labour always intended to lose (as did hillary, btw) because no one wants to preside over an upcoming world war

Corbyn played his greatest hits, but voters were no longer gripped
John Crace, Groon, Dec 12 2019

Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Peter Summers

As the clocks moved ever closer to 10 pm, the pollsters held their breath. Then a collective sigh of relief was expelled, as the exit poll revealed that the Tories were heading for a massive majority of 86. The polls throughout the campaign had been near enough right. The credibility of the polling companies was safe for the time being. They wouldn’t be laughing stocks. Barring the unthinkable of the exit poll itself being seriously wrong, the first time it would have happened since 1992, we were certain to have a Boris Johnson government for the next five years. There had been a similar tension in the spin room of the ITV studios in the two hours prior to the polls closing. Back in 2017 the atmosphere had been very different. Relaxed to the point of being laid-back. The serious political journalists and commentators were all convinced that the Tories were heading for at least a 40-seat majority, and had been happy to say as much. Now no-one was taking any chances by making rash predictions in public. Private thoughts were best kept private. Once bitten, twice shy. So the most dismal general election campaign for decades limped to its close. Johnson had spent the last few days driving a digger through a polystyrene wall that he himself had built, then trying out as a milkman, and had hidden himself in a fridge. But though the crowds had been rather thin on the ground at his final rally in London’s Olympic Park on Wednesday night, it had been job done for Boris. The rally resembled a pop-up swingers’ party. There were plenty of empty seats, and activists had to be prodded to raise their placards for the TV cameras. But Boris had managed to get through the last week without being interviewed by Andrew Neil, without facing tough questions about the accusations from Jack Merritt’s father that his death had been used as a career opportunity, and without having to explain his total lack of concern for a four-year-old boy asleep on a hospital floor.

Jeremy Corbyn had also had his struggles. He had tried to revive memories of the spontaneous outdoor rallies that had drawn huge crowds in 2017, but this time the weather was against him. It’s hard to feel the love when either the rain is tipping down or the temperature is near freezing. Not that Corbyn hadn’t given it his best shot. He had played all his greatest hits but somehow the connection was no longer there. Corbyn thrives off a responsive audience and, though his supporters were still loyal, they were no longer transfixed. They needed more than they were getting. They needed hope. They needed to believe that Corbyn believed. This is the election where the shark has well and truly been jumped and the truth has become a foreign country. And it’s the Tories who have been the worst offenders, adopting every trick out of the Steve Bannon & Donald Trump playbook. Why tell a small lie when you’re so much better off going big? And if you are caught out lying, never apologise. Just double down on it. Tell a lie often enough, then at least your lie is generating headlines and some people will believe it. Boris started the election with a lie, that he didn’t want the election and that parliament had blocked his Brexit deal, and just carried on from there. The NHS, police numbers, anything. His slogan of “Get Brexit done” was perhaps his most egregious lie, because not even someone as disconnected from the truth as him believes any of that for a minute. We’ll be falling out over Brexit for years, if not decades to come.

Nor did Labour particularly cover themselves in glory, though their lies might safely be classified under the old school category of ‘extreme exaggeration’. How very 2015. Labour have tried to talk about anything but Brexit, not easy in an election that was so obviously always going to be dominated by Brexit, because Corbyn’s own position on the EU was such a hard sell. In trying to keep both its remain and leave voters happy, it has pleased almost no-one. And in amongst all this, its core messages on the NHS and austerity struggled for airspace. This has been less of an election and more of an unpopularity contest. Boris and Corbyn were widely disliked and mistrusted throughout the country. All that had been at stake was which leader was hated the least. And the exit polls had indicated that Boris had won. No one expected him to deliver on the promises he had made, but they were less worried about that than the promises on which Labour might deliver. So we were heading for a Tory government and a Brexit that would continue to divide the country. Hell, it was odds on that not even a majority of leavers would like the Brexit deal Boris ended up with. And in the meantime, Corbyn would soon be eased out. Written out of Labour’s history. A bad dream that had cost the country dear.

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