The start of a new decade doesn't fill me with optimism. Britain has a new Conservative government with a secure majority and is about to leave the EU. I can't remember any government winning a comfortable majority by pledging to make the worst mistake any government has made since the Second World War. What's more, they are making this mistake by mistake. A referendum called to cement our place in the EU, ended up legitimating the fringe idea of leaving it. Claims of democracy ring hollow, as Chris Grey comments:
We have just had an election campaign in which Johnson made ‘getting Brexit done’ the central theme. Yet, as pointed in a previous post, he avoided saying almost anything about how it would be done – and neither the opposition parties nor the media were able to pin him down.
So he will now claim a mandate from voters for doing it any way he wants. It is a travesty of democracy, which replicates the way that during the Referendum Brexiters refused to tell voters what they were voting for, only to define it later and claim it as the ‘will of the people’.
And that's without the obvious point that the leave vote was smaller than the remain vote.
So how did we get here? For much of 2019 it appeared that remain was winning. The Tories had no majority and another election was not due for another two years. As a policy, leave is dead. It has nothing to offer and is based on fictions. Any majority it once had is gone, and will diminish further due to simple demographics, with an overwhelming remain majority amongst the young. The People's Vote campaign mobilised huge anti-Brexit demonstrations across the country. There is little enthusiasm for Brexit and no national consensus. It will be a continuing sore in British politics. It's a personal disaster for me with my life lived partly in Greece, it's a comprehensive defeat for the left, and it's an absolute catastrophe for the country. Yet the European cause has lost. It was in a position to win in Parliament, but threw it away. Or to be more precise, it was the stupidity of two party leaders who threw it away.
Best for Britain have tweeted a Private Eye article based on their research and activity. They had commissioned massive, detailed, multi-level polling research and reached the conclusion that if the Brexit Party helped the Conservatives, which they did by standing aside in Tory-held seats, then the Conservatives would have a majority of between 40-100. The evidence was compelling, and proved to be spot on. The LibDems refused to believe it, locked into the fantasy that they were about to achieve a massive breakthrough. Best for Britain showed the research to some Labour MPs, who were impressed. Emily Thornberry took it up in the shadow cabinet and tried to argue that Labour's strategy should be to win a second referendum in Parliament and only back a Johnson call for a general election after the referendum had settled Brexit. Given the make-up of Parliament, that was a distinct possibility. She was overruled by Corbyn and Milne. They both believed, against the evidence, that they were on the road to victory. Johnson was given his election, despite the power of the opposition to block it, and his path to a majority was clear.
Why did they do it? Hubris? Over-confidence? Magical thinking? Vanity? Who knows. They were faced by an obvious charlatan and confidence trickster and they fell for his line. They might just as well have signed up to a pyramid scheme. Swinson lost her seat. Corbyn remains leader, at least temporarily, and Milne is still drawing his £100k+ salary, despite being the architect of this disaster. Their collective inadequacy has ruined the country, while their ignominy will be meat and drink to future historians.