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Reflections on the General Election

We'll have Brexit done
By Richard Fullerton, Chair of UKIP Cambs & SE Cambs

Well how did the election go for you? Aside from being glad it is over (it was a rather boring election), most Leave voters must be glad of the result. I say ‘most’ because there is a small segment who think that Boris’ deal is worse than remaining in the EU. I have to say that I am sympathetic to this, as my previous blogs testify.

However, we must be pragmatists – until Boris Johnson became PM, there was a real danger of Brexit either being watered down or cancelled altogether (although knowing the British voter I suspect ‘postponed’ would be more accurate). And let’s be grateful. We’ve got rid of the #worstPMever and now have a PM with a visionary and ambitious agenda for the UK in the world, armed with a majority of 80 MPs. What’s not to like?

As for the ‘surprise’ result itself, commentators such as Rod Liddle have accurately said, ‘Twitter isn’t Britain’ and that the BBC and the liberal pro-EU establishment movement should have ventured outside the M25 to take the temperature of the real Britain. Having said that, even Liddle ‘wobbled’ in the days leading up to election day, and so did other conservative commentators including Fraser Nelson, his editor at The Spectator.

But we were all taken in by the ‘experts’, weren’t we? That gnawing feeling that Corbyn was closing the gap on the Tories, just as he did in 2017, such that he could cause a hung Parliament - or even win.

Of course it didn’t happen. It was never going to happen. But we let ourselves be misled by the Twitterati, the BBC and the other liberal commentariat who don’t like Brexit or Conservatives. However, I have to say that the pollsters are the real villains. They must have known that Johnson was going to win a majority, some even must have had data predicting a big majority, which is what he got. But having been shamed in 2017 when they got it wrong, they hedged their bets this time. Cowardice.

Here’s my take on the election and the key parties:

Conservatives: Fought a very safe election on the platform of ‘Get Brexit Done’ (© Dominic Cummings). Knew that the five million Labour voters for Leave in 2016 were up for grabs and aimed for them. Limited personal attacks on Corbyn because they realised that perversely this would increase his popularity so instead left it to the ‘market’ to make its own mind up about whether they could vote for a terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating, Jew-baiting, Marxist. It worked! 365 MPs (up 47), a majority of 80 and 43.6% share of the vote.

Labour: Fought the election on a ‘vote-buying’ strategy involving a spending spree of £83billion. Thus, free broadband; free bus travel for under-25s; build 100,000 council homes a year; nationalise the big six energy firms, the National Grid, the water industry, Royal Mail, and the railways. The £83bn would come from tax hikes on high earning individuals, corporation tax, and a windfall tax on profits from oil companies. But Corbyn was forced to admit that tax rises would impact lower-earners too, for instance via cancelling the tax break for married couples (introduced originally by the Tories). One suspects that the average voter also believed they too would get hit with other as yet undefined taxes. Then there was his ambivalent position on Brexit and the fact that his party supported a second referendum. In short, many traditional Labour voters just didn’t believe, trust or like Corbyn. The result – 203 MPs (down 59), and 32.2% vote share.

Liberal Democrats: One can have little sympathy for Jo Swinson. Having bigged herself up as a potential next PM and declared that a majority LibDem government would automatically revoke Article 50, one couldn’t accuse her of lacking ambition. But it was reported that the more she appeared in public during the campaign, the lower her poll ratings. This was not surprising really. Her insulting and patronising message to Leave voters, coupled with a pair of arms that jigged like a marionette on Thunderbirds in time with her whiny, shrieky, and definitely grating, voice consigned the LibDems to a poor result. Noone ever discussed the LibDem manifesto. 11 MPs (down 1) and 11.5% vote share.

The Brexit Party: Nigel Farage was under huge pressure from many sides to not stand candidates where he would split the ‘Leave’ vote, thus enabling Labour party candidates to sneak a victory. So on 11th November he announced – courageously in my view – that his party would not stand candidates in the 317 seats that the Tories won in the 2017 election. This took the pressure off him personally but it was the beginning of the slide. Having been in a double-digit share of the vote, the party fell below 10% in mid-November and on election day only got 2% - and no MPs of course. At the beginning of the campaign I was confident that the party would get at least one MP, and quite possibly a handful.

But as we saw, many of those five million Labour voters who voted ‘Leave’ in 2016 WERE prepared to vote against their principles and vote Tory because they saw that only a majority Tory government would give them Brexit. Having said that, it has been shown that by standing in Labour territory, the Brexit Party denied the Tories a thumping majority. Up to 34 seats remained red because the Brexit Party ran against the Conservatives. Let that be a lesson to the hubristic Tories. In my view, Farage knew he was going to lose everywhere but his compromise was both smart and honourable.

SNP: One has to grudgingly admit that Nicola Sturgeon is a great campaigner and party leader. With Scotland voting ‘Remain’ by a clear margin, Boris Johnson deeply unpopular north of the border, and the Scottish Labour party in disarray, it was easy to see that the SNP would improve their already impressive number of MPs. 48 MPs out of 59 (up 13) was a terrific result. Sturgeon now claims there is a mandate for a second referendum on Scottish independence. There is no such thing. Only 45% of Scots voted for the SNP, the same as the figure to leave the UK in the 2014 referendum.

I have every respect for a Scot who demands independence for his or her country, I really do. After all, I have campaigned for independence for my country from the EU for some time now. But at the heart of the Scots’ cry for independence is a big fat lie. An independent Scotland would immediately apply to re-join the EU and as has been shown, you are not an independent country if you are part of the EU. Sturgeon is therefore lying to her countrymen and this needs to be rammed home in the years to come. Having said that, I believe Scottish independence will happen in my lifetime. It’s a question of demographics and the fact that Scottish schoolchildren are fed on a diet of ‘Braveheart’ by their teachers from year dot. Ask any Scot who wants to remain part of the UK and he’ll agree – it’s not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’.

UKIP: Ahh, UKIP. Well in the end we only stood in 44 constituencies but according to Freddy Vaccha, our National Campaign Manager, our candidates managed to get 1.1% share in the 44 seats, which, while modest, is about three times as much as all opinion polls had us on. Our strategy was not to stand where doing so would damage the chance of a ‘Leave’ MP winning. Having said that, we here in Cambridge and SE Cambs didn’t stand for the reason that we didn’t see the point in losing our deposits of £500 and thus depleting our branch funds. But by standing in some seats we did let some people and the media know that we are still alive and kicking. Our manifesto was good and will no doubt have some of its ideas stolen by the Tories, as usually happens. Flattery.

In summary, we must welcome the Conservatives’ great victory. Many Kippers I know voted for the Tories because of pragmatism. Many traditional Labour party voters did the same, as the ‘Red Wall’ in the north was breached. The question is whether the Tories can hang onto most of them at the next election. I give Boris Johnson a 50% chance of doing this because I do think he and the Tories have finally got the message that there is an alternative path to austerity and if they want to be re-elected they need to take it. Under the guise of making the most of Brexit, the Tories will invest in the NHS, in infrastructure, schools and the North, thus making a fist of keeping those who have ‘lent’ their vote this time to them. And by changing constituency maps in this parliament to equalise seats in terms of population (and at the same time reducing the Commons from 650 to 600 seats), the Tories will gain electorally here too.

This election has seen an upset in British voting habits. People voted tactically in much greater numbers. A quarter (26%) of all voters said they were trying to stop the party they liked least from winning. Millions of Labour voters ticked the Conservative box for the first time in their lives. 79% of those who voted Labour in 2017 stayed with the party, while 9% went to the Conservatives, 7% to the Lib Dems, 2% to the Greens and 1% to the Brexit Party. In short, the Labour party haemorrhaged votes. Three quarters of 2017 UKIP voters switched to the Conservatives, with 11% going to the Brexit Party.

But it should be noted that Boris Johnson’s 43.6% share of the vote was ahead of Theresa May’s only by 1.2 percentage points. However, the Lib Dem vote soared by 1.3m or 4.1 percentage points, while Corbyn’s fell by 2.6m (7.8%). Johnson’s rose by only 304,000. The reality is that the left-of-centre vote was calamitously split. Polling during the campaign saw Labour surge only when the Lib Dems appeared to collapse. This is why the Tories cannot be complacent and must deliver on their promises.

But I think it’s safe to say that we don’t have a Labour government or a hung Parliament because Labour’s key voters were repelled by Corbyn and viewed his spending policies with incredulity. What’s more, the traditional - and more numerous - Labour voter is a patriot, whilst the less plentiful but disproportionately influential metropolitan elite Labour voter (the kind who helped Putney go red) isn’t. The sneering tweet by Emily Thornberry about the house bedecked with St George’s flags in the Rochester & Strood by-election in 2014 is indicative of this out-of-touch clique. The Labour elitists of Islington and Hampstead dominate our screens and deign to speak for Labour voters but reality is that life outside the M25 is very different and they lost touch with the true Labour voter years ago.

Boris Johnson won the election so decisively because the traditional Labour voter deserted his or her party in enough numbers to give the Tories victory because they wanted Brexit and didn’t like or trust a man who hates his country.

Statistics from Lord Ashcroft Polls, the BBC, Brexit Central, and The Guardian.


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