THIS is going to be an odd election; I almost pity the psephologists and talking heads who are going to seek to predict the outcome and explain what is going on. Those who have been wrapped up in the Westminster bubble will struggle.
The first point is that there is a very, very irritated (polite understatement) electorate. We have tired of watching our elected representatives place party before country and make a complete mess of the Brexit process. While the dire economic forecasts have not yet come true, and few think that they will however this ends, those who run the 5.7million businesses in the UK, and therefore have to make investment decisions day to day, are incandescent at the collective inability of parliamentarians to get a deal done, be it WTO or something else. For all the talk, promises and commentary, all they have seen is politicians seeking personal or party advantage. While this is cost-free to the denizens of Parliament, it comes with a price tag of at least the opportunity cost for companies. While the government may have abandoned the principle of collective responsibility, the taxpayers hold all the political parties responsible for the costs.
Remember, most of the businesses in this country are owner-managed small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Costs for them are not an abstract entry in an accounting ledger: they are the holiday, the pension top-up, the new car, Christmas presents and the house. While our snowflake MPs whine about the pressure and stress of Parliament while drawing their pay and receiving their expenses, real small business owners get the stress every day without the safety net of a generous pension.
Incumbent MPs face voters who expected to be out of the EU by now, as 80 per cent promised in the 2017 election. Not a good starting point.
It’s worse for Tories as the realisation dawns that Boris’s deal is a rehash of Mrs May’s worst deal in history. Boris may get some credit for being a less crap Prime Minister than Mrs May (low baseline), but his deal is not Brexit and he is patently not dead in a ditch. Another problem to add to his other baggage.
Labour have an even bigger problem. The UK electorate is not fond of terrorist sympathisers. It also rejected Marxist socialism in 1979 and has never returned to it. Corbyn’s party now hopes to sell socialism to an electorate who are mostly not trade union members.
In any case, if you were a soft Leftie you would probably feel more comfortable voting Lib Dem and cancelling Brexit. Unless you were Scottish, when you might be seduced by wee Nicola’s Bravehearts. (Given the state of the Scottish government’s finances, only a socialist could vote SNP.)
Remain MPs in Leave constituencies (and vice versa) are an additional complication. Do the parties change the candidates (which the Conservatives have had to do de facto for twenty or so – and counting)? Or do they again lie and say that they will implement Brexit even if they don’t believe in it? We’ve heard that one before.
While the old parties have been blowing hot air in Westminster, the Brexit Party have been on tour. You can find their nationwide ‘ready rallies’ here. Listening, not talking. They have recruited credible candidates, none tainted by the current fiasco, none professional politicians. They have developed a formidable electoral machine and a committed supporters’ group, with whom they have developed sensible policies (launched on Friday).
They have offered to form a Leave Alliance with the Conservatives, which is sensible as a Labour Leaver is more likely to vote Brexit Party than Tory (see the European Election results), which Boris Johnson immediately rejected.
It is arguable that the Conservatives can’t accept that offer (yet) as doing so would destroy all credibility of Boris Johnson and his deal. But they may well change their tune when they see the Brexit Party fielding candidates in every seat, all of whom will (rightly) accuse the Tories of putting party before country as well as being incompetent and dishonest, thereby turning the Tories from Mrs May’s ‘Nasty Party’ into the ‘Traitors’ Party’.
Though they have rejected it outright – with the Conservative Brexit establishment to a man falling into line behind Boris – doing a deal with the Brexit Party is the Tories’ surest (and possibly only) route to power.
I anticipate much propaganda and deception between now and the closing date for candidate nominations on November 14.