Boris Johnson claiming "There is no press here" in front of the press.

Where Does This Result Leave Democracy?

December 16, 2019

My Dad would shout at the players during the football, “Just put the ball in back of the bloody net!”

My brother and I would laugh. “You should write to him and suggest it.”

I’m reminded of this when people say “Labour should have won more seats.”

Post election analysis is often one dimensional. People looking for a single reason to explain the behaviour of 32 million voters. It was the media. It was Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn was too peacenik. Boris was a lovable rogue.

Let’s start with the most basic fact. Boris Johnson is Prime Minister.

He has a heavy responsibility. I hope he’s up to the task of guiding us out of the EU without crashing our economy. So far we’ve only seen the withdrawal bill.  There will be a trading relationship with Europe, and the details have to be worked out. I’ve not yet seen any economic analysis that shows where greater prosperity comes from.

I hope he does well. I mean that. Because if you believe in democracy, as I do, you have to respect a mandate.

I hope he’ll live up to his promises to devolve power and budgets to democratically elected Mayors, who have our own mandates. Taking back control means making decisions in the North East, not in Whitehall.

I hope he’ll do a better job as Prime Minister than he did as Foreign Secretary. If Britain’s striking out on our own, we cannot afford those kinds of gaffes.

I worry about the threats made against the BBC and Channel 4, when they criticised him. We need diversity in our media.  Eighty percent of the British press is owned by a handful of tax-exiles who don’t live in Britain.

I worry about the scale of cuts our councils face. Their finances are already unsustainable. I worry that Johnson will transfer even more of the burden onto council tax payers.  Global corporations like Amazons and Starbucks must pay their share.

14 million people voted Conservative. 18 million voted for other parties. However you slice it, there’s a case for proportional representation.

Fewer people voted for Johnson in 2019 than for John Major in April 1992, despite the increase in population. In September 1992, Sterling crashed out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism on Black Wednesday. Labour took a 20 point poll lead. John Smith was on track for a 1997 landslide before his tragic death. Tony Blair took over and won with a 12.5% margin. Tory support only recovered after the 2008 financial crash.

Labour took a massive lead in 1992, long before the shift to New Labour

There’s much talk about who’ll be the next Labour leader.

All politicians get attacked by the media, most of it is unjustified. According to the press, Ed Miliband couldn’t eat a bacon sandwich. Gordon Brown was miserable. Tony Blair was labelled a liar even before the Iraq war. With Jeremy Corbyn, the vilification stuck. A long history of campaigning for peace and against oppression gave the tabloid press their targets. Labour’s nuanced stance on Brexit reinforced the negative image.

Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership Labour polled more votes, with a higher share of the electorate, than under Ed Miliband in 2015, Gordon Brown in 2010, or Tony Blair in 2005. I don’t ascribe that to Jeremy personally. All my conversations with voters convince me it’s our policies that are popular. Every poll confirms it.

I want to see a government prioritise wellbeing for everybody, weighted towards those most in need.  I want to see a government support small businesses and see they get paid on time.  I want a government that will tackle racism and bigotry.  That reverses the crippling poverty ruining the life chances of kids born to poor parents.  That ends the epidemic of poor mental health.  That sees low pay and homelessness a thing of the past.  That unleashes the talents and creativity of millions of our fellow citizens. That recognises an economy based on financial speculation is not good enough. We need one based on a green industrial transformation.

I’ll support a leadership candidate who offers that hope.

I don’t believe that’s what we’ve got with Boris Johnson. I’d be delighted to be proven wrong.

In the meantime, I’ll be delivering my manifesto as Mayor.

This article was first published in the Journal and the Chronicle on Monday 16th December 2019

Jeremy Corbyn. A man of integrity, warmth and good humour. Don’t believe the billionaire press.