Notes From the Margins…

Chronicle of a Coup Foretold

  • December 20, 2019
  • by

A week on, there is no way you can really look on the 2019 General Election that makes it feel any better than it did on the night. The bare facts speak for themselves. The single greatest concentration of conmen, chancers, fanatics and incompetents in British political history have been given a majority by the British electorate beyond their wildest dreams. An amoral, pampered charlatan whose entire career trajectory from journalist to politician is based on telling the Tory Party the lies it wants to hear, crushed Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in Labour’s own heartlands, sweeping up seats that have remained stolidly Labour for decades.

The Lib Dems also paid a price for their hubris and opportunism, and for an astonishingly misconceived ‘presidential’ campaign which raised the hapless Jo Swinson to a position she had done nothing to deserve and did not even begin to justify. But it is in relation to Labour that Johnson’s victory is most humiliating and difficult to swallow, because this was not just a triumph for the worst British politics has to offer; it was  a brutal and unequivocal repudiation of Corbyn and the Corbynite project in precisely those parts of the country that Corbynism most hoped to reach.

As shocking as it was, this result should not have come as a complete surprise. For weeks – and months – polls had indicated persistently that Corbyn’s personal ratings were plummeting. Some of this was not his fault. There is no doubt that Corbyn was subjected to one of the most vicious and sustained campaigns of vilification ever inflicted on a British politician, much of which was grossly unfair, manipulative and dishonest.

But the result cannot be blamed on a largely hostile right-wing media that will always seek to destroy any left-wing Labour politician….


My Piece for Ceasefire Magazine.  You can read the rest here

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  1. Mark

    20th Dec 2019 - 7:26 pm

    Lets just stop and consider how free broadband would NOT work for a moment and we have to be grateful JC&JM manifesto was not adopted by the electorate.

  2. Nik

    25th Dec 2019 - 11:18 am

    Good to have you back!

  3. Guano

    31st Dec 2019 - 12:59 pm

    You say in a Tweet of 17th December 2019 –

    “Principled, sensible leadership seeking to minimise damage and win some kind of consensus on the way forward would have argued from the start on a confirmatory vote on whatever deal was approved by parliament.”

    To some extent I agree with you. However that would reqire rising above the noise from

    (i) those on one side who depicted any kind of pause for reflection or democratic oversight of the Brexit process as “stoppping Brexit” and “betrayal”

    (ii) those on the other side who kep saying “People’s Vote” but did nothing to dispel the myth that they simply wanted to reverse the result of the referendum.

    I fear that reaching a consensus on Brexit would be very difficult indeed as there are dramatic differences in people’s percetions of the issue. I talked to some of the people outside parliament last summer with “Betrayal” banners and I found it very difficult to understand what they were saying (and they had a tendency to get aggressive after a few sentences and before I could understand their logic). As Chris Cook says in his critique of David Cazmeron’s memoirs, it is a sign of the weakness of the UK State that it ever allowed the EU to become an issue.

    • Matt

      31st Dec 2019 - 1:57 pm

      Yes, it wouldn’t have been easy to rise above that ‘noise’ – but it would have been true leadership to have made the attempt. Regarding ii) Many did want to reverse the result – I for one, would have been happy with that. But at the same time it also made democratic sense, faced with a transformative episode of such magnitude that has no historical precedent and which was both extremely risky and extraordinarily complex, and which there was no consensus on at the time of the referendum, to have a confirmatory sign-off voice on whatever had been decided. Particularly since the result was so close. To simply charge forward towards Brexit, without any attempt to engage the nearly half the population that voted to Remain beyond the inane call to ‘respect’ the referendum was absolute folly.

      I suspect over the next few years we will see how foolish this was.

      And yes, reaching a consensus would have been difficult, partly for the reasons you mention. But it was an attempt worth trying, and a confirmatory vote was a better way of attempting it than ‘stop Brexit’ or ‘Revoke Article 50.’ By the time Labour came to this conclusion, it was too late, and it was clear that the Labour leadership never really wanted it or tried to explain it.

      Totally agree about the weakness of the UK state part.

      • Guano

        31st Dec 2019 - 5:47 pm

        “Faced with a transformative episode of such magnitude that has no historical precedent and which was both extremely risky and extraordinarily complex, and which there was no consensus on at the time of the referendum ……. ”

        Quite, but probably only a small percentage of the population understands that this is the case and the People’s Vote people put little effect into explaining it.

        • Matt

          31st Dec 2019 - 6:11 pm

          Some campaigners tried to, but generally they weren’t effective. It should have been the responsibility of the politicians to make this case, whether they were Leave, Remain or ‘respect the referendum’ types. Almost none of them did, which is why Brexit – and the looming prospect of no deal – is a political failure that reaches across the whole of the political class. Each party essentially looked at the problem through their own party political lens.

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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