Very early Friday morning, in the dark, when most sensible Coloradans were asleep and a few were listening to the BBC, Boris Johnson, the leader of Britain’s Conservative party, stepped before cameras and microphones as he has so many times before – but this time, he seemed to be fumbling for words even more than usual, in the wake of the biggest victory his side has seen since the days of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
“This election means that getting Brexit done is now the irrefutable...” Johnson paused. Had he started on the wrong foot?
“Irresistible...” he said. Another pause. Was he possibly describing a dessert?
“Unarguable...” he continued, as though he’d found his thread. Pause. “Decision!” he said at last.
What Johnson really wanted to say was that it was time for breakfast, which he surely went to with a healthy appetite, feeling vindicated even by the working class voters – especially by the working-class voters – whom the rival Labour was supposed to own, which in itself must be a parable about taking constituencies for granted.
It would be weak tea for the night’s big loser if he was lucky. Labour led by Jeremy Corbyn, a humorless socialist, saw its worst defeat since 1935.
As the vote on Brexit three-plus years ago seemed to presage the election of Donald Trump, who has been Johnson’s ally, what was also irresistible was asking what if anything this shipwrecked mandate could mean for the U.S. elections next year.
The two situations are obviously different but it also would be foolish to ignore the similarities.
One lesson imparted by The Spectator, the conservative British magazine, Friday morning, in a post entitled “The fall of Labour’s ‘Red Wall’ is a moment to celebrate,” is that Labour, so far from its roots in the common people, was undone by Corbyn’s “performative bourgeois radicalism.”
You do not want the smartypantses at The Spectator mad at you. But it also sticks a little here.
On Thursday, as U.K. members voted, Claire Sandberg, the national organizing director of socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders’s 2020 Democratic presidential campaign, took to Twitter.
After working for Sanders in 2016, Sandberg went to the U.K. to advise Labour. “It’s not hard to draw parallels between Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, “ she told CNN then. “They’re both populists and outsiders who challenged the establishments of their own parties, energized new movements of people and in particular brought young people into politics, who are fighting to reverse the extreme wealth inequality and massive consolidation of corporate power that is ruining our societies ...
“Ultimately, the unexpected success of both Bernie and Corbyn demonstrates that a lot of people on both sides of the Atlantic are fed up with failed status quo politics, and are hungry for genuine solutions to the multiple intersecting crises we face as a society.”
On Thursday, Sandberg posted a picture of a room crammed with fresh faces holding Sanders and Corbyn posters and raising their fists with the message, “The Bernie team says #VoteLabour ... #ForTheManyNotTheFew!”
They made for a young, happy, privileged-looking group – a few, if you will. Doubtlessly they were buoyed by the sense history was on their side as well as Labour’s. As they were posing, in D.C., the House was moving toward impeaching President Donald Trump.
Speaking of Johnson in her Guardian column Friday morning, Polly Toynbee said, “How bad did Labour have to be to let this sociopathic, narcissistic, glutton for power beat them?”
Writing in The Spectator, columnist Brendan O’Neill, himself a former Trotskyist Marxist and writer for the Revolutionary Communist Party journal Living Marxism, thundered, “Across the country the working classes have abandoned Labour, because Labour abandoned them. It sneered at their vote for Brexit; it looked down its nose at their cultural values; it called them racist and xenophobic for being critical of the European Union and concerned about mass immigration.
“Labour embraced an agenda of identity politics over community values, EU neoliberalism over British patriotism and radical virtue-signalling over the ideals of family, work and togetherness. And its working-class base said no, no, no.
“This is a warning to the entire political class. Do not take voters for granted. Do not insult them. Do not demean their democratic voice. Because, whatever you might say to the contrary, they have minds of their own, and they will soon make up their mind that you are a patronising git who may no longer represent their community.”
Corbyn said Friday he would not lead Labour into another election.
“He should have gone before dawn,” Toynbee snapped.