Monday, 12 June 2017
Oh joy, oh rapture unforeseen!
Well, last week's UK election result was certainly unforeseen. I spent election week on a long-planned walking holiday in Scotland, cast a postal vote for our local Liberal Democrat before setting out, and took time out from holiday indulgences to watch the exit poll. That the Tories were predicted to lose their over-all majority produced an unexpected surge of euphoria, followed by almost instant disillusion and a disconsolate retirement to bed when the first two results to be declared suggested that the exit poll was inaccurate.
Joy returned in the morning on discovering that the exit poll was right after all and the selfish Tory strategy had backfired on them with a vengeance.
However, given the disappointing performance of the Liberal Democrats, perhaps "modified rapture" (another quote from W S Gilbert) is a more appropriate response.
The main cause of joy is not the Tories' loss of their over-all majority, but the realisation that that our democracy is not, after all, up for sale, and not after all in hock to sycophantic Tory-supporting newspapers.
It should not be forgotten that the Referendum itself was called by David Cameron not in the national interest but in the hope of resolving an internal dispute in the Conservative Party. And this election, similarly, was called not in the national interest, but in the expectation that the Conservatives, with Mrs May at their head, would steal a stonking majority while the Labour Party appeared to be in disarray under an inadequate leader.
It was not to be.
Soon we shall find out how much more the Tories spent aver and above anybody else.(In 2010 it was £16bn compared with £8bn by Labour and £4.7bn by the Liberal Democrats). Then there was the vilification and ridicule poured daily on the head of jeremy Corbyn by the Daily Mail, Sun and Daily Express. And, it has to be said, the very public and much publicised fact that 80% of Corbyn's parliamentary party had said they had no confidence in him.
Add to these the smears,and over-simplifications which appear to be propagated by the Tory election strategist Lynton Crosby, and what appear to many of us to be the biassed reporting of the BBC* in a cack-handed attempt to be even-handed.
I suspect it did not affect the over-all result but I was personally impatient of the constant harassment of Tim Farron for his views as practising Christian on abortion and same sex marriage. Both these issues are recognised as being matters of conscience not subject to party discipline so could be of interest to his own constituents but are of no concern at the national level since he accepts the established views of the party he leads . I wonder how much we shall hear much about these issues in the Tory press with regard to the DUP, on whom Mrs May's government hopes to rely, and whose official policy is against both?
Another particular niggle among the miasma of misrepresentation was that both the Tory Party and media went on and on about Corbyn's alleged support of the IRA (he supported talking to them, not their terrorist methods) and never once asked Mrs May how she felt about having joined the party which had called Nelson Mandela a terrorist? Nor, given her Church allegiance, did they ever ask her about her attitude to the Magnificat, which, as a C of E vicar, her father would have chanted, recited or read daily. Verses seven and eight are of particular significance:
[The Lord] hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things and the rich he hath sent empty away.**
Happily, despite the distortions, and unequal publicity and spending, our electorate were not, for once, baboozled. Jeremy Corbyn's campaign, manifesto, leadership and honest personality have shifted the plates. An end to the misguided economic policy of austerity and a punitive social security system, the glorification of privatisation and a business free-for-all regardless of employees' rights and welfare, to be replaced by public investment to revive the economy, public ownership where suitable and genuinely progressive taxation, have all now become politically viable.
Of course the plates have not yet shifted enough: the Tories are still in office if not exactly in power, and we are still lumbered with Brexit. But Britain is now a healthier and happier place, and hope is on the horizon.
I am of course disappointed that the Liberal Democrats have flat-lined. Although I would have personally preferred us to campaign on an outright "No to Brexit, let's stop this nonsense here and now and get on with tackling our real problems" the compromise of accepting that "the people have spoken" but giving us the chance to speak again was sensible, if timid. However, it didn't take off. We are, for the moment, back to two-party politics, but a viable Liberal Party is an essential part of a Liberal democracy and we shall come back.
In the meantime we can sit back and enjoy the Tories tearing themselves apart, and try to make sure that the spectacle doesn't do too much damage to the most vulnerable in our society.
*Today presenter and former BBC political editor Nick Robinson , for example, helped in his youth to found his local Young Conservative Association and was chair of the Oxford University Conservative Association. Jeremy Paxman revealed, on his retirement form Newsnight, that he was a "one nation Tory." there may be some BBC commentators with backgrounds in the far, or even soft Left, but I'm not aware of who they are.
** Way back in the 60s when we Liberals were looking for an anthem or theme song to rival Labour's Red Flag and the Tories' Land of hope and glory, the Magnificat was seriously suggested.