When political parties all go wrong at the wrong/same time

The more I think about the 2019 General Election the more I realise what a terrible choice the British public had on offer in terms of potential Prime Ministers. On that basis is it any wonder they picked (with the more than significant help from our warped electoral system) the politician to lead them who is probably best summed up as a populist entertainer.

If Corbyn had been really credible he would have won in 2017. That he didn’t and went down hill from there makes you wonder what on earth the Labour Party was doing keeping him on as they must have known they were on the road to nowhere with him. And so it proved with a shocking electoral performance in December 2019 – Labour losing many seats to a Tory Party under the leadership of someone that no one trusted.

The Tories had been in a right old mess ever since David Cameron found himself calling the EU Referendum having surprisingly gained a majority in 2015; a majority which privately he must have very much hoped not to have for it forced his hand to go where he did not want to go with the EU.

The Lib Dems recovered some ground in terms of vote share in 2019 but bizarrely ended the election with one seat less than they won in 2017. Our wonderful NOT electoral system at work of course. But their leader Jo Swinson proved not to be an asset to the Party as on balance she wasn’t liked by voters and yes I do realise there will sadly have been some misogynist views at play in her downfall.

And then within a couple months a huge crisis envelopes the world, one that the UK reacted to far too slowly and which because of our obsession with austerity we have been incapable of addressing well. Here we are 6 weeks after lockdown with only a few brave Tories willing to wave the flag for Boris Johnson; the rest of the population wondering how on earth we ended up where we are with a shockingly poor government at the very time we need a strong one.

Oh for an Obama, a Blair, a Merkel or a that wonderful young lady from New Zealand whom we all struggle to say the name of (Jacinda Ardern) in our hour of need, but true leaders in UK politics are hard to find anywhere. The blood letting in both the Tories (over Brexit) and Labour (over Brexit, antisemitism and Corbynism) has led to the loss of many credible politicians and the Lib Dems have failed to come up with a leader the public really can take to since the demise of Charles Kennedy. That someone as credible as Dominic Grieve has found himself unwelcome in the Tory Party or that Louise Ellman walked away from Labour tells us that our politics is far from healthy and that dogmatically driven sects are far too powerful in our two major political parties.

That Labour has finally sobered up is a given in that they’ve now elected a reasonably credible leader in Keir Starmer although the jury is clearly still out. He’s no charismatic leader and worryingly seems still wedded to too many of the faults within Corbynism such as Brexit (he opposes the transition period being extended). He needs to become a true progressive as Blair clearly was in his early years, before he fouled up big style over Iraq. Yes it’s hard as Labour’s core working class supporters can easily swing to the right into regressive politics (as they did to deliver Brexit) but if Blair could be progressive and keep them on side Starmer has to as well. It will be no good appeasing them by throwing in a few ‘hang ’em and flog ’em’ policies Keir.

As for the Lib Dems, who for reasons no one can quite get their heads around have contrived not to have an elected leader in place since the December 2019 GE, there is hope that someone like Layla Moran can come through to be a truly progressive Social Liberal Leader. I hope so as I want my Party to be placed not between the Tories and Labour but to the left of Labour on many social issues/policies as we were in Charles Kennedy’s day.

What will become of the Tory Party is a very big question indeed. You can’t see Johnson surviving or indeed wanting to survive as PM in the long term. His popularist entertainer position which he’s carved out over many years is clearly unsuited to a country in crisis as is his legendary personality fault-line of not doing detail.

Politically the UK is in a mess, England probably more so than the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations. There’s room for some optimism but it will be a long road before our main 3 political parties become fit for purpose again.

3 thoughts on “When political parties all go wrong at the wrong/same time

  1. Phil Holden says:

    Good piece Tony. But you surely wouldn’t want to be to the left of Labour if they remain Corynite would you? 44 pc say they approved of what Johnson said yesterday (to 43 opposed) in a poll published in the Times – so not just a few Tories. And I also beg to differ on Scotland and especially Wales which both suffer from perpetual one party rule at the moment. We’ve only seen 2 politicians who have at all impressed us in Wales: departed Welsh leader Caerwyn Jones and health minister Vaughan Gething who made a prat of himself recently on a Welsh Assembly zoom session (he thought his mic was muted while colourfully criticising a Labour party colleague). Both administrations play games trying to bounce Westminster then complain about what the UK government decides. Plaid Cymru is an almost pemanently brain free zone with its leader insisting last night that R in Wales is 0.8 and so higher than England’s. (That’s what it’s estimated to be but the error band will be as large as England’s 0.5 to 0.9).

    • How much of Corbynism Starmer will retain I don’t know but in many ways it (Corbynism) was just old fashioned tax and spend. Probably more spend than was in any way credible. What I meant by the left of Labour is more socially progressive whilst yes well funded public services. My personal view is of the Scandinavian economy/society model. Not high spend and authoritarian but as labour would have it but sociably liberal respecting individuals but us cooperating for a better society. As for Wales you know better than as an English exile living there I but have you missed the education Minister since 2016, a radical Lib Dem – Kirsty Williams?

  2. Stu Nutt says:

    Both the former Labour Leader and the leader of the Lib-Dems spoke very well at Monday’s parliamentary discussion as the comb-less PM tried to explain his vague and worrying “go to work but stay safe” statement from Sunday evening.

    Just before that I had seen pictures from a London underground station where the crowd trying to “get to work” were all well inside the “2-metre” rule and yet Boris said in Westminster that facecovering should be “advised but not essential”.

    What a blundering idiot !

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