General Election 2019 - What went wrong, what now, and what next?
This is a summary of points made in a video I uploaded onto Youtube on 17 December under the same name
Boris Johnson won a smashing majority which everybody had hoped would not be the case, but this is where we are and what i'd like to discuss is where things went wrong, how I think things could have gone better, and what I believe is likely to happen from this point on.
Full disclosure: something that I've kept under wraps for over a year now is that I have been working for Gina Miller for over a year supporting her in her Brexit campaigns, so I was engaged in political work for the Remain side of the debate, and as is clear through my work across multiple organisations,
To begin with this election was called in a very strange manner, where Jo Swinson's Liberal Democrats and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party chose to give Boris Johnson the election day that he desperately wanted at the time, despite the fact that they had the chance to continue inflicting defeat after defeat on him in parliament on topics he needed to win.
Without this, it's entirely likely that the election would not have taken place, and this strategic mistake is why we have ended up where we are now rather than watching Boris Johnson crumbling.
Strategic mistakes and poor analysis
This was the beginning of a series of strategic mistakes that were engaged in by opposition politicians, particularly Jo Swinson who for inexplicable reasons, chose to run a French-styled presidential campaign due to the mistaken assumption that she had strong enough support and a good enough chance to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Now, i'm not entirely sure what led to this decision, however, I understand from what we're seeing past the election date that people advised her against pushing for an election in the first place, including former leaders Vince Cable and Tim Farron, which leads me to believe that this was an act of hubris following the Lib Dem's showing in the European Election.
However, this decision would, in that case, ignore the fact that the Lib Dems, back in May 2019, were the only out-and-out Remain party there was, and there was a very clear reason to vote for their party and against every other party. In particular, the d'Hondt system lent itself to tactical voting along Brexit demographic lines, and Jo Swinson was helped by tactical voting campaigns such as ours at Remain United.
Another issue was the ferocious infighting which took place between the Lib Dems, the Remain Alliance, and the Labour party, which was exacerbated by Remainers on social media wielding the #FBPE hashtag, and appeared to have been driven by some form of forced ignorance of political reality.
For example, there were many Lib Dem voters and Remainers who decided that they would continue their wholehearted campaign against the Labour party because, initially at least, it looked like the Lib Dem's would be able to equal their vote share, and many even hoped that the Lib Dem's would overtake Labour to become the second largest party, emulating to some extent the success of Emmanuel Macron's La République En Marche.
This was accompanied by actions that confused perceptions of the Labour Parties Brexit policy, spreading the idea that Labour was a pro-Brexit party and that they were no different to the Conservatives.
Admittedly, this was partly due to Labour sitting on the fence for so many years, and attempting to have their cake and eat it regarding Brexit, however, I never understood why these individuals would refuse to believe it even when presented with the truth, and choose instead to facilitate a fight between the two remain parties that, if they had worked together, would have severely limited the Boris Johnson's majority.
To be entirely honest, even I was against the Labour party for a long while as, in the emotional moments that followed the referendum, I never understood why they thought it beneficial to fight for both Leave and Remain voters when, if what we were seeing was true, remain voters were far more numerous.
What brought me around, was the clarity that came with time, studying Labour's work, and coming to terms with the fact that the Labour Party were trying to make things work the best they could, which when we look at their losses in their northern heartlands, clearly failed.
Regardless, the seemingly forced ignorance regarding Labour's policy of pushing for a Second Referendum after the General Election despite this being what many wanted since 2016, which was likely due to the effect of one Jeremy Corbyn.
Every man for themselves
The self-destructive social media bubbles that we've seen develop since the referendum were also a major issue, which led to a complete lack of interest in discussion. If you weren't a part of the Remain club or a part of the Leave club, and tried to make any comments that involved any criticism of any part of their positions, it tended to go very poorly and you were faced with some very intense hostility and insults, as well as generally unpleasant behaviour.
Obviously, emotions have been high for the past three years, with people feeling a sense of loss and grief that they were unable to effectively manage, but the fact remains that this was not conducive to winning an election and managing a multi-party alliance.
I blame this behaviour, primarily, as one of the major issues that prevented any tactical voting, as well as the fact that it became 'à la mode' to run tactical voting campaigns.
We went from one major tactical voting campaign in 2017, run by Gina Miller when she was still a member of Best for Britain, to having Gina Miller's Remain United tactical voting campaign during the European Elections, which competed with a small handful of other, partisan campaigns that had less reliable results.
Then, during the 2019 British Elections, there were five or six tactical voting campaigns including comparison websites, which led to a confusing situation where the public was simply confused by their options, and led to further factionalisation within the opposition parties.
I saw accusations across multiple communications channels that x group was working against the movement, which was further exacerbated by the Lib Dem's famously putting out doctored and incorrect polls, which was a part of the Lib Dem strategy which failed to succeed and directly hamstrung their campaign and broke trust between all of the groups.
Regardless, if the campaign had been similar to the European elections where people put aside their party allegiances and voted for what they claimed was their supreme goal, then the vote would not have been as split as it was.
The way the vote was split was also often based on what post-referendum group people aligned themselves with and which party that group was closest to as well as who had the most influence over that group. Due to this, tactical voting was simply not likely to work, particularly as on the Leave side of the debate, the Brexit party stood down in seats that the Conservatives held and gave them a free run. Even in seats where they didn't stand down, the Brexit Party were not seen as a credibly party, and the people in those areas knew that if they wanted Brexit, they needed to vote for Johnson.
The inability to fight against this was down to the behaviour of the Lib Dem's and the Labour party. If they had been sensible, taken the situation seriously, and worked together to plot out which seats they were unlikely to win due to being in third place, and where another party was in second place, then there was a way to make this work by, one or two weeks away from polling day, coming to a decision and deciding to endose the other candidate in order to stop a conservative led government and Brexit.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen, and due to the two parties spending the election taking chunks out of each other, with their behaviour being emulated by their supporters, meaning that a week out it was almost impossible for these parties to work together due to the bad blood that had developed.
They were also so closely matched in some areas that they, through their egocentrism, just wanted to give it a shot, and there were also some situations where, for example, you had candidates such as Chuka Umunna who would have benefited from Labour tactical votes, but because of the bad blood that resulted from his departure, was made impossible. It was the same thing with Labour and Sam Gyimah, where Labour were unable to support a former Conservative due to the worries that, if things did not go well, he could rejoin his former party.
There were many party political considerations that were going into these decisions, and sadly just to break down the way these decisions were made could fill an hour-long video discussing where things went wrong, and of course, if people were interested in this, i'd be more than happy to record this.
For example, other interesting points that wouldn't fit into the short video would be how Boris Johnson ran almost exactly the same kind of campaign that Theresa May did, but seemed to benefit from being a man and not necessarily having to deal with the sexism that some have stated explains the abhorrent treatments she suffered from her own MPs.
Lkewise, how the impressions of the European Union and how things went up until the European election, and how these things, for better or worst, affected the impressions of Boris Johnson and made him look stronger than he was. for example, the way in which the Withdrawal Agreement was not actually a great deal for Boris Johnson, and was closer to what the European Union initially wanted, with one of two tiny amendments that simply played well to the British electorate.
But what now?
What happens now is the big question, and this is where things get interesting because now we're going to have another vote on the withdrawal agreement.
Admittedly, it is likely to pass and we can assume that the majority of conservatives will vote for it. With the ERG spartans now being outnumbered and no longer having the dominant position and a weakened DUP, lets us assume that it will go through with a decent majority.
However, we are now in a position where we're going to move on to the negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and the EU, which with Boris Johnson's recent decision to enshrine the Brexit date in law and to legislate to make any extension illegal, we can expect Boris Johnson to be in as weak a negotiating position as Theresa May was when she made the same mistakes while negotiating the withdrawal agreement.
The issue here is that the European Union is a trade superpower, and if the figures aren't wrong then it is the biggest trading power in the world, and there is a reason that academic theories such as Market Power Europe exist, which is the exploitation of it's market and economic policies and powers to influence other states.
This is simply going to be a fairly lopsided negotiation between the EU and the UK, which cannot expect to dictate terms in the way that Boris Johnson is likely to think that he can, regardless of the domestic politics.
You have member states such as France pushing very hard on certain issues such as fishing rights, you have the EFTA states who are going to want to prevent the UK from having terms that are similar or better to theirs without being a member of EFTA, the EEA, the EU, or some form of close relationship.
With Donald Trump now pushing hard for a trade deal that would require reduced food quality, reduced legislative protection, and a reduction of quality in the products that the EU demands of products entering the single market, we're likely to witness significant problems in the upcoming negotiations.
The Trade deal is likely to be signed, according to indications that I have seen so far, and from comments made by Michael Gove and Boris Johnson about a quick deal being possible, what's likely is a trade deal that will not be as extensive as the UK would need, with more than a few people and sectors missing out as a result. The result of this, when people come to realise what will have happened, is significant anger about what has happened and why they weren't protected by their Prime Minister.
I'm not going to pretend that I know what the future trade deal will look like. It's possible that services will be excluded depending on how negotiations go, however, nobody can predict how negotiations will go, and the only thing that we can be certain of is that the negotiations will be tough and will not be as easy as individuals such as Johnson think, or as simple as the electorate have been led to believe.
In many cases, it would have likely been better for the opposition to avoid the election, seek an extension in January, push for a Corbyn led government that would have renegotiated the withdrawal agreement with stipulations regarding the future relationship, rather than going down the road we find ourselves travelling now.
However, the choices have already been made, we are where we are, and this is what is happening.
In terms of what's going to happen or what should happen next in the UK, people should be very wary of the attempts at deregulation that are going to be made and the fact that conservatives are already reneging on certain promises they made during the election, at least from what i'm seeing on workers rights being rolled back.
This is going to be a very tense situation, and this is where ordinary people need to start sticking and working together. You're going to have a lot of community groups that are going to be needing help, you're going to have a lot of food banks that are going to need donations, you're going to have a lot of civil rights groups campaigning heavily in order to maintain rights that already exist and to prevent a loss of rights that is likely post-Brexit according to the indications we've seen.
I already have colleagues who are going to be launching their own groups to help people in need, and links to some groups that will require help are in the description for the video above.
What people should be doing now is they should be working together, they should be looking to shore up their local communities and to make sure their family, friends, and neighbours are in a good place, and making sure that the people who need support the most are going to get that support.
So, if you have the time, you should just volunteer for charities, volunteer for groups that are looking for assistance, and if you have an idea that you think could make a difference, bring it up with someone who you think could actually help you enact it. It can be something as simple as what a friend of mine is doing by setting up a service for people to seek pro-bono advice on any issues that may arise, called 'Stand for all'.
Or, if you're an EU citizen and you're looking for a way to support your fellow citizens, look at the groups 'Settled' or 'the3million' and try to support them, as in many cases there are some of the most vulnerable, and with things changing as quickly as they are, they will need your help.
One final thing that I would like to add is that I've already seen people repeating the same mistakes that were committed after the referendum which led us to where we are now, where people are running before they can walk.
A lot of analysis has popped over the weekend which can only be described as emotional, due to how many of us felt lost and disappointed by the results. However, many are coming up with new plans, crowdfunders and legal actions that they claim could help.
However, the important thing right now is to take our time, to analyse the situation, and to look at what's happening. We cannot just run ahead as we did after the referendum and simply repeat the mistakes that put Boris Johnson in a position to win an election that, if we're honest with ourselves, he should have lost after lying through his teeth.