Barely had the bulk of the damaged vessel disappeared beneath the waterline last night before several rodents could be sighted frantically swimming away from the wreck. Amber Rudd is stepping down as an MP; Heidi Allen is stepping down as an MP. In other words, ideological allies once tipped as ones-to-watch are joining the likes of kindred spirit Justine Greening by jumping before being pushed by their constituents. The former Home Secretary scraped through by the skin of her teeth in 2017 and the current Lib Dem has changed sides twice since then; both are smart enough to recognise what comes next, but even now they won’t come clean; already, the volatile climate for honourable members is being blamed, particularly by Allen.
Yes, I’ve no doubt MPs are today exposed to a greater volume of abuse than their predecessors, but I think that’s due to two factors in 2019 – a) There are now more platforms for hurling abuse than there used to be; and b) The targets of the abuse were elected two years ago on the basis they would implement a democratic mandate the electorate gave them, and have subsequently shown nothing but absolute contempt for that mandate by attempting to thwart it. MPs can’t behave this way and expect no comeback; they are as responsible as anyone for the toxic atmosphere surrounding politics in this country, and it’s no wonder frustration has understandably overcome some more inarticulate members of the electorate as they’ve been locked out of the process. There’s no longer an excuse for abuse now, however, because the opportunity to participate has been belatedly restored and the electorate can make its point at the ballot-box – which is why the likes of Amber Rudd and Heidi Allen have bottled it and buggered off. And any MP with anything about them should have an inkling of wind direction at the moment.
The electorate has been handed a broom and confronted by a dilapidated barn plastered in farmyard faeces. It’s one hell of a clean-up operation, but those entrusted with the task can’t complain after months of hanging around waiting for permission to get on with it. The war that some in media circles excitedly anticipate once the campaign kicks-off may well fail to materialise; the majority of the anger that has permeated politics since the last General Election now has its only legitimate outlet available again, so bar the odd egg-throwing incident on the hustings, chances are it might not be as heated as many predict. The absence of an outlet has been part of the problem. With any luck, the shouting man whose vocal interjections have become the tone-deaf soundtrack to news broadcasts from outside Parliament might even take a breather; moreover, maybe MPs will show some respect for the deceased at last and stop evoking the ghost of Jo Cox whenever they provoke a nasty tweet.
Of course, many voters are being denied the opportunity to dish out some deserved democratic punishment due to the fact that numerous high-profile MPs are voluntarily heading for the same exit door as Amber Rudd, Heidi Allen and Justine Greening. Leaving the stage perhaps prematurely are the likes of Rory Stewart, Jo Johnson, and Owen Smith; we also wave farewell to a handful of notable veterans such as Kate Hoey, Vince Cable, Michael Fallon, Oliver Letwin, Nicholas Soames and Father of the House Ken Clarke; and, lest we forget, His Royal Lowness John Bercow is also leaving the stage. At least a few of those who’ve chosen to stick it out and take their chances with the electorate should provide us with some ‘Portillo Moments’ on Election Night, though interestingly, the man who handed the former Defence Secretary a batch of train tickets to keep him busy for the next 20 years – Labour’s Stephen Twigg – is also bailing out this time round.
Nobody but an absolute bloody idiot would attempt to forecast the result of this General Election, though I suppose it’s possible to speculate on some potential outcomes without the need for frying a few eggs in the event of cocking it up. 2017 was characterised by tales of the unexpected, after all. Few predicted the Tories would reverse their dwindling fortunes North of the Border, though it’s hard to see those remarkable gains being upheld now the Scottish branch of the Conservative Party can no longer rely on the inspirational leadership of Ruth Davidson; Theresa May certainly owed Davidson quite a debt last time round, and had the then-PM proven herself to be half as capable of galvanising support as her Celtic counterpart perhaps she’d still be in Downing Street today.
In 2017, the Lib Dems made a tentative recovery from the annihilation of 2015, and dispensing with Old Mother Cable in favour of a far younger model has seen some clever realigning on the part of the party. Its key role in Operation Austerity has become akin to the Lib Dem’s equivalent of post-war German evasion of the Swastika-clad elephant in the room; but by targeting the young Jezza groupies disillusioned with Labour’s incoherent Brexit stance, the Lib Dems are hoping 2010 is too distant a memory to get in the way of 2019. Despite Jo Swinson’s characteristic overconfidence, however, one wonders how many of the defectors from other parties that have served to swell Lib Dem ranks these past few months will still be in the Commons come 13 December. I can’t be alone in hoping Mr Umunna gets his chance to play Portillo.
I suspect many a decent and diligent constituency MP will bite the bullet simply because their constituents either oppose the Brexit position of the party the sitting member represents or – just as likely – cannot abide the party leader; and let’s face it, it’s hard to think of two more polarising party leaders than Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. Both are confronted with a tricky course to steer through traditional party loyalties and Leave/Remain divisions that threaten to throw those traditional party loyalties out the window – though Labour’s task is arguably the hardest; the Brexit Party will probably present the Tories with the only real challenge in Leave constituencies, whereas Labour’s apparent indifference to their own Leavers could postpone the New Socialist Revolution yet again.
If the number of times the nation goes to the polls in a decade can be used as a pointer to the veritable stability of the nation, it’s worth noting this is the first decade since the 1970s that we’ve had as many as four General Elections in ten years. There were just two each in the 60s, 80s, 90s and 2000s. In the 70s, three were condensed into just under four and-a-half years, followed by a further gap of four and-a-half years before the last one; this decade saw five years between the first and second, yet now we’re poised to experience our third General Election in not much more than four years. Draw your own conclusions from that, though the stability of the nation hardly needs spelling out. There is, however, a nice irony to the fact that the last day this incomparably useless Parliament will sit happens to be 5 November. It’s a quote I’ve used before, but it’s always worth remembering that Guy Fawkes was once referred to as ‘The last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions’…
© The Editor