Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Winners and Losers of 2019

As we come to the end of a year in which it has more than once been the case that people with opposite opinions have voted the same way, each gambling that blocking the "centre" position will break things their way, it is worth seeing who called it right.

It' wasn't always the side who one would have expected. I am reminded of a statement by William Lamb, a.k.a. Lord Melbourne:


Boris Johnson

He pretends to be a clown but he is nobody's fool. I think it is time to recognise that the PM is a far smarter political operator than any of his enemies or some of his friends give him credit for.

Yes, he's been lucky, especially in his political opponents. But he made some of his own luck - and exploited with ruthless effectiveness what was gifted to him.


Jeremy Corbyn

And thank God for the good sense of the British electorate in making it so.


The ERG and supporters of a hard (not "no deal") Brexit.

I am still convinced that the ERG and those who voted with them against the Theresa May deal because they wanted a harder Brexit were taking a huge risk of ending up with no Brexit at all. They got what they wanted for three reasons

1) Boris Johnson

2) In the end, amazingly to some of us, the hard Brexit supporters turned out to be more pragmatic and have better judgement than the ultra-Remainers and soft-Brexit supporters and to have a better idea of when to declare victory and take what was on the table. To be precise, Boris Johnson did, and the Brexiteers had the sense to follow him.

3) The proponents of a "soft Brexit" or no Brexit at all turned out to be more divided and far more incompetent than the supporters of a hard Brexit.



The outcome of the 2017 general election handed the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland what amounted to a veto over the policies of the UK government. For two years they were in an immensely strong position in parliament.

But although I think the DUP deserve a much more sympathetic hearing than they ever get from the mainstream British press or political class, most of whom understand Ireland even less well than they understand quantum physics (e.g. not at all in either case), the fact remains that the DUP massively overplayed their hand.

A government which was effectively at their mercy has transformed into one which no longer has the slightest need for DUP votes and, worse, is nearly as fed up with the DUP as the DUP are with Boris Johnson. This is not at all healthy, and I hope that the government will pay attention to the needs of Northern Ireland, but I don't see it the problem being put right any time soon.

JO SWINSON  and the Liberal Democrats.

The joke has been made so many times as to become a cliché that the leader of the "Liberal Democrats" pursued a policy which was neither liberal nor democratic.

That's because it is true.

Stephen Bush has put forward the most credible explanation for her disastrous decision to tell 17.4 million people that she didn't give a damn what they voted for - that she was expecting Labour to move to an unambiguously pro-Remain position and needed to outflank them, and Boris Johnson to go for a no-deal position which would have made Leave far more frightening. In the event Boris got a deal where Corbyn stayed on the fence, leaving Jo Swinson stranded on an extreme position.

The only sad thing about Swinson losing her seat is that she lost it to the party which is arguably the most destructive force in 21st century British politics. 


Whether they were former Conservatives, Labour, Green or Lib/Dem, those who decided to save the electorate from itself and set themselves up to stop Brexit were putting themselves against the British voters. This rarely ends well, and it didn't end well for them.

They made it worse for themselves because the opponents of Brexit were hopelessly divided, hence the inability of the last House of Commons to pass almost anything positive - they knew what they were against but there never seemed to be a majority in that house for any practical course of action which was actually on the table, unless they put in some "poison pill" like the Letwin amendment.

They also greatly overestimated their support among the public - as they found out at 10pm on 12th December.

And finally:

You will notice that I have said nothing about the North of England, made only one passing reference to Scotland, and have not yet commented on the future of the Labour and Conservative parties.

The Brexit story, the future of the Labour and Conservative parties, and of Scotland, are tales which are not yet finished.

If the Labour party has the sense to take defeat in 2019 as the signal to reject Corbynism and move back to the centre, that defeat could for them be a blessing in excellent disguise.

Alternatively, if the Conservatives can deliver on our promises to the North, deliver a Brexit which people see as successful, and deliver our promises for the NHS, we could be in power into the 2030's.

If Conservatives are foolish enough to imagine that we won big because people love us, rather than being angry with the establishment over Brexit and having decided that they would rather saw off their own right arms with a rusty hacksaw than make Jeremy Corbyn PM, this victory could turn to ashes faster than anyone expects.

We have an urgent repair job to do on the Union between Scotland and the rest of the UK. I don't know what's going to happen next, but Scotland is going to be one of the re-elected government's biggest challenges.

All that is for the future. Welcome to the 2020's!

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