Solipsistically I feel compelled to ask myself what I got right and wrong about the election. I was mostly wrong. At first, of course, I thought Corbyn was bound to lose and that the only questioned that remained was the scale of his defeat. The idea that the youth vote could swing it for him, I insisted, was downright comical. As the campaign progressed, my doubts flowered. I said that the Conservatives were “in disarray; as strong and stable as a bloated drunk”; that Corbyn had “measurably improved as a politician”; that I thought the youth vote would rise significantly and that the result was “very much in question”. Still, I predicted that the Conservatives would win a majority, just as I had predicted that Leave lose and just as I had predicted that Clinton would triumph. It had to happen didn’t it? It had to. Well, it didn’t.
Granted, Corbyn did lose. The Conservatives won. But if a football team was 4-0 up at half time and somehow managed to scrape a 4-3 win against their younger, hungrier opponents (in which half their players fell out with each other and their captain all but refused to take the field) is that a win? Technically, perhaps, but trivially.
The Conservatives were pathetic. They articulated no inspiring vision for the future but rambled incoherently on about Brexit. They avoided questions more than they answered them. They attacked Corbyn with shrill, slapdash abandon rather than efficient, measured ruthlessness, which made seem him more sympathetic to disaffected youngsters who liked the idea of free tuition and had no memories of the IRA. Some, like the ever ubiquitous Nigel Farage, argue that May was not enthusiastic enough about Brexit but this is where I sympathise with the Prime Minister. No one is sure about the consequences of the damn thing. Enthusiasm is for the most optimistic ideologues and even if one such ideologue did have popular appeal – which is dubious enough now the dust has settled – it would backfire on them if the economy took a hit. Brexit has reduced the right to monomania, even when, quite apart from the troubles that it causes, it does little or nothing to solve problems of housing, education, social care, jihadism and non-EU immigration. Those are the problems the Conservatives should have been tackling. Those are the problems that the public most want solves. As it is, May’s only policy that will be remembered is the “dementia tax”, while her worthless soundbites – “Brexit means Brexit”, “strong and stable” – will pop up, perhaps, on some future TV trivia show.
What a time. Brexit won. Trump won. Corbyn could have won. The most unsurprising election was that of France, where Macron’s neoliberal managerialism prevailed over Le Pen and Melenchon, but even then the dude was a political outsider leading a party he had fashioned for himself. Common wisdom has proved to be more common than wise and thousands of politicians, journalists and operatives from the supposed “centre” of politics have had their bland assumptions violently discredited.
What comes now? Right wing populism, as in the Trump campaign? Left wing populism, as per Corbynism? Desperate attempts by our managerial elites to cling onto whatever positions they have left? Well, all this and more, my friends. The future is one of division, conflict and desperation.
And uncertainty, of course. We should all be uncertain. We should treasure what we have, while, unlike Ms Clinton and Ms May, preparing to respond to new, dangerous phenomena. That, at least, is what makes me a conservative – though not, clearly, a Conservative.