Thursday’s election result was a seismic shock to our politics, and to the future political complexion of large parts of our United Kingdom. There has been and will no doubt continue to be, much analysis of the effects of tactical voting on the outcome of the General Election. It is self-evident that many of the pollsters fairly accurately predicted the overall vote percentages. But they were less consistently good at predicting individual seat results, or the Conservatives’ overall majority. My own view is that the election result was primarily attributable to tactical voting by significant numbers of voters in key swing seats. But we should be honest and admit that many, including ourselves, underestimated the "anti-Corbyn effect" and the tactical voting this predicated, particularly along that “red wall” of Labour-held seats running from North Wales, through the Midlands and up to the north-east of England. In other constituencies, for example, Canterbury, one can see that tactical voting ensured strongly principled Labour candidates hoovered up most of the Remain alliance vote. Elsewhere, and particularly in the South-East, we witnessed individual hard-line Brexiteers – for example, Dominic Raab, Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa Villiers – limping home with vastly reduced majorities as a result of tactical voting. As Peter Kellner wrote in The Guardian, “The big lesson is that tactical voting needs not just a common enemy, but a broadly common vision, shared by the Labour and Lib Dem leaders. This was the case with Tony Blair and Paddy Ashdown in 1997; it was not with Corbyn and Swinson last week.” I agree. My own experience, and that of my colleagues at Remain United, bear eloquent testimony to this. I can assure supporters that my team and I could not have worked harder during the Short Campaign. But deep-seated fears about the patriotism, economic security, national safety and competency of a Corbyn-led government, and a dislike of both Jo Swinson and her election campaign, were twin headwinds that were too strong for any campaigning organisation to be able to overcome. So what do I take away from this sobering, general election result? In the absence of a robust, effective – and, for the time being, credible – parliamentary opposition, we should encourage Mr Johnson to use both his heart and his head to manage the competing and conflicting hopes and aspirations of different groups of voters in a thoughtful and pragmatic way. This also means harnessing the personal credibility and franchises of his cohort of newly-elected MPs in northern seats, in order that our great country can move forward together, harmoniously and purposefully. Only time will tell how successfully the Prime Minister navigates the challenging journey that lies ahead. It is not in the interest of any of us that he should fail, as we all yearn to see the Government bring a deeply divided country back together again; deal with the undeniable, and stark, inequalities between a rich south and much poorer, post-industrial north of England; and, somehow, keep the Union together when the results of the General Election in Scotland and Northern Ireland could conspire to make that much harder to achieve. If Mr Johnson uses his enormous parliamentary majority to start a spirited and purposeful programme to reverse the effects of austerity that has divided communities and devasted so many families’ lives, he will deserve all our support. There is absolutely no doubt that the new majority Conservative Government under Mr Johnson will pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill before Christmas, but there is a long way to go to negotiate, much less still complete, the future relationship and trade agreement with the EU, against a backdrop of EU-inspired skirmishes on fisheries and financial services, and an uncertain global macro-economic landscape. We must now, all of us, face up to reality. For some of us, that will inevitably be tinged with resignation and regret. But we need to have a laser-like focus on the detail of what is being agreed in our name and make sure that it does not roll back on the rights, equality and enhanced democracy and transparency it has taken decades to achieve. A revolution is coming: the balance between the rights and prerogatives of the Executive versus the freedom of the individual is now a crucible of change, under a newly invigorated government with a large parliamentary majority. The courts, litigants and media outlets, alike, could all be early casualties of the Executive seeking to assert itself. We have already learnt that government advisers are urging on major machinery of government changes across Whitehall; these include change in MoD procurement processes
and a completely new department for borders and immigration. It is also likely to mean a greater role for the private sector in the procurement of public services; a re-balancing of spending to the North and towards infrastructure capital spending; and, by no means least, further centralising of power and patronage in the hands of the Prime Minister and his future Cabinet.
These are times of enormous change, and my perception is that this profusion of changes is going to come with startling speed and impact. With the principal opposition parties in disarray, we must stay vigilant to ensure our progressive politics and the open, tolerance that makes Britain a beacon of democracy the world over, are not placed at risk. We must all stand ready to speak out if ever this newly-elected majority government threatens to abuse the trust that voters have given it or uses its parliamentary strength to railroad legislation through Parliament that poses a threat to our communities and way of life. I, for one, will not stop using the campaigning voice I have developed over the last 30 years. I will continue to speak out against injustice, inequality and the abuse of power, whenever I see it. But if great opportunities lie ahead, just as much as threats, I will also be open to opportunities for reform and change that materially improve the quality of life for our families, our communities and our country, as we usher in a new decade with new challenges. They must not be discussed through a narrow ideological lens. To those of you who supported me and Remain United – through donations, sharing our recommendations and materials and, most of all, in sending your kind messages – we are hugely humbled by your belief in our work. We are sorry that, together, we were unable to achieve a different result on your behalf. We all played a part, and that’s what democracy is all about. Thank you for your incredible support, and my best wishes to you all.