Theatre in Wales

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My 2019 Election Part 4: November 20th to the End

A Political Diary

Election Diary , Westminster General Election , December 13, 2019
A Political Diary by Election Diary The campaign has run out of freshness, the messages set in stone. It has ceased to matter what the subject is for Johnson. Whatever the question every response is the same 4-syllable answer. Rishi Sunak has stood in at a TV debate and done not badly. Richard Burgon and Rebecca Long Bailey came to Cardiff. The former did not appear to have read any briefing papers. The latter, who has never held elective office, was caught on the hop on a Welsh issue and appeared to issue instructions to the Health Minister in Wales.

Most of the front bench, and a lot of the good ones on both government and opposition, have been wholly absent from the campaign. Those who hold office outside London have played no part. Andy Burnham: “I wasn't asked to do anything by the national party and I do think I have something to offer.”

26th November:. “I want to be an honest broker” once again from an aspirant PM.

1st December: Labour strikes no pacts with other parties. The Greens are small but the Liberal Democrats get very irked when they are treated as an errant Labour party. This view that they are a diluting effect gets an airing online:

“We respect the views of those progressive Liberals and others who would wish to support one or other of the smaller parties of their choice. But by so doing they may help the Conservatives, or they may contribute to a situation in which there is no parliamentary majority for any major issue of policy.”

7th December- the anti-semitism enquiry gets a twist online to demonstrate virtue:

“Paradoxically, what’s given anti-semitism such a high media profile over the past couple of years is that fact that Labour members care so much about it and will not stop until it is driven out of the party.”

What has given it attention has been the treatment given to Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger.

The language is getting more strident. John McDonnell: “the economy is failing the vast majority of our population.” On the Tories: "they hate the people of this country."

Ian Lavery says Boris Johnson should be kicked out of Downing Street “like a dog”. It is not even a good simile as nobody nice kicks dogs.

December 13th: The aftermath brings many words.

The first message is “not to mistake your twitter feed for your country.” Most voters get on with their lives and do not do micro-blogging. Lord Wood says it is the first election which was free of programmes of government. The Tory campaign was slogans.

No-one has yet touched on the question of virtue. Labour increasingly turned towards a dichotomy of good versus bad. I wondered how far this plays. A good commentator, who deserves attention, spoke after tramping a northern constituency. She was being told there is a feeling that the Labour leadership was “not on Britain's side.”

I have no idea how much mileage is to be gained from harping on about billionaires and greedy bosses so repeatedly. Sweden has more than Britain, around 1 billionaire for 250,000 of population. They arouse no animosity. Here I suspect those like Dyson and Branson are not held as vehicles of evil.

Likewise I wonder about the appeal of transformations. This is characteristic. McDonnell: “When they come to write the history books...when your children or grandchildren ask you you can tell them: it all began when we voted Labour, when together we laid the foundations of the new society, foundations so deeply rooted no Tory could ever tear them up.”

In 1997 the manifesto that won had programmes of improvement. Transitions are understood to take two forms, phase transitions and non-equilibrium bifurcations. Their common feature is that modes of behaviour at the macro level ensue from mutual interactions of many individual components at the micro level. And they are intrinsically random.

This is not the Labour view of 2019. Economies are now interpreted as a complex evolving system, where catastrophe is as important as steadiness. Intellectually we seem to have wiped out a half-century of acquired understanding back to Douglas Jay and his “the gentleman in Whitehall really does know best.” The average voter is not going to be an expert on system theory. But there is gut feeling. For weeks it has been reported that the challenger lacks authenticity.

It has not been an edifying period. Laughter in a television studio at a prime minister has no precedent. Labour staffers were, according to reports, in the background whipping up a chant “Not-For-Sale” for a TV audience. Early on, both candidates for Number 10 had the lowest approval ratings ever. The phrase “nose-peg election” was coined and stuck.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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