Over the past week public life in Britain has become, even more acutely than previously, a competition in fatuity between the politicians and the media. Both enjoy the unqualified contempt of the public. Our rulers and commentators are idiots, for the simple reason that subscribing to the prevailing idiocy has become the prerequisite for employment or promotion within the political class and among its media fellow travellers.
Do not trip over that sackful of fighting stoats – it is the governing party of this country. The Conservative Party – an organization flouting the Trade Descriptions Act in that it has never conserved anything worthwhile within living memory – is in convulsions over the allocation of responsibility for the recent electoral debacle. The primary blame has rightly been attributed to Theresa May: as Prime Minister, the buck stops with her.
Those of us who are on record as having denounced the decision to call an election, from day one, as irresponsible folly have the right to ask where else responsibility rests and on this occasion, by a constitutional quirk, the answer is readily supplied. Since the Fixed Term Parliaments Act constrained the right of the Prime Minister to call an election, a vote was held in the House of Commons to authorize Theresa May to go to the country.
Just 13 MPs voted against an election, not one of them Conservative. So, no Tory MP, whether Leaver or Remainer, has any right whatsoever to reproach Theresa May. They were all complicit in her folly and theatrical expressions of “fury”and “outrage” after the event, as reported by their media accomplices, are complete hypocrisy.
It is a longstanding axiom among lazy journalists that the Conservative Party has a “ruthless” instinct for self-preservation and the pursuit of power. If so, the Tories have concealed it well in recent days. Firstly, they have subscribed to the self-flagellating narrative of irretrievable disaster, from which they appear to derive some obscure masochistic satisfaction. The reality is that the Conservatives are just two seats short of a majority since they hold 318 and 320 is the winning post, once the Speaker, three deputy speakers and seven Sinn Fein abstainers have been factored in.
The Conservatives increased their share of the vote by 5.5 percentage points, gaining 42 per cent of the vote, totalling 13.6 million ballots, just 100,000 short of Margaret Thatcher’s record 13.7 million in 1987. In any other circumstances that would have been a triumph, justifying Theresa May’s gamble. In the current circumstances it was a disaster, since Labour increased its share of the vote by 9.6 percentage points.
The registration of 1.5 million voters during the campaign is reminiscent of the drive by Acorn in the United States in 2008 to elect Barack Obama. The Tories would be well advised to take a long hard look at the sophisticated online campaign that targeted the youth vote, consider the expense involved, its relevance to Brexit and ask themselves what outside forces might have intervened.
A dispassionate look at the objective realities of political arithmetic should have convinced the Conservatives it is all still to play for. They only need a 1 per cent swing to gain 19 seats. As against that there is the complementary, chilling reality that Jeremy Corbyn only requires a 1.6 per cent swing to implement his People’s Republic.
The Tories, however, have indulged in an orgy of self-harm. Some of them have demonised the DUP, the only conceivable source from which a life-saving majority for the Queen’s Speech can be secured. Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has allowed her personal agenda to impel her to vent bile against the DUP. Electoral success has caused her to believe the hype: she did not win in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon lost, after a decade in power, by neglecting health and education and banging on about a second independence referendum and, fatally, on eve of poll, a putative third plebiscite.
English Tories also attacking the DUP over same-sex marriage are behaving as if that were a key principle of Tory philosophy, although the majority of Conservative MPs refused to support it and David Cameron had to rely on Labour votes to pass the legislation. Similarly, the mockery of the DUP for opposing abortion is offensive to many voters on mainland Britain. Above all, politically, it is insane. John Major (Oh, yes!) has said the Conservatives should not ally themselves with the DUP. In that case, perhaps he would like to explain how a Conservative government is going to retain power.
Since 1997 when Sir John Major, not entirely voluntarily, left office the Conservative Party has enjoyed the luxury of a majority for just two years, over two decades. That majority was thrown away by Theresa May via an unnecessary election and a document that was less a manifesto than a provocation. Retaining the foreign aid squanderfest at 0.7 per cent of GNI, attacking Internet freedom, proposing more “aggravated” offences instead of abolishing the existing ones to restore equality under the law, terrorizing the previously supportive “grey” vote, and so on.
On the campaign trail she listened to grandees and kitchen cabinet members insisting the Prime Minister must not join in televised debates. In a perfervidly anti-elitist climate this convinced the electorate the Prime Minister was “too posh to pitch”, with negative consequences. The one lesson she might profitably have taken from John Major was the successful impression created by his humble soap box.
Theresa May self-evidently possesses the political acumen of a geranium. She appears to have listened to Jean-Claude Juncker who, along with the rest of the Brussels hoods, saw her coming and told her everybody wanted a good Brexit but what she needed was an increased majority, i.e. a general election. Yet no cabinet ministers rushed forward carrying straitjackets. She is at it again, despite a good outing at the 1922 Committee, filleting the department responsible for delivering Brexit.
This vicar’s daughter is more curate’s egg – good in parts, but only very small ones. Nevertheless she is crucial to the survival of Britain, menaced by a totalitarian Corbynista revolution. Corbyn is giving himself the airs of a usurped prime minister. Why? He won 262 seats to the Tories’ 318: who is doing the arithmetic on this imposture – Diane Abbott?
The Conservatives are aboard the bus in “The Italian Job”, poised on a cliff edge. Even Boris has the sense not to move. Those of us who have no attachment to the Conservative Party but care about the country and therefore Brexit recognize they must get a Queen’s Speech through – even if it includes subsidies for leprechauns – and retain power until the completion of Brexit negotiations and the implementation of parliamentary boundary changes in 2019.
It will be a hard, demoralizing, even humiliating grind, but the Tories have brought this on themselves and the only way they can purge their contempt of the court of public opinion is by seeing it through. Any self-aggrandizing buffoon who upsets the balance and plunges the bus into the ravine will never be forgiven by the sensible majority of the public.