TONY JOHNSON: It’s deja vu again

The Houses of Parliament

General Elections in December are a rare thing and the last one was called in 1923, shortly after the Conservative leader had resigned and a new one had been chosen.

With one in three seats changing hands, Conservative expectations of a commanding majority were destroyed and the UK’s first-ever Labour government was elected.

It ended up being the last time that Westminster had three parties who each had more than 150 seats.

Swing those swingometers

Simple it isn’t. 

Especially if the country divides on Leave / Remain lines.

From Labour’s point of view. If they declare for Remain, they’d lose 60+ seats in the Midlands and the North. If they declare for Leave, they’d lose 50+ seats, mostly in London.

For Conservatives, things look much better as they’d only stand to lose ~15 seats in London and the South, with a good chance of picking up some Leave constituencies if the Brexit party doesn’t.

For Liberal Democrats, they stand to lose 1 or 2 seats but could pick up new ones from the many strongly Remain constituencies.

So much for ‘election calculations’ – full of fog and speculation.

What’s the main themes?

Following the 2016 referendum, two PM’s later and a minority Conservative government is putting forward a simple point – “Let’s get Brexit Done”, with a subtext of “taking back control”

As the smallest of the main opposition parties, Liberal Democrats have adjusted their message to an even simpler “Stop Brexit”, with a subtext of “build a brighter future”.

The Scottish Nationalist Party is slightly more nuanced and includes “Happy No Brexit Day on December 12” together with a demand for a section 30 order for Xmas and “let’s win our independence”.

As the leading opposition party, Labour’s message is “It’s time for real change”  with subtexts of “creating an economy that works for all”;  along with “towards a national education service” and then “negotiating Brexit”; and … and … and … 

So what does this all mean?

In England the two big parties are going to try to persuade you that they’re the only ones that matter – so a good chance of a head to head debate between their two leaders, with everyone else excluded.

With the Tories ‘Boris bus’ claims about building forty new hospitals already having been scaled down to just six being altered – if they can’t persuade you that there’s loads of dosh for whatever you want, then they’ll focus on Brexit.

Meanwhile the Labour party’s started in on the government’s lack of achievements. particularly on Health service funding and performance. But an NHS chief warned of “weaponising”, of “unrealistic expectations”, of “disingenuous funding claims”. With their near-intractable dilemma on leave va. remain seats, it’ll be keep-Brexit-for-later by Tory-bashing their way through to a change of topic – sharpish.

With the SNP’s Sturgeon having ben filleted by Piers Morgan this week, it’s caviar all round for Scotland provided the English keep paying for it – so you can expect plenty of hard borders or hard feelings from Edinburgh for a while to come.

And with other parties’ promises shifting from grandiose to downright ostentatious and back again daily, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Liberal Democrats have introduced a ‘Remain bonus’, and it’s a whopper (to win hearts and minds). So if you’ve no heart for Brexit, they don’t mind.

Let’s do the Referendum again

Although we’re still in the ‘phoney war’ part of the election, it’s clear that the campaigns and the actuality have parted company already.

Nobody’s bothered to explain what ‘the deal’ actually is. So whether our politicians are acclaiming it with adjectives or venerating it with value judgements, it’s just about impossible for the average person to grasp what the decision is all about.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to prospective candidates if they’re treated with a certain degree of disdain or disregard when the campaigns start in earnest after nominations close on Nov 14th.

Meanwhile, the polls show that Brexit is the most important issue, way ahead of the NHS in second, Crime third with the Economy and Immigration equal fourth.

The Last Word

If you’re looking forward to a divisive, rude and increasingly Brexitatious battle with plenty of fake news, external ‘advice’ from foreign leaders, and lots of malicious gossip on anti-social media, then you won’t be disappointed.

But if you dislike the candidates, don’t want the parties and distrust their messages, then you’ll be seeking the least of all possible evils and wanting a more representative voting system perhaps.

Anyone for Vanuatu?

More Woe’d Works

Thank you to the reader who let us know that Winnersh wasn’t the only crossroads without its loops – apparently Twyford has the same problem. 

Thank you also to Wokingham Borough Council for responding to my questions, but the answers aren’t clear so I’ve asked for them to be reconsidered. 

Another day perhaps.

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