Reflection on the election by Kevan M.

Anthropological research is often about listening to your informants and interpreting what they say through your own filters. On this occasion, I thought I would simply quote one of my 'philosopher informants' who explained our general election to his friends in the US and elsewhere as follows:  'Politically speaking, Theresa May's original decision in April to hold a snap election was a smart move. Corbyn looked unelectable, and following the Brexit referendum, the Tories would scoop up the UKIP vote as it returned to the Conservative mothership. What went wrong for her was the advice of Lynton Crosby, the Australian strategist, best known for his "dog-whistle" technique of appealing to the worst instincts of the electorate without being openly bigoted. Crosby took May out of the equation altogether. No TV interviews, no debates, and certainly no meeting the public. Crosby assumed that by avoiding the risk of gaffes, May could maintain a blameless profile. He also advised that the rest of the party spent every minute focussing on relentless negative statements about Corbyn. Finally, the Tories were not to talk about policy. The approach was purely "Trust Us", and to fall back ad infinitum on the same few soundbites. No one knew what they stood for. The outcome was indifference from the electorate. The Conservatives didn't appear to stand for anything, only to stand against Corbyn. We heard that the Tories would provide "Strong & Stable Leadership", and how Labour imagined there was a "Magic Money Tree" and that Corbyn supported the IRA, so often that the satirists no longer had to point it out, the public became embarrassed by it. They also assumed that this was about obtaining a healthy majority to ratify their forthcoming negotiations for Brexit. Whilst the Tories were complacent about the electorate's aversion to bullshit, they were REALLY complacent about Corbyn's ability to canvass. Labour put Corbyn out there with the public. Cleverly, they locked up right-hand-man John McDonnell, identified as the one who was the more belicose character whose loyalty to Marx could be spun easiest by the Media. However, Corbyn played with a straight bat, performed to large crowds to loyal supporters and despite one humiliation on BBC's Woman's Hour, proved why he has been elected repeatedly since 1983. He also ignored Brexit and made a case against Tory austerity, and supported borrowing to fund employment and welfare. As a consequence, the Labour vote did not evaporate, and in fact grew over the 2015 humiliation. It has to be asked therefore, what Labour could have done with a leader more attractive to Middle England, ie: Angela Eagle; Chuka Umunna or even David Miliband. So what happens next? In 1974, an election in May produced a hung parliament, which Labour's Wilson dragged out until a re-run in October, for which Labour were returned, but on barely better terms. Back then the major issue was the declining economy as the UK slid into de-industrialisation. This time around its Brexit. Britain is about to go to the EU to negotiate an exit without knowing what the public want because the schism between Leavers and Remainers has reinforced the electorate' distrust in the political class, and although this vote isn't "We're as mad as hell, and we're not going to take this anymore" (this was a high turnout, nearly 70%), it is a statement from the electorate that they do not identify with the parties as in previous generations, and that they're not going to push back on assumptions that sound bites are sufficient to garner support. Expect Boris Johnson to seize the opportunity to launch his inevitable bid for leadership. And remember, he will promise anybody anything to win, without principle. I also fear for conditions in Northern Ireland. Brexit isn't good for that region as it is, but if the Tories rely on the Democratic Unionist Party to survive as a minority government, the situation can only worsen. So where do we go from here? This is a pattern that has been emerging for the last fifteen years, but the parties are too monolithic to adjust. Britain certainly has no appetite for coalition government, and neither does it believe in the Parties anymore. Maybe the impact of Brexit, good or bad will help influence the future of Britain's politics. After WWII, despite crippling war debt and the imminent loss of empire and world power status, the public voted out Churchill and gave Labour a landslide to borrow money to pay for homes, jobs and a welfare state, and created the notion of a post-war consensus that was generally recognised by each party for thirty years, including high taxes (The Beatles paid 95% of earnings in tax). Brexit may be one of those moments, but I don't think there is anyone out there bringing that level of vision to the table.'