I once went round the terrifying assault course at the Guards Depot at Pirbright. (Thankfully no record exists as to how I fared at it!) One particularly nasty obstacle was a line of semi-submerged stepping stones across a filthy dirty and freezing cold swimming pool, carefully spaced so that unless you hit the first stone at full tilt, and sprinted over, you’d land up in the drink.
Political life is a bit like that – hit the first stepping-stone at full speed and keep up the momentum all the way across. Boris won the Brexit referendum; toppled Theresa May; won the subsequent leadership battle; won the General Election with the first decent majority in 25 years; is close to defeating Covid without apparently wrecking the economy; has weathered a few storms in his personal life; and now seems to have done better in these mid-term elections than any Prime Minister in living memory. Phew!
The by-election victory in Hartlepool is of course spectacular. More than 50% of the vote; a 16% swing in our favour; the Tories securing almost double the Labour vote. No matter which way you look at it it’s a shattering blow for the Labour Party and Keir Starmer, the reverberations of which will be with us for a very long time. Hartlepool has been reflected in similar results in the local government elections across the Labour heartlands and elsewhere.
We will hear more over the weekend but if these early signs are anything to go by, it’s been a spectacularly good election for the Tories, a disaster for Labour, with the minority parties- greens, LibDems and so on barely featuring. I remain concerned about Scotland where an SNP majority (which is possible) might well lead to another Referendum, although I am beginning to think that only then will my fellow Scots come to realise what a catastrophic economic collapse there would be in an independent Scotland. Perhaps only when they are teetering on the edge of the cliff will they pull back from it.
I am confident that here in Wiltshire we will see very little change. We should now thank those who have served and are standing down, congratulate those newly elected and thank everyone who stood unsuccessfully (for the part they played in maintaining a decent democracy).
When the dust settles; Brexit behind us, lockdown is a dim memory, the economy bouncing back; that’s when Tory hegemony in local and national government must allow a decent period of peace and quiet. We need to settle down, get on with the less spectacular but vastly more important business of running Britain and doing what we can to help with peoples’ everyday lives. People of all sorts, of all political persuasions and none; and for the first time in 50 or 100 years, people from every corner of the country.
These elections and the history of the last 5 years or so has given we Tories a great opportunity. Parliament and Government must return to normal after 21 June, and then get on with the day-job. We’re teetering on the last of the submerged stepping-stones; and one last leap will get us back to dry land.