One of my odder hobbies was the focus of my attention last night, the 2019 British general election. The result was depressingly predictable: the Tories won again. They’ve been in power 67 of 101 years since the Liberals blew themselves up with the feud between Asquith and Lloyd George. They moved into third party status and Labour became the other big party. Neither the Lib Dems nor Labour had a good night.
A good night was had by Boris Johnson who ran a vague, substance free campaign with a specific simplistic slogan: “Get Brexit Done.” The result of Johnson’s English nationalism is likely to be a disunited kingdom: the Scottish National Party won big in their bailiwick as well. Hence the featured image of the Scottish Saltire and the Union Jack. If Brexit gets done, the SNP wants out of the union. Stay tuned.
Nobody does election coverage better than the BBC. Their set looked like a cross between a spaceship and a medieval castle. Their graphics are whimsically informative. And it’s always good to see our old pal the Swing-O-Meter, which began life as a low-tech spinning wheel thingamabob. It’s now haute high tech: green screen all the way. I prefer the 1964 model:
I also prefer the result in 1964 when Harold Wilson led Labour back to power after 13 years in the wilderness. Labour spends so much time in the wilderness that they must be expert campers. They’ve lost 4 straight elections and will spend a minimum of 14 years in the wilderness this time around.
Social media was full of Americans projecting our politics on the British election. It has no meaning for us given the core issues of the campaign: Brexit and the awfulness of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The real lesson of the election is this: do not run a candidate with negatives ranging anywhere from -40 to -61. Many Labourites knew they had a problem but a previous attempt to oust Corbyn failed miserably and they were stuck with him. The Tories are much better at defenestration. Chop.
The response of the Corbynistas to defeat was unintentionally hilarious. Like ideologues everywhere, they came up with a party line and stuck to it. They swore that their policies were popular, but Brexit did them in. There’s a kernel of truth in the Brexit part: they lost many Northern seats that were pro-remain. There’s a huge BUT coming, their dear leader had negatives ranging anywhere from -40 to -61.
Corbyn announced what he hopes will be a slow-motion exit from the Labour leadership. I’m not sure that he’ll be able to hang on that long. Stay tuned.
It was a relief to focus on the dysfunctional politics of another country for one night. I watched bits and pieces of the Judiciary committee’s mark-up hearing. I got a headache listening to Matt Gaetz who looks and sounds like the preppie villain in a slasher movie set on a college campus.
We’re cursed to live in interesting times. We don’t need to make them even more interesting by believing that the British election results will determine our own in 2020. Boris Johnson is terrible but he’s not Donald Trump terrible. Trump and congressional Republicans are the ones with high negatives.
In addition to high negatives, Trump has some other similarities to Jeremy Corbyn. Both men are surrounded by sycophants who tell them what they want to hear. They’re incurious and reject facts that displease them. Neither Corbyn nor Trump is capable of admitting error, that quality killed Labour’s chances in 2019. Self-image is important to both Trump and Corbyn: they don’t see themselves as the rest of the world sees them. The major difference is ideological. Corbyn believes in something whereas Trump only believes in himself. Believe me.
Finally, one thing I love about election nights, UK style is how late things go on. It’s impossible not to sound punchy at 4 AM. The Brits are good at muddling through, which is a good quality to emulate. It’s what I’m doing right now.
The last word goes to the Kinks. It’s not a political song but it rocks. We all need to rock more.