“Enough of talking – it is time now to do.”
Tony Blair 1997
This election was one of the most difficult to call, but we are now becoming accustomed to the seminal accuracy of the exit poll procedure. And so it was last Thursday evening, just six seats off the final count at 10 pm when voting ceased: setting the seal on the next five years.
John McDonnell knew it, and was already prepped to blame it all on Brexit. But it wasn’t just about Brexit - it was far more than that: it was the wholesale rejection of the spectre of socialist control which he had done so much to generate, albeit surreptitiously.
So in this commentary we consider why the “red wall” of Labour heartland constituencies changed allegiance, and how Boris Johnson can ensure that they never return to socialism in the future.
On the day before the election, Daniel Finkelstein wrote in the Times comment column about McDonnell’s desire to ‘re-educate’ civil servants, by inviting them to read Ralph Miliband’s book ‘Socialism for a Sceptical Age’. Notwithstanding its description by Corbyn’s adviser as a ‘great leap backwards’, this tome advocates that democracy should be based on the politburo rather than individual universal suffrage. McDonnell is a communist and the electorate has firmly rejected his vision - thank goodness.
So we now have the situation where Labour has been stuck with a single unpopular leadership for the past four years, while Conservatives have changed their leader twice: Corbyn has looked across the Chamber at Cameron, May and Johnson, and only now - reluctantly - has he accepted that it’s time to go. The Conservatives, by leaving the primary responsibility for leadership change with their parliamentary party rather than their general membership, are constitutionally endowed with leadership flexibility. Meanwhile, Labour are locked into inflexibility as a result of Ed Miliband’s overhaul in favour of the general membership and the trade unions.
As a result, the Johnson era is a fresh new start for the Conservative government, and people across the United Kingdom, especially in the Labour heartlands, recognise this. Furthermore, the economic position is rather better than the general media might suggest.
There is a very good and succinct assessment of the UK economy from Andrew Hunt Economics, called ‘UK: a Pictorial Review’. This paints a picture of rapidly falling unemployment during the Conservative years, and sustained consumer confidence. At the same time, at the top of page 9, is the extraordinary achievement of reducing the annual UK Budget deficit (rolling, one year) from £140 billion in 2011 to £50 billion in 2019.
The Conservatives know how to run an economy, whereas Labour has demonstrated time and again the ability to wreck it: and people know this reality. That’s why only one Labour leader has won a General Election over the past forty years, and that was Tony Blair - arguably Labour in name only.
So, looking forwards, Boris Johnson has an extraordinary mandate to deliver - but he is also right to say that the Conservative party must change. This is the Party’s opportunity to earn the continuing trust of those who have ‘lent’ him their votes this time, and it will be done by that egalitarian transformation of capitalism that we have advocated in this commentary for so long.
The Share Centre’s Chief Executive, Richard Stone, took up this battle in an open letter to Boris Johnson on the day after the General Election. He wrote eloquently about the need for popular share ownership, widespread and genuine employee share ownership (not the McDonnell kind), proper financial education and greater incentives to save and invest. And he drew particular attention to the need to recover and promote the Child Trust Fund, the six million owners of which will all become adult voters over the next ten years.
All three Share enterprises are advocating this real change to bring hope and opportunity to all, and to all generations. We know how to democratise wealth and wealth creation, as we claimed in the chart which we published just before the 2016 Brexit referendum, setting out a summary of proposals in our commentary on 28th May 2019. Now is the time to deliver on that promise, and we will work with Government to make it happen.
The Election has shown that the British people firmly reject the collectivist state control of socialism, and all should now share – individually - in the dividends which will flow from their decision.
Gavin Oldham OBE