Friday, June 16, 2017

USA Africa Dialogue Series - British Elections

Surprising Glimpses from the British Elections


Jibrin Ibrahim, Deepening Democracy Column, Daily Trust, 16th June 2017


The results of the Thursday British elections look clear. The Conservatives won with 318 seats although they got 12 seats less than they had previously. Labour came second with 261 seats but they took 27 seats from the Tories. The Scottish National Party declined and lost 19 seats getting only 35 this time round and the Lib-Dems declined from 16 to12 seats while UKIP which had one seat previously got nothing this his time. It turned out that the results were a total disaster for the Conservative Party. There are 650 seats in Parliament and a majority government must therefore have at least 326 seats. The Conservatives had a majority of 13 seats but virtually all the pollsters were saying that if elections were called, the Tory Party would increase its majority to between and 80 and 150 seats. The icing on the cake was to be a near total elimination of the Labour Party and an open field for the Tories to do what they want. Initially Prime Minister Theresa May was cautious thinking as most rational people do that in free and fair elections, you are never sure of the results before the people have voted. Later, she succumbed to the idea of the juicy fruits of massive control of Parliament in which no one can question the hard Brexit she has prepared for her people.


On Election Day, I bought the papers to see the trends. There was only one trend; all of them assured their readers that there would be massive victory for the Tories. Theresa May had apparently succeeded in convincing the people that her offer of a "strong and stable" country had seduced the British people.


What surprised me was the recklessness of the one-sided support for May. The worst culprit was the Sun edition of Election Day. The screaming headline was "Vote May: Don't Chuck Britain in the Cor-Bin" and there was a huge photograph of a vicious looking Corbyn being chucked into a bust bin. The other headlines were even more troubling. Corbyn is – a friend of terrorists, an apocalypse now, a destroyer of jobs, an enemy of business, a puppet of the trade unions, will carry out massive tax hikes, will implement a nuclear surrender, is a ruinous spender, is for open immigration. The Sun was however happy that this terrible human being would be humiliated at the polls after all his campaign was "a steaming pile of crap." In most democratic countries, laws would prohibit such one sided negative campaign against a candidate on Election Day. I wondered about the lack of a culture of fair play, as virtually all the papers were so one-sided against Labour. I listened to the 10 p.m. exit polls results, which said the Conservatives have suffered a massive negative swing and Labour is the beneficiary. An expert on the panel then said all the polls cannot be wrong and the exit polls right and on that note I went to bed.


The day after, all the newspapers were screaming insults against the "strong and stable" Theresa May they were promoting the day before. Initially, I was confused, how did she lose her "strong and stable" character overnight. Then the recriminations all came out. She had run a terrible campaign. She was a dictator. Even Cabinet members had no access to her. The campaign manifesto was not shared with party leaders for their input which was why it had a punitive dementia tax against the elderly who are always faithful Conservative party voters. The manifesto had nothing positive for any social group. The Prime Minister avoided all debating fora because she had nothing to offer. In short, in spite of his evil nature, Corbyn "won" because May was terrible. If I were British, I would have asked them why they did not say all these to the British people before the elections? Don't the British people deserve to know how terrible this woman was before the election?


I then read the fine print in the papers and as a Nigerian, everything became clear as daylight to me, it was the fault of the cabal. As every Nigerian knows, whenever anything terrible happens in politics, it's always the fault of the cabal. A two-person cabal who were also Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Prime Minister - Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill cornered her. They wrote the manifesto without involving the party. Senior party leaders tried to reach out to advice her but were denied access by the cabal. The cabal even hired a campaign bus and wrote Theresa May in bold letters and added a Conservative Party in such tiny letters that the Tories did not even know it was their campaign bus. For her sins, May was instructed by the party to immediately sack the cabal the day after and she obeyed immediately to save her job.


The most interesting part of the story was the pundits seeking to explain shy they were clueless about what was going on. One columnist summarised it well, we have a rulebook with three rules and no one told us that Corbyn had torn it up and written a new one. Rule one is that the young never vote and Corbyn spent so much time campaigning to this group that will not vote. It turned out Corbyn succeeded in getting the young to register in the labour party, register to vote and actually vote for – you guessed right – Corbyn. 72% of young people voted compared to 40% during Brexit, and it is estimated that about 80% of them voted for Labour. This was significant because about two million new voters had enrolled.


The second rule was that UKIP members were right-wingers and following the collapse of their party after the Brexit vote would naturally vote for the Tories. For some strange reasons, a significant number of them decided to vote for Corbyn, who in any case is also a Brexiter. The third rule is that the elders will always vote and they will always vote for the Tories. This time round, so many of them were so disgusted with the dementia tax and the terrible social policies of the Conservative party that for once, they did not bother to come out and vote. Yes indeed, there appears to be a new rulebook in the country. A confident and smiling Jeremy Corbyn has now officially told May that she is a squatter at no 10 and he will evict her within months. Times have indeed changed.


Meanwhile, the whole process of the Brexit negotiation has been thrown wide open. Conservatives in favour of a soft Brexit including Chancellor Philip Hammond who was to be sacked has teamed with Home Secretary Amber Rudd and you may remember them - David Cameron and George Osborne to demand for a soft option. Furious Boris Johnson and Liam Fox are saying over their dead body and have even forced May to bring her enemy Michael Gove back into cabinet. Lame duck May is saying yes to both of them to retain her position. She is even trying to say yes to the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, her new coalition partners who are now demanding for the moon and the sun as bribe for not throwing her out of no. 10. Very few people believe she can survive in spite of the fact that the Conservatives would not like a new election soon because the momentum is with Labour. The United Kingdom is a turbulent phase in which weak and unstable has replaced strong and stable. Hearty congratulations to my compatriots - Chuka Umunna, Fiona Onasanya, Chi Onwurah, Kate Osamor for Labour and Kemi Badenoch, Helen Grant and Bim Afolami for the Conservatives who will be carrying the Nigerian, oh sorry, the British flag in the new Parliament. Congratulations also to the women who won a record breaking 207 seats in the new British Parliament making it 32% representation. Our dear Nigeria, the 'Giant of Africa' has only 5.6% female representation in the National Assembly.



Professor Jibrin Ibrahim
Senior Fellow
Centre for Democracy and Development, Abuja
Follow me on twitter @jibrinibrahim17

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