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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 15-Dec-19


Sunday 15-December-19

Well, at least Brexit is on the road to somewhere now

Historic election, landslide for the Tories, Labour meltdown. All terms that have been bandied about after last week's UK General Election. Followed with macabre interest around the world, Brexit has been a partner to Trump in international bafflement in how turkeys will sometimes vote en masse for a slap-up Christmas dinner. Labour lost seats it has held since the 1930s. The Liberal Democrats, the only straight-up Remain party, went nowhere. And the Conservative party got a thumping majority that will allow it to steamroller through whatever laws it likes.

So what happened? Labour's leader, Jeremy Corbyn has come across as a ditherer, trying to appeal to both the Leave and Remain parts of his party. He then offered a huge spending budget including such strange items as free broadband for everyone. With financing by swingeing taxation on the rich and big companies (many of who were ready to leave the country as needed).

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, the recently-elected Conservative leader, kicked out the remainers in his party, including well-known and long-standing MPs. He then suspended parliament in an attempt to force through Brexit, though he lost the legal battle over this. By the time the election came around, he had a clear reputation of being very serious about getting Brexit done (indeed, that was his slogan). And other than some promises about spending on the police (restoring numbers to pre-Conservative levels), health and education, he got through with a bunch of corny stunts and bashing the Brexit message at every opportunity.

It was very much a battle of personalities. While Corbyn came over as authentic and caring, against Boris' thuggish and even dishonest assertions, the Conservatives caught the weary mood that, after three and a half years, people really did want to get past the endless Brexit debate. Despite officially leaving the EU in January, Brexit will be far from done as trade negotiations will follow. It seems the Conservatives are setting up for a hard Brexit at the end of the year if agreement is not found, thereby laying down a potentially catastrophic walk-away. Yet the Europeans really do not want this and it seems a hard-edged negotiating ploy that could lead to agreements more beneficial to the UK than might have been otherwise.

Already, the Conservatives are flexing muscles for very controversial changes, with suggestions that they may weaken and potentially kill off the BBC through indirect funding cuts. Expect more shock as great power stalks the corridors of Whitehall. There are libertarian idealists supporting behind the party, with smaller government and huge tax cuts potentially in the offing. There are also hints in the Conservative manifesto of gerrymandering and weakening the ability of the courts to hold politicians to account.

And yet this is democracy in action. People vote for politicians who seem to resonate with their mood, not those who have their best interests at heart. And authoritarians in power can work to sustain that power for the long term, until fairness is forgotten and the class system reverts to something closer to the old aristocracy. Boris might become a British Trump. Or he might yet wrest free of the right-wing manacles that have bound him, and become a much-loved leader. This is not an empty idea -- he is a biographer of Churchill and likes the Great Man Theory, to the point where he probably believes himself such a person, and consequently does enough good to gain the respect of the common person.

Alternatively, the opposition may reinvent itself and build a huge social power base that seizes power in a flip leftwards, as might happen with the rising younger generations, for example. Power, in practice, is often a pendulum, swinging from authoritarians to socialists and back.

I guess we'll see.

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