How the loser wonby Steve Richards / June 19, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
The surprise is that we were surprised. The result of the UK general election is still generating shock waves and will do so for months, perhaps years, to come. Yet the outcome is part of a pattern and not an aberration. We should have seen it coming.
Ever since the 2008 financial crash UK politics has been wild and unruly. In 2010, what seemed like a freakish peacetime coalition was formed. In 2015, David Cameron won an overall majority, entirely unexpectedly. A year later he resigned as prime minister, a fall of unprecedented speed. In the summer of 2016, the two major UK parties held leadership contests simultaneously, another unique occurrence. Both battles were deranged: the Labour contest lasted months and at the end, re-elected the same leader; the Conservative battle was over in days, with so many candidates imploding that a new prime minister walked into No 10 untested by any real campaign.
As well as these volcanic eruptions the UK staged two seismic referendums. One endorsed Brexit, the other reframed all Scottish politics around the question of independence and in 2015, the SNP won 56 out of 59 Scottish MPs, reducing its rivals to just one each.
The result of the 2017 election, then, is just one more instance of the post-crash disruption where the unexpected happens. And the UK is not alone. In the United States, Bernie Sanders—a self-described socialist who’d only recently joined the Democrats—very nearly seized that party’s nomination. Then Donald Trump really did take the presidency, an outsider with no experience of politics, a seeming disqualification from power that became a…