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Boris wins, but the UK loses

Rob Mudge
December 13, 2019

We're quick to bandy about words like momentous, stunning and historic. But this is such a moment. The outcome of the election will define UK politics for years to come. Is it headed for meltdown, asks Rob Mudge.

Boris Johnson with his dog
Image: picture-alliance/empics/J. Brady

Well, we all saw that one coming, didn't we?

Just to put it into perspective: The last time the Conservatives cruised to such a crushing victory was in 1987 under Margeret Thatcher. She who so gleefully wielded her handbag against the EU, spouting lines like "We want our money back."

This time it boiled down to three words: "Get Brexit done." Except it isn't and won't be for the foreseeable future.

Is it a sign of the times we live in that lies, broken promises and barely veiled racism trump (pun intended) substance and policies? Education, crime, homelessness and a National Health Service that is dying on its feet — none of them matter when driving a digger through a polystyrene wall or hiding in a fridge hold so much more appeal for an electorate.

Boris Johnson adopted almost every trick out of Donald Trump's playbook. And no one batted an eyelid. He will continue to peddle the lie that the UK's exit from the EU will be easy and swift and that a trade deal will be in place by the end of the transition period in December 2020. Just a reminder: It took the EU and Canada 10 years to finalize their trade agreement.

Read moreWhat happens with Brexit after Boris Johnson's victory?

Boris Johnson drives a Union flag-themed JCB, with the words "Get Brexit Done" inside the digger bucket, through a fake wall
Boris Johnson drives a Union flag-themed JCB, with the words "Get Brexit Done" through a fake wallImage: Reuters/AFP/B. Stansall

Labour in tatters

So where did it go wrong for Labour? The answer to that is simple: Jeremy Corbyn. Was there ever a more despised and divisive Labour leader? Did he really think he could pull off another upset along the lines of the 2017 election when he managed to prevent a Tory majority under Theresa May?

Corbyn will now have no choice but to step down, as one final service to his party. He's already said he won't lead the party in the next election — something he should have possibly considered for this election.

Devastatingly, Labour has lost swathes of its traditional heartland — the so-called red wall — to the Conservatives: large areas of post-industrial northern England where the Tories' austerity cuts have crippled society and the economy, making the poor even poorer.

Corbyn's party is blaming the election result on Brexit fatigue. That is too easy, notwithstanding the fact that their leader's ambiguity on the matter didn't help. Some serious soul-searching is required when a manifesto that could have overhauled an economy and society blighted by years of Tory mismanagement causes barely a ripple. The party is in tatters and heading into oblivion much like the Social Democrats here in Germany.

Depressingly, this has been more of an unpopularity contest than an election — and Johnson has managed to win the least-hated challenge. Did anyone in their right mind expect him to deliver on his promises? Hardly, but voters were more concerned about the promises Corbyn made.

A Union no more?

What hurts most, however, is the irreparable damage this result will have on an already deeply divided and polarized country.

Disunited Kingdom, anyone? Scotland looks to have heeded the call of the Scottish National Party (SNP) to take back control (does that ring a bell?) with the SNP projected to win 55 of the country's 59 seats. There will be a massive push for a second independence referendum.

The Tory government will, of course, oppose such a move. The daggers have already been drawn, with Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying that Johnson does not have a mandate to take her country out ot the EU. Will Irish nationalists who have made more gains than pro-British unionists for the first time push for a vote to split from the UK?

The result of this election defines the UK's future role in the world. And it marks a massive transformation of British politics that will resonate through the country for years to come.

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