Saturday, 17 June 2017

Humpty Dumpty and the Arrogance Of Yam: The Fallout Of A Most Unnecessary Election

Image Source: Twitter
Written By: Scott Gunnion

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Having arched ambitiously in their kitten heels and reached confidently for the sun armed, not with conceit, but with what seems in retrospect to be an overwhelming sense of self-belief armed with a touch of conceit.

Victory was assured, it seemed. The glory days of Thatcher resurrected and realised once more under the steady hand of Yam.

Nothing less than a mammoth Tory majority of Thatcherite proportions would suffice, with Mother Theresa reigning supreme. Destined, they thought, for an inevitable coronation.

Such assumptions were universal across the political divide. "Disaster" cried the Blairite left. A rumbling not seen since Michael Foot's 1983 manifesto aptly dubbed the “longest suicide note in history” was cast in stone from the get-go.

But last Friday, Britain awoke in a state of bewilderment, a state of disarray. From the Daily Mail middle to the mobilised millions of younger voters in the infancy of their political involvement.

At the time, Yam called the whistle on the general election, Corbyn was a contaminated brand. It was fact. A rigid idealist and aging relic burdened with the forgotten dogma of 80s-era Labour. He was unelectable. Everybody besides Diane Abbott said so. It was the flawed assumption successfully masquerading itself as a fact.

To be fair, Yam's decision to call an election was far from ill-advised.

The Tories benefitted from an immensely favourable political climate, with poll leads stretching north of 20%, enough to make even the bitterest cynic salivate and fall into line. The lead was insurmountable, it seemed.

Jezza was cream. Or toast, at least.

Then came the backlash over the dementia tax, the first massive gaffe of the campaign. Far from strong, steady leadership, Yam threw a wobbler. She bottled it, and then she backtracked. Then, she denied backtracking. The would-be heir to Thatcher U-turning the way Thatcher swore she would never do.

Then, rumours began to seep out that she failed to consult senior ministers about the “dementia tax” that she operated an autocratic regime that sidelined collective Cabinet government in favour of an inner circle of sycophants and yes me, neither elected nor accountable.

Sure, it was nothing compared to Diane Abbott's daily splash of gaffes, but it showed that she was weak-willed. This much-hyped (much, much-hyped) strong, stable leadership was nowhere in sight.

Yet UKIP's inevitable evaporation seemed to buttress her poll numbers, making an outright victory seem all the more assured.

But for all her qualities and attributes, of which there are many, Yam is dull on the stump. As awkward as she is cautious. The role of chief salesman for the party did not come natural to her.

She doesn't inspire, but she does divide.

But what was Theresa's grand folly?

Recent terrorist atrocities thrust national security in the election spotlight. Yam spent six years as Home Secretary but she failed to seize the initiative on this front.

Mumblings about Corbyn's pacifist inclinations and his alleged IRA sympathies never seemed to gain traction beyond the exclusive circles frequented by the right wing commentariat. His economic populism seemed to strike a chord with his natural constituency whilst appealing in particular to millennials and first time voters.

Jezza, to his credit, speaks clearly and is indisputably principled, and he energised his supporters with his populist posturings. He speaks to his constituency and he speaks for his constituency, talking about the issues they believe in and from the viewpoint and perspective with which they live, feel and breathe them.

As the election went on, Corbyn crept up, though the polls consistently predicted large Tory leads and similarly large majorities.

The announcement of a snap election reeked of naked opportunism. It seemed more of an attempt to swell the ranks of the parliamentary party than an attempt to secure the strong mandate (allegedly) essential to the successful implementation of Brexit.

Yam began the campaign with strong approval ratings and a modest working majority: a sufficient, functional working majority. So was it hubris or greed that motivated her to call an election midway through the life of a parliament and risk it all? It was, I suspect, hubris. Yes-men goading her and whispering in her ear. A distraction we could have easily done without.

Though the outcome was far from disastrous for the Conservatives. They scored 42% of the popular vote, an increase in 6%. For some context, Cameron never passed 37% of the vote. The downside is that Corbyn added 10% to the party's 2015 performance. That's 10% more than Ed Miliband achieved and, all the more shockingly, 11% more than Gordon Brown could muster in 2010. The Conservatives did well, very well - but Labour did better. Blair won 43% in 1997 and secured a colossal majority, same with Thatcher in 1983. But both benefited from severely weakened opponents. No such luck for Mother Theresa.

The result, from the perspective of Corbyn, was nothing less than a stunner. Sensational.

Prior to the election, all the internal rumblings from Labour insiders were of imminent, irrevocable doom. Well that shut them up.

Has there ever been an election where the winning side behaved as though they had lost and the losing side paraded about as though they had won, when clearly they had not?

Now, the prevailing mood in Labour is one of vindication. It ought to be smug, and so easily could have been, but that fails to have materialised. From the ashes of limp and flailing opposition, written off and ridiculed in equal measure, stands a government in waiting.

And nobody saw it coming. Did they?

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