With these short winter days, it feels as if we’re constantly in the dark at the moment. The same could have been said of Brexit until our recent general election that saw a decisive victory for the Conservative Party and a cataclysmic defeat for Labour — who have suffered their worst election defeat since 1935.
The Conservatives have a majority of 86 and a staggering 163 more seats than Labour. Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats lost their leader, Jo Swinson, to the SNP who increased their majority in Scotland. If you’re wondering how and why we got this result, then here’s a quick guide:
Boris Johnson was consistent. No matter what the topic he always squeezed in the phrase: ‘Get Brexit Done’. It may have been irritating, it may have worn us journalists senseless with its banality, but it was consistent and distracted their target audience from their calamitous campaign errors.
Labour had a comparatively clean campaign. This was demonstrated by a poll that showed that none of their election adverts were considered misleading. This in comparison to 88 per cent of Conservative election adverts. What they lacked was a catchy and consistent message to play on repeat.
Threadbare at best with almost the minimum required, including promises of things they won’t do. Apart from engaging in a game of, ‘Who can make the most outlandish spending promises’ with Labour, they played it safe. They knew, more than anything else, that Brexit was going to be what this election hinged on.
Split Remain Vote
One of the decisive factors in a Conservative victory. Whilst the Brexit Party pulled out 317 candidates from Conservative-held seats as part of an informal pro-Leave tactical voting strategy, the same did not occur between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
The Liberal Democrats and Jo Swinson spent the first half of the campaign maintaining that they had a fighting chance of victory and would refuse to work with Labour — who reciprocated this lack of intent. It wasn’t until the final days that Swinson started to talk about tactical voting. Opposition in-fighting cost both parties dearly as Swinson and Chukka Ummuna both lost their seats, and this country a political opposition.
Similarly to the 2016 US Election, our election was fought between two dislikeable candidates. Boris Johnson’s charisma has worn thin and his election tactics, that included pocketing a journalist’s phone and answering questions he didn’t like with the words ‘I don’t know’, didn’t help his cause.
What helped was Corbyn’s unpopularity. Under his leadership the Labour Party has received swathes of negative coverage in the press and has also been hit with a prickly scandal: its alleged anti-Semitism. Going into this election he was considered by some to be an unpopular leader and Boris had just enough charm left to use this to full effect.
Unsurprisingly, in the days after the election there have been protests over the result. It didn’t take long for #notmygovernment, #GetBorisOut and other anti-Conservative slogans to trend on Twitter.
Intriguingly, I found myself not supporting them but thinking instead what pro-Leave supporters have been shouting for the past three years: ‘Accept the result’. And we should. Pro-Remain protests in the years after the referendum felt justifiable because the margin of victory was so small.
This general election result was different, it was a political massacre the likes of which my generation has not witnessed. It was definitive, it was decisive. We lost; and we are poorer people for it if we do not accept that.
What we do next is crucial to victories in the longer term. Now is the time for the liberals to regroup, and protect those most vulnerable to Conservative policies. Politics is a long game played out in short, sharp bursts of activity, there are plenty more moves to come as we enter the next decade.