The general election to end all general elections (apart from all the other ones) is now far away enough in time for us to cast a backwards glance and learn a few lessons. We being the voters, not the politicians. We have a degree of objectivity. But what an election it was, and its mind-boggling shockwaves are still resonating as we try and make sense of it all. So as we take a look over our collective shoulder what do we see, other than polling organisations scratching their heads?
Well, if the Tories are to be believed the only reason they did so badly was because the two chiefs of staff were 'toxic'. Well, as a Labour party member, I probably shouldn't enlighten them, but you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Theresa May, the manifesto and the campaign were all toxic. It was toxicity all round, for everyone (apart from the rich, of course). The only reason they didn't lose outright was that Corbyn didn't have enough time to overturn two years' worth of vicious and shameful smearing, lying and undermining by the majority of the PLP and almost the entire media, including the so-called left-leaning Guardian. The Tories inflict crisis upon crisis on the UK in an attempt to settle the internal contradictions within their own party, which is all they ever seem interested in. No lessons to be learned here; just more of the same old Tory behaviour.
The coalition government of 2010-2015 introduced the austerity that started us off on this path of division and discord. Now May has done for herself with a humiliating, if hilarious, act of self-sabotage and we're on the cusp of seeing the third Tory leader in two years. And if that wasn't bad enough, we now enter Brexit negotiations with a minority government propped up by fundamentalist DUP bigots, while also risking peace in Northern Ireland by compromising our neutrality in Stormont. This volatile set of circumstances will be amplified too by the wave of recriminations and old enmities now unleashed by the humiliation of having brought this upon themselves. As one Tory MP is reported to have said, "we didn't just shoot ourselves in the foot; we shot ourselves in the head". They are weakened and have lost what little authority they appeared to have had, and are set to become increasingly despised by the electorate in the months ahead. On the other hand, it's all upside for Labour.
This was the election where they were supposed to be annihilated. We were confidently told, by those who claim to know these things, that a Tory landslide was inevitable, given their unassailable lead in the opinion polls. Instead a remarkable performance from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn turned everything on its head and suddenly confirmed him and the his party as being a very credible alternative to the Tories. Corbyn's leadership is now consolidated and assured, and the remnants of New Labour now will either have to fall into line or face becoming increasingly isolated within the party. When parliament resumes the Tories will be facing a very different Labour opposition - one that is less divided and much more energised by the prospect of imminently having to form government. That first Prime Minister's Questions after the long summer recess is going to be interesting. So, what lessons? Well, GE2017 (part 1) - a classic pyrrhic victory for the Tories. After this expect Theresa May to be gone in the very near future. Expect to be back at the polls for GE2017 (part 2) in the Autumn. Expect a majority Labour government before the end of the year. This isn’t just wild, scattershot prediction, it’s a very real possibility. And the lesson for the Tories is never to learn the lesson. They are like the Spanish Bourbons; they forget nothing but they learn nothing. So, where does Theresa May currently stand? And what does she stand for?
Witness her performances at PMQs. She revels in snide remarks and put-downs towards her opponents, most notably Jeremy Corbyn. Her performances are a total sham, and she remains an insincere individual, lacking empathy or any normal human responses. Compassion and sociopathy don't tend to go well together. To have compassion you must first believe and accept that all people are equal, all deserving of equal respect. The Tories are doctrinaire about inequality: it is what they exist to promote. They are the party of privilege, property, prejudice, private profit and the permanent past. Compassion? Bread-crumbs to them - never, ever expect anything better. If this is Mayism, then it's just the continuation of every other Tory leader by other means. She stands for nothing; she means nothing.
Yes, Theresa May is a terrible leader, not because she has little intelligence, foresight or compassion, but simply because she has no courage to act when required. She always waits to have the situation analysed for her then she works out, not what is the appropriate response but what response is in her interest alone. Spineless, selfish, compassionless, qualities not rare in the Tory party perhaps, but she excels in them. The Tory philosophy will always remain one of sneering, despising, arrogance, full of a deep-seated hatred for the working class. Getting them to understand and empathise with the misfortunes of others is like trying to nail jelly to a wall.
For May to assume she has the ability and leadership to run UK plc is a delusion of grandeur on the grandest of scales. It's almost on par with the belief the Tories are the ‘natural party of government’ (a particularly obnoxious sentiment). The reality is we have a zombie prime minister leading a shambling zombie government. As an opportunist, careerist politician, she cunningly bided her time before jumping on the Brexit bandwagon, the same wonky-wheeled bandwagon which would deliver her the power she so badly craved. Amongst other things, her backers wanted the deregulation and tax avoidance potential that leaving Europe would bring, and her ultimate intention was (and possibly still is) to offer the nation up as a bauble, as a sort of Airstrip One on this side of the Atlantic to the vile man-child Trump and his wannabe new-wave neocon cronies. If the way the media behaved in the run-up to the election is what we have in store for the future we are in deep trouble. Make no mistake, May, her party and her deluded backers in the mainstream media have actively encouraged hate and division in the UK. However we have seen the MSM mask slip of late, and the 2017 election was a turning point for the wider social media in fighting back against a tired and increasingly desperate Fleet Street cabal.
So, the only real question is how long this governmental farce can limp on for before the stun gun of mercy needs to be employed. The Tories don't want a leadership contest but a zombie premiership like this can't last indefinitely. The longer the Tories clings to power, the worse their eventual annihilation will be. They will be weak for the foreseeable future, at the mercy of events and they will be very lucky to survive an election any time soon, so will hang together rather than hang separately. Out of pure hubris she called and managed to lose (or at least not win) an election that most people (including myself), assumed was a sure thing. Assume no more, but that’s a lesson in itself.
Labour even managed to turn security round on her by making Tory cuts to policing the issue, and on top of everything else (Grenfell, party infighting, economic failure), this isn't the sort of thing a politician can come back from, certainly not one as rigid in her thinking as May. But how can she learn a lesson when she can’t even articulate an emotion? No, she is doomer than doomed. Possibly even more fatal to her standing is that some people are actually feeling sorry for her. But pity won’t get us through the very bleak recession that lingers on the horizon, again the result of a failure not just to learn from your own history, but to actually ignore it until all it can do is repeat itself. (Unsecured borrowing has now exceeded £200bn for the first time since just before the crash of 2008. Draw your own conclusions as to what will happen next and who will get hit the hardest.)
You know you're no longer taken seriously when the electorate is giving you sympathetic eyes rather than crosses next to your name at the ballot box. But let's not make the mistake of feeling sympathy for May, Gove, Boris and her troupe of sick clowns, because the Conservative party, the same party that stabs its own leaders in the back in the quest for power, certainly doesn’t care one iota for us. Now that is a lesson we can never afford to forget.
John Sweeney for Political Provocateur