Friday, December 13, 2019


It ill behooves an American to interpret an election in a foreign country, unless he or she has a lot of expert knowledge about that other country and also can resist the natural temptation to interpret everything in the world in terms of domestic American politics. Keeping those cautions in mind, there are, however, a few things that anyone can venture to say about yesterday's amazing election in the UK.

First and foremost, it was decisive! FINALLY, after years of coalition government and minority government, parliamentary gridlock, and Brexit stalemate, Boris Johnson's Tory party now has a decisive majority in the House of Commons and can begin the process of returning to normal governance. In addition to "getting Brexit done" and resuming regular legislation on other important topics, normal governance might well include repealing the Fixed-Term Parliament Act and curbing the expansive aspirations of the recently invented Supreme Court, both of which are constitutional novelties which have gotten in the way of traditional parliamentary government. (Those of us who, over the decades, have praised parliamentary systems of government should be happy when parliamentary government resumes functioning in the traditional manner. that made it so attractive int eh first place)

Secondly, the election ratified the 2016 referendum and reinforced the democratic notion that government ought to be responsive to the will of the electorate - even when the will of the electorate is inconvenient for London-based elites (and their equivalents in other countries).. The fact that so many traditionally Labour constituencies (Labour's northern England "Red Wall") voted Tory in part reflects the pro-Brexit, justifiable euro-skepticism of the traditional working class, whose interests have not been properly prioritized by the party that has traditionally claimed to represent them.

Third, it confirmed the widespread consensus that the prospect of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbin as Prime Minister is simply unacceptable to most people. While one factor among many, the Chief Rabbi's recent intervention calling out the increasing danger of anti-semitism sent an important message in this regard.

Bill Clinton rightly recognized in the 2016 Brexit vote a sign that the conventional political landscape was changing. Boris Johnson is a "one-nation" Tory, a very different type of "populist" from Donald Trump. It is dangerous to try to draw too many parallels between the two leaders and between the two sets of political parties. But one clear lesson is the apparently irreversible awakening of voters who have felt their interests have been neglected and their values disrespected. Elites with different interests and different values would be well advised to start learning how to take other people with other interests and values more seriously. 

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