I cried twice on Thursday night/Friday morning. Once when Mike Freer held his seat in Finchley and Golders Green, despite one of those algorithmic Leftist pacts to unseat him (wrong target, Luciana Berger; I love you, but that was a tonal mis-step: Mike Freer was never your enemy), and once again when Michael Gove, introducing the Prime Minister on Friday morning, looked Britain’s remaining Labour voters in the eye, and told them “Never again must our Jewish citizens live in fear.” Never again.
“It is a new dawn, is it not?” Boris in victory couldn’t help himself, regurgitating the 1997 remark with which Blair proclaimed his own era. Laughing at Blair’s messianic pretension, throwing it back in Labour’s shocked, defeated faces.
Boris has a talent, shared by no other politician, of being able simultaneously to poke fun at his overblown Churchillian rhetorical style, without undermining the seriousness of its message. It’s (one reason) why he drives his opponents to insanity – did you see that sliver of malice, Alastair Campbell, snarling about “Johnson” on Friday morning? He hates that we think of the PM as “Boris”. Snarl away, Campbell, for all the good it’ll do your shrivelled, impoverished politics. Snarl right off, in fact, and close the door behind you.
Because this was a victory, above everything, for decency; a rejection of every strain – not just the Corbynite variety – of the linguistic and psychological thuggery that Labour has dressed up as virtue and forced down your throat since 1997. The political map is redrawn, and the Tory Party entirely re-invented. The consequences of that reinvention deserve many articles – it is literally a new party. But first let’s pick over the brittle, dusty bones of a dead one.
The Labour Party (not “The Left”) is history. Even when Blair reduced the Conservatives to their heartlands in the 1990s, the party still had heartlands. Labour, in 2019, doesn’t. It’s a collective noun for student Marxists, trades union hard-men, and spiteful anti-Semites. That’s not a political party: it’s a pathogen. A pathogen with nowhere to replicate.
The Blairite leftovers in Parliament have no sociological constituency to give them hope. Were some miracle to strike the planet and, for example, Yvette Cooper to become leader: do you think her approach to immigration, or those robotically-repeated platitudes about equality, sprung from the deathly pages of an identity-politics HR manual, could win back the good people of, say, Sedgefield?
Neither will intellectual renewal come from the fourth estate for ‘moderate’ Labour (the scare quotes around ‘moderate’ are apposite, because I’m unclear how MPs who willingly empowered a hard-Left, terrorist-succouring leadership, and wanted you to vote it into power, could label themselves thus). The columnist cheerleaders of ‘moderate’ Labour, social democracy, whatever – they’ll keep coughing up their pro-EU yawn pieces, laced with their Boris hatred, until economic reality catches up with their increasingly un-read newspapers, and The Guardian closes its doors.
Could the Left’s future come from the gut, rather than the brain? Perhaps a mission can be discerned within the screech-sheet manifesto of Jess Phillip’s Twitterfeed: Boris-is-a-racist, Boris-hates-women, Boris-eats-your-kids, I’m authentic, me, I care therefore you can’t.
Phillips is only one example of this category error made by so many Labour MPs, this conflation of the needs of human beings with their own desire for power. All that bleating in the concession speeches of defeated Labour candidates about their “real fear” for the ill, the old, the unemployed in their seats — the very voters who had just rejected them. As though no-one who isn’t Labour could either care or devise a politics to help the troubled souls in our midst. They have no idea why they lost.
I do. He’s called Keith, and he’s my husband. He’s never been political — once or twice in the distant past, when we lived in Hackney, I dragged him out leafletting with me. He loathed it, and told me to stop asking. He’s a working-class Plymothian, an electrician, but with a capable brain and a heart every bit as large as Jess Phillips’s.
Do you think men and women like Keith don’t notice, Jess, when you claim that only socialists like you care about people? That his vote in the Brexit referendum was tarnished, because he doesn’t have a degree? Do you believe him so arithmetically incapable that he couldn’t predict what your policies would do to the savings accrued from decades of average-income work?
And do you think he was deaf to the anti-Semites in your movement, blind to your party’s tolerance of them? He’s an unexamined Anglican, and the only Jewish people we know are the married couple next door; did you assume, therefore, he would swallow all that guff about Labour being the sole repository of moral virtue, that he couldn’t draw a line between your leader’s “friends” and the fear we could smell on our street?
Labour treated Keith – and the millions like him – like a fool, Jess, like your property, to be told what to think and how to speak and how to vote. How to feel shame for his instinct for Leave. He saw your Twitterfeed, and Hugh’s, and Richard Osman’s, and that of every smug ex-footballer with a gig pushing junk food to children, so he understands that you think he’s either ignorant, or wicked, for not being Labour.
The result? Keith hates your party, Jess, at a much more visceral (and therefore irrevocable) level than the intellectual dislike I feel for socialism in general. You – and all those sleb out-riders – might feel better for the constant display of Tory-hatred you share on social media. One of the many mistakes you make about men like Keith is to confuse the fact that he’d never dream of mentioning his feelings about the Labour Party in public, with the idea that somehow those feelings don’t exist, that they can’t have consequences.
But they can, and do, have consequences. On Thursday, without telling me, Keith took time off work. For the first time in his life, he went to the Tory office on the High Street, picked up lists of names, and walked round the homes of our neighbours, in the rain, in the dark, encouraging Conservatives to come out and vote.
The dramatic irony! Labour finally achieved its ambition to empower and politicise the working-class: Keith walked 15 miles on Thursday, but he’d have crawled over broken glass to keep people like Corbyn from winning seats like Barnet. Not quite what Hardie had in mind, but there you go. I love Keith, of course: I’m only just beginning to understand why.
There’s so much more to be written – how to deal with Sturgeon, the BBC, the re-centering of power out of London and into the North, how to renew our misdirected Academy … but that’s not for today, and probably not for me.
Today, I’m just a guy who’s feeling humble, but proud. Proud to live in a nation where working-class and middle-class, North and South, stood in solidarity against a common threat.
Humbled to be married to a man called Keith, who saw Corbynism for the wicked filth it is, and so did what he does every day of his life: he rolled up his sleeves and went to work. To keep Barnet, our home, safe. Keith (who will be mad at me if he sees this) would probably call it his “duty”; an inability to comprehend that word is just one more reason why Labour deserves its extinction.