Boris Johnson has routed Labour. But his victory could turn out to contain the seeds of its own destructionby Tom Clark / December 13, 2019 / Leave a comment
Yes, I know. For “progressives,” liberals, leftists or anyone else less than keen on reactionary nationalism, this has been an abject defeat. Boris Johnson has blustered his way to a commanding majority, and Labour has been routed in dozens of seats while the Liberal Democrats went nowhere at all. We’re in for a dose of nasty authoritarianism, with more lives squandered in failing jails, and perhaps more attempts to bully the media too. Truth-telling in public life will fall further out of fashion, and as I wrote in the first hour after the ballot boxes closed, there is reason to fear the ground rules of politics being rigged. It is, then, entirely natural that a very dark mood has descended over progressive Britain.
And yet. These are mercurial times, in which nothing stays frozen for long. Indeed, a number features of this result make it feel more like the product of surface currents, rather than deeper tides. Most obviously, it was a case of a new prime minister shrewdly seizing his moment of novelty to define himself against everything his party has done in office for a decade. Beyond that, in the embers of election 2019 I can spot several glimmers of hope for those who dream of a world beyond Boris Johnson.
1- Labour’s biggest problems look easily fixed. The opposition went into this election after four years of near-continuous civil war, offering a candidate for prime minister who had the worst personal ratings of anyone who has ever auditioned for the job. Jeremy Corbyn has been utterly unyielding in his sometimes-fringe views, and yet can sometimes sound hesitant, unsure and indecisive in putting them forward. The party machine built below him has been needlessly sectarian, and was shamefully indulgent of anti-semitic cranks. On the other side were too many Labour MPs who never gave Corbyn the chance to fail on his own terms, and never paused to reflect on how bankrupted the Blair project had been by ruinous wars overseas and the bankers’ crash at home. If the party can only find a leader who is remotely cut out for the job, and if its MPs can learn to direct their energies against the Conservatives rather than within their own tribe, then its position would…