The Fuseli nightmare is over. Day breaks to a dawn chorus, an ovation for Boris Johnson’s epochal achievement, while Jeremy Corbyn, who would be admirably cast as Scrooge, has no vision of Christmas future and will be dismissed from all further conduct of the Opposition’s affairs. The LibDem leader has been voted into private life. Boris rules over a single-party majority of 80-odd, announced at 10pm on Thursday, December 12th, when the exit poll revealed with photographic accuracy the extent of his triumph. “It is great morning.”
We now have a Conservative government assured of power for four and a half years (nobody wants another December election: the target date is May/June 2024). This week the Government will enshrine in law its Withdrawal Bill, which will leave the EU with or without a trade deal by the end of 2020. Even the Europhile ultras, like Michael Heseltine, have admitted defeat. The grief-stricken John Major has fallen silent. Theresa May, who has seen her Withdrawal Bill superseded by Boris’s, looked for some time to be auditioning for Miss Haversham but has now come round and smilingly allowed Boris to place his arm around her at a Conservative event at the Houses of Parliament. He is now the “elective dictator,” in Lord Hailsham’s phrase, and may go on to be an enlightened despot in the vein of Lee Kwan Yew.
The Brexit Party had looked like a barrier reef, but made only a modest impression against the great wave of support for Boris’s Conservatives. By my count, the Brexit Party made the difference in a dozen seats: that is, the combined vote of Conservatives and Brexit Party was greater than the vote of the victorious Labour candidate. In refusing a deal with Farage, Boris took a huge gamble but it came off. The Brexit Party has now completed its historic mission, and has no future other than a Reform Party. UKIP performed feebly and the last rites will shortly be read. There are no Tory rebels left in the Commons, and Boris surveys a stricken scene. Labour, the historic party of the white working class, is now ceding workers’ allegiance to the Conservatives. The Labour brand is more obviously, but perhaps less comfortably, over-represented by Muslim Labour.
The 109 new-hatched Conservative MPs are drawing comparisons with Blair’s Babes, the hundred women who made it in the 1997 Labour victory. That is not a happy echo. Some of the Babes, feeling slighted, left Parliament of their own accord in a few years. Power had not accrued to them, and they twigged that none of it moved beyond the Prime Minister, who made no attempt to consult them or anyone else. But on the whole the Babes accepted their humble lot. So will the Tory hopefuls who aspire to a marshal’s baton, or at least a junior ministry. Some will succeed, others may acquire a knighthood as a reward for years of service. Many will be regarded as a Good Constituency MP. I am drawn to the unillusioned eye of Nigel Molesworth, who writes in the Searle and Willans classics Down With Skool! and How To Be Topp. For him, life is the return to school for the new term. The new Parliament is similarly inhabited by new bugs, who stand as if amazed: “various weeds are about the place looking unnaturally clean and civilised. Who knows what adventures in work and play the next term will bring forth. And who cares, eh?”
Ralph Berry writes from England.