The Wokingham Paper

TONY JOHNSON: Ground control to Major Tom

EU elections
Counting in the 2019 European Elections at Loddon Valley Leisure Centre

Two levels, two votes, two “results” – it’d be easy to mix them up.

Nationally, the aftershocks from the Tory induced vote-quakes haven’t ended. Locally, they’ve only just begun.

The Useless Parliament

England’s already had a Useless Parliament (1625), followed later by a Short Parliament (three weeks in 1640) then a Rump Parliament (1648) – which eliminated the King.

With 17.2 million voting in the UK’s final (?) European Elections, it’s the highest number turning out since 1979 when they started. At 37%, the turnout percentage was the second highest ever.

Quite what the resulting European Parliament should be called is better left to others. The big challenge is to name the current UK parliament (the 57th).

No Brexit, No deal, No idea

In 2016, the last UK Parliament launched the EU referendum. The day after the vote was ‘lost’, the then Prime Minister announced his resignation and Conservatives selected a new leader.

In 2017, the UK formally gave notice on Brexit, then subsequently held a General Election to strengthen the PM’s hand in negotiations. The day after the vote, the PM had lost her majority and eventually negotiated a ‘votes-for-cash’ deal with the DUP.

In 2018 and early 2019, the current UK Parliament negotiated, debated and voted, then negotiated debated and voted some more. Government couldn’t get enough support from its own MPs to pass whatever Brexit deal had been cooked up, so asked for a six-month extension of the Brexit date – to October 31.

After three dozen of her ministers had either resigned or been fired; as well as losing the key vote for the third (or was it fourth?) time; on Friday last week the PM announced her resignation date.

There’s no Brexit in sight, no prospect of an agreeable deal, and no idea as to who, how or when any deal might be delivered.

So it’s no wonder that by Sunday night this week, the Brexit Party had swept to first place in our European Elections.

The Daily Torygraph was one newspaper quoting the Brexit leader’s stark warning “if we don’t leave on October 31st then the scores you’ve seen for the Brexit Party today, will be repeated in a general election”.

The Sheeple’s Vote perhaps?

Such are the shadows and backwaters in UK politics that the almost total confusion over its own Brexit policy in the other of the UK’s 20th century parties continues unabated, although un-commented no longer:

On Monday May 28, news broke in The Guardian that the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “has pledged to support a second referendum on any Brexit deal” as his party’s support was fast melting away.

Other shadow cabinet members started talking up a “people’s vote” again, as Deputy Leader John McDonnell did on Sky News, saying “Labour was unlikely to secure a General Election, and therefore would be pushing on a People’s Vote”, he was delightfully vague about what that meant, when it’d happen, or what earthly difference it’d make in the great scheme of things.

Mr McDonnell continued enjoying being interviewed, sniping from the sidelines with this week’s contender for disingenuous quote of the week “Of course we want a general election, [it’s] highly unlikely Tories are going to vote for that now after the results last week, turkeys don’t vote for Christmas”.

Well it takes one to know one, and if a General Election produced similar results, it’s probable that Labour’s subsequent stuffing, roasting and basting would see it come apart.

And wasn’t the European Election last week a people’s vote anyway?

Meanwhile with around 37 MEPs as ‘leavers’ and 36 as ‘remainers’ the UK’s Europhrenia continues. And the UK media’s spinblenders continue to prove it wasn’t really a Brexit party victory either – despite the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ opinion (hint: it was).

The Last Word

Having created a brand-new party, it then swept on to success with doorstep messaging and a ‘simple’ manifesto.

The Internet’s been around for more than 25 years and ‘fings ain’t wot they used to be’. But it seems that 20th century parties don’t recognise the web’s impact on 21st century politics.

To lose one PM on a single topic may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose two seems like carelessness. So for at least one political party, it’s time to drop the dead dogma and start delivering. Preferably what people want.

Until they do, like Lord Sugar’s search for a new apprentice, the Conservatives’ search for new leadership … continues.

Perhaps the current UK parliament should be dubbed the Rudderless Parliament, though you might consider the Clueless Parliament a bit nearer the mark.

Meanwhile, there’s after-shocks from Wokingham’s very own vote-quakes …

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