Peter Bingle: Four political lessons from 2016

Written by Peter Bingle on 12 December 2016 in Opinion

Brexit showed that ordinary folk have had enough - and that David Cameron was the ultimate political chancer.

For those of us addicted to politics 2016 has been a corker of a year. Everything that was taken for granted is no more. The ordinary people decided enough was enough. The fight back was pretty sensational. Brexit, the demise of Cameron & Osborne and the election of President Elect Trump. Valhalla is ablaze. The rule of the Gods - nowadays affectionately known as the metropolitan liberal elite - is at an end.

The first important political event of the year was the London Mayoral election. For many months it was assumed that Tessa Jowell was a shoo-in but Sadiq Khan is one of the great campaigners in modern politics. He easily saw off Jowell and then decisively defeated Zac Goldsmith after a truly awful Tory campaign, a campaign which continues to damage the Tory brand in London. Sadiq is somebody to watch. His ambition extends well beyond City Hall.

The next major event was the referendum on 23rd June on our membership of the EU. This was a nasty and bad tempered campaign which increased divisions and stoked up prejudices that should have been kept locked up. Nobody came out of the campaign with an enhanced reputation. Most commentators and politicos expected the Remain campaign to narrowly win but ordinary working class voters thought differently. From the moment Sunderland South declared it became clear that the unthinkable was about to become a reality. Brexit!

The referendum result had an immediate scalp. Cameron fell on his sword and walked away from his previous promise not to do so. For a short while it seemed that Andrea Leadsom (a female Tory version of Jeremy Corbyn) might win but the pressure proved too much for her and she withdrew after a terrible press interview thereby handing the keys to Number 10 to Theresa May.

Since becoming PM Theresa May has sought to show that she is very different to her predecessor. This is now the era of grammar school boys and girls. The posh boys have been expelled. Her reshuffle was one of the most brutal since the Second World War. Osborne and Gove were dismissed without a flicker of emotion.

The next event was the Labour leadership election in which Jeremy Corbyn sought a fresh mandate from his beleaguered party. Rarely in the annals of Labour Party history has there been a more insignificant and futile event. A politician who makes Michael Foot look like an election winner was re-elected and depression immediately set in within the PLP. The Labour Party had decided it no longer wanted to be a serious political party.

The minor parties have caused much amusement throughout the year. UKIP has been through a traumatic time as it attempted to come to terms with life after Farage. At times events were reminiscent of "It's A Knockout". Yet the election of Paul Nuttall MEP is a smart move. There are many northern Labour MPs representing Brexit constituencies who will be very vulnerable at the next election.

The Lib Dems remain an irrelevance. Zac's defeat in Richmond Park did not signify a new dawn for Tim Farron's tiny party. It simply confirmed that the time had come for Zac Goldsmith to consider a career other than politics. Richmond Park is a totally atypical constituency in which very few residents are just about managing!

So what are the lessons which need to be learned from the various political events in 2016?

The first lesson is very simple but monumental in its significance. Ordinary folk have had enough. They feel unloved by the Westminster elite and want to have a say in what happens next. Theresa May understands this. Jeremy Corbyn does not.

The second lesson is quite sad. David Cameron has no political legacy. Never has a PM been forgotten quite so quickly. Some of us always suspected he believed in nothing and events have proved us correct. He only gave the commitment to hold a referendum because he never thought there would be a majority Tory government. He was the ultimate political chancer who rolled the dice once too often.

The third lesson is tragic. The Labour Party is in a desperate state. Outside of London the party is becoming an irrelevance. Corbyn is not only unelectable but is unable to respond to the new public mood. For most Labour MPs and council leaders 2016 has been a depressing year. They know that they are charging towards politician oblivion with a leader who is oblivious to what is about to happen. It is indeed a tragic tale.

The last lesson is a statement of the bleeding obvious. 2016 has proved that the Tory Party is going to dominate British politics for the next generation. The public mood is angry and yet there is a desire for competent government. The PM has caught the desire for government to help the people who are just about managing. She also knows that she will win the next election whenever it happens. The process of delivering Brexit will not be easy but as long as Jeremy Corbyn remains in post it really doesn't matter.

An analysis of 2016 would not be complete without a passing mention of Donald Trump's crushing victory. Again, most commentators called it wrong but Trump caught the mood in a way that nobody since Reagan has done. The reason for his success can be summarised by one of the greatest ever political slogans: "Let's drain the swamp."




Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images


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