13.12.2019

*|MC:SUBJECT|*
Your guide to making sense of this whole mess.
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Well, that was interesting.


I first sat down to write this email in November 2015. We had narrowly avoided chaos under Ed Miliband. Jeremy Corbyn was newly in post. The EU referendum was on the cards. It didn't feel like there was any possibility of David Cameron and Team Remain would lose, but we knew it was coming.

Now, a little tired on a historic morning, it feels like every day we've had since has been building up to where we are now. Every debate, every speech, every blooming Meaningful Vote. 

This morning feels like one of those TV shows where they show you the end before a little 'a few years earlier' sign comes up and we get shown how we got to it.
 

Today


The Conservatives have seen off the competition in a big, big way. Huge.

Boris Johnson has been returned as Prime Minister and he has a huge majority. He can win any vote he wants. He'd need at least 40 MPs to rebel to even begin to think about losing a vote. Right now, I predict he won't lose a single vote in the next five years. But then, we know what my predictions are like.

We will leave the EU on 31st January.

The Labour Party are licking their wounds. Jeremy Corbyn has said he's off, just not immediately. There is an argument as to whether Brexit smothered their attempts to talk about Labour Values or if it was Jeremy Corbyn that smothered their attempts to talk about pretty much anything.

If Labour are a bit miffed, the Lib Dems are feeling jilted. A few weeks ago they were sitting on a bench with the electorate. All dressed up and clutching flowers. They were leaning in for that kiss. Hearts were pounding.

This morning finds them on the same bench. In the rain. Alone. 

OK, not entirely alone. There are 11 of them. That's 10 fewer than they had just a few weeks ago. They were going to be the Remain Party. They talked about being in government. They... well... what does it matter now? Leader Jo Swinson lost her seat. Runner up (and only other contestant) Ed Davey has taken up the interim position, sharing it with Baroness Brinton. 

The SNP are pretty pleased with their performance. They're up to 48 seats. There are only 59 in Scotland. They took them off everyone. Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem - that was Jo Swinson. They now say there is a mandate for a second independence vote. There is absolutely no chance of Johnson giving them a second referendum. The question then is, will they use the Scottish Parliament to organise their own? At this point, anything is possible.

Elsewhere Plaid held all their seats, partly helped by the Remain Alliance. As did Caroline Lucas, Green MP, who did so with a nearly 20k majority. It wasn't too long ago that the idea of a Green MP was slightly novel. She's dug in, though and is now a firm favourite in Brighton. 

Northern Ireland saw a slight changing of the guard. The DUP lost two seats, with the Alliance and SDLP picking up 2 and 1 seats respectively. What's fascinating here is that unionists (who want to stay in the UK) are now in the minority. Again, with Johnson in Number 10 a referendum sanctioned by Westminster is inconceivable, but politics in Northern Ireland in 2020? Who knows.

 

The Campaign


What did we learn from the Independence Referendum, the Brexit vote, 2017 election? We learnt that to win a lasting victory you need a clear, tangible simple message.

Sure, 'Yes' lost the independence referendum, but they won the heart and minds. Those arguments made by 'no' didn't stick. Independence - the clear simple proud argument that we're better off doing this by ourselves - is well ahead in the polls. 

Next up the 2015 General Election. Cameron ran a campaign that was pretty negative at times, with a lot of focus on the SNP bossing Ed Miliband about if he got in, but their clear focus was that they have a long term economic plan. What that plan was was in the details. It was there but it didn't matter. After the crash, people wanted to know there was a plan to sort it all out.

The Brexit vote is the clearest example of this. Those who wanted out banged their drum. 'The EU is terrible' they shouted. 'We're better off as our wonderful union out in the world'.  Meanwhile, remainers were saying 'Well.... on balance.... we're better off inside and changing it a bit so it suits us better'. Both are, of course, very valid arguments. But one is simpler than the other. Who won?

The 2017 election wasn't really won by anyone. I like to think it's because nobody had anything very tangible to say. What does 'Strong and stable' mean for a country's government? You don't win much with that.

And so we come to the 2019 campaign.

The Conservatives went straight to the simplicity playbook. And, after years and years of it, what better message than to say we'll just make all this stop? There are many people who voted to remain who voted for Johnson yesterday. He says that's because they're democrats who want to respect the vote. I disagree. I think they're just fed up with it. Horrified by the idea of another vote.  If a cross in the box next to the Conservative candidate is what it takes to do that, then so be it.

Team Johnson also knew that they had to promise money on things. Labour were always going to campaign on Not Brexit stuff. NHS, Schools, Austerity. That kind of thing. SO Johnson promised more money for everything. Nurses, hospitals, police, schools were all going to get cold hard cash. Sure, not as much as under a Labour government, but it was there for those looking under the hood, past the big Brexit vibe. 

Labour didn't want to talk about Brexit. Not because their position was illogical, no, it made perfect sense, but because it wasn't simple. And what wins votes? Simplicity. They also knew that the idea of 'getting it done' was so important so introduced a six month deadline for themselves, but that added another clause to the policy.

So Labour's simple message was we'll transform this country into a better place to live. For the many, not the few. They wanted to talk about the NHS, about nationalisation, about broadband, about buses, about austerity, about trains, about almost everything. It was one heck of a vision for the future. But it wasn't simple. They lost.

 

Endless Brexit Debates


This is the thing. To understand why what happened last night happened we need to go back quite some way. Here's a fun montage of stuff that's happened. Feel free to hum your favourite upbeat song as you read.  We joined the EEC in the 70s.  It became the EU in 1992, becoming much more of  a political body rather than just a trading thing. 

Lots of people didn't like the EU. As a political body it took away power from the British Parliament. Which is a bad thing if you're big into the British Parliament. 

The people who didn't like the EU tended to be in the Conservative Party. There had been a new party called UKIP ages ago, but their new leader was making big waves calling for a referendum.

To cut a long story short, David Cameron agreed to put a referendum in the manifesto.  Apparently, he thought there would be a coalition and it could be taken out in negotiations. Even if it wasn't taken out, they would win, right? 

He didn't win. He resigned. Theresa May took over.

Parliament didn't know what to do with the result. Some wanted a no-deal Brexit, some wanted a hard Brexit, some wanted a soft Brexit, some wanted another vote, some wanted to just stay in the EU. 

We had lots and lots of debate. MPs were divided, but not just because MPs are odd people who like to debate (although they are), but because they represent a country that can't agree. 

These debates were never going to go anywhere. The only thing MPs could agree is that they didn't want a no-deal Brexit. Everything else voted down.  Theresa May saw this coming, so she held that election. As quick as you can say 'dementia tax', she lost her majority. 

Post 2017 election we had even more long debates and lost votes (I think that's the title of Theresa May's autobiography) we were going nowhere. 

Amazingly, it was only this year that we had Meaningful Vote One. Remember that? Halcyon days.  Anyway. Sorry. I'm montaging not discussing.

All year we've had words and words and words, vote after vote, resignations and appointments. As a nation we're sick. Of. It. All of it.  

What did it take to win the election? It's simple. The promise to take the pain away. 


ps - apologies for even more typos than normal. I've been up for longer than I should.  Once the dust has settled, I'm planning to get a 'what's happening this week' email out to you on Monday morning. 

Be well.
Feeling like celebrating / cheering yourself up? Of course you are!

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