socialism is a fundamentally flawed concept. It is alarming that, courtesy I assume of the teaching unions, so many of the younger generation can find it alluring and credible.
The second great result, again to the surprise of none but the chatterers, was that we strongly voted for parties that want to leave the EU. Of course, it won’t be plain sailing, but I am more optimistic now that we will leave on December 31 2020 with either a sensible deal or a WTO deal. There will be some faffing about concerning the Irish border, but – like so many things in Irish politics – the question will continue to be aired while the population just get on with making it work.
The huge loser is the SNP. Its inability to accept the result of the ‘once in a lifetime’ independence referendum in 2014 has long rankled with the rest of the UK (who subsidise Scotland). Nicola Sturgeon’s premise that Scotland would be able to transfer to the EU seamlessly if it voted to leave the Union, tenuous as it was, allowed her to pretend that Scottish independence was viable. Once we’re out, Scottish independence becomes economic suicide (no currency, no subsidy, unable to join EU for ages), which the canny 55 per cent of Scots who voted against the SNP well know. There will be much noise from Sturgeon’s acolytes in Westminster, but the reality is that they are a tiresome, pointless and (thankfully) powerless distraction.
The role of the Brexit Party in delivering this Tory result is, of course, a matter of heated debate. And of course, this debate is centred upon analysis of the voting data and thus statistics. Some Conservatives are whining that had the Brexit Party not stood there would be even more Tories, on the assumption that those who chose to vote Brexit would have voted Tory had the Brexit option not existed. Well, as that Tory-lover Mandy Rice-Davies put it, ‘They would say that, wouldn’t they?’ It seems far likelier to me that the existence of the Brexit Party destroyed much of the Labour vote in the northern Leave constituencies.
The political establishment will no doubt seek to return to business as usual, treating the Brexit Party’s astounding electoral performance this year as an aberration. That would be a mistake. The fact that a new party secured so many votes in two national elections is evidence of a dissatisfaction with the status quo ante; ignoring this dissatisfaction will not make it go away. As well as sorting Brexit (which I fear may be a tad less ‘oven-ready’ than BoJo parroted for six interminable weeks) the government needs to address this utter disconnect between Westminster and the taxpaying electorate.
There are some encouraging signs. Johnson wants to start reforming the Civil Service, starting with launching Mr Cummings at Defence Procurement (I don’t know whom I pity more in this forthcoming encounter). He wants to increase infrastructure spending outside London. But there are some fundamentals that he also needs to address.
On infrastructure spending it makes sense to spend now when money is cheap, but only in such a way that ring-fences this expenditure from the depradations of future politicians. And he needs to be clear on how the debt will be repaid before he incurs it. It may well be time for hypothecation.
And the age-old bugbear of House of Lords reform remains incomplete. Blair and Straw’s aborted botch, which degenerated into the ennoblement of many of Tony’s Cronies, needs resolving. Further packing of it with government lackeys and PM’s chums merely kicks the can down the road.
So, 2020 looks like being an exciting and interesting year when we at last have a government intending to deliver what we demanded in 2016. I may be mildly optimistic, but I’m not holding my breath.