Opinion from Lord Digby Jones

"twas a damn close-run thing"

Published Monday 12 June, 2017

To steal from Wellington's Victory Speech after the Battle of Waterloo just over 200 years ago: " 'twas a damn close-run thing". 

 

After the 9th June 2017 General Election, our Country came within a whisker of being controlled by a bunch of terrorist-sympathising, anti-business Marxists. Thank God (certainly not the Prime Minister!) that not everyone in those marginal constituencies fell for the "All shall have prizes" siren, tempting rhetoric of the Corbynistas. You know the spiel: "it'll all be paid for by asking the wealthy and the Country's businesses to pay a little bit more." Well, if the Marxists had indeed got their mits in the cookie jar, this Monday morning, just 84 hours after the polls closed, I would be observing the first death throes of the UK Economy, just stripped naked and disarmed in the vicious fight for competitiveness in the global economy. If just 2,000 votes over a mere seven seats (out of 650) had gone the other way, the fifth biggest economy on the planet would have been hijacked by a few militants who had taken control of a mainstream brand and seized power. A coup by any other name, from which there would probably have been no return, certainly not in the short-term and not until irreparable harm had been done. 

 

But they lost. I know the gloating is their's; the "high ground" is being claimed by Corbyn, McConnell and Thornberry, but we really should not be tolerating victory toasts from a Party that is 56 seats (yes, 56, not 5 or 6) behind the Government total. 

 

First up, I owe you all an apology. I predicted an overall Tory majority of 58; far less than the landslide many predicted but obviously far more than the result. How did I get it so wrong?

 

1. I was considerably influenced by so many opinion polls, for so long, consistently giving the Tories leads of over 20%. Moreover, on 4th May, just a month before, Labour suffered the most enormous drubbing in the local and mayoral elections at the hands of the Conservatives. 

 

2. I did not expect the Conservative manifesto to have been prepared only by a small coterie of advisors who, out of the blue with little or no consultation, suddenly announced that the next Tory Government would effectively take away from their core vote the one material thing cherished above anything else: the property-based inheritance coming down the pipe from Mum and Dad. Of course something has to be done about the impossible call on future taxpayers to pay for the social care (and healthcare and pensions for that matter) of a getting older population and something in the manifesto about setting up a Task Force to come up with ideas after taking the views of all vested interests would have been the hallmark of responsible government, but to hit the very vote you can rely on three weeks before an Election....and then publicly change your mind (!!) ..... smacks of the arrogant complacency that it clearly was. "Put it in the manifesto and then the Lords can't overrule the ensuing legislation......and of course they'll all still vote for us; they've nowhere else to go; look at who we're up against!" Ah yes, just how the voters of Kensington and Warwick behaved.....not!

 

3. I did not expect the most ruthless, historically successful, well-funded, Election-winning machine in global democratic politics to behave in such a lack-lustre, negative way during the campaign. In sport, personal relationships, business and politics complacency is a dreadful disease. If you think that all you have to do to succeed is turn up then you will usually get turned over; and properly turned over the Tories were. The public, now fully integrated into the world of the instant gratification and the Coliseum blood sport of reality TV expect a TV debate where politicians can be seen to squirm as Ordinary People can be as rude as they like, cheered on by a partisan, blood-seeking crowd. Debate it is not; but a necessary ritual in the electoral process it surely is and Mrs May ignored it at considerable cost. The Electorate felt taken for granted, insulted even, that an unnecessary Election had been called for apparently personal reasons and then Nanny was telling the Children that she knew best. They queued up to give Nanny a kicking. 

 

4. I did not expect such a well-run, professional campaign from the Socialists. Someone gave Corbyn a make-over. Beard trimmed, he was shorn of the Seventies, proletarian, Leninist uniform, even venturing out of the Hard-left fortress of Islington, Jezza went for it big-time ......and very nearly pulled it off. 

 

5. Together with many others, I misread the destination of the disenchanted UKIP vote. I assumed it would go (back, in many cases) to the Tories. But the populism of the extreme in Trump's America, the anti-Establishment Elite sentiment of Brexit, the thirst for someone to lead from the outside that put Macron into the Elysee, the wish to give a complacent incumbent a kicking that finished Renzi in Italy.... all pushed the UKIP vote (and many others) to Corbyn. Forget who picks up the bill; turn a blind eye to his commitment to disarmament; to his sympathising for terrorists; to the tolerance of Labour anti-semitism; to his on-going flirtation with Marxism. Labour MPs who campaigned on a "Jeremy won't be PM; you can vote for me" slogan and didn't want the hard-leftie anywhere near their constituency will now be saying how marvellous he is. Yes, the coup's aftermath of the work of the nasty ("bricks through the windows of, and foul social media attacks on, those who disagree") Socialist thought-police will quickly get up to speed with those moderates suddenly supporting a far left agenda as if they always had. The hijacking of the Labour brand by the militants is complete; shame on those moderates whose thirst for the aphrodisiac of power now makes them compliant serfs in the Kingdom of the Fascism of the Hard-left. 

 

6. "It was the Yoof wot won it!"  The Tories have represented Canterbury after every Election since 1832! It went Labour on 8th June. But Labour did brilliantly in every University town.(just ask Nick Clegg in Sheffield). Get the students and the under-25's to register, then promise the abolition of tuition fees, (evidently University education is free, no-one pays for it at all!) and then get the Yoof out from under their duvets and into the polling booths. It worked a treat! 

 

               ............................................

 

So we have a Minority Government supported by the Ulster Unionists. Well, we're all taking notice of Northern Ireland politics now! The PM is helped by the fact that the seven Sinn Fein MPs won't be taking their seats so the necessity is to deliver 326 minus 7 seats to have a majority and the Tories are one short of that! (Remember Kensington!) 

 

There's a return to Big Two Party Politics. Both Conservatives and Labour got over 40% of the popular vote, for the first time since 1970. 

 

Did No 10 ever think they would be thanking their lucky stars for Scotland?! Ruth Davidson ran a brilliant campaign. "Do you want a 2nd Referendum? No. Do you want those complacent, single-Issue Nationalists to be taught a lesson? Yes. Then vote Conservative". Simple. Effective. Just ask Alex Salmond. But it is interesting that the neither of the leaders of the two main protagonists in Scottish Westminster politics are MPs. 

 

So people think there'll now be a Soft Brexit, with the UK staying in the Single Market. Quite how that is squared with having control of our borders and our judges not submitting to Luxembourg (surely what people voted for, if nothing else) remains to be seen. 

 

It is in no-one's interests that there is another General Election; the Country is electioned out. Any party that forces one (whatever they may say now) will be punished at the polls. Scotland has had seven elections in seven years! The Tories do not want a bout of ritual blood-letting in a leadership contest either. 

 

Next year the recommendations of the Boundary Commission will be implemented. This rectifies the effects on population per constituency of changing demographics and movement of people. It will favour the Tories by some twenty seats. Some might ask why on earth Mrs May didn't wait to ask for her own mandate until after then; but that's complacency for you. 

 

The Coup failed; Marxist John McConnell is not Chancellor of the Exchequer this morning; we are not looking down the double barrels of high taxes and unaffordable spending. But, as the Iron Duke observed,    " 'twas a damn close run thing". 

 

So Theresa May will run the Country, in my view, until the end of the Brexit negotiations. (who'd want that job?!). Then she will step aside (job done) and a new Tory leader will call a General Election in, say, 2020. Ah, you may say, but isn't that when May's original term and majority of at least 12 would have ended? 

 

Quite so.