The Twelve Tenuous Political Points of 2019

For people who don’t follow politics particularly closely it must have seemed all a bit busy this year, and for those of us who both follow and are actively engaged in politics and political campaigning – it’s been an absolutely unprecedented year in politics (except for probably 2016, 2017 and 2018).

As is the time-honoured tradition for Christmas-timed blogs, the year can be reviewed in the form of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, or rather – “The Twelve Tenuous Political Points from 2019”.

And so, the countdown begins…

Twelve Supreme Court Justices gave Boris Johnson a bad day by ruling that his proroguing of Parliament (in order to have another go at passing the Withdrawal Agreement Bill) was unlawful.  In the medium to long term however, did this just set up the Establishment versus the People message that gave Johnson such a stonking majority in the General Election?

Eleven Lib Dem MPs was all that was left after the disappointing night for the party following a General Election campaign which begun with Jo Swinson announcing herself as candidate for Prime Minister and ended with her losing her seat.

Ten MPs let back into the Tories after 21 had been kicked out for defying Boris Johnson by voting against a No Deal Brexit.  A chaotic summer and autumn, including kicking out Winston Churchill’s grandson from of the Tory Party, led to a winter General Election (never again please…) that means the Government can now “Get Brexit Done”. Allegedly.

Nine Government defeats under Boris Johnson – there were a further fifteen under Theresa May.  Unless Johnson has a particularly awful five years, his Commons majority of 80 seats (somewhere between Tony Blair’s in 2001 and 2005) mean that he’s probably got the Lion’s share of them behind him and can focus on other challenges.

Eight DUP MPs left – the right-wing Unionist government from Northern Ireland begun the year as the kingmakers propping up Theresa May’s government – in exchange for a cool £1 billion.  They finish the year having lost two seats, including that of their former leader in the Commons Nigel Dodds and having been cast aside by Boris Johnson and the Conservatives, who no longer need their votes.

Seven attempts to get a second EU referendum through the Commons – all of them failing.  That’s that then.

Six weeks of a General Election campaign – in December. For the first time since 1923. It was cold and wet, and I imagine most party activists will be very happy for all future elections to be held in summer months.

Five potential Labour Leaders (and rising…) – following Jeremy Corbyn’s crushing defeat (has he noticed yet?) there are several candidates already out and campaigning, and some playing a bit harder to get. Rebecca Long-Bailey, Emily Thornberry, Keir Starmer, Clive Lewis, Lisa Nandy…and the rest!

Four times that Jeremy Corbyn refused to apologise for anti-Semitism. In an issue that has dogged Corbyn’s leadership since almost the beginning, his inability to apologise for it in an interview with Andrew Neil gave the press more opportunity to bring it up again and again.  A case study in how not to handle crisis comms.

Three sets of elections – local elections in May, European Elections in June and the General Election. The country is electioned out – and only a few months before the showstopper in May next year. The Police and Crime Commissioner elections across England. Hang onto your hats!

Two Prime Ministers – we came into the year with Theresa May leading the country but struggling to do so and leave it with Boris Johnson having a much firmer grip on Westminster and Whitehall following the best election for the Conservatives since 1983.

One Issue. Brexit has defined our politics for not only 2019 but also for the last three and a half years, and most are keen to move on to talk about other issues (or not talk about politics at all). Boris Johnson is scrapping the Department for Leaving the European Union and has supposedly banned Conservative MPs from saying the “B word” after we’ve left.  Expect those who oppose Brexit to keep bringing it up.

However, the time spent on getting Brexit over the line, and repeated trips back to Brussels, since June 2016 has meant that many other areas where the country is struggling have been overlooked. Health, education, and of particular interest to myself and Marengo Communications – planning, development and housing.

It’s without doubt that we’re in a housing crisis in the UK and consistent Governments have failed to tackle it effectively.  Johnson and the Conservatives made several bold promises in the General Election on housebuilding, and it will be interesting to see if the reforms to the planning system leaked by Dominic Cummings make any difference. On first reading, many of those who support house building will be heartened by them, but the proof will quite literally be in the delivery.

What is clear is that the Government will want to be talking about Brexit as little as possible, but they will be judged on what they can actually deliver in government, and not just in housing.

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Steve Jolly

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