Saturday, 10 June 2017

My thoughts on the election

I've just been out running through the wheat fields to boost my street cred, so this whole election thing then. Who won?

The DUP I guess. It certainly wasn't Theresa May, who lost her commons majority. It wasn't Labour, who gained some seats but still failed to earn a majority, or even enough to form a coalition. Not that you'd get that impression listening to Labour supporters today. They're celebrating coming up 46 seats short of the Conservatives like England has just won the world cup, such is the dire state of Labour right now and the level of pessimism that surrounded Jeremy Corbyn. 

Think about that for a second. Labour is celebrating because they've won 4 more seats than they did under Gordon Brown in 2010, while the Conservatives actually have more seats now than they did back in that election. And while the SNP was losing seats hand over fist in Scotland, they weren't losing them to Labour. They were losing them to the Tories. The bloody Tories! Does that not worry anyone in the Labour party, the fact that their best chance to win back the necessary seats they need to form a government is being scooped up by the Conservatives? What kind of world have we woken up to where the Conservative party is the one taking down the SNP in Scotland? Interesting times indeed. 

On the plus side, Corbyn isn't going anywhere near number 10. On the plus, plus side Diane Abbot isn't going anywhere near anything important, especially things that require any kind of calculation. Or preparation. Or being a responsible adult who isn't living in some sort of fabricated fairy land. On the down side the DUP - a party that makes the Conservatives look like hedonistic liberals - are going to play kingmaker (queenmaker?) in government. At least until we get to the summer recess, May resigns, and we get to do all this s**t all over again with someone new at the helm. Though I am chuckling in fairly childish amusement that Theresa May has now suddenly started referring to her party by its full and proper name, the Conservative and Unionist Party. Simple things and all that.

I would posit that the biggest losers in all of this are the electorate, for a variety of reasons. Democratic deficit being prime among them. The SNP for example polled 977,569 votes, which netted them 35 seats at Westminster. The Lib Dems on the other hand, bless them, polled 2,371,772 votes. This helped them secure a grand total of just 12 seats. So basically one third of what the SNP ended up with despite having almost two and a half times as much support among the British public. And people say that Scotland has no voice in Westminster eh? Just don't tell them that the DUP netted 10 seats with just 292,316 votes. 

UKIP was basically dismantled as it fell to 593,852 votes, which produced 0 seats. The Greens 525,371 votes produced one seat. Over in Wales Plaid Cymru was able to ensure that the collective voice of Wales would be heard in Westminster. Well, the voices of their 164,466 voters would anyway, having bagged 4 seats. Labour actually did well in Wales, turning 771,354 votes into 28 seats. The Tories meanwhile could only make their 528,839 votes count for a mere 8 seats. And I think at this stage I've made my point.

The real talking point for me as I drill into the numbers is how the Green, Lib Dem and SNP losses almost perfectly correlate with Conservative gains, while UKIP losses closely correlate with Labour gains. Now I think it's safe to say that causation and correlation are probably not in play here, at least not as the numbers were presented just now. But it is clear that a lot of UKIP voters have abandoned ship now they felt the job was done and gone over to Labour. This might come as a surprise to some, unless of course you read the research into UKIP voters that was generated after the last election, which showed that around 75% of them were in favour of policies such as nationalising the railways and energy companies. Or in other words they were Corbynites that perhaps didn't realise it at the time, right down to their opposition to the EU.

This Corbyn fella though, hasn't he done well? In fairness about a million more people voted for him in this election than for David Cameron in the last one, so that's a positive. Wasn't quite enough to get him over the hump though. It seems that although Labour saw a surge in vote numbers, so did the Conservatives. I think it's hard to judge the mood of the electorate right now. I think mainly everyone just seems to be sick and tired of politics while simultaneously being a bit pissed off that after all that effort nobody really won. Such is life I guess.

I'm not convinced though that Corbyn did anything particularly special to draw out the crowds. Yes, lots of young people rallied to his cause. That's what happens when you've never really experienced a Labour government I guess and the converse probably explains why people become more conservative as they get older. But I haven't actually met that many people who seemed to be over the moon about the prospect of voting for Corbyn. Lots of people who were sick of May and worried about her policies though. 

Ultimately I'm not sure this is much of a great Labour victory. It feels more like a Conservative collapse. The day their manifesto was released I remember exchanging many comments with others on Twitter about how May might have just blown the election right there and then. I think there was an almost palpable sense that the manifesto had massively damaged the credibility of the Tories. It must surely be one of the more bizarre political documents in recent memory. It contained nothing that offered any real hope, no positive message or bright aspirations. Just doom and gloom really, with some truly shockingly bad policy choices (another vote on fox hunting?) sandwiched between layers of dreary policies that offered no real substantial change.

It's something that politicians never really seem to learn, lessons so basic you wonder why they struggle so much to grasp them, at least until you remember that they're politicians. For example if you want to have a second vote on fox hunting, presumably because you're some kind of sad act who gets their kicks out of dressing up like you're in a low budget costume drama before chasing animals across a field with dogs for "sport", then by all means have your vote. But don't put it in your manifesto though. There's a joke in there somewhere about the sort of person who's stupid enough to want to do the first being precisely the sort of person who's stupid enough to do the second.

Secondly, try and keep your message focused onto a few key issues. By all means have a comprehensive manifesto (which you really should), but try and keep the main talking points to just three or four key pledges (and for the love of God don't have nine and don't put them on some kind of slab of stone). It's not that the electorate is dumb, because they're not. What they are however is a) busy and b) sick of listening to politicians. They don't want to listen to you because you are collectively a bunch of lying, greedy, manipulative, backstabbing bastards of the first order. The less time you spend talking to people the happier with you they'll generally be.

Finally, be positive. Nobody wants to hear that you're going suck the value of their children's inheritance away down to the last £100,000. Stick to the messages and policies that offer people hope. In fact, here's a truly novel idea; design some policies that are actually good for the people who vote for you, as opposed to ones that might just make their lives a bit less shit at some unspecified point in the future. I dunno, like taking an axe to VAT for example. Or dispensing with the pretence of National Insurance contributions, especially those paid by employers which are effectively a tax on employment. There, you can have those for free Mrs May. 

You dull, uninspiring, opportunistic, melty faced clown.

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