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Election Aftermath: Goodbye to All That

Election Aftermath: Goodbye to All That

Boris Johnson on stage at Uxbridge and South Ruislip election count

So it’s goodbye, then, to Remainers’ remaining hope of stopping Brexit. And goodbye to Jeremy Corbyn and red-blooded socialism. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, it could also be goodbye to Scotland and Northern Ireland.

‘Don’t cry-ee, don’t sigh-ee, There’s a silver lining in the sky-ee! Bonsoir old thing, cheerio, chin-chin, Nah-poo, toodle-oo, goodbye-ee!’

That song was a hit in 1917, when Tommies were off to the front, many never to return, while the nation was still supposed to be keeping its pecker up.

A historic moment right now as well, with the UK embarking on its perilous journey to uncharted territory, braced once again for wholesale casualties.

The Scottish National Party, standing on a Braveheart ticket, made sweeping gains at the general election.

Meaning its call for a second independence referendum will be seriously hard to refuse.

For sure, Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, and as such needs the Prime Minister’s permission for a go-it-alone vote. And Boris Johnson has said it can’t have one.

But, dug in as he now is in Number Ten, he has yet to fulfil his childhood ambition of being King of the World.

And, if the Scots really really push for it, he’s not likely to follow Madrid’s example of saying no to Catalonian independence – which ended in confrontation and lots of nastiness.

Especially as it’s not just the pesky nationalist politicians kicking up. It’s also a clear majority of ordinary folk up there, who voted to stay in the European Union.

Good for the goose and all that. ‘Get Brexit done, the people have spoken’. Well, that’s English people. North of the border they said the opposite.

And it’ll be hard to argue that ignoring the will of the Scots is exactly democratic.

Indeed, Tory party members who after all chose Boris Johnson as leader thought losing Scotland to gain Brexit was a price worth paying.

Then there’s Northern Ireland. There too, a majority of people voted to remain in the European Union.

And there’s a widespread sense of betrayal in that neck of the woods anyway. A feeling that the British government is not serious about keeping the province as a fully paid-up part of the UK.

Boris Johnson has promised it won’t be treated any differently from mainland Britain after Brexit. But some sort of border halfway across the Irish Sea is written into his so-called oven-ready agreement with Brussels.

Which is why it looks to the Northern Irish, overblown, undercooked and, well, yuk.

A survey not so long ago suggested for the first time a majority of people in the province would prefer, given the choice, to secede from UK and throw in their lot with the Republic of Ireland.

And now that England and Wales at least are most certainly pulling out of the EU, that sentiment could become a clamour in the not too distant future.

To adapt the old saying, if at first you don’t secede, then… A space to be watched.

Meanwhile, back in London, there’s all that water closing over Jeremy Corbyn’s head on the election aftermath.

When he announced he’d be stepping down after a ‘period of reflection’ one aide was heard to say ‘a period of pissing off would be better’.

Remember, Labour MP’s tried once to kick him out and only really stepped back into line when he became kind of sex on legs to younger Labour voters and turned the sainted Theresa into yesterday’s Maybot.

Unfortunately for him, most of those ardent young fans wanted to stay in Europe.

Instinctively, he never really did. Never wanted to sign up in the first place. Which was why his attitude to Brexit was, ahem, nuanced. As clear-cut as a footpath across a swamp.

It wasn’t that he was indecisive, just that he was being dragged backwards by his bootstraps with his hands stuffed down his throat.

He might even have been better off going with his guts, seeing how many traditional Labour voters in leave-voting areas turned Tory last week.

Whatever, the result turned to the advantage of those centre and centre-right Labour MP’s who’re still in the game after Thursday night’s defenestration.

At a stroke, it rid them of a leader they neither trusted nor wanted in the first place, and gives them the chance to remodel the brand.

Tony Blair may remain on the naughty step forever thanks to Iraq, but his third way policies did produce three successive victories. For the first time in history.

Something of a contrast Jeremy Corbyn’s performance last week. Managing to cling on to even fewer seats than in Labour’s previous worst post-war result.

Naturally, the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was not going to say his planned revolutionary revamp of the public services might have put the wind up the punters.

But even he had to admit they did seem to want to get Brexit done.

A problem for a whole slew of newly elected Tory MP’s, many of whom never expected to win in those run-down former industrial areas anyway.

If they want to stay in the job for more than one term they’ll have to face up to a few unwelcome realities.

Their constituents, economically enfeebled by the Thatcher revolution of the 1980’s, have been especially vulnerable to the austerity of the last nine years.

Meaning they’re in need of a big slug of economic vitamin juice. OK, they wanted out of Europe, but that’s a one-off.

If the Tories don’t now keep a few of their promises about public service and welfare reform, the so-called red wall will get rebuilt. And lined with self-detonating mortars.

Seems Boris Johnson’s thought of that, however, as he’s already bandying around the phrase ‘one-nation’. Codeword for civilised Conservatism. You know, looking after the needy and all that.

But here, counter-intuitively perhaps, is one silver lining for all those folk horrified at his victory.

Its sheer magnitude means he’s now in a position, if he so chooses, to tell the right wing tails wagging the Tory dog for so long that they can shrivel up and die for all he cares.

He’ll also now have the latitude to be a bit more flexible in his dealings with the European Union.

There’s been a very real fear that his insistence on a rigid timetable for the next bit of Brexit, the so-called transitional phase, would have us crashing out with no deal at the end of next year.

But that demand may only have been made to keep the hardline Brexiteer bloodhounds at bay. And the new parliamentary mathematics just pulled their teeth out.

Still, even the transition phase is only a beginning. Clue’s in the name, really. Brexit may not make daily headlines so much from now on, but very likely it’ll be nagging away for a decade or more.

When you consider that around half of all Britain’s trade has been with Europe for the best part of half a century, it’s little wonder getting other stuff in place could take some time.

And the sheer magnitude of the task makes it all but impossible to take in for the time being.

There’s a story that on Captain Cook’s first voyage to Australia the locals in their little fishing boats ignored the sight of his great big whopper of a ship. To them it was so big it was simply invisible.

The reality of Brexit, in all its enormity, may seem that way to us lot for a fair old while too.

And us lot could even include the journalists trying to tell the story…

Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.

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