Making (theological) sense of the election result

So the dust has settled, the result is clear, and the stalemate on leaving the EU has been unblocked. The debates continue to rattle around my various social media threads, and it is worth pausing and reflecting on the way that the result came about, and whether we are in a new political era—or not. Here are my observations about the election, and some reflection on what they mean for Christians and the church.

First, it is worth remembering that the vote was partial, in the sense that the biggest vote went to ‘none of the above’ because 31% of the population eligible to vote did not do so. Non-voter out-numbered those voting for the Conservatives, and non-voters outnumbered the winning candidate in 142 constituencies, and outnumbered the winning margin in many more. I have not seen any analysis of the possible party or political views of non-voters as a whole, so we cannot be sure what the impact would have been. But we should surely ask some questions about political engagement when, in a ‘vote of a lifetime’ which will ‘change the direction of the UK’, and despite the campaigns to get people to vote, nearly one third of the population did not engage.

Secondly, it was lost much more than it was won. The repeated comment on the doorsteps, and from those who voted Conservative even though they had been lifelong (and generational) Labour voters, was that they could not vote for Jeremy Corbyn to be leader. This was in part because of the issue of anti-Semitism, and continued claims that the (print and broadcast) media were biased against him. But I am not sure the broadcast media were biased, so much as they showcased what sort of leader Corbyn would be. To me, he came over as petulant, grumpy, irritable, and lacking the focus that is needed. Peter Brookes’ cartoon in The Times summed it up: he was Johnson’s greatest asset!

Since the result, numerous supporters of Corbyn have tried to minimise the impact of his reputation, which does not augur well for the prospect of Labour finding a credible successor. And since Labour have hoisted themselves on the petard of allowing their party membership to elect the leader of the parliamentary party, without any protection from radical entryism, it is not clear that they will have resolved this before the next election in 2024.

But what is even more remarkable here (and I haven’t seen very much comment on this): the Conservatives under Boris Johnson barely won any more support than Theresa May had done two years earlier, moving from overall 42.% of the vote to 43.6%, a shift of only 1.3%. The big difference was that Labour leached support away in critical seats, allowing the Conservatives to take them. In fact, many of the changes in margin in those seats had been delivered in the previous election, but just not quite enough to see the seats change hands. It appears that May did most of the groundwork (or rather, Corbyn had already lost most of his credibility) and Johnson reaped the benefits of that:

Thirdly, it was dishonest. This has been described as ‘our first post-truth election’. There was dishonesty on both sides, but far more on the side of Boris Johnson and the Conservatives. Former Tory supporter Peter Oborne has kept a list of Johnson’s lies on a dedicated web-site, and it is a long list. Just a week before voting day, Sajid Javid claimed that homelessness had increased under Labour, and declined under the Conservatives—exactly the opposite of the truth. The first result of confirm the exit poll predictions was the election of a Conservative in Blyth Valley, loyal to Labour since 1918—and it turns out that the candidate (now the MP) claimed to be an NHS nurse when he wasn’t. Three of the biggest pledges of the Conservatives (increased numbers of nurses, police officers and spending on schools) do little more than take us back to where Labour had left them in 2010, and were very far from being records. And so it goes on. Never before in an election have we been so depending on fact checking by reputable agencies; the most useful radio programme has been Tim Harford’s More or Less, but even in the broadcasts you can almost hear him becoming more despairing.

And this is not just the ‘regular’ dishonesty of the party political punch-up. Partly because of social media, we are now in an era where truth and lies are very hard to distinguish. Former Conservative cabinet member, Dominic Grieve, was almost lost for words when speaking on the Today programme on Radio 4 in the days before the election.

Politics has always been a dirty business—but what Boris Johnson has been doing is unprecedented in the Conservative party.

Peter Oborne sees the abandonment of any principle, other than the desire to govern, as destroying the party that he knew and loved, and detaching from its historic roots.

Once again, Peter Brookes sums it up in his cartoon of Corbyn and Johnson driving through the trust of the electorate—but what is striking is that the lies and dishonesty don’t appear to have affected the result, unless we see that visible in the high level of non-voters.

Fourthly, it was very much influenced by money, even if it was not won by it.

In the first fortnight of the election campaign, the Tories broke the record for the most money raised in a British election. The Electoral Commission’s latest data on donations shows the Conservatives consolidating their lead in the money stakes. Since the start of November, large donors – those who give more than £7,500 – have contributed at least £12m to Tory party coffers. No other party comes close.

In fact, the Conservatives raised more money for their election campaign than all the other parties put together, by some margin. Television advertising is banned in the UK (thank goodness!) but there is a loophole here in that online advertising is not regulated—a loophole which surely needs closing—so that Conservative adverts were prominent on YouTube as well as on social media.

Fifthly, it was a victory for the strongman. That is true in two senses of the word. On the one hand, as Lord Ashcroft’s extensive exit poll indicates, more men voted for the Conservatives than for Labour—and comparing the marginal preference shows the difference even more clearly.

Men chose the Conservatives over Labour by a 19-point margin (48% to 29%), while women did so by just 6 points (42% to 36%).

It was commented on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour that more men switched allegiances than women, and so their views contributed decisively—and I have since been pointed to the evidence shown in the graph to the right. Historically, men have leaned towards voting Labour more than women, who overall prefer the Conservatives more. This might in the past have been related to more men being involved in (blue collar) labouring occupations, but that cannot account for the preference in more recent years. But the switch over has been quite recent and dramatic, just since 2015, and is best accounted for by the Conservative promise to ‘get things done’.

But it was noticeable the extent to which men dominated the media coverage in the campaigns for both sides. This was, in part, simply a function of the way that both the main parties were ruthlessly focussed on their main message, and kept almost everyone other than their main leaders out of the media spotlight. This meant that otherwise important figures like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Priti Patel were nowhere to be seen. And for the Conservatives, the ‘Brexit’ message dominated, and was reflected in media coverage. I think that even Boris Johnson was, in a strange way, controlled and hidden, in that the Boris Johnson of affable joshing with interviewers, casual and improvising, disappeared from view. In his place we saw a Boris Johnson who, rather out of character, read from notes, and avoided the most difficult interviews where he would have to think on his feet. There is a sense in which we elected Dominic Cummings, and not Boris Johnson, as Prime Minister

The importance of the ‘strong man’ or charismatic leader is now dominating European politics, springing up from the ruins of the failure to deliver answers to deep-seated problems by the historic political parties, and the frustration that has created.

Of the many lessons about contemporary European politics one can draw from Boris Johnson’s resounding election victory, the most important might also be the most obvious: personality rules.

In today’s political landscape, where ideology and principle have been supplanted by pragmatism and raw opportunism, parties often serve as little more than wrapping for the larger-than-life personalities who lead them…

Johnson’s maneuvering and culling of the Conservative Party has been every bit as dramatic [as changes in other European nations]. As he transforms the establishment bastion of old into the party of the disgruntled working class, many party faithful say the Tories have become unrecognizable.

Sixthly, this election was incoherent, or perhaps contradictory. The most extreme example of this was highlighted in this comment from someone in Scunthorpe, which did the rounds on Twitter:

It is a strange thing indeed when right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins can praise the Conservative victory as a triumph for traditional values at the same time as the new generation of Conservative MPs are the most socially progressive in their profile of any party now represented.

Looking at this youthful group gives a fascinating insight into the future of the Tory party. There is not an Old Etonian in sight, and 24 are openly gay or bisexual, the most of any party. Labour has at least 18 — boosting the total to more than 50 LGBT MPs. Westminster is now the “gayest parliament in the world”.

Seventhly, as Lord Ashcroft’s poll indicates most clearly, this result was determined by the old. There is an almost exactly linear progression from Labour support amongst the youngest age group to Conservative support amongst the oldest group voting. How you make sense of this will be determined by your view of both parties and of the impact of ageing! Are the young fresh and optimistic, and the old cynical and selfish? Or are the young naive and gullible, and the old wise and critical? Or perhaps it is a sign of security, with the old closing the door of home ownership and secure income behind them and the young wanting to be let in?

Lastly, the result was unrepresentative. On leaving the EU, Johnson immediately claimed that ‘Brexit was now the irrefutable, irresistible, unarguable decision of the British people’. But that simply isn’t true; something like 52% of the electorate voted for parties that wanted to think further about our future relationship with Europe, rather than drive through the ‘Get Brexit done’ slogan, and of course the negotiations with Europe are going to drag on for many more years. And it is still the case that 53% of the population would not now vote for Leave. Far from Johnson uniting the country and being a ‘government for the people’, he is going to take us down a route that at least half the population don’t want to go down.

More broadly, the election showed both the power and the weakness of our ‘first past the post’ system. The differing numbers of votes required to gain seats for the different parties highlights some basic injustice in our FPTP system, because the party with the most unequal spread of support is the one that can secure the most marginal seats. In recent history, this has in turn favoured both Labour and the Conservatives, but it has consistently squeezed out the middle voices, and in an age of developing extremes, this cannot be healthy. As Johann Hari explained some years ago, it means that we have never actually had the kind of government that the people of the UK actually want.

In Britain today, we have a centre-left majority who want this to be a country with European-level taxes, European-standard public services and European-level equality. We have had this for a very long time. Even at the height of Thatcherism, 56 per cent of people voted for parties committed to higher taxes and higher spending. But the centre-left vote is split between several parties – while the right-wing vote clusters around the Conservatives.

And some Christians have been campaigning for this for some time.

All this provides the raw material for our reflection on democracy, government, the election, and the life of our nation. We need to reflect on the content of our democratic processes, but also on the context in which they sit within our theological understanding.

In relation to content, it seems from all the information above that our supposedly democratic processes are wide open to manipulation of one sort or another. At a basic level, because of the national distribution of party loyalties, combined with the ‘winner takes all’ strategy of FPTP in constituencies, and the formation of the government by the party with the most seats, our national government is decided by a small group of key voters. Headlines in the week before the election claimed that ‘10,000 voters will determine the outcome’. Given the polarisation of the main parties on so many issues, that is an appalling state for us to be in as a democracy.

But the system is more vulnerable to the stealth of highly-informed strategic planning, the manipulation of social media, the disproportionate spending powers of the different parties, and the reward (in times of uncertainty) to those who put up a single, uncompromising message which disregards nuance, debate, and even the facts. Bill Clinton once said:

When people are insecure, they’d rather have somebody who is strong and wrong than someone who’s weak and right.

This is the kind of phenomenon that W B Yeats was referring to in his poem ‘The Second Coming’:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

We were in a situation of intense uncertainty following three years of ‘Brexit’ push-me-pull-you, so the Strong Man was always going to have an edge in this election. And the explosion of information on social media has, by and large, led to a decline in real understanding in many arenas, and it is clear that politics is one of those.

Christians have not always supported democracy as opposed to benign oligarchy; after all, are most of us really equipped with the technical understanding of what makes for the best policies in our complex world? And why should we imagine that what people want in any sense reflects what God desires for us as a nation? But if we are committed to democracy and to the democratic accountability of those in power by means of general elections, then we need to call for some serious revision of the system we currently have.

In relation to the theological context of these issues, from my discussions with friends online and in person across the political spectrum, it seems to me that three main things are needed.

First, Christians must be in the forefront of engaging with those of different views with honesty, respect and patience. I have been intrigued to read of Christian friends, including clergy, who appear to assume that everyone shares either their joy or their grief at the election result, as if there is only one possible Christian response to it. C S Lewis was absolutely right when he commented that, to many people he will look socially conservative because of his belief in the importance of family, relationships, honesty, responsibility and accountability. But to many he will also look socially liberal because of his belief in creating a caring society where the weakest and most vulnerable are provided for. I don’t know many  friends who would disagree with these two concerns; but the reality is that one political tradition emphasises one, whilst the other main tradition emphasises the other, and this leads Christians to vote in different ways depending on how they rank these issue in importance. It is therefore incumbent on us to ensure that we are listening to and understanding those who would vote in a different way from us, so that we can continue to reflect on our own understanding and priorities.

Secondly, we need to disentangle our political concerns from questions of the coming of the kingdom. I have been fascinated to see, amongst friends on all sides, a hope that somehow God’s agenda for our nation might in some way be delivered by a particular party coming to power. We need to remember that we are not saved by politicians or political systems. But more than that—we need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that, as the values of our culture move further and further from historic Christian values, this is somehow bad for the church or the gospel. It certainly will make life more challenging for all those who seek to follow Jesus. But it simply is not the case that people in a culture closer to historical Christian ethical values find it easier to come to faith. The church has consistently grown fastest in cultures that are more alien, where Christian faith stands out as distinctive.

Thirdly, we need to think more clearly about what Paul says about government in Romans 13. His affirmation that the powers that be exercise only power that is given by God needs to be put alongside his own apocalyptic outlook, and read in conjunction with Rev 13 which tells us that political systems can also do the devil’s work. Paul affirms, as a Jew who is committed to the idea of the sovereignty of God, that all power comes from God alone, and that God’s opposition to evil is not about a dualistic fight between equal partners, but about the sovereign Lord bringing his kingdom to reign in the end. But in saying this, he is articulating the same belief as Jesus did before Pilate: ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above’ (John 19.11). This is hardly an endorsement of Pilate’s appointment or affirmation of his actions as mandated by God—and I see no reason to think either of these things in relation to a particular party coming first in our distorted democratic process.

What we need to do is to continue to preach the gospel, continue to contend for the truth and for justice, and continue to challenge our culture about their values and agenda. If those in power welcome this and listen, all well and good; if they don’t, we will continue to proclaim what is right.

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61 thoughts on “Making (theological) sense of the election result”

  1. “Thirdly, it was dishonest. This has been described as ‘our first post-truth election’. ”

    Really? Since when have parliamentary election campaigns ever been honest? Only difference this time was that dishonesty was amplified and manipulated by social media. I think that electorates are sufficiently intelligent to take political claims with a pinch of salt. I would have thought they are more interested in what politicians do rather than what they say.

    • They have never been as dishonest as this one, and I am not sure I am persuaded by the argument ‘Politicians have always lied, so let’s not get too worried about this time around’.

      I have added in some other comments in that section that I omitted first time around.

      But social media now amplifies all that. So even if people have only been as dishonest as before, the impact is more, so we should be more concerned. See my new first para under ‘theological reflection’.

      • Hari says as Ian quotes above “In Britain today, we have a centre-left majority who want this to be a country with European-level taxes, European-standard public services and European-level equality.” I have lived in France for 18 years – they have persistent high unemployment of some 10% and in the region we lived in it was 25% with youth unemployment even higher. it is actually a very unequal society. Francois Holland pursued such a high public spending and high tax scenario and as President Macron tries to introduce a greater fairness those that have benefited from the French “equality” – mainly public sector employees – are now out on the streets trying to stop him.

        • Thanks Colin. Who can disagree that France has these problems? And with them Italy, Spain and Greece. That is why some commentators think that, politically and economically, this is a good moment to leave the EU—and they might be right.

          But that is not the case everywhere. And Hari’s point is *not* whether the British electorate are right about their view—he is merely pointing out that that is their view, and that it has never been realised by means of General Elections. I think he is right.

  2. Were the electorate fooled?

    Even with all the analysis, or perhaps because of it, this seems to be, yet again, what Cummings, I think, said is a “doubling down” on your position, which lost. Again. You just don’t seem to get it. Certainly, not so far as Blyth Valley is concerned. The vote was not an elaborate twitter feed.

    If the tweet going the rounds is about the high street in Scunthorpe, perhaps all commerce should be nationalised, particularly the high street. Let that sink in.
    A fascinating insight into the Conservative campaign was in The Sunday Telegraph with contributions from the Australian and Newzealander who were prominent. It even extended into the way they used focus groups which differed from others. The term Get Brexit Done came not from some PR but the words used in a focus group.

    To me, Ian, you and most of the media, subsequent to the election, still don’t get it.

    Heaven for fond that the country is led by an extended General Synod, or twitter feeds.

    In fact a little like the last session of a no majority parliament

    Just what level of median knowledge and intelligence is required to vote?

    • Thanks Geoff–but can you say what it is that you think I don’t get?

      We did not get the Government that most people voted for. We did not get the approach to Europe that most people in the UK want.

      You might be happy with the outcome, but I don’t see how it is possible to argue that we have ended up with what people wanted. The numbers show that is not the case.

      • Who says I’m happy with the outcome? I live in a (still) labour stronghold (and remain) where the MP is well regarded, though she had more than a 10% reduced share of the vote. I suspect the reduction was not because of her personally.

        Our house received two Lib/Dem cards, a labour leaflet and a last minute letter of fear from the the Labour MP, quite rightly pointing out that the conservative candidate lived at the other end of the country.

        The numbers of parliamentary seats shows that it “is the case.” We live in a FPTP system. You need to campaign for a different system, if you are so strongly opposed to it. It is interesting that opposition is highest when results go against.

        While we do not live in a presidential system, the leadership should show leadership.

        Labour, unfortunately did, it was was muddled but at heart extreme and nasty. Long gone are the days when the leadership knew their roots and trades unions were in the Tolpuddle martyrs, Methodism.

        Lib/Dems, were just extreme, sadly not helped by their leader seen as anti-democratic and at the most basic level of male/female, fatally flawed.

        People were sick and tired of the vox pop stuff peddled by the media much of had their own purposes to serve. And that continues, as it keeps itself employed, as it hones in on undermining the government, even before it has started.

        I was present when Caroline Flint, as Minister for Health, opened one of Blair Government’s innovations, a Walk-in Centre. She seemed young and and enthusiastic. Now, she seems to be one of the few of labour with wisdom and integrity (voting the way of her leave constituents.)

        As for lying, are you really saying this should be weighed in the balance, who lied, who sinned the most. Also a distinction needs to be made, I’d suggest, between lies and hype, to make an underlying point.

        Really, Ian, the Sunday Telegraph, is fascinating.

        Evidently, Cummings went around the country listening to people (and that’s hard to do on the London Underground -no one talks). It wasn’t listening to metropolitan champagne socialists, luvvies, and academics and their twitter feeds.

        They are the opposite end of the spectrum from the new, young female Labour MP from the Nottingham, Meadowell Estate. Perhaps she’s too young to have forgotten her roots.

        Perhaps, we all need to get out more. And listen as part of everyday conversations, with everyday people. It is becoming harder.

        • Hi Geoff, Yes, my understanding, I think it was from an analysis given on the Andrew Marr show, is that the Conservatives did not rely on social media, which Cummings saw as a “rabbit hole” and not representative of the wider community. I know Ian has statistics on his side but in my conversations with people they were remarkably astute in their analysis of the effect of their own voting intentions. What people say in answer to surveys and what they do in the poll booth is often

        • ‘You need to campaign for a different system, if you are so strongly opposed to it.’ Well I have actually.

          Yes, I think Cummings does listen to what people say. But he is also a past master at levering that to hit the ‘hot buttons’. And he is ruthless in doing so.

      • This election was no different from any in the past, at least as far as the Government that people wanted. No party in government has had more than 50% of the vote since before at least 1970, so for more than 50 years the majority of the people havent got the Government they wanted (if I remember correctly Theresa May got in on just 35% of the vote). But that is the perverted system we have. In this election, I find it truly bizarre that despite the Conservatives winning 13m votes and Labour 10m, there is such a difference in MP seats. But I dont see things changing for a very long time, if ever.

        As for Brexit, I dont think anyone can be sure what people want now. I get the impression that many, including remainers like myself, just want it done and dusted asap. There are pros and cons of leaving and staying in the EU but we have to do one or the other, and 3 years ago the democratic vote was to leave. That should be respected (how would remainers react if the vote had gone their way and 3 years later others were demanding another referendum because people were allegedly so stupid not to see through the lies on both sides?)

        No, we should leave, and hopefully the EU will play ball, for their own sake if not ours.


  3. Your second conclusion is the most important. It is not politicians who will bring about the ‘New Jerusalem’ – if you’ll forgive the short-hand here.

    I tend to favour the party which historically has made the country more wealthy and influential, so that it has the capability to spend on social needs, and to argue for improvements nationally and internationally. First past the post does produce a form of distortion but it usually produces a parliament which can support a government in decisive policies rather than a talking-shop which achieves little.

    Christian activism should be at the level of influencing opinions, the politicians should listen to widely held opinions.

    • “I tend to favour the party which historically has made the country more wealthy and influential, so that it has the capability to spend on social needs, and to argue for improvements nationally and internationally”

      That’s reasonable reasoning…. but do you really think that the national inequalities (eg N/S though London v the rest) really demonstrates this by happening ? Off the cuff… Transport subsidy in London is around £900 per person… NW around £400 and in Yorkshire £270.

      I’m unconvinced that I should tie my vote to any party but move it to try to correct the imbalance that comes with bring “in power” too long.

      Politicians of every hue should listen to the nation as a whole… but evidence of this is a tad thin.

  4. Thank you, Ian. Provocative as ever.

    Lots to comment on, and I’m sure people will, but to pick up on your last point about being our current system being unrepresentative – I’m not so sure.

    I’ve never been too convinced by PR – to me politics is largely decided by tribal identities (the ‘granny would turn in her grave’ effect…..), managing small coalitions within the bigger parties – eg socialists and social democrats both within Labour – and all connected in some ways to the voters. I suspect that what would happen under PR is that those mini- coalitions would realign, maybe under different party tags. Yes we might get a bigger ‘Lib Dem’ representation, but that party would be rather different to the one we have now, and not necessarily in a way current LibDems would approve of.

    Equally, turning to that Electoral Reform Society graphic. I think politics and policy setting is a lot more nuanced than it implies.

    It’s noticeable, for instance, that that graphic excludes the Brexit Party (I wonder why? Surely not dishonesty, of course….). The Brexit Party got zero MPs on slightly fewer votes to the Greens (= Infinity votes per MP !!). On one level the system is not ‘fair’ to the Brexit Party……but of course Farage & co have completely changed the direction of the country in the last few years.

    What happens is that if ‘minority-interest parties’ get to a certain size the big parties start to fear them taking away some of their votes in marginal constituencies, and ‘tack’ their policies in the direction of the minority party to neutralise the risk. So the small parties can still have ‘soft’ influence, even if not official power. That can actually help the smaller parties, who can promote their agendas without experiencing some of the harder realities of power – as the LibDems of course found out in 2010-15, and maybe the DUP have in this last election.

    So yes the Green party has only 1 MP, but the wider green agenda is still moving on in the hands of the big parties….not to the extent the Greens would like, I’m sure, but it’s certainly a lot more visible than it was a few decades ago.

    So for me I think our complex ‘eco-system’ does give a decent amount of representation, even if it works differently to countries where PR is the main system.

    • Thanks for the comments. The only reason the Brexit party is not on the graphic is that they gained no seats.

      I wouldn’t disagree that the situation is more nuanced than the bare numbers suggest. But if that is good, why not go the whole hog? What is the compelling reason *not* to use a fairer system? On what grounds can we justify this unfairness?

      Poeple love to cite the bad examples—but the good ones work really well by all accounts.

      • The fact the Brexit Party got zero MPs on maybe half a million votes surely strengthens the ERS’s case !! As well as your own reason I can think of 2 others why the ERS might not choose to include them on a graphic: firstly people aren’t good at maths and the idea of a number divided through by zero would be lost on them, and also….and maybe I’m being far too cynical here….the ERS graphic is pitched at left-leaning Remainers and they edited accordingly. Having the Brexit Party at the top would mean fewer shares on Social Media. But as I say I’m probably far too cynical to even think that.

        For me the basal reason to retain FPTP is democratic: we had a referendum about the voting system in 2011, where many different reasons to change to AV were aired, but people clearly voted (68%) for the current system. Other PR systems weren’t voted on, of course, and of course the underlying debate will continue and pop up from time to time, but there’s no reason to suspect great appetite for any change among the majority of voters.

        • One of the problems with PR as I see it is that if almost forces politicians to go back on their campaigning promises if coalitions are formed and horse trading and deals have to be done in order to gain a share of power. The electorate have no say when this happens. This is what I think Nick Clegg found out to his cost when he was in coalition with the conservatives.

          • True but that’s compromise for you. I think the LDs were poorly treated by the electorate – obviously they couldnt keep their promises as they werent in full control. But at least, it seems, they reined back the Conservatives on some of their austerity plans. Funny how £billions are suddenly available – it seems the ‘magic money tree’ is in full bloom.

          • Indeed. A change in system would bring plenty of unintended consequences, many of which would reduce representation in practical terms. Yes more people would get a government which includes the ‘colour’ they voted, but would they get the policies, the leader, the local representation?

        • To my mind the AV referendum was flawed by the choice on offer (as well as by being rushed in by the Coalition agreement rather than as a response to popular debate). I had intended to spoil my ballot paper by writing “Proper PR – no shabby compromise” (i.e. quoting Nick Clegg), but in the last few days of the campaign decided to vote for AV because I was so incensed by the claims of the diehard FPTP supporters that anything else would be the end of civilisation (or at least that’s how it sounded).
          I also believe the names are wrong. Our current system for Westminster (various forms of PR work effectively in the European Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and local councils) isn’t truly First Past the Post because there isn’t a post – it’s just who gets furthest from the start line. AV could properly be called FPTP.

      • I see no reason why PR is any “fairer” than FPTP. At least with FTPT at each election every politician has to face individual electors face to face. I live in Wales, where we tried PR and got Neil Hamilton.

        • And others of different opinions.
          I am far from being a supporter of the Conservative Party or the Brexit Party, but it is not healthy for democracy for them to be suppressed. PR allowed the Tories to have members in the Scottish Parliament when under First Past the Non-Existent Post (see my other comment here) they would have had none. For those of us who do not aspire to be king of the world, this better balance of opinions should be a good thing.

  5. The actual vote numbers for each party are available on the WIkipedia page for the 2019 GE, they are also available for the 2017 and 2015 elections. They make interesting reading. There were about 400K fewer votes in 2019 than 2017 (a total of little over 13M). The Conservatives received 300K more votes in 2019, but Labour received 2.6M less. However, they did poll more votes than in 2015. The big benficiaries were the Lib Dems – 1.3M more votes, the SNP gained 260K more (from a smaller consitituency, of course) and the Greens 300K more. The Brexit party polled 640K, about 2% of the poll. They did only stand in about half the seats, I believe, but they only came third in the seat where there was the best chance of them winning.

    It is the Lib Dems who have the most to complain about the system, despite increasing their share of the poll by 50% from ~7% to ~11%, they lost one seat overall. I think they probably lost out in the Scottish swing to the SNP.

    The interesting detail which I have not seen anyone comment on is the swing to the centre (as it were) in Northern Ireland. It did not result in many changes, but the SLDP and Alliance together increased their vote from about 24% to 37%.

    I conclude two things:

    – Labour lost the election rather than the Conservatives winning it.

    – The results in Scotland and NI might well indicate that we are on the path to these leaving the union.

    • The Conservatives won it because of their strong stance on Brexit and the Brexit Party’s decision to remove themselves from many key constituencies, ensuring a Tory win.

      As for Scotland, they voted to remain in the UK by a majority vote, in the full knowledge there was going to be an Eu referendum within a couple of years. They had their chance and failed. Just because the SNP got the most votes doesnt mean they can ignore the millions of Scots who want to remain in the UK.

      As for NI, I dont see that happening for a very long time, if ever. Brexit could very well be good for NI’s economy if the current proposals go through. If so, why would you want to join with Ireland and the Euro?!


      • The vote numbers show that there was not a big shift the Conservatives. The big shift from 2017 was to remain parties. The Brexit party was in the end insignificant, although it would be interesting to see if the Conservatives would have lost seats if ~4% of votes had gone to the Brexit party.

        As for this:
        As for Scotland, they voted to remain in the UK by a majority vote, in the full knowledge there was going to be an Eu referendum within a couple of years. They had their chance and failed. Just because the SNP got the most votes doesnt mean they can ignore the millions of Scots who want to remain in the UK.

        So, leave got the most votes in the referendum, but that doesn’t mean the brexiteers can ignore the millions of Britons who want to remain in the EU.

        I don’t think it was clear that there would be a referendum on EU membership within two years of the Scottish referendum. Rather, the ‘No’ campaign was on the basis that the UK would remain in the EU.

        Most independent economists think that leaving the EU will not benefit the UK. In addition, the ‘harder’ the UK leaves, the worse the result. The markets seem to agree. On the news that the Brexit bill is to be ammended to prevent the end of the transition going beyond 2020, the pound has fallen signficantly.

  6. This is the predictable leftie bad loser rant, though I accept that some valid points are buried among the rubble. (It starts not too bad but just gets more leftie as it goes on.)
    No mention of all the left-wing falsehoods, such as not respecting the referendum, saying that only the top 5% will pay more income tax, that WASPI women have been unfairly treated, that the plans are fully costed, and that nationalised industries will pay for themselves through bonds. The Labour manifesto was full of ludicrous promises; as Stephen Kinnock (Labour MP) said, it read like a Christmas wish list.
    Another point completely missed is that the electorate is not stupid. They can see through exaggerations, versioning and the suchlike. And they did, on both sides.
    There is an article to be written on the theological implications of the election, but it needs to be by someone else.

    • Thanks for commenting Robert…but no thanks for not attending to what I actually said.

      Saying that the referendum needs review isn’t a ‘falsehood’; it is a policy you don’t like. I would have hoped your professional training would have helped you tell the difference.

      I admire your confidence that the electorate can see through falsehood—though it didn’t appear to affect the vote when it came to the lies that were repeated throughout the campaign.

      If you have anything to say on the actual facts that I highlight above, like the importance of the number who did not vote, the appeal to men like never before, and the impact of differential fundraising, I look forward to hearing it.

    • – referendum – correct, bad decision on Labour’s (and LD’s) part
      – top 5% – I think this is incorrect, only those earning more than £80,000 a year would have been paying more tax (that guy in the QT audience was simply wrong thinking he was not in the top 5%)
      – WASPI women were treated unfairly. Though many others have also, eg public servants suddenly having an additional 7 years or more added onto their retirement age.
      -plans were as fully costed as anyone else’s.
      – not sure about bonds, but I do wonder if renationalising the likes of BT would indeed be a good idea given their £10 billion profits in a given year.

    • Wow that’s mean.

      People who follow Ian know he is a passionate remainer and leans left but I thought this article was rather brilliant. He changes gear regularly from expressing personal views to theological one. We all have great insights but the difference is that Ian manages to write articles with so much depth of insight every twenty-four hours.

      The comments I make below are from someone who has voted on both sides of politics – I’m suspicious of the idea that there is anything in creation, whether it’s the presence or absence of government, or capitalism, or NATO, or the UN, or the unions, that doesn’t get used by God for good. That isn’t the best instrument at some moment. I have this view too about nations of the world. To someone who says that a particular nation cannot reach us anything I say With great humility “You dummy! Do you think that God would make the world that way?” Some for example think the French are crazy but they teach us to eat well without eating too much, my country of Australia teaches teamwork, the Africans are teaching us about recycling. And so on.

      I wasn’t expecting it in the article but there amidst many things I had not considered there were two that I had already privately considered but did not expect to see:
      – that it was probably men who had turned to the Tories
      – this idea about wanting to be strong but wrong.
      Bingo! I think these are huge. Ian said it was about personalities but I think these are the real drivers below this choice of personalities.

      The biggest concern for the UK in this election is what I believe to be the evidence that there is an idea about manhood existing within men which is deeply corrupt:
      – that an effective man “gets things done”
      – that a man must appear to be competent – it’s as important or more important than he actually be so – that he have the right word for the cameras and be a good manager. As if when he gets to heaven God will say “I was no fan of your policies but my you were a good manager!”
      – that a useful man must be an expert at making himself popular with others.

      This idea is in the church here – the comfort that people to draw from behaviour in churches such as:
      – removing our sin from the message and also the holiness of God
      – having a cool image (to help insecure people feel like they are somebodies)
      Full time ego massaging. Weak leader who refuse to tell the truth for fear of offending.

      I predict that Labour will screw up at this point. They will turn from Corbyn’s strengths, believing there are none, and instead follow the people rather than show them the way forward. And it will be disastrous for them. If it takes them five years to learn they will be in electoral oblivion five years from now.
      Ian said it – the conservative’s lead isn’t as large as it looks.

      The church is currently losing the war as to what a good man looks like – I’m a complementarian but I can see why egalitarian women (and others too?) wish they could walk all over men right now – because they are MIA. They are real girly men – not Jeremy Corbyn girly men.

      Nice work Ian.

  7. Some interesting comments. This will be another of those recent elections beloved of psephologists. Once again, all was not as it seemed.

    The turnout was similar to last time,

    yet the Conservatives did not really gain many.

    The Liberals lost in terms of seats but gained in terms of votes.

    Labour dwindled to normal socialist levels as for Michael Foot.

    Should Scotland secede – not the easiest thing to implement – the Conservatives will win in the remodelled UK for the foreseeable future. The more so if the constituency map is redrawn to match numbers of votes more closely to constituency boundaries. Not necessarily a logical move.

    I do not see a Corbynite such as Rebecca Long-Bailey turning the tide, given that Corbynbism (of which Jeremy Corbyn is one of the milder-mannered representatives) lost the election. I think Sir Keir Starmer is a very ambitious man and would be minded to give Boris Johnson a run for his money. 2 heavyweights certainly, though it is gravitas that one longs for. I had a bad experience with him when he was DPP. It is courtesy of his rulings and his office that I have now learned (re the Aisling Hubert case) these 2 pearls:
    (1) saying that something is in ”the public interest” (even though it breaks the law) is not something that one has to consult any actual members of the public about;
    (2) By law red can be voted green. There is no obligation on the law to mirror reality.
    So the law is always to some extent a private fantasy alternative-reality of convenience. This being so, it can potentially be so to a very large extent.

  8. Christopher<
    As an ex solicitor I thought that the office of DPP was too politicised by Starmer in the way he conducted it , nothwithstanding it is a political appointment. As a consequence I don't hold him in great political esteem particularly as evidence in what is admittedly extremely media edited parliamentary contributions.
    As far as public policy is concerned, I think you may be making a point which escapes many who are not in the law, but I'm unsure what you are getting at. An example of "unwritten" public policy, in application of law in cases, would be the avoidance of multiplicity of legal actions, such as cases against public bodies.
    What has happened to the the contraction of the Magistrates Courts system of local justice under a national legal system may also be a case of an underlying, unwritten change in (political) public policy under camouflage of economics, of financial savings. I do however acknowledge that there may be policy papers of which I'm unaware.

  9. PS, Christopher,
    An example of political public policy in application in law is the issue of, admittedly written. Crown Prosecution Service guidelines – factors to be taken into account in prosecution decisions. I received a copy when becoming an agent in Magistrates Courts for the CPS. They will have differed under Starmer from those I worked under.

    • In the context of his possibly becoming Labour leader, it is worth noting the details of the Aisling Hubert case.

      Doctors had clearly broken the law, no question. They were also rich. They were also unprincipled.

      She was standing up for the law against lawbreakers. She was also poor. She was also principled, putting ‘standing up for what is right’ above a potential (which became actual) massive monetary loss.

      So whom did the DPP support? The powerful and the in-crowd.

      • Thanks Christopher,
        Perhaps to my shame, I wasn’t aware of the case. And I still don’t know a great deal. Generally, private prosecutions are by an aggrieved party with a personal interest and public policy would generally go against private prosecutions. The doctors are likely to have been funded by a medical defence union, fund, insurance.
        I’ve not been able to find much on the internet that contains Starmer’s reasoning, but as a matter of law on the face of it, it seemed difficult to justify a state, Crown prosecution which would have to succeed, before a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt.
        And a crime is at the simplest level, an act against the state, that is the laws of the state, legislation.
        It would be interesting to find out Starmer’s reasoning which, from what I’ve read, admittedly very limited, has been said to be muddled, confused. Maybe, you can point me in the right direction. But so far I’ve not had my opinion of Starmer changed, not so that he’d be considered as a heavyweight politician, when most of his life in the law was out of the Public eye, not subject to close public scrutiny of policy and pronouncement, and which is the point that drew me into making a response to you.

        • By ‘heavyweight’ I suppose I meant someone who has held high office (like Boris Johnson as well), not merely a career politician.

          I am tone deaf to legal matters but it does seem to me unspeakable that people in authority have laws and just assume that the thing to do is ignore them. It is manipulative and double minded – and one saw it in the Hubert case, as one sees it with cannabis and with abortion.

  10. I offer my opponents a bargain. If they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them.
    – Adlai Stevenson

  11. BTW,
    Can anyone out there save me from my particular ignorance. I already have a Saviour.
    How was the new appointment to Archbishop of York made?
    FPTP, transferable votes, simple majority, by the democratic vote of the General Synod, of all clergy? Was it in camera? Was it by “executive membership” only? Is it in furtherance of the Kingdom of God, of politics, even church politics of a national state church?
    Any pertinent political, theological, comparisons to be made? Surely, are some there are some political continuities and discontinuities, some arguments for a more democratic system!?
    For the avoidance of doubt, this is of no criticism at all about the elected incumbent to be, as I know nothing at all about him, though I think his name has appeared on this blog in the past.

    • “I know nothing at all about him, though I think his name has appeared on this blog in the past.”

      You are quite right. This is the most recent I think.

      I’m aware there’s some controversy around his appointment (when isn’t there?), even if I’m not entirely sure what it is. It seems from some cursory googling that a CofE school governor (speaking for more than one person) complained to to the bishop about an activist group, the Mermaids, coming to the school (or potentially coming). The controversy is that the outcome of this seems to be that people who complained were forced to leave their roles. That’s what they say anyway.

      I should note, in the interest of fairness, that the CofE press dpt released a statement yesterday countering what the above “pressure group” said, and defending the Bishop.

      This is an aside though, and as it’s quite possible the whole issue may be addressed in a subsequent article, leading Ian to delete this.

  12. I appreciate that in your grief and for the purposes of effectiveness you want to put forward a single, uncompromising message which disregards nuance, debate, and even the facts. However, I don’t think that’s useful. To take just a few points for brevity sake:

    The ‘Mental Health Nurse/Mental Health Nursing Assistant’ “lie”. My first thought was that although this may be technically considered a lie according to the ‘1942 Blah Blah Description’ act, but would not in real life and discourse outside a legal framework. In actual fact it isn’t even legally a lie. It is simply not a lie. It is just that some Labour-supporting Union boss would rather the law were different so that instead of ‘Nurses’ being the general terms for ‘Nursing Assistants’ and ‘Registered Nurses’ that instead it was the term for ‘Registered Nurses’, (presumably the real term would be something different). That may be what she wants. It may not be what you want. But it isn’t the current reality. To call that a lie is a straight-forward lie, and if that is really one of your three big examples then you need to take out the beam in your own eye.

    (As an aside, if you and the union of registered nurses do get their way, I you sure that you would remember never to call ‘Nursing Assistants’ nurses, or would you probably make a liar of yourself if the opportunity presented itself?)

    Secondly, Brexit Party seem happy with Boris’ stonking majority. Tory voters are obviously happy with Boris’ stonking majority. Non-voters, as the saying goes, cannot complain. That is a comfortable majority.

    Thirdly, a proper look at the numbers shows that Boris won because the British people rejected Corbyn and his anti-Semitism. The fact that FPTP helped keep the anti-Semite out of power is an advantage of it. FPTP allows the British people to collectively reject what the British people know is wrong despite the natural inertia and sluggishness of voting patterns. If Corbyn somehow got into power from this result, it would repulse anyone not overcome with partisanship or enamoured with Corbyn’s particular brand of ‘Not the Jew’ hard-leftness.

    Fourthly, FPTP is the vehicle for moderation. But it doesn’t make a religion out of moderation and it doesn’t create the ‘centrist boot stamping on your face forever’ problem. The Conservative party is a moderate coalition because that is how you win these elections. The Labour party will have to become again a moderate coalition if it hopes to win again. As mentioned above, our system means that the larger coalitions have to make their promises before the election and then be had to account on delivering them, in means that the smaller single-issues such as Green and UKIP exert power by putting pressure on the coalitions. It also stops the Lib Dems being in constant government to breed anger and frustration from those who want rid.

    ‘Headlines in the week before the election claimed that ‘10,000 voters will determine the outcome’. Given the polarisation of the main parties on so many issues, that is an appalling state for us to be in as a democracy.’ What is? Newspapers writing what headline they please? I would be very surprised if that headline was true. But even if it were it is still a democracy because it is always a different 10,0000. It gives ordinary British people the power since the backroom deals are made first and then we vote and we decide how we are governed, rather than we vote the backroom deals to decide how they’ll govern us.

    Fifthly, it is true that a lot of the figures are in real per-capita terms the same as 2010. So what? I don’t think that’s particularly important. If you think otherwise then you are welcome to point it out to people. Does it change minds. We do not have ‘post-truth’ politics, we have “making a pitch we don’t like, is a lie!”. In ’79 would you have called Thatcher a liar since a lot of people were, in fact, “working”? There is more to the world than just fact that are convenient and easily at hand. If your keys are not under the lamppost, does that mean that there are no keys? Yes, the numbers are the same in 2010. But in 2010, they were unsustainable wasted malinvestments. Now, the Tories have fixed the public finances and they can be the new normal. Not quite as easy to put into a Factcheck or barchart, I admit.

    Nobody is rejecting facts. some people are making an idol of facts*. Grasping at the convenient things so that they can reject the difficult and fallible business of thinking. Our inteligensia has regressed from Materialism to group-think and ‘Nobody gets fired for buying IBM’ rather than a williness to go out there, think, and stake out a position (a rather worthless intelligentsia to have). It is common for pundits to defend wrongness of their predictions, by appealing to the rightness of their facts. Nobody makes decisions based on the facts that they can name. They base it on the world that they can see. Neither you nor Cummings can obscure things that well to fool the British people from Banff and Buchan to St Ives.

    *If you guffaw at that idea, then you are victim to it. You don’t find this statistical worship in the Bible or Burke, or anything else worth reading. It is our particular disease, and as such you won’t know it if you are victim to it.

      • I think we agree, then – no legitimate account can be taken of their views.

        I asked because I noted your comment that:

        That is true – in fact, it’s been said for each of the elections I can remember for the past fifty years (and I’ve just checked, it was also true of the Attlee landslide in 1945).

        But what follows from that in terms of how we should view the result? It’s far from obvious to me – especially as not voting can be a rational act.

        I’m probably missing something obvious . . .

      • I have sometimes wondered what would happen if seats were left vacant to represent non-voters. I’ve never seen a figure before so I was interested to learn that after last week’s election this would mean 142 “Apathy Party”* seats. (I’m surprised it isn’t more.) If this was to be done, it might focus the minds of politicians of all parties on the real concerns and problems of those who are disengaged from politics as we know it. However it would also amplify the distorting effect of FPTP, as it is most likely to occur in marginal constituencies, meaning that the potential to change a government is reduced.

        * This is my name for it, but I recognise that apathy is not the only reason for not voting.

      • I did not vote, because I could not in all conscience vote for any of the programs offered to the electorate. I could not vote Conservative because of their refusal to put the negotiated EU deal to a confirmatory vote. They made Brexit the make-or-break, win-or-lose issue in an election that should have been about a host of other things – to me this was an abuse of democracy. I could not vote Liberal or Green because of their stance on abortion, LGBTQ etc. I could not vote Labour for the same reasons that most of the electorate didn’t – including the shameless pie-in-the-sky bribery.

        Suppose, hypothetically, only 10% of the electorate voted. If nothing else, would not cognisance have to be taken of the implicit message that most of the other 90% could not identify with any of the parties? That democracy was in crisis?

        For the above reasons, I am glad there is no legal obligation to vote. Proportional representation would be a preferable way of addressing the case for compulsory voting.

        I thought your analysis was excellent.

  13. So I take it you aren’t happy about the election results.

    Your eight observations frame the election thusly. “The wrong side won. The election outcome was illegitimate. I have no reason to respect the outcome as a legitimate democratic result.” That framing is so partisan, the rest of the piece doesn’t matter. By that point you are only preaching to those who already agree with you.

    • Joe Swinson in her speech acknowledging defeat said that “millions were now going to live in dread” because of what the electroate had decided. In other words how callous (and stupid?) have they been to inflict misery on people who think like her? Andrew Marr called it a gracious speech. The media was dominated by this sort of response in the days after the election. For example in Have I Got News For You the panellists all virtue signalled there commiserations to the population based on the fact that Labour had lost. Except Paul Merton who kept out of it. This I think is a persistent problem that misleads researchers. My two closest Christian friends virtue signal their support for Labour at every opportunity but to my personal knowledge they do their utmost – up to the edge of legality – to avoid paying taxes. I wonder what they do in the polling booth?

      • It’s called having your cake and eating it, aka champagne socialism. A very tempting option if it is seen as legitimage which it now is. As well as the obvious association with Animal Farm and the Russia it pillories etc, I would date this both/and thinking (e.g. ‘I can be trashy and also brainy’ etc etc) in the UK as starting from about 20 years ago. Maybe it has a lot in common with Blairism, or maybe it is the inevitable result of a certain stage of economic prosperity.

  14. At the heart of political difference is the way we see the world. And how we see the world broadly determines the set of values to which we hold; and our values broadly determine how we will view specific policies. It’s commonly accepted that people’s political values are either conservative or liberal.

    Conservatives believe in the importance of the nation and those things that go to make up a nation: family; home; the importance of place; race / religion / culture; the nation’s physical geography; protection of borders; the face one’s nation presents to the rest of the world. They tend to see things in terms of quality of life based on experience of what works well: following the grain of nature rather than challenging it for ideological reasons; they probably view class divisions as an unavoidable outcome of human interaction. They tend to mistrust grand political visions.

    Liberals see themselves as individuals who are guided by today’s reasoning; attached to no particular locality; free to act according to individual choice; belonging to the great mass of humanity rather than family / community or nation; notionally intent on eliminating class divisions; beneficiaries of universal ‘human rights’; globalists; driven more by individual economic consideration than national interest or even stability; not sympathetically attuned to the workings and rhythms of the natural world. They’re more likely to be attracted by grand political visions of a global or ideological nature.

    I think it’s important to be clear that our current political parties do not align accurately with these basic differences in values. And we will all have our own observation of where people from the different social strands tend to sit or whether there are different alignments between metropolis, town and village. Most of us probably recognise where we approve of different policies from different political parties all at the same time and so find it pretty hard to know where to place our vote. Tribal party loyalists (whether of a conservative or liberal leaning) presumably think that their own values or their own best interest will, by definition, be represented by the party they have always supported; in essence they have outsourced their thinking to the party – the upside to that kind of intellectual vacuity is that they are never troubled by the tedious business of engaging with election debates!

    I’ll come off the fence and suggest that Christians must surely be natural conservatives. This implies not so much any particular party allegience as the responsibility to weigh up which party most nearly shares their own values. Needless to say this means that they need to remain consciously engaged with how politics is played out between elections rather than switch on to the less than satisfactory presentation of information which politicians and the media offer over a 3 week period.

    As for the voting system (and as someone who had no palatable choice at the 2019 election), I think that FPTP is undemocratic: it regularly forces a significant proportion of voters to vote for something they don’t agree with for fear of getting something even worse. As such, no election result (even the raw voting figures) can be taken as an accurate indication of what voters actually think or what they would like to see happen. However, while PR voting would partially solve that problem, and therefore be more democratic, it runs the risk of producing less stable governments (and therefore more destructive flip-flopping of policies) where hard, long term decisions may be more difficult to make.

    I’m not sure whether our political engagement can ever be done on the assumption that the process should be fair, that politicians will act honourably, and that a careful audit of policies in manifestos will guide you to the right way to vote. I think it’s far more to do with values, instincts, visceral longings, and even the most basic of human reaction to the personalities of the big players in the game.

    But of one thing I am sure: however inadequate our democracy may be, it can only survive with losers’ consent. The utterly shameful three and a half years we’ve just endured has laid bare the risk to our national fabric when prime minister, government, parliament and judiciary conspired to ignore the people they are there to serve. Whatever the challenges of Brexit, they will be as nothing compared to what the task of repairing the nation would have been which that wretched group of people nearly broke because they refused to accept a democratic decision. As the central player, the Conservative Party in particular owes us a heartfelt apology for the part they played in that near disaster.

  15. To articulate a view related to the blog – the theology of elections and the choices we make. Is European culture/society more the product of Roman Catholicism than the UK? The corporate concepts of the RC church you still see in secular France: we all have lunch on Sunday – restaurants close Sunday evening – 24 December also – that is family day. Many saints days are still public holidays. Shop reduced price sales are dictated by the government and are scheduled at the same time – and the basic concept of dependency on the state – is that also a by-product of the RC church? The Remainers reflect such? While the Leavers have a more independent streak and reflect our fractured Protestantism? Just a thought.

  16. I’m not sure what others are reading. I thought this was a fairly non-partisan appraisal of the current situation…

    Perhaps I’m wrong? I mean, I certainly don’t agree with all of it but I agree with a lot as well. I’m definitely not convinced that this article speaks in favour of a particular political party and I think discarding the whole thing as “liberal lefty rubbish” (my paraphrase of some comments) is intellectually dishonest. I think you’d be hard-pressed to read a party allegiance here. If I had to conclude one I’d probably say the writer abstained.

    My responses would be thus.

    1. I’m not sure exactly what point you’re making here, but I can’t dispute the statistic. The question is therefore what weight we should give to the ‘non-voters’? I for one think you shouldn’t factor it in all and I rather dislike the statistical fudge that speaks of “…[X]% of the population” rather than “..[X]% of the vote” as it is almost always used deliberately to make the figure seem smaller, and the thus lessen the mandate. This was truer of the referendum than the election, but true for both nonetheless.

    Voters matter, non-voters don’t. If you did want to look at a portion of the vote as reflecting the dissatisfied you should look at the spoiled ballot figures, which in the absence of a “none of the above” box is about the best you’ve got. No one honest should stand on the false implication that the non-voters would have supported them.

    2. A) I agree here with the principle point, but I do not share your observations of Corbyn. I felt he had a bit more personal integrity and patience than he was often given credit for, and while I may feel a hostility to his party policies and some of his past actions/associations, I retained a grudging respect for his character that I cannot summon up for Boris. I am not sad that his party lost, or that he is stepping down as leader. I do feel for him though, and wish him no ill will; something I could not have said when Blair or Cameron stepped down. At least Cameron generally has the dignity to stay quiet.

    B) I absolutely agree that the PLP shot themselves in the foot on this one. They’re going to do it again too.

    3. I think this is overplayed, but important. The distressing thing to me is not that politicians lie, or twist the figures to suit a particular narrative, but that the electorate seem to expect them to. Some of my friends are Labour activists, and they seemed very annoyed that while Boris was prepared to “sling mud” at the Labour party to gain political capital, the Labour leadership weren’t prepared to sling it back. They viewed it as cowardice that their leaders weren’t prepared to ‘play the game’.

    As an aside to this point, Sajid Javid is a disgrace and should be ashamed of this lie in particular. It wasn’t even a distortion, or spin, it was just brazenly the opposite of the truth. I sincerely hope someone in the next few weeks forces him to apologise for this.

    4. Social media is an echo chamber. I agree with other commentators here that the impact of this money is probably overstated, and as conservative campaigners have repeatedly pointed out their engagement online seems largely to have reinforced positions already held, rather than convinced people to change their minds. In some ways you could see this as a positive; large donations from wealthy individuals shows business and finance’s confidence in a conservative government, or more cynically, their fear of a labour one. Probably the truth is somewhere between those poles: what business craves is certainty and stability, and Boris is the devil they know…

    5. This is interesting. I don’t think I disagree, but it would be interesting to see this unpacked in greater detail. A friend of mine commented to me that men as a general rule dislike waiting, and viewed the delays in parliament as dithering and/or prevaricating (even going so far as to see it as a character flaw in the leaders), while women tended to perceive that same delay as positive, as due caution, or honest reflection. Labour policy on Brexit viewed through this lens would always have made it a difficult sell, particular to a bored and frustrated electorate that just want it to be over (and damn the consequences). I don’t necessarily agree, but I thought it was an interesting idea.

    6. Absolutely. The Conservative party are just New Labour by a different name. Socially liberal, progressive and fairly centrist on economics; As Peter Hitchens wrote over the weekend, ‘one nation’ toryism and ‘party of the people’ rhetoric is precisely the sort of thing Alistair Campbell would have written, the only difference between the two being that Boris is quite intelligent enough to write that sort of stuff himself.

    7. Yes. But isn’t this always the case? I don’t know if this is an observation or a complaint. I think it is exactly this statistic that incentivises the opposition parties to offer 16 year olds the vote. They don’t want to, but pragmatically it would be a large boost to their votes. As a personal reflection on this, I don’t like the oft-repeated assertion that the older voters vote selfishly. Indeed, I think its the reverse. The older generations do not vote for themselves uncaring of the plight of the youth, but rather try and vote in their interests. They are as distressed by the housing crisis and wage disparity that denies their grandchildren the same privileges they had.

    8. See my comments on point one.

    In reflection I share the same concerns overall. I am a social conservative, distressed by the destruction of family life, of education and of healthcare, of our manufacturing base ,and try as I might I cannot see either party standing to reverse much of what has been lost.

    I have to hold out hope that compassion rather than pragmatism shapes the way in which our current politicians spend the next 5 years.


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