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Every week The Friday Speed Read shakes its head and wonders what has just hit it between the eyes: turns out, it is the news.
At the time of writing, and with one seat yet to declare, Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party has not just won the General Election, it has a whopping majority of 79 meaning that he can pretty much do what he wants for the next five years and, if history is any sort of precedent, then for the next five years after that. Fancy a Labour government? Well, meet you back here in 2029 and it might, might, just happen. By then, assuming the world hasn’t ended, the UK will have had a Conservative government (if you count the Coalition period, which you should) for 19 years. Wow. Make no mistake, this victory makes Johnson as powerful and significant a political figure as Thatcher in her pomp.
And look at the constituencies in which the Tories have won. Yes they’ve won in the places they’ve always won: in the Wokings and the Henleys; the Tewkesburys and the Windsors but they’ve also ousted Labour from Blyth Valley and Redcar. These are towns ripped apart by the demise of heavy industry, shipbuilding, mining; towns that were not just violently anti-Tory for as long as anyone can remember but explicitly blamed the Tories for their demise. And now they have Conservative MPs. At the end of a year in which hyperbole has become fact, it’s no hyperbole to say that these are extraordinary results.
It’s Brexit. Of course, it’s Brexit. An issue that in the years before the referendum was lower on most people’s “things to get cross about” list than too many repeats on the telly and lack of locker space at the local leisure centre has become the catalyst for thousands of voters u-turning on generations-old political loyalties in order to “get Brexit done”. As if it were that easy.
But it’s also Jeremy Corbyn. And although his many, often well-intentioned supporters might claim otherwise (and they do, they really do) his time as Labour leader has been a disaster. With a result like this, how could anyone claim otherwise? Yes, the Labour vote increased significantly in the 2017 election and for a few sunny weeks, it did feel that the anger of a disenfranchised youth combined with some genuinely radical policies, might propel Corbyn into Downing Street like a hairy bullet to the heart of the establishment BUT some pissed-up chanting in a field in Glastonbury does not a revolution make and Labour didn’t win that election and well, you know the rest. And if they “didn’t win” in 2017 then in 2019, Labour has lost spectacularly. Unable to shake the accusations of anti-Semitism Corbyn was unpalatable for far too many people. Add in his equivocation over Brexit, his doomed attempt to appeal to both Leave voters in provincial towns and Remain voters in cities, and his fate was sealed many, many months ago. Where Labour goes from here, after the inevitable civil war that will occur within its ranks, is anyone’s guess. But hey, at least they’ve got PLENTY of time to work things out.
So here we are. Auf wiedersehen Europe! We have certainty. We have stability (and this is a good thing surely?). The Pound is soaring and we’re not the nation we were yesterday. Or maybe we’ve been this way all along and it’s taken Johnson to return us to our natural state?
Meanwhile, a thin-set and bearded man potters around his Islington garden. There’s cat shit in the soggy flowerbeds and everything has assumed the pall of winter: grey, cold, inert. The climbing rose that earlier in the year flourished in glorious reds and pinks has now dropped its leaves and only a brown skeleton remains clinging to the London bricks in the wall of the potting shed. The man checks his phone for the fourth time in the past ten minutes; he doesn’t have any messages.
And no one has called.