To emphasise …this is not a return to Blogging. The Blog is kept open as a gesture to the Future. It is a record of how I felt politically for five and a half years. Several months ago the British Library wrote to me, asking permission to include “Keeping An Eye On The Czar of Russia” on a list of recommended blogs for students of Norn Iron politics. So it would be disrespectful to close down this Blog as if it never existed.
Obviously I dont log in very often but it always surprises me just how many views I get, even now that I rarely, if ever add anything.
But it seems appropriate to break my silence and post something about the 2017 General Election.
I dont know if the Greeks have a word for “Hubris” but it seems that they should have. Theresa May called this Election out of sheer opportunism. On one level, she thought a landslide majority would make it easier for her to govern (not just Britain but also her Conservative Party). And no doubt she and a lot of Tories thought that the Labour Party would be killed off as a credible force in British politics. The opinion polls, the perceived unpopularity of Jeremy Corbyn, the local election results just last month and the Blairite faction in the Labour Party being disloyal to their leader…..it was all too much. She called an election citing the “national interest”.
Lets be honest. Those of us left of centre also assumed that the Tories would win. They would extend their five year mandate to seven years and have the votes to introduce ultra- Conservative legislation, changing the very norms of Society as much as Margaret Thatcher and after a few years of Brexit-chaos, the Tories would be in pole position to win again in 2022.
Of course it did not work out that way. The voters saw thru the sham of “national interest”, a sense of fair play prevailed and people actually saw Corbyn as more honest than May…May is transparently dishonest and incompetent.
Certainly as the Campaign progressed, the opinion polls tightened and I guess we all thought there would be no Tory landslide but a comfortable victory still seemed likely. We all breathed a sigh of relief on Friday morning.
I dont know if the Germans have a word for “Schadenfreude” (spelling) but it seems to me that they should have one. How else can I explain my delight at Tory failure and my delight at not seeing Tony B Liar, Stephen Kinnock, Jess Phillips, Ben Bradshaw and the Blairite MPs on my TV. They have become very quiet.
Of course they will now present themselves as loyal to Corbyn. The rats (like Tristram Hunt) left a ship that they thought was sinking but we can enjoy the spectacle of some of them trying to swim back to the ship.
So….it is a mess. And to be honest, if the “United Kingdom” is a little less secure today, then I am happy.
Clearly SNP suffered in Scotland. Unionists rallied to whatever Party, Conservative or Labour which was more likely to defeat SNP. But surely it was clear in 2015 that when SNP won 56 of 59 seats, they would not replicate this result again. It would have been nice to retain those seats until 2020 and a scheduled election but the demise of Alec Salmond, John Nicholson, Angus Robertson (and in proxy Nichola Sturgeon) will be welcomed by the London Media (unionist) who have found a new hero in Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davison….openly gay and much too nice to be a Conservative. But crucially she is not actually a Westminster MP.
And ….the Tories are in talks with the Democratic Unionist Party. The London Media are falling over themselves to profile DUP for English voters who would not normally give a damn about Norn Iron.
So now all of Britain knows that DUP are “socially conservative” or they spell it out that DUP are Brexiteers, worse than UKIP, sexist and homophobic. Or to put it another way, DUP are bigots. Few would disagree but I note that Slugger O’Toole cautions against “DUP-bashing”. But for those of us…Catholics of a certain vintage who tend to think that DUP bigotry manifested itself in anti-Catholicism. Very little of what Slugger calls “DUP-bashing” points up secrianism.
Maybe it was ok to be anti-sectarian in the 1977 but ok to be anti-Catholic in 2017. All I know is that graveyards are full of people who lost their lives to sectarianism and most were Catholic. And in my long life, I have discovered that there is a connexion between sectarianism, racism, homophobia, sexism and all the other bad stuff. Of course they are also climate deniers and creationists and thats a bigger thing in 2017 than just hating Catholics.
The decisions regarding controversial parades next month will be interesting. DUP will want something to show their voters.
DUP performance….they gained two seats (one from SDLP and one from UUP) has nothing to do with “policy”. It has everything to do with maximising the “pro-union” vote. In a sense, the good performance at Westminster 2017 is a direct consequence of the poor performance at Assembly 2017, just three months ago. A simple enough matter to wave the flag.
And I take some comfort in Saint Naomi Long and her Alliance Party losing badly in East Belfast.
And Sinn Féin …well they are a mirror image of DUP. They would of course claim to have multiple policies but the reality is that their half-assed policies are secondary to being in the Executive with DUP but not actually exercising any power. Apparently in New York, you are never more than ten feet from a rat. When I see an elegantly turned out Sinn Féin politician on your TV screen, I think he or she is never more than ten feet away from a mob. They can certainly mobilise an army of activists. I saw their activists on the streets of West Belfast in May last year. Really….if thats politics, count me out.
Clearly DUP taking ten seats (plus two) and SF taking seven seats (plus three) and only one Independent says it all. UUP and SDLP have been wiped out.
The first thing that has to be said is that the three SDLP MPs who were defeated are extremely decent. SDLP does have policies (arguably too many) but increasingly the main reason that I vote SDLP is “identity”. Whether its Mark, Alasdair, Margaret….Colum, Dolores, Patsy…..you know who they are…..but you dont know Donal, Fergus, Declan, Sarah…but there is something that I identify with. Its who they are. Its who I am.
So three seats lost. Is the Party over? Hardly…..its just three months since Pat Catney was elected in Lagan Valley. And yes, the First Past The Post Westminster system is different from the Proportional Representation at Stormont. And the “buyers regret” that saw Dolores Kelly win back in 2017 the Upper Bann seat she lost nine months earlier.
With another Westminster Election a possibility early next year, there might be more “buyers regret” which might take back Foyle (for Durkan or Eastwood). South Belfast was always the one SDLP held in spite of the numbers and Clare Hanna might well be the next candidate and there clearly is a problem in South Down….is it around Downpatrick? And two MLAs in their first term means probably too much of an ask as a Westminster candidate.
No doubt SDLP will have a post-mortem and they can argue that it was difficult to energise voters to go to the polls for the fifth election in two years.
But SDLP sub-committees are not exactly credible. In March 2012, there was a conference at the Wellington Park Hotel and we all divided up into syndicates to brainstorm. And my syndicates results taken back to the main hall bore no resemblance to anything discussed. I had a similar experience in September 2015.
I am not technically a member of SDLP. The Party is putting out calls for people to get involved. Perhaps they mean it. But that would mean a culture change of listening to members rather than advisers and folks from other parties. The tendency of SDLP to listen to any voice except its own membership has been a consistent theme in this Blog since August 2011. It has cost them/us dearly.
So I have no voice in the future. WHatever SDLP do, my wife and I will vote SDLP. Like I said its a question of identity. They are people like us. We are people like them.
And frankly, having voted for the first time in 1970….forty seven years of being on the right side of History…..Civil Rights and Left of Centre and nationalist/republican….I cant buy into the new politics where the faultline is generational not Left/Right. I find myself on the wrong side of History. The Young are in the driving seat and from what I can see ….young people are useless selfish bastards….and they will probably kill old people the way that King Herod killed the first-born. Mark my words!