Great expectations

Success is relative. It is what we can make of the mess we have made of things.

Hands up who had 72 seats in the general election overall majority sweepstake? Nope, me neither.

Many people thought we were heading, last Thursday for another hung Parliament. Others – me included – thought that Boris Johnson would get the majority he needed, but only just. I had him down for 329. What do I know? Clearly as little as the Twitter commentators who, throughout the day, plastered their feeds with images of queues at polling stations snaking out of the primary school hall and round the playground, with these hailed as the example of the electorate turning out in their thousands to stop the Tories winning by tactical voting.

Even Professor Sir John Curtice, the polling guru whose exit polls on behalf of the BBC, ITV and SKY are usually bang on the money, was, in the days before the election, predicting a tougher time for Boris  Johnson. So when How Edwards announced that the prediction from the exit poll of the 144 key polling stations was for 368 seats a collective shriek/gasp/sob/cheer was heard around the nation – which of those it was, of course, depends on your own particular political persuasion.

Well, the flaxen-haired one got his wish. He managed to do what Teresa may failed to do – secure a thumping great majority so that he can push on ahead with the implementation of Article 50 and ensure that the UK stands by the result of the first Brexit referendum. The second referendum – People’s Vote – was, to all intents and purposes, held on Thursday.  Whether the resounding victory was down to Brexit and Brexit alone as Labour’s John McDonnell was quick to claim on Thursday night or whether it was an anti-Corbyn stance, only time will tell. My children stand more chance of getting all the things on their Christmas list than Jeremy Corbyn did of being able to afford that manifesto.

As Johnson himself said in his victory speech, thousands of traditional Labour voters switched allegiance on Thursday and put their trust in the Tory Government to do what it promised to do. We’ve seen this kind of allegiance-shift before, don’t forget. Mrs Thatcher won the 1979 election on the back of the council house-sell off, which promoted thousands of voters in working class, traditional Labour heartlands to jump ship. Tony Blair won the Labour landslide of 1997 because he managed to sell the idea of New Labour to disengaged former conservative voters. After nearly 20 years of Conservative government, the electorate had shifted to the right; Blair and New Labour understood that in a way that Corbyn and Momentum didn’t.

The money markets were pleased on Friday anyway; the pound shot up against both the dollar and the euro on the back of the election result in the belief that we will now, at last, get some certainty back into the economy. Except we probably won’t, not immediately, as the hard work really starts here. No matter what happens with changes to the law to make it illegal to delay Brexit, there are still a thousand conversations to have before we can finally move on.

For move on we must. In the wake of the 2016 election, I wrote that, the decision having been made, we have to make the best of it and make sure that we make it work. It’s even more important now.

Over to you, Boris. Don’t balls it up.




About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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