The General Election: Where to Go Next
Since yesterday, I have changed my mind about the result of the General Election. Or I may have changed it. Yesterday, I was ready to suggest a National Government as the only alternative to chaos. That may still be desirable – but not yet. Because I want to go to bed, I will try to be brief.
Let us begin with the assumption that the Parliamentary Conservative Party will not panic. This is a large assumption, bearing in mind the low quality of its membership. But let us make it. The Conservatives emerged from the election with 317 Members of the House of Commons. The Commons membership is 650. However, the Speaker never votes, except to side with the Government in a tied vote. Also the seven Sinn Fein members never take their seats. That gives an effective membership of 642 members. The Conservatives are five short of an overall majority. The Alliance they have made with the Democratic Unionist Party gives them an additional ten supporters, which brings them almost to where they were before the election.
Let us now assume that the Conservatives not merely do not panic, but also close ranks. Virtually their entire hold on British conservative opinion lies in their commitment to leave the European Union. If they fail in this, they do not just split – they lose their reason for existing. Therefore, they need to go into the negotiations determined to reach an agreement acceptable to conservative opinion, and not outrageous to the majority of everyone else. I did believe yesterday that the European would turn very hard, given the weakness of the Government. But they might not. They still need a deal acceptable to their own business interests. If they overplay their hand, the British Government needs to throw itself on the sympathy of the nation, and challenge the opposition parties to side with the foreigner. I doubt Labour would do this.
The reason I hoped for a small Conservative majority was my fear that a vast mandate would let them set about passing more police state laws. They now have that small majority, and will be advised to try passing very few contentious laws. There are obvious reforms needed to welfare and education. But these are not pressing, and can be put off to another Parliament. Censoring the Internet is best avoided on the grounds of practicality. So too dropping more bombs in the Middle East, and provoking Russia.
If they can hold together, and get us out of the European Union on reasonable terms, they may not be able to get a two thirds majority for another dissolution. Even so, they will be back in business, and can expect a decent majority when the next election falls due according to law. Or, if they lose the next election, they can remain in being, and hope to win the one after.
The longer an effective Conservative Government remains in being, the more likely we are to have a good look at Jeremy Corbyn. I never shared the general belief that he was unelectable. He has solid virtues as a campaigner that he had time to display throughout the election. At the same time, he is a radical socialist with some very unattractive opinions. He remains hated by the Blairites in the Labour Party. He remains hated by a large and influential section of the media class. Enthusiasm may have peaked last Thursday. Just as Theresa May shrivelled and died in the glare of election publicity, so Mr Corbyn may not survive the grind of parliamentary opposition.
It is possible that Mrs May can survive the mess she made of the election. But I presently doubt this. If so, she must go in the next week or so. She should resign and nominate an heir. This should be a boring but reassuring man. I know that women leaders are the current fashion. But we have had enough of probably demented cat ladies and girlie-men. Though it is unfashionable to say, part of Mr Corbyn’s appeal lies in the fact that he has a male organ in working order. That appeal must be neutralised by a Prime Minister who is himself married with children. He must take over at once by acclaim, not by election. This does not mean Boris Johnson. He does well in television debates, but is idle and incompetent. We need someone else to lead the way out of this crisis. I will not presume to suggest who this should be. In a parliamentary party of 317, there must be someone who is not mad or stupid or up to his neck in scandal.
These are my thoughts on what ought to happen. What will happen, of course, may be different. The Government may fall apart on Monday, and we shall have a leadership campaign as unedifying as the last. In this case, whoever gets into Downing Street can sit there, rotting in office till we somehow get another early election. Whoever wins that can be led in, like the German delegates at Versailles, to sign whatever thousand pages of horror the European Commission may have drafted.
These are my present thoughts. They may be wishful thinking. At the same time, I can think of no better alternative.