2019: A Year In Review
As is our annual tradition, a number of our writers have contributed to a series of thoughts on the past year in politics, and what it means for 2020. From all our authors, we wish you a prosperous New Year, and hope it treats you well.
‘Our exit poll is suggesting a Conservative majority when all the votes are counted after this election of December 2019. The Conservatives on 368 seats and Labour way down on 191. Now on those figures, we are looking at a Conservative majority of 86.’
UK politics has been tumultuous to put it politely. After a devastating result at the spring EU elections, Theresa May stepped down and watched as a variety of characters fought to take her place. The winner ended up being the messy blonde Boris Johnson.
Somehow, this marmite figure managed to get a General Election called and win it with a fighting majority of 80, taking seats the Tories had never once held. As 2019 draws to a close, it’s looking like we will finally have achieved Brexit, following nearly four years of total chaos. If you’re a Conservative Brexiter, it was politically as perfect as possible.
2020 will bring a lot for us. Firstly, Brexit will have likely happened. Across the pond, we will see how President Trump’s impeachment trial goes in the Senate (he lost the vote in the House). 2020 will also see the next Presidential election, something that will no doubt be filled with fireworks.
To our readers, I hope that 2020 is a prosperous year for you and all you love.
If 2019 could be summed up in one word, it would be realignment. What has been several years – if not elections – in the making, the most recent general election demonstrated the neutering of traditional political allegiances. At the heart of this, culture has been key.
Politics is downstream of culture – never has this rung truer than in 2019. As Jeremy Corbyn moved one step closer to achieving what Tony Blair couldn’t quite capitalise upon – charming the liberal-minded, educated – the Labour party was struck a monumental blow as significant portions of its heartlands turned blue. Was this down to Brexit? Was this down to policy? Or was it just unelectable leadership? The reality would probably be a concoction of all three.
What is apparent is the cultural values of the Labour party has actively driven people away with significant fervour. The obsession of identity politics, focusing on the immutable characteristics that divide us, and not the traits that bind communities, split its base into two irreconcilable constituencies. The uber-liberal Corbynistas have undermined the cultural values held dear by the working classes for too long. From the perspective of Tories, 2020 is surely the year for Boris Johnson to prove that he can appease his new voters – something that could come into conflict with his own social liberalism.
If we have to sum up the cacophony of 2019’s events in one theme, it has to be that 2019 was the year we all got tribal. It was the year of labels and identification. If we weren’t getting hot headed about identity in terms of gender (a debate which also reached fever pitch this year), then we were getting hot headed about political identities. Of course, the labels at the top of the agenda, the headlines and the debate was Leaver or Remainer.
Behind the labels, though, what really ran at the heart of this year was the sense of division that lies behind the labels. Behind such labels there can be no compromise, and indeed the debate of this year was uncompromising. Leave or Remain, Conservative or Labour, it seemed at the heart of this year’s debate there was no room left to be in the middle. The politicians didn’t seem to recognise it, nor did they apparently want to in their conquest for votes or political office.
If this was the year we all got tribal, can we hope maybe next year is the year we regain the British sense of civility? The attitude of seeing the man with whom we disagreed as our equal, a fellow man or woman with an opinion they believe as firmly as we do, with the same held good intentions as us.
With the year ending in a General Election victory for the Conservatives and the passing of the Withdrawal Bill, may we hope that 2020 is the year we bury the labels and the division they signify, and all move forward into our post-Brexit future. Together, as One United Kingdom.
Regardless of the sporadic nature of politics over the past year, the Wheel of Fortune has continued to turn like a cog in a well-oiled machine. Three years after she was coronated the unifier of a divided nation, Theresa May was ruthlessly (but necessarily) dethroned by her backbenchers. Result: the almost Periclean rise of Boris Johnson, who despite losing his majority, losing his first Commons vote, and a humiliating prorogation backfire, has secured a satisfactory deal (frustrated by delays) and a historic election victory.
As Randolph Churchill said of Benjamin Disraeli’s career: “failure, failure, failure, partial success, renewed failure, ultimate and complete triumph”. Labour are immobilised; offering little more than the radical, nonsensical drivel of Trotskyist news-rags and woke platitudes. Meanwhile, the Conservatives have a broad, but fragile, coalition of voters they must deliver for – a chance for “One-Nationism” to be more than a pseudo-conservative sleight-of-hand.
But we all know that politics is a war never truly won. Challenges still lie ahead; for both Brexit and the Conservative Tradition. In the words of Randolph’s rather well-known son: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
The Hung Parliament of 2017-19 produced some of the most exciting times I’ve seen in British politics. Even though, at times, my own party was the underdog, I’ve found watching the proceedings take place in Parliament to be startling.
After 34 party defections, the birth and death of a new political party – Change UK, a -43 hung parliament, the prorogation of Parliament and subsequent Supreme Court ruling, and now, an 80 seat Tory majority, the rollercoaster of 2019 British politics is coming to an end.
Moving into 2020, and the next decade, we’re certainly going to see more stability in Parliament, more decisive leadership for the country, and a more prosperous, strong and united Kingdom. The days of 33 government defeats in a single ministry are over.
There are many challenges, however, ahead. Near the top of the government’s priorities this next decade should be keeping the union of the United Kingdom together. Granted, seats don’t match votes, but nationalists won the most seats in Northern Ireland at GE19 for the first time, and the SNP have increased their seats too. This should be a cause for concern for the government.
However, with the largest majority since 2005, the government should be looking forward to 5 years of actually getting stuff done; domestic, foreign and constitutional.
I hope you all have a fantastic New Year.
Every time we publish one of this end-of-year articles, I like to think back to this time last year and how I felt about politics. Suffice to say, at the end of 2018 I was a lot less optimistic, and a lot more defeated. Politics in Westminster felt stagnant, while politics outside of the Houses felt much more volatile; suffocated by the righteous fury of the young, so sure of their moral superiority, and the Left’s rampant hypocrisy on… well, everything.
How exciting, then, that 2019 has been the opposite. We had the Brexit deadline pass, the rise and spectacular (and spectacularly-deserved) fall of Change UK (or whatever their name was at time of death), the merciless evisceration of Theresa May’s political career, and the rise of Boris Johnson. For all of its naval-gazing, and self-obsessed attitude, politics in 2019 has been anything but boring.
Now, I feel genuinely excited for 2020. For only the second time in the last two decades, we have a Conservative Party majority (and the largest one in that time), we are leaving the European Union, and socialism seems to be on the run. Conservatism may have only a tenuous existence in the Conservative Party, but there is no reason to rely solely on the Conservative Party for the defence of conservatism; maybe now, that the Left has been thoroughly defeated at the polls, the good people of this country will be emboldened to defeat them elsewhere – in the classroom, in the workplace, and in the pub. One can hope.
Photo by Jeremy Corbyn on Flickr (with no irony lost on us!)