It is unlike me not to engage with politics, or to even follow it, as my writing here attests, but when it came to the 2019 General Election, and the inevitability of a Conservative win in order to end the deadlock over Brexit, I switched off very quickly. I received my postal vote nearly three weeks before the day of the election, and put the completed vote through my town hall’s letterbox hours before the Conservative Party announced their manifesto. Once the exit poll was declared at 10pm on Thursday 12th December, declaring a Tory victory by 80-plus seats, I lasted fifteen more minutes before needing to watch something else – I missed the election-night tradition of looking into the counting taking place at the UK’s enormous variety of sports halls.
I consider myself politically to be slightly left of the centre, meaning I usually vote for a different party with each election, but never the right-wing Conservatives. Then again, my home town has had a Conservative MP since at least 1835 – only three different MPs have represented the area in the last seventy years, and the latest one, coming up on their tenth anniversary, just increased their majority. My dissenting vote made as much difference as it would by eating it, or setting it on fire.
At that point in the election campaign, the Conservatives had already put out a misleading social media ad, making it look like Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer could not answer a question on “Good Morning Britain,” and Conservative Central HQ’s Twitter page was renamed “Fact Check UK” during a TV debate. These sleights of hand are what you are used to looking out for on social media anyway, and have been part of election campaigns since the invention of posters, let alone radio or television. As a film scholar, I was particularly offended by the Starmer ad being described by James Cleverly, the unfortunately-named Conservative Party chairman as having been “edited” instead of “doctored,” as if I wasn’t reading it properly – I hope he has accidentally stepped on a Lego brick since then.
Having afforded myself the relative luxury at looking at the election campaign after having voted, I personally do not believe that the Conservatives won due to the ongoing Brexit issue, or on public services, or in comparison to how bad the Labour or Liberal Democrat campaigns went: it was because the Conservatives were so pervasive in the discourse of the election, and that came from everyone, not just the media. They ran the clearest, if least detailed campaign: “Get Brexit Done,” then some other things. They had the least robotic leader – Boris Johnson looks like a child’s drawing of his brother Jo. They had the least overlap between themselves and the other parties, with all parties in competition with them.
However, I am perturbed by the talk following the election about how Boris Johnson will now govern as Prime Minister. Yes, he will not have to pander to the right-wing of his party, or towards the centrist MPs that lost the party whip during the last Parliament, and now their seats. Having won so many seats in the north of England, traditionally Labour territory, what effect will this now have on decision making? Shouldn’t we have had more of an idea of Johnson’s attempt during the campaign, where he was seen as having evaded questions, mainly by evading his being interviewed? Perhaps, we have heard little since because he is still working it out. The certainty over Brexit appears to be over – the UK is leaving the European Union or not, regardless over whether I think the question should have been asked or now, but what happens after that is another question, when there really shouldn’t be a question.