So much for England


PHOTO/Duck Duck Go

There’s? no point being tribal now. Let’s face it: Johnson won the election because the Tories pledged to implement the result of the 2016 referendum without any more shilly-shallying. Democracy matters. Labour’s rejection of the referendum outcome at its bubble party conference last September did them in. John McDonnell was right to take the blame for the defeat. His insistence on a second referendum was a huge strategic blunder.

Johnson’s first speech as prime minister, delivered to the cameras outside Downing Street, was lucid and effective. This was not the knockabout party-political busker, who didn’t care whether what came out of his mouth was true or not. He will revert to that when things get tougher. (The exchanges in Parliament after Soleimani’s assassination are a case in point.) He often sounds like a character in a comic novel. His own. Roger Barlow in Seventy-Two Virgins is a self-portrait that reveals a surprising degree of self-awareness:

Barlow’s thoughts of political extinction had taken a philosophical turn. Did it matter? Of course not. The fate of the human race was hardly affected … In the great scheme of things his extermination was about as important as the accidental squashing of a snail. The trouble was that until the happy day when he was reincarnated as a louse or a baked bean, he didn’t know how he was going to explain the idiotic behaviour of his brief human avatar.

On that first day outside Downing Street it was clear that Johnson’s fears of ‘political extinction’ had been laid to rest, at least temporarily. Watching the Leninist Boris in action, I feared that, regardless of when the next election was held, Labour would lose it.

I never thought this one would be such a crushing defeat, but while Labour’s losses should not be underplayed, it’s worth remembering that the party’s share of the vote was lower under Gordon Brown in 2010 and Ed Miliband in 2015. In terms of seats and numbers, the Conservatives did worse in both 1997 and 2001. The liberal commentariat that was hoping that the Lib Dems would replace Labour as the main party of opposition must be even more disappointed than Labour supporters.

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