Friday, July 08, 2016

Nobody knows anything about British politics any more

"Nobody knows anything." That's what the screenwriter William Goldman said.

He went on to explain:
Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what's going to work. Every time out it's a guess and, if you're lucky, an educated one.
And it's certainly true of British politics now too.

Take what I wrote on Sunday:
There will be no coronation for the new Conservative leader. Two names will be put to the party's leadership. Those names will be Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom. 
May will win the ballot, but it will be no walkover - say 56 to 44 per cent.
Aww. How sweet! I love the exact percentage figures.

Everything I have seen since I wrote that had led me to believe that the Conservative members will choose Andrea Leadsom.

There are a lot of fruitcakes among them and they want a fruitcake to lead them.

It's not just me. The current Private Eye has two columns of quotes from pundits telling us that Remain would win the referendum or that Boris Johnson would be our new prime minister.

And who could forget our own Nick Tyrone? At the start of May her drew on his own experience of the Yes campaign in the AV referendum:
Twenty days out from the AV referendum vote, the polls had Yes and No neck in neck, a knife’s edge finish supposedly clearly ahead. But saner heads knew, even on the Yes campaign at that exact moment, what was coming. I recall clearly when that poll was discussed in the Yes to AV campaign HQ: the younger, inexperienced members of staff figured we were in with a real chance; the older, more experienced members knew it was all over. I remember one of them saying to me – “It’ll be about 65-35 No, for sure”. Remarkably spot on in retrospect. 
Most of the wiser heads on Yes to AV didn’t need the polls to tell them we were headed for a hiding anyhow. When every cogent voice in Westminster says something is a bad idea, while every lunatic comes out of the woodwork to support your cause, in a 50-50 plebiscite it is only going to go one way. And sure enough, it did. 
So if I’m sure we’ll be seeing a repeat of history in short order, when will the polls actually turn? We’re only seven a half weeks out, so probably not for a bit. They’ll probably go definitely Remain’s way about two weeks to ten days out, so sometime between June 9th and June 13th.
If the fact that nobody knows anything about British politics any more has an upside it is that we will hear less of people promising to run naked down Whitehall if their predictions turn out to be wrong. Call it danhodgesism.

And there is a serious point to all this. In April I wrote:
That party membership is such a minority taste now suggests that the 19th-century model of political parties we still embrace is hopelessly outdated. 
Yet no politician has the vision or overweening ambition to wrench it apart and allowing something more attuned to our needs today to take its place.
Party membership is growing again, so I was wrong about that. But maybe the tectonic plates really are moving.

Already, Remain and Leave across the UK, and Yes and No in Scotland, seem more vital and more coherent identities than the old party labels.

But I am probably wrong - and I am not sure about that "overweening".

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