During the 2017 General Election I happened to be driving through Hastings, a town I know well and lived in for a few years. I was surprised to see a large group of Labour canvassers out in a fairly Tory part of the town. Hastings has gone Labour in the past but it was far from being an obvious target. I concluded that the folk I saw were enthusiastic but perhaps a little too optimistic. After all the media was assuring us that far from picking up places like Hastings Labour was on course to lose out badly. In fact one union leader set the bar pretty low by saying that if Labour only lost 20 seats it would be an acceptable result.
Elections can often be dramatic and unpredictable events. But they are often soul destroying and boring as well. The UK’s 2015 one was just dispiriting. The referendum on the EU was not much fun either. And when Theresa May called her snap election in 2017 it looked like it would simply be the worse possible example of the genre.
I don’t think it is a great idea to use historical parallels as a guide to present day actions. Just because things played out a particular way back then there’s no reason they should do so again in the same way. And worse than that, historical parallels can be very bad guides to action. For example, the British Prime Minister Anthony Eden described Egyptian president Nasser as another Hitler to justify invading Egypt to take control of the Suez canal.
I am interested in politics, but I don’t follow the day to day political coverage very much. I do have the occasional binge. I get caught up sometimes in a big story like an election or a big scandal. But this is pretty much like someone who has got their eating disorder under control having the odd relapse. A daily diet of news stories spun by the politicians themselves and filtered through a media owned by vested interests is much like eating fast food. It feeds a craving, and you enjoy it at the time, but doesn’t really give you what you need.
This is an unedited first draft – I’ll tidy it up later.
I am very impatient about Brexit. I really want the process to start and to get us outside of the EU as quickly as possible. My reasoning for this is quite simple. I want to get back in. At the moment if you complain about leaving the EU when the decision has been made to leave it you sound a bit pathetic. The argument has been had and my side has lost it. It is quite reasonable for people to say we should move on. And indeed we should. I am not looking forward to leaving, but it does have the consolation that when we are outside people campaigning to get back in will be the radical outsiders and the outers will be the establishment. (Actually I think they always were the establishment, but being opposed to the status quo gave them a sort of faux radicalism.)
A book I read a long time ago suddenly seems more interesting than it has for many years. Back in 1985 I was a Labour Party activist. I had other things on my mind at the time and it wasn”t a huge part of my life in the way that it was for some of the other activists I met. But I went to meetings. I was briefly a secretary of a ward branch (sounds a lot more important than it actually was). I used to go out leafletting and canvassing. And this being the eighties, I was also involved in internal party debates.
History is the story of real people’s lives and I am now old enough for the early part of my life to count as history – and that sometimes gives current news stories a poignant context. In the late eighties I was working in a medium sized engineering company which used a lot of steel. One of my workmates was then in his sixties and was an absolutely incorrigible old Tory while also being an absolute font of knowledge about engineering. He was also tremendously interested in metallurgy and was very interested indeed in the British steel industry. As such he was very keen indeed in one of the Thatcher government’s more minor projects, the sale of the nationalised British Steel.
Things get pretty mixed up over the course of 1600 years, but there is a smidge of the blood of Alfred the Great in the veins of Prince Andrew. In fact he has some kind of relationship to most of the occupants of the English throne. And while some of them are admirable human beings, the plain fact is that there are some monsters in there too. They really don’t constitute a great advert for family values in the round. Some of them took mistresses in a raffish and charming way, like say Charles II. Others would stop at nothing to get what they wanted. Henry VIII even started a new religion so he could marry who he chose, and later was quite prepared to cut former wives heads off to avoid all the bother of a divorce. George II managed to devote almost his entire energies during his reign to his mistresses.
We have been here before of course. In March 1962 the Liberals sensationally captured the supposedly safe Conservative seat of Orpington. On the very same day elsewhere in the country they turned in a swing of 22% in a safe Labour seat, leaving the official opposition looking distinctly short of voter support even though they did manage to hang on to their seat. A new dawn had arrived of three party politics.
At time of writing the Liberal Democrats are gathering in Glasgow for their last conference before the 2015 election. Conventional wisdom amongst the political commentators and pollsters is that they are looking at an election where they are likely to lose about half their seats. Even that isn’t as bad as it could have been. Had the proportional representation measure they proposed early in the parliament gone through they would have struggled to get anyone back to Westminster.