Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Britain’s Election Nightmare

 

“Everyday is like Christmas Day.” So said Ann Coulter in reference to President Trump’s election, but I have been feeling like this since June 23, 2016. Since then we have had a return of grown-up government with proper Cabinet accountability, despite only adequate ability, while a slim majority has ensured they had to respect public opinion. Consequently in key areas such as Brexit or tax policy, the government has been making — or has been forced to make — all the right moves. In the larger world, Mr. Trump’s election means we would not be caught between the Scylla of Hillary Clinton and the Charybdis of the European Union. So why do I now feel like Coulter after she learned 59 Tomahawks had just hit Sharyat airbase?

British Prime Minister Theresa May has called a snap general election in the expectation of winning an electoral landslide. All the ministers and backbench MPs I respect are fully committed. The British Labour Party, by some estimates, is facing its worst showing since before the War. Some commentators have speculated the Tory majority could be 140 seats, Conservative HQ has more modestly suggested 50, while informed opinion has plumped for around 80. As a Conservative who has been making similar predictions for about a year, I should be jumping for joy; logging on to donate and rearranging my diary for the next six weeks campaigning. But those predictions were for an election in 2020, once the referendum was a distant memory and we had actually completed Brexit, and after five years of Jeremy Corbyn remaking Labour in his own Trotskyite image.

Conservatives may have a tendency to see the doom in everything and I readily admit to rather liking the tenuous grip Mrs May has on power. Without her own ‘personal mandate’ she is bound to the Brexit vote that delivered her the Premiership, while the Cabinet keeps her more interventionist tendencies in check. However, it is not the coming May autocracy I fear, or even that she will soften from the Clean Brexit she has promised, it is the lack of any authority this election promises to provide.

Mrs May has made a colossal error of judgement. She may be looking at a consistent poll lead of 20% but that does not translate geographically into the election landslide everyone is forecasting. The Conservative party won in 2015 because the Labour vote collapsed in Scotland and the Liberal Democrats were reduced to a rump. UKIP may have garnered four million votes but they were spread out across England and Wales. Mrs May is banking on those ‘kippers coming back into the Tory fold and making big inroads into the Labour heartlands in the Midlands and the North. Tory strategists even dream of taking a dozen seats in Scotland to puncture Nicola Sturgeon’s inflated ego… They may well gain a few seats north of the border as the only real unionist party, but do not expect the tectonic plates to shift again so soon. In Wales too there is also a chance of Tory gains, but again only a handful. It is in England that the battle will be fought and to understand old Blighty you have to understand the class system. That is the “New Class“, not the one you see in Downton Abbey.

The class we are referring to make up perhaps a quarter to a third of the populace and are a key swing vote. They consider themselves to be the intelligentsia: Thomas Sowell’s “anointed”. They work in academia, for multi-nationals (both corporate and non-profit), in media and for the state (often indirectly). From 1997-2005 they were for Tony Blair and New Labour, or the Liberal Democrats. After 2008 they were open to David Cameron and the Conservatives. For this class the Brexit vote was a shock to the core. It fundamentally challenged their assumptions about the country and the people in it. To them it does not matter what was said before or after the referendum (unless it can be weaponised of course), or what (mainly positive) economic news is presented; the country is going to hell in a hand basket and they are certainly not going to vote for it.

So of all those Conservative gains from the Lib-Dems at the last election, only the Brexit voting South-west will remain Tory blue. That is Cornish and Devonian fishermen and do not make up many seats. Those parts of ‘the west country’ that were blue before 2015 will stay blue, but the previously yellow seats – think of Glastonbury in Somerset and towns like Bath – will be returning to the Liberals. While the Conservatives will gain some Midland seats, those areas of the North that aren’t already blue still have a generational loathing of the Tories. Metropolitan and some suburban seats will either remain Labour or switch to the Liberals. University towns and some of their neighbouring constituencies too, that includes some Tory heartlands in Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

This is not unknown at the top, the Richmond Park By-election (very affluent, lots of media and film industry types) showed the phenomenon. Offsetting this was the win in the Copeland By-election. Clearly the temptation of all those Brexit voting Labour seats was enough to gamble with previous electoral gains. But it is a bet largely predicated on the Labour vote in England collapsing as it did after the Scottish referendum of 2014, while the Conservative base is bolstered by former UKIP voters. It also bets heavily against Labour tribalism and ignores the fact that many ‘kippers are already in Conservative seats – even the “Brexit capital of Britain“, Stoke-on-Trent, recently remained with Labour.

Of course there is the Corbyn factor. If Ed Miliband was unelectable two years ago, why would anyone think his far left successor is? But Mr Corbyn therefore has a very low bar, underestimating him and his energised base got him elected to the leadership in the first place. He doesn’t have to win, just hold on enough. One must also consider that the real opposition will be led by that very embodiment of the New Class: the BBC. They certainly do not consider their impartiality to extend to Brexit, Mrs May’s one winning issue. The Prime Minster herself has never shown much campaign zeal and while she has recently proven herself to be a formidable politician, those more Machiavellian skills are not what you want to advertise. Her speeches are only really interesting because she so rarely says anything. When she has, on anything other than Brexit, it has not always been to the liking of even the Tory faithful, as her spring conference showed (note the lack of any applause from the 8-9.40 minute segment of this speech). This is potentially Mrs May’s undoing. Her support base in the media is based on the three legs of The Sun (most popular tabloid), The Daily Telegraph (most popular broadsheet), and The Daily Mail (most popular mid-market). While all are bound by Brexit, perhaps only the Mail will support her broader programme; The Sun‘s (print edition) headline on Saturday read “No No No Mrs May” after Friday’s campaign announcements on tax and spending priorities, expect the free-market Telegraph to follow suit once the manifesto is published. Add voter fatigue to a poor prospectus and the widely held assumption that only one side can win and you have a potentially disastrous campaign. With all the real enthusiasm on the other side, you almost have last year’s referendum in reverse.

This is not a prediction for a Tory loss or a hung Parliament. Even a so-called progressive alliance of Labour with the Scottish Nationalists, the Lib-Dems and the Greens would not be enough to form a majority, given Labour are as likely to lose seats to those last two as the Conservatives. But if the intention of this election was to provide a large majority for stability at home with authority at the negotiating table abroad, what will it say of Mrs May if she only has a net gain of a handful of seats? How will it be stable at home if My Corbyn beats expectations and emboldens the hard left into more strikes? Will it be stable to have the beaten Remainers resurgent around the rejuvenated Liberal Democrats? Or if Mrs Sturgeon has a new mandate for a second Scottish independence referendum? How authoritative will Mrs May look if this snap election bites her back?

I hope I am wrong. I hope that a government led Brexit referendum (2.0) delivers the win I always thought it would. But Mrs May has gambled much more than many realise. The tragedy will be that had she waited, the boundary changes of 2018 would have taken away much of Labour’s inbuilt advantage. The two year negotiating period with all the ridiculous European demands would have brought the country together, while the scars of last year’s Brexit vote would have healed. Indeed, they were healing. Meddling May might have just ripped them open again.

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  1. Arahant Member

    Mr Nick: I hope I am wrong.

    I hope so, too, Mr. Nick.

    Mr Nick: Since then we have had a return of grownup government with proper Cabinet accountability, despite only adequate ability,

    But we both know that there is this.

    • #1
    • April 23, 2017, at 5:26 AM PDT
    • Like
  2. Mr Nick Member
    Mr Nick

    Arahant (View Comment):
    Arahant

    Mr Nick: I hope I am wrong.

    I hope so, too, Mr. Nick.

    Never would egg on my face be more welcome…

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Mr Nick: Since then we have had a return of grownup government with proper Cabinet accountability, despite only adequate ability,

    But we both know that there is this.

    … Even if it ends this modus vivendi.

    • #2
    • April 23, 2017, at 5:34 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  3. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I hope you’re wrong too, @mrnick.

    Politicians, even good ones, have certainly made “colossal errors in judgment” before. I guess we’ll see if this is another.

    I’m only grateful that we don’t have to wait all that long to find out.

    • #3
    • April 23, 2017, at 5:50 AM PDT
    • Like
  4. Titus Techera Contributor

    I take your worries seriously. Some of this stuff makes sense: The Lib-Dems are going to come back, but this was more or less made inevitable by Mr. Corbyn. But I don’t think they’ll be in anything like the position of 2010…

    I do expect Tory wins to be not a handful, but not 100. The latter seems likelier to me than the former. But 50 or somewhat more should deliver.

    The truth is, Mrs. May is the unelected leader of a party not staunchly for Brexit in a country where the opposition, for all its incompetence about coalescing, is against Brexit. She has to have an election & it was well to have it early. It is her chance to campaign on the kind of Brexit she wants, with all the strange things she says: On the one hand, hard Brexit is better than a bad deal, but on the other, negotiations in the spirit of European comity & future good relations are Her Majesty’s Government’s policy, expectation, & profession of faith!

    The truth is, only the people in England are for Brexit so far as majority opinion & public sentiment go. Parliament is not.

    The point is to force the Tories to campaign on Brexit. Win, or die!

    • #4
    • April 23, 2017, at 5:51 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. ctlaw Coolidge

    Mr Nick: So of all those Conservative gains from the Lib-Dems at the last election, only the Brexit voting South-west will remain Tory blue. That is Cornish and Devonian fishermen and do not make up many seats. Those parts of ‘the west country’ that were blue before 2015 will stay blue, but the previously yellow seats – think of Glastonbury in Somerset and towns like Bath – will be returning to the Liberals.

    LD’s comeback will surprise everyone. They’ll run a virtue signalling campaign that voting LD is the way to show that the UK is morally superior to Trump’s America.

    Also, we’ll have seen the results of the French election. A big leftist win (energizing Labour) or a LePen win (energizing LD in the way noted above) could have May regretting her decision.

    • #5
    • April 23, 2017, at 6:20 AM PDT
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  6. Mr Nick Member
    Mr Nick

    She (View Comment):
    Politicians, even good ones, have certainly made “colossal errors in judgment” before. I guess we’ll see if this is another.

    People too (1945!). I’m worried that even though the polls (and my own experiences) show most people are happy with whatever they decided last year, they didn’t expect that they would have a chance to think again. The anti-brexit bias in the broadcast media has been second only to the anti-Trump bias.

    • #6
    • April 23, 2017, at 6:36 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Arahant Member

    Mr Nick (View Comment):
    The anti-brexit bias in the broadcast media has been second only to the anti-Trump bias.

    That probably works in the Conservatives favor, if y’all are as contrary as we are.

    • #7
    • April 23, 2017, at 6:44 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. Mr Nick Member
    Mr Nick

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    I take your worries seriously. Some of this stuff makes sense: The Lib-Dems are going to come back, but this was more or less made inevitable by Mr. Corbyn. But I don’t think they’ll be in anything like the position of 2010…

    Agreed. But with only 9 MPs at present they get very little short-money or Parliamentary privileges. With 30+ they are a force again during the negotiations.

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    I do expect Tory wins to be not a handful, but not 100. The latter seems likelier to me than the former. But 50 or somewhat more should deliver.

    True, but if she loses as many as I fear then her majority would be nearer 30, hardly worth it for the rebirth of the Lib-Dems. By 2020 their fox would have been shot.

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    The truth is, Mrs. May is the unelected leader of a party not staunchly for Brexit in a country where the opposition, for all its incompetence about coalescing, is against Brexit.

    Constitutionally that doesn’t matter and she is more popular than any leader since Blair in his heyday. The Labour party are relieved that there is an election, it ends the slow torture they have been enduring. The ‘real’ opposition will be unaffected, if anything it gives them a jolt in the arm.

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    On the one hand, hard Brexit is better than a bad deal, but on the other, negotiations in the spirit of European comity & future good relations are Her Majesty’s Government’s policy, expectation, & profession of faith!

    Confusing ain’t it? And how can you threaten to become Singapore-off-Western-Europe in the event of no deal if you’re a tax and spend Keynesian? The idea, I believe, is to keep playing nice while the European chips are falling where they will (French and German elections etc).

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    The point is to force the Tories to campaign on Brexit. Win, or die!

    The Tory party is more unified on Europe than anytime since the coup against Mrs Thatcher. The membership were always more Eurosceptic than the MPs, who were always more Eurosceptic than the leadership. Those stars are largely aligned now.

    • #8
    • April 23, 2017, at 6:52 AM PDT
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  9. Titus Techera Contributor

    I agree there’s a broad opposition between the Brexit electorate & the at-best half-hearted MPs, to say nothing of the Lords, who seem rather ornery.

    But you seem to think the Tory MPs would back some kind of Brexit-without-insanities to the hilt, such that PM May could govern on her slender majority? For years, whatever the problems of the negotiations?

    • #9
    • April 23, 2017, at 6:59 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. outlaws6688 Inactive

    Can we really consider a Prime Minister that is in favor of the EU Conservative? May is just another Progressive in Conservative clothing.

    • #10
    • April 23, 2017, at 7:05 AM PDT
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  11. Mr Nick Member
    Mr Nick

    ctlaw (View Comment):
    LD’s comeback will surprise everyone. They’ll run a virtue signalling campaign that voting LD is the way to show that the UK is morally superior to Trump’s America.

    Indeed. The New Labour faction has quietly got behind them. When you consider that we now have ex-New Labour Cabinet ministers running the BBC, you see what we are up against. By the bye, the chap responsible for the Blairite coup at the Beeb is now running The New York Times.

    ctlaw (View Comment):
    Also, we’ll have seen the results of the French election. A big leftist win (energizing Labour) or a LePen win (energizing LD in the way noted above) could have May regretting her decision.

    A Le Pen win would change everything of course. As I mentioned to @Titus Techera above, May seems to be in a holding pattern.

    • #11
    • April 23, 2017, at 7:05 AM PDT
    • Like
  12. Mr Nick Member
    Mr Nick

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Mr Nick (View Comment):
    The anti-brexit bias in the broadcast media has been second only to the anti-Trump bias.

    That probably works in the Conservatives favor, if y’all are as contrary as we are.

    Unfortunately, not all Brexiteers are as happy with your Presidential choice as I am. Many would have preferred Hillary. You see all our news on America seems to be recycled straight from the NY Times or CNN. You mention an argument you read in National Review by Andrew McCarthy or Victor David Hanson and they look at you as if horns had suddenly sprouted from your head…

    • #12
    • April 23, 2017, at 7:11 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. Mr Nick Member
    Mr Nick

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    I agree there’s a broad opposition between the Brexit electorate & the at-best half-hearted MPs, to say nothing of the Lords, who seem rather ornery.

    But you seem to think the Tory MPs would back some kind of Brexit-without-insanities to the hilt, such that PM May could govern on her slender majority? For years, whatever the problems of the negotiations?

    Ah but an election as scheduled in 2020 would have focused the minds. Now we will have transitional arrangements, or kicking the can down the road.

    • #13
    • April 23, 2017, at 7:14 AM PDT
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  14. outlaws6688 Inactive

    Serious Question, but if its dumb just say so. Can American Conservatives or British Conservatives consider a Prime Minister that is in favor of the Undemocratic EU a Conservative? She campaigned on behalf of the Eu during Brexit did she not? I’m sure she has many other Conservative positions, but does that not get canceled out by supporting an institution that makes roughly 70 percent of your laws and would oppose any Conservative initiative she backs? So can anyone that supports the EU be considered Conservative?

    • #14
    • April 23, 2017, at 7:20 AM PDT
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  15. Mr Nick Member
    Mr Nick

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):
    Can we really consider a Prime Minister that is in favor of the EU Conservative?

    I may have my doubts about May, but I actually think she was always a Leaver. Cameron bought off a fair few Cabinet ministers with knighthoods and according to Tim Shipman Cameron’s greatest fear was May leading Leave.

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):
    May is just another Progressive in Conservative clothing.

    That is what I fear….

    • #15
    • April 23, 2017, at 7:22 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. outlaws6688 Inactive

    Mr Nick (View Comment):
    I may have my doubts about May, but I actually think she was always a Leaver. Cameron bought off a fair few Cabinet ministers with knighthoods and according to Tim Shipman Cameron’s greatest fear was May leading Leave.

    I’m probably wrong but did she not come out against Leave during Brexit?

    • #16
    • April 23, 2017, at 7:23 AM PDT
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  17. Mr Nick Member
    Mr Nick

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):
    Serious Question, but if its dumb just say so. Can American Conservatives or British Conservatives consider a Prime Minister that is in favor of the Undemocratic EU a Conservative? I’m sure she has many other Conservative positions, but does that not get canceled out by supporting an institution that makes roughly 70 percent of your laws and would oppose any Conservative initiative she backs?

    Not dumb at all. British Conservatism is pretty screwed up ideologically. Even Sir Roger Scruton says that to understand it you have to understand all the other isms (I paraphrase of course). When you have institutions as venerable as the NHS and the BBC you see the confusion. We tend to try things to the point of lunacy, then move on. Its the benefit (?) of not having a written constitution…

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):
    So can anyone that supports the EU be considered Conservative?

    This was my problem during the referendum. The EU, as it is now as opposed to what it was when we joined, is antithetical to what I believe to be British Conservatism.

    • #17
    • April 23, 2017, at 7:31 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. Mr Nick Member
    Mr Nick

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):

    Mr Nick (View Comment):
    I may have my doubts about May, but I actually think she was always a Leaver. Cameron bought off a fair few Cabinet ministers with knighthoods and according to Tim Shipman Cameron’s greatest fear was May leading Leave.

    I’m probably wrong but did she not come out against Leave during Brexit?

    Indeed. She made one reluctant speech. If you’re in the Cabinet and were convinced it would never happen, why end your career? I’m not saying I approve, but there are very few politicians as principled as Daniel Hannan.

    • #18
    • April 23, 2017, at 7:34 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. outlaws6688 Inactive

    Mr Nick (View Comment):
    Indeed. She made one reluctant speech. If you’re in the Cabinet and were convinced it would never happen, why end your career? I’m not saying I approve, but there are very few politicians as principled as Daniel Hannan.

    Thank you for your perspective! Sorry about the untidy comments.

    • #19
    • April 23, 2017, at 7:49 AM PDT
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  20. Mr Nick Member
    Mr Nick

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):

    Mr Nick (View Comment):
    Indeed. She made one reluctant speech. If you’re in the Cabinet and were convinced it would never happen, why end your career? I’m not saying I approve, but there are very few politicians as principled as Daniel Hannan.

    Thank you for your perspective! Sorry about the untidy comments.

    Not at all sir, thank you.

    • #20
    • April 23, 2017, at 7:55 AM PDT
    • Like
  21. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):
    Serious Question, but if its dumb just say so. Can American Conservatives or British Conservatives consider a Prime Minister that is in favor of the Undemocratic EU a Conservative? She campaigned on behalf of the Eu during Brexit did she not? I’m sure she has many other Conservative positions, but does that not get canceled out by supporting an institution that makes roughly 70 percent of your laws and would oppose any Conservative initiative she backs? So can anyone that supports the EU be considered Conservative?

    May was a Remanian, prior to the Brexit vote. Since then, even prior to her election as Conservative Party leader, I fail to note anything she’s done that indicates that she’ll do anything other than carry out the will of the people. If you’ve got a laundry list of such things, or a better idea, I’m all ears.

    This country (USA) had a bit of a debate a few weeks back about whether or not the 9th Circus should have thrown out Trump’s first “travel ban” based largely on their belief that it was a “Muslim ban” in disguise. Much of the Court’s logic was based on things Trump had said before he was elected President (about a year’s worth of saying that he wanted to ban all Muslims), and had nothing at all to do with a reading of the text of the actual Order before them. The fact that the Order was demonstrably not one that banned all Muslims, didn’t matter. Basically, the Court extrapolated their conclusion from Trump’s earlier rhetoric. They were wrong to do so.

    I suggest that we not make the same mistake, and that we look at what Theresa May has done, since the Brexit vote, and judge her accordingly.

    • #21
    • April 23, 2017, at 8:04 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  22. Mr Nick Member
    Mr Nick

    She (View Comment):

    outlaws6688 (View Comment):
    Serious Question, but if its dumb just say so. Can American Conservatives or British Conservatives consider a Prime Minister that is in favor of the Undemocratic EU a Conservative? She campaigned on behalf of the Eu during Brexit did she not? I’m sure she has many other Conservative positions, but does that not get canceled out by supporting an institution that makes roughly 70 percent of your laws and would oppose any Conservative initiative she backs? So can anyone that supports the EU be considered Conservative?

    May was a Remanian, prior to the Brexit vote. Since then, even prior to her election as Conservative Party leader, I fail to note anything she’s done that indicates that she’ll do anything other than carry out the will of the people. If you’ve got a laundry list of such things, or a better idea, I’m all ears.

    This country (USA) had a bit of a debate a few weeks back about whether or not the 9th Circus should have thrown out Trump’s first “travel ban” based largely on their belief that it was a “Muslim ban” in disguise. Much of the Court’s logic was based on things Trump had said before he was elected President (about a year’s worth of saying that he wanted to ban all Muslims), and had nothing at all to do with a reading of the text of the actual Order before them. The fact that the Order was demonstrably not one that banned all Muslims, didn’t matter. Basically, the Court extrapolated their conclusion from Trump’s earlier rhetoric. They were wrong to do so.

    I suggest that we not make the same mistake, and that we look at what Theresa May has done, since the Brexit vote, and judge her accordingly.

    Quite right. On Brexit she has been the second coming of Lady Thatcher and I have seen nothing that indicates any softening, though you’d have to suspect that without the pressure of an election in 2020 a fudged deal is inevitable.

    • #22
    • April 23, 2017, at 8:45 AM PDT
    • Like
  23. Mr Nick Member
    Mr Nick

    UPDATE: Just returned home by way of the newsagent. Headline of The Mail on Sunday: May Sees Poll Lead Slashed in Half. This after the “tax increases” she is planning. It was down by 11 points giving her a projected 40 seat majority. I’d put a link up but their website is about as easy to navigate as the swamp.

    Now the MoS, as opposed to its daily stablemate, has been anti-May since her ascension, being full of David Cameron’s chums.

    This is probably not the time to reveal that I am sometimes referred to as Cassandra, and not for my feminine good looks…

    • #23
    • April 23, 2017, at 1:39 PM PDT
    • 2 likes

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