We have had gaffes, and both the Tories and Labour have pulled back those people from the front line for the duration. Jacob Rees-Mogg and Diane Abbott come to mind here.
We have had stunts and photocalls. It was a brave decision to let Boris loose with a bulldozer, but it seems to have come off.
We have had dog whistles. The Tories banged on about extra police numbers, harking back to the days when they were the party of Laura Norder. And Labour consistently claimed credit for setting up the NHS, and we got variations on a theme about how the NHS would be privatised/sold to the Americans/suffer intensified austerity if the evil Tories got into power.
The Lib Dems ploughed their own lonely furrow, promising to reverse the largest democratic vote in UK history, and were rewarded for this with a net loss of one seat including their leader.
What else happened? The SNP made gains North of the border and predictably used this to claim a mandate for another referendum on Scottish Independence. I remember that the 2014 referendum was billed as a ‘once in a generation’ event. No-one told us they were measuring in generations of fruit flies, but still…
We now know that the Tories have won, with an emphatic majority. Under One Man One Vote, today Boris is that one man and he has a pretty free hand to do whatever he wants. Cue predictable whining from the losers, along the lines of ‘not my Prime Minister’.
I think that now the dust is settling, and before the winners start betraying the promises they made during the campaign, is the time of greatest hope. Hope that we can go back to the days when we elected a government, accepted the result, and let them get on with it. And then we gave our verdict in the subsequent election. None of the 24-hour politics that assaults us today.
There is a danger here. After the 2016 Referendum, which was won by a citizens’ army of people who had hitherto taken very little interest in politics, that army went home. We went back to our day jobs, to our families and homes, and we trusted that our leaders would do the decent thing. We all know how that turned out.
Today is different. Today we can point to a historic series of votes given by the British people in favour of this country leaving the EU. You know these as well as I but putting them together is very striking.
In 2014, UKIP won the European Elections, the first time for donkeys’ years a national election had been won by someone other than the two big parties. In 2015, David Cameron held a General Election, and promised to hold an In/Out referendum if he won. No matter that he had his fingers crossed behind his back, because he only went and won on the back of that promise. He didn’t have much option then, but to actually hold that referendum. Against all odds, the franchise wasn’t fiddled – if you could vote in a General Election, you could vote in the referendum. And the question was a fair one. There wasn’t a Yes/No bias but Leave/Remain. A binary choice, and no-one sensible could say we didn’t know what we were voting for. Cameron himself is on record as saying that if we voted Leave, we would be out in two years on WTO terms.
Of course, DC didn’t want to do what he’d promised so the day after we’d voted, he resigned and went off, whistling a happy tune, to his caravan to write his memoirs. As a result we got Teresa May. I still remember that weekend when all the demons of hell were let loose on Andrea Leadsom for daring to suggest that having children gave you a stake in the future. Politics is a nasty game but that was a particularly disgraceful episode.
Teresa held her General Election in 2017, and both main parties promised to implement the referendum result, so they got 80% of the vote between them. I am losing count here – is that four times that Leave had won a nationwide poll?
Not a lot happened until 2019, when the Brexit Party comprehensively won the European Elections. That’s Number Five. Number Six was the December election, when the Tories’ slogan was ‘Get Brexit Done’. We may have doubts about what Boris actually meant, but GBD resonated with voters across the political divide and an eighty-seat majority was the result.
Leave have now won six times.
Now we are at the time of greatest hope. Hope that Boris will deliver a Full English Brexit. Hope that Brexit will finally mean Brexit. Hope that the arguments are now behind us, that the Remainers will see the error of their ways and unite in taking the country forward. Hope that together we can choose the open sea.
Who am I kidding? The Remainers won’t change. Today there are fewer of them on the green benches, but they won’t give up exaggerating every imagined difficulty resulting from our departure from the EU, and gold-plating the Withdrawal Treaty so that implementing it is worse than staying in the EU.
We can’t go home again. We have won six battles, but the outcome of the war is still in question. This is not the end, nor the beginning of the end. I don’t even think it’s the end of the beginning. This is going to be a long grind. This is going to be a struggle for the heart and soul of our country. This is going to be a never-ending journey.
Our weapons include the ballot box, but that’s not all. If you are on social media, use it. When you see someone advocating violence or not accepting the result of a democratic vote, do what the left do. Point and Shriek. Call them out, retweet their hate to your circle, and report them. And let’s do this with humour. Maybe there’s room for a group called Humour not Hate. In the best tradition of British humour, extract the Michael when you find someone still saying we didn’t know what we were voting for. What do they want, best of thirteen? Bring it on!
© Jim Walshe 2019
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file