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The working class secured this victory for Johnson – now the real challenge will be holding on to their trust

The Tories now can’t afford to betray the people who voted them in. But there are things the party can do to make sure that doesn't happen

Geoff Norcott
Friday 13 December 2019 15:10
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General election 2019: Boris Johnson arrives at Downing Street

Last night was an odd experience. As a Conservative voter and someone who voted Leave, I should’ve been euphoric. Ok, I was a bit. However, it was impossible not to scratch my head as the political and cultural world – which had been warned of an asteroid heading towards the earth for some time – still seemed surprised by the extinction-level event.

Let’s get the first thing clear, a Tory majority was the predicted outcome and had been since the election was called. At no point did the polls narrow to agree which made any other outcome more probable. Yes, the scale was big, but not outside the margin of error. Not even celebs tweeting "Labour" or reports of queues of hipsters baking their own rye bread outside London polling stations changed that.

And yet, here many of them are today, utterly perplexed.

It’s weird for those of us who’ve been predicting this for some time. The working class, patriotic, broadly royalist and supportive of the armed forces did not go for someone who was none of those things. Go figure. If politics was Tinder, almost every filter would preclude Jeremy Corbyn.

Not to mention the Labour’s expedient prevarication over Brexit.

Last week, they finally spoke about "strengthening their offer" to Leave voters by revealing that the big hitter who would campaign for "honest broker" Corbyn's deal would be Richard bloody Burgon. Like a Minion opening for England, trying to bat with a fart-gun.

There’s an old adage, "Never ask the electorate the same thing twice". Anyone who’s worked in politics for some time knows this and yet Labour was repeatedly asking the same question over Brexit, slyly shuffling towards trying to a backdoor Remain.

In a way, the most heartening aspect of last night wasn’t watching what happened to a once great party like Labour, it was seeing the Liberal Democrats face the consequences of deserting their name. The whole "Bollocks to Brexit" thing was a rank piece of populism delivered by the supply teachers of UK politics. Over the course of the campaign, speaking with many Remain voters appalled by the democratic blindness of revoke, was a reminder that the vast majority of people on either side of the political divide are decent and fair.

There will be lots written about how the Tories were able to make such huge inroads in former Labour areas. It may seem tangential, but I think the free broadband offer was a huge false step. It was the freebie that made you scrutinise all the others. The Amigo loans of political offers, a brightly coloured carrot which made you suspicious of the stick. Ultimately, it turned out people haven’t forgotten the free lunch principle – and that switching broadband providers is a massive ball ache.

I’ve banged on about the aspirational pitch to the working-class for some time. The last time it was made was in the early part of the Blair years; as well as decent welfare provision, you have to offer people with less the idea that they could significantly improve their station. When you have limited means, aspiration is like faith, you need it more. It’s either that, scratch cards or looking around the warehouse wondering which machine pays out best for industrial injuries.

However, It would also be folly for the Tories to presume the size of this majority is a blanket endorsement of their brand. Let’s not forget the prime minister ducked an interview with Andrew Neil and ended his campaign dicking about in a fridge. This election wasn’t like picking a holiday, it was more like choosing toilet roll. The nation needed to wipe its backside and was looking for the least abrasive paper.

I’m empathetic to the sense of despair people on the Left feel at this result, but I believe their worst fears are unfounded. What last night proved was that the Tories cannot be returned to power without large-scale working-class support.

It has created a peculiar alliance, where the Tories now can’t afford to betray the working-class vote. It’s like the moment in Game of Thrones when Jon Snow did a deal with the Wildlings: piss us off and we will eviscerate you.

I hope the prime minister moves to reassure people and that the "one nation" line isn’t just more of his waffle. I get no pleasure from people on the opposite side of the political spectrum to me thinking they’re living in a dystopia. There are things he can do and say which can ameliorate that.

Ironically, last night, the progressives ended up being the dinosaurs. There they were idly grazing around the asteroids' predicted impact site, while the pragmatists fled to higher ground. It is – hopefully the final time – a reminder of the country’s median political character.

I hope that this time, politically and culturally, the media will work on ways to improve their offer, rather than simply pretending those people don’t exist.

Geoff Norcott's touring show "Taking Liberties'"resumes for new dates from January 25th to April 25th, 2020. Tickets available here

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