The longer defeated parties remain in denial about the reasons for their loss of support, the longer they will remain out of office.
This column was consistently scathing of both the leading candidates in the American Presidential Election, but is confident the world won’t end just because Donald Trump will be the next President having defeated Hilary Clinton to gain the Electoral College vote.
The liberal left in both the United States and elsewhere is up in arms at the “injustice” that Clinton actually won the popular vote, that is to say gained more votes in total, by over 1.5 million, than Trump, but that because of the way votes in the Electoral College are allocated Trump still gets the keys to the Whitehouse. But the system has been in place consistently for election after election, sometimes favouring one candidate, sometimes the other, we didn’t hear the liberals complaining when the system worked in their own favour.
What is more, the US system is a much fairer system than the blatant gerrymandering that is the United Kingdom’s experience. Here, to secure a majority in the House of Commons, the Conservatives need to win many, many more votes than Labour.
This blatant injustice is finally to be resolved with the long overdue implementation of the recommendations of the Boundary Commission to try and equalize the number of voters in each constituency, whilst also reducing the overall number of Members of the House of Commons from 650 to 600.
That the Liberal Democrats, with a lifelong claim to support fairer electoral systems, blocked this remedial move in the last Parliament reveals their true disingenuous motives. They are perfectly happy, as is Labour, to support an electoral distortion when it suits their own electoral advantage. Hypocrisy is writ large for both those parties on this issue.
But there is a pattern in the way in which the defeated parties in both America and the United Kingdom have responded to the outcomes of their respective elections. In the UK, Labour remains in denial that Ed Milliband was unsuccessful in large part because he was too left wing and his policies simply didn’t resonate with the aspirational working and middle class. To conclude from that result that the electorate wanted even more extreme left-wing policies of the sort expounded by Jeremy Corbyn and his entryist phalange is a triumph of self-delusion over evidence and reality.
The same is the case in the USA where the Democrats are still in denial. They seem to think they were robbed, the election was stolen, that the electorate just made a terrible mistake and will wake up soon, apologise for their error, and demand that Hilary is installed in the White House. But, democracy just doesn’t work like that.
The same is true of the Remainers in the UK who are still trying to throw every spanner in the works of the government’s attempts to deliver Brexit. In the courts, in the Commons, in the Lords, in the media, they are still arguing that the electorate simply made a terrible mistake, that they were misled by exaggerations, and that if they’re given a chance to vote again, urged on now it seems by Tony Blair, they will see the light, give up the error of their ways, and vote solidly to Remain. This simply is not going to happen.
The lessons of the outcomes of the US and UK elections, and of the EU referendum are varied, but there is one simple factor that lies at the heart of all three. Electorates are not fools, and when they feel that their legitimate concerns are being ignored, they express their frustration through the ballot box in the way that they choose, not in the way that the self-appointed political elite and commentariat of the media advise them to do. Voters are, frankly, rather tired of being treated by such elites as little children who, in their own interests, had best do what their betters tell them.
Times have changed, perhaps irrevocably for the foreseeable future. We live in an age where the tribal loyalty to political parties is breaking down. Just look how the majority of Conservative grassroots activists ignored the scandalously exaggerated warnings of David Cameron and George Osborne that a Brexit vote would lead immediately to economic Armageddon. Look how both Labour and Conservative diehard supporters deserted their parties to give Ukip a massive vote in the last general election. Consider how blue-collar America decided that the Democrat elite have had their day, have become too removed from the real world, and need a sharp reminder that they are the servants of the people, not its masters.
This column welcomes the fact that the old certainties are no more, on either side of the Atlantic, and possibly on both sides of the English Channel as the French Presidential election gathers momentum. Already ex-President Nicholas Sarkozy is out of the running, and we could yet see a final run-off in which the right-wing candidate is Marine Le Pen. Anything could happen in that country given the current frustrations with high taxes and high immigration.
Angela Merkel faces elections next year in Germany. Even if she wins a fourth term in office, which is a distinct possibility, the long-term implications for that country are interesting. The nation is already split on its response to widespread immigration and to the financial burdens of bailing out struggling/failing euro economies like Greece and Italy. A fourth term for Merkel could see even greater social and political polarisation, storing up major tensions for the future which could be released in electoral shocks in elections yet to come.
The longer defeated parties remain in denial about the reasons for their loss of support, the longer they will remain out of office. Just look at the Tories after 1997. Their failure to adapt and actually take on board Theresa May’s then warning that they were seen as that “nasty party” saw them trounced in the polls repeatedly by Tony Blair. Trump’s supporters are denigrated by his opponents as ignorant, sexist and racist: despite states backing Trump that had flipped from previously backing Obama. American voters, as leading pollster Lord Ashcroft has put it, were crying out for change, but what the Democrats offered them was the Washington establishment incarnate.
It’s time for political parties the developed world over, to wake up and smell the coffee. The people have tasted power for the first time in decades, and they like it. The voters are revolting, get used to it!
This article was first published in The Catholic Universe of 2nd December 2016