12 days have passed since the election, but it has taken that time to gather my thoughts and try to come to some conclusions. We still had a week of teaching to do after the election, so I couldn’t give much attention to it until now.
First, in my previous post, I was completely wrong in my predictions, but looking back on it, I suspect it was written more in hope than anything else, because when the polls closed and the prediction from the exit polls was of a majority of about 65, I wasn’t particularly surprised. In the end, the Conservatives got a majority of 80. So, how do I begin to rationalise this result?
Looking at the national picture, it was clear that Labour had a bad campaign, and that the Liberal Democrats, although they had a good start, didn’t make much impression in the end. In my opinion, Labour did badly for two reasons: (i) because of the Corbyn factor – many voters simply didn’t trust him, and (ii), in constituencies that voted for Brexit in 2016, there was some irritation among leavers that Labour had agreed to a second referendum, much as that was viewed positively by remainers such as myself. As a result, these leaver voters probably turned to the Conservatives or the Brexit Party instead of Labour. As for the LibDems, it is possible that the pledge to scrap article 50 if they formed a government backfired, although I felt it was a positive message that should not have put off potential voters. It also certainly didn’t help that Jo Swinson was not invited to take part in the Johnson-Corbyn debates. My conclusion on the overall result was that the Conservatives won because Labour did so badly, rather than there suddenly being a resurgence of Conservative support.
Locally the results very much reflected the national picture, although there are some interesting details to look at. Newcastle under Lyme went Conservative for the first time ever. The long standing Labour MP, Paul Farrelly, had stood down, having been MP since 2001, and was a remainer in a constituency that voted heavily to leave the EU in 2016. His majority had been steadily decreasing, and was down to 30 in 2017, although there were some issues with the voting that year, which probably affected this. His successor, a union official from Manchester, didn’t look likely to impress beyond loyal Labour supporters, and certainly would be unlikely to attract tactical voters. In the end, the Conservatives took the seat with a majority of 7000+ over Labour. The result in the neighbouring Stoke seats was also particularly interesting, given that Gareth Snell (Stoke Central) and Ruth Smeeth (Stoke North), had both voted in favour of Boris Johnson’s EU deal (both constituencies having voted to leave the EU in 2016). It didn’t help them, however, with Gareth losing narrowly to the Conservatives, and Ruth losing by a similar margin to that of Labour in Newcastle under Lyme. Since Stoke South had already gone Conservative in 2017, it means that all 3 Stoke seats, and Newcastle under Lyme, are blue now.
As this is a post mortem, I will attempt to look at ways forward, although like many others, I feel thoroughly demoralised. What Labour do is for their members to decide, but as an ex Labour member I remember how it felt losing the 1983 election, and how long it took to make the party electable again. From the comments I have heard so far from some prominent MPs, that lesson may take longer to learn this time round, especially with Corbyn hanging on for a period of ‘reflection’. The LibDems have lost their leader (and how shameful was Nicola Sturgeon’s reaction to the result – look it up if you haven’t seen it). There will be a leadership election in due course, with Ed Davey and Sal Brinton acting as interim leaders. We will see who stands, but I am no Davey fan. Maybe one of our new MPs will come forward?
Regarding the inevitability of Brexit happening, I am not willing to give up on the idea that we may eventually re-join. I am not in the ‘accept the result and move on’ camp, and in the New Year it will become clear what the potential LibDem party leaders think about this. I will leave further comment on this topic until then.
In the meantime I am looking forward to a quiet Christmas, free from political angst. There will be plenty of time in 2020 to re-engage in political debate!