The Secret Election Campaigner Part 4


Wow – what a crazy night. I really didn’t see that coming. Yes, the Tories were surely going to win but it was only when Blyth Valley went blue that I began to believe the exit poll. And then there was Sunderland South. A Labour hold, but hang on a minute… is that someone wearing a Sunderland shirt?

Paul Edgeworth, I salute you. Just when I thought British politics couldn’t get any more comical, there you are at the count wearing a 1989 Sunderland shirt. You can rationalise this election all you like (and I will in a moment), but if you want one thing that sums up what an idiotic farce we are dealing with here, you’ve just found it. 

This was not some Screaming Lord Such-figure or a daft independent having a bit of a laugh from the outset – this is actually a candidate from one of the major parties. Honourable mention to the likes of Lord Buckethead and Count Binface, but Paul Edgeworth wins the night for me. Thousands of people voted for a man who, for his big moment on election night, saw fit to take the stage wearing a football strip from 30 years ago.

And no one even questioned it.

As for my own candidate, I was very disappointed with our result. It was seen as a creditable defeat within the camp, but I went to bed feeling thoroughly let down by our own party and by the system as a whole. In no particular order, these are the things that went against us:

-Head office forced us to deliver policy messages that were poisonous in our constituency
-Eminent members of our local party were jealous about not being selected to stand in this election so they went off and campaigned in other constituencies
-Our local-party treasurer siphoned off donations meant for my candidate and gave them to candidates they were more pally with in neighbouring constituencies
-My candidate simply wasn’t able to deal with the stress of the battle with their own party and burnt bridges almost daily

I was absolutely staggered by the internal party politics I had to deal with too. I worked with plenty of decent and principled people but the tone was set by the tossers with the loudest voices. Because we were not a target seat we were given very little support from the supposed experts at the top, and then the final insult: at the point of finishing any campaign literature, all the old guard would suddenly break their silence and insist on having final sign-off on anything we wrote, and invariably they’d make it shit.

To have messaging signed off by committee is nothing unusual in the world of copywriting but I have never been part of a process as amateurish as this one. There were people involved who had fought elections since the 80s who were utterly clueless. They had no idea about how to manage a creative process and yet their positions of power meant they had the final say; insisting on messaging and tone just because that's what they used in 1992 when they first won their seat.

From the outset, a new party candidate and their team is made to defer to this old boys network (and it nearly always is boys). Is it any wonder that most politicians struggle to connect with young people?

Although I have only worked on the inside of one party I suspect this is the case across the board. Let’s just consider that the person who signed off this whole Brexit mess was David Cameron: one of the most pro-European Tories there has ever been. The old boys in his party who had been crying about Europe since the 70s got in his ear and persuaded him that UKIP were worth bothering about, and then some of them went even further by threatening to defect to UKIP unless there was a referendum.

If even the prime minister is cowed by a minority of fossils in his own party then what chance does a new political candidate have? I’m more bitter about how the dice is loaded against new candidates with new ideas than I am about a charlatan like Boris Johnson winning a general election.

As you may have seen from my previous articles, my own candidate is far from blameless here – they made some terrible decisions – but my experience has shown that it is nigh-on impossible for normal people with normal jobs to get elected to Westminster.

We should be ashamed of this system. I’ve met many excellent MPs from all sides of the house who are clearly doing it for the right reasons, but just look at what they had to do in order to get there.

The path of least resistance is to be shooed-in to a safe seat, but how do you impress a party sufficiently to make them willing to do that for you? You need to kiss their arse for 20 years, knocking on doors, serving as a councillor, standing in general elections where you have no chance of winning etc. etc. Or you already need to be on their radar the moment you leave a top university, then you get a job in a Thinktank that leans towards your party, and then you do a load of schmoozing and get selected from there. In short, you already have to be institutionalised to stand in a seat you have a decent chance of winning.

I’m not saying for a moment that someone who is privileged and well-educated couldn’t possibly understand the needs of the electorate (and I think it’s very poor that Boris Johnson is constantly berated for going to Eton – it wasn’t his fault his parents sent him there), but why oh why do we have such an elitist system that basically hasn’t changed since the industrial revolution?

I find it equally appalling that the people who crow the most about wanting change are actually the ones who have perpetuated the status quo. All those remainers who stamped their feet in parliament and did everything they could to frustrate Brexit with attrition and hysteria… are you happy now? On what planet were you on where you thought it was a good idea to declare war on the very people you needed to vote your party into power?

If those members of the electorate who apparently “didn’t know what they were voting for” are as stupid as you think they are, then surely they won’t be able to understand the intricacies of future trade deals with every EU nation. The remainer majority in parliament had the option to table a severance deal that would basically keep things as they are – a Brexit in name only – but this wasn’t good enough for your elitist egos was it? You simply couldn’t handle the fact you lost in the referendum so you used arcane political convention to try and exact revenge on those pesky northern peasants, and now they’ve put you out of a job.

And no, it’s not Jeremy Corbyn’s fault either – it’s your fault. Thanks to your hysterical, pious nonsense, you’ve managed to usher in the biggest Tory majority for as long as anybody can remember. You made Jeremy Corbyn’s job impossible. Either he carried on with his original strategy of leaving the EU and you all buggered off to the Lib Dems, or he changed tack and pretended he wanted a second referendum in order to keep you onside. But shock horror: by keeping you onside, the old industrial left who you only ever pretended to have anything in common with has had enough of being patronised by your high-minded socialism and has gone and voted for the party that can deliver Brexit.

I don’t care if you’re actually right that staying in the EU would have been a good idea – that’s not the point. It was once the point, but it was a point that shouldn’t have been made so vehemently every single day for three years after a referendum on the matter.

The hysterical remainer-public are also massively to blame for encouraging all this “right on” posturing in parliament. Still, once the EU debate is over with, they’ve got a nice Tory landslide to rail against on Facebook. That should give them a few more years to show off to their chums about just how much they care.

Yes, Jeremy Corbyn lost some seats in this election by just being Jeremy Corbyn (the crap suits, the crooked glasses, the smears about marxism and anti-semitism etc.), but an ill-timed election could have been avoided if remainers across the house actually worked together like adults and if the old Blairites in Labour hadn’t made it their mission to decapitate their leader at every opportunity.

When it comes to fossils dictating the destiny of a party, Corbyn’s had it just as badly as Cameron. As if the constant disharmony wasn’t bad enough, the Blairites managed to make the Corbyn brand so toxic that the opportunist swines at the Lib Dems and SNP were given a big incentive to stab him in the back.

Oh no, we won’t work with Jeremy Corbyn will we? That isn’t the cool thing to do. We won’t take the opportunity to join together and commandeer negotiations with Europe and then deliver that second referendum we’ve spent years telling everybody we so desperately want. Oh no no no – let’s not do that. Let’s have an election instead. That’ll be a nice jolly jape won’t it?

One silver lining in all this is that Jo Swinson’s twattery has caused her to become unemployed. Her and her head office have a lot to answer for here. It was pure self-interest that drove them to partner up with the SNP to do an about-turn and suddenly back a December election. They knew Corbyn would be at his weakest if the country had to fight an election on Brexit, and so they put the boot in. 

It's not like the left hasn’t been warned. If Labour couldn’t even beat John Major in 1992 when the country was in recession and all the industrial/trade-union vote was strongly onside, then what chance did it really have of winning this time around? And nobody can tell me that things would have been much better with a Keir Starmer, a Tom Watson or a David Miliband at the helm.

With any of those safer pairs of hands as leader, Labour would have got nowhere near to Theresa May in the 2017 election. Lest we forget, Corbyn’s style of non-politics tripled the membership and galvanised young voters like no other leader in our lifetime. Sure, the safe hands may not have offended the nation in the way Corbyn did in recent times, but because they’d have lost by such a distance in 2017 the voting maths of parliament could never have created another election in 2019 where Brexit was the main issue.

And just how many of us want the Labour Party to emulate the Blair and Brown days anyway? A lot of R$N readers will find the idea of a Boris Johnson government revolting, but hand on heart, would you really want to vote for a Labour Party that basically pretends to be the Tories anyway? I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen the Lib Dems branded as ‘Yellow Tories’ in my Facebook echo chamber… surely it doesn’t suddenly become fine if Labour does the same thing?

I’m struggling to see the point of the Labour Party at the moment. In fact, what is the point of any of this? How exactly can our system work when each of the major parties has to pretend so much just to keep themselves together internally? Then, once they’ve done that, they have to pretend even more in order to gather the votes of people in wildly different regions of the country.

The Tories have won the latest battle but no one’s winning the war here. It’s an absolute nonsense. What is the world coming to when a minority party led by fekking Kilroy can stoke an internal Tory squabble to the point where we leave the EU, and then this causes an even bigger internal squabble that ends up decimating the Labour Party?

I’ve seen firsthand the tinpot and arbitrary nature of the process at a local level and the general awfulness of internal party politics. The public-facing aspect of it is clearly no better. This system is quite simply not worth our energy. 

We should obviously fight for a fair society and we should make the effort to vote, but we shouldn’t assume that if we persuade enough people to vote for our side that Westminster will suddenly deliver fairness for us. It clearly cannot deliver significant change anymore, whoever is in power. It doesn’t have the money and it doesn’t have enough control of our varied and transient population. The state has been dying for as long as most of us can remember.

You can blame Thatcher, you can blame the Tories, you can blame the sodding illuminati, but how about actually DOING SOMETHING about it?

And I don’t mean taking to the streets to protest against Brexit or Boris Johnson’s prorogation of parliament (because that really really made things better for us didn’t it?)… I mean volunteering; I mean fundraising; I mean chatting to the homeless fella you walk past every evening on your way home from work; and I mean a whole load of other straightforward single issues that any sane person – whoever they voted for in Westminster – would agree must improve.

Once you take the concept of change away from complex political ideology, people from different backgrounds tend to agree with each other. Even an issue as vast as climate change has gained great consensus because the common goal is so obvious. People have different views as to how we can best improve the environment, but unlike national politics, there are no arcane power structures in the way that force the issue to become all about the differences rather than the commonality.

The technology is here to make change from the bottom up. We are already building momentum for single issues that transcend country borders and we are already exchanging goods and services without using government-controlled currencies. It’s easy to assume that only a nation state can build a public hospital, but if those involved in building it were paid (where possible) by exchanging their time and resources with each other then you wouldn't need so much in Westminster-handouts to make it happen.

If we're really so sick of a wealthy elite running the country then we should play a different game – a game where we become the elite players rather than them. What use is a billion pounds to a successful capitalist if most other people are using different currencies? What power does a prime minister have if their people are governing themselves?

If we keep wasting our time arguing about politics then we will never change it. We might change the actors and we might claim some temporary moral high ground when we do, but we’ll all be complicit in our country going to shit.

Let’s find the issues we agree on and create whatever structures we need to make change ourselves; and let’s just get on with it.

Merry fucking Christmas.

See the rest of The Secret Election Campaigner series here:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three