A Parliament Of Errors
It’s probably just as well to have a long memory in such a depressing political season.
Since Simon de Montfort and the Barons first challenged the absolute power of the monarch, in 1265, there have been plenty of bad Parliaments
Consider the Long Parliament of 1640-60 and which included the beheading of a king and a civil war.
The Long Parliament immediately followed the pantomime Parliament, the Short Parliament, which met for just three weeks in 164O – following the non sitting of Parliament which, in the absence of our contemporary Supreme Court, hadn’t met for a staggering 11 years.
But Boris Johnson needn’t study the seventeenth century for precedents (or ideas!).
In February 1974 I contested my first General Election. I was in my early twenties. On the back of a three day week and endless strikes, Ted Heath called the election on the single issue slogan of “who runs the country?”
The answer came back: “not you”, but not really anyone else.
We ended up with a hung Parliament – the first since 1929.
Harold Wilson made modest gains but was short of an overall majority. And that was in an age when politics and parties were far less fractured than today.
By October 1974, Parliament was dissolved and we were in the middle of another General Election followed by a weak Parliament which finally collapsed in a vote of no confidence ( the day before I was elected in a by-election ).
Fast forward to 2019.
If the Conservatives and the Brext Party fight one another across the country they will split their vote and give us another hung Parliament – and potentially give Jeremy Corbyn the keys to Downing Street.
If, on the other hand, they reach an electoral accommodation (with Brexit mainly fighting Northern Labour seats but giving Conservatives a clear run elsewhere ) and, with the Centre and Left fighting one another, it will be more like 1983.
In that General Election, the Lib/SDP Alliance and Labour received a combined half of the popular vote- but, having fought one another, and under the vagaries of the first past the post system, gave the Conservatives an overall majority.
So, at the end of this desultory Parliament of Errors we now have an Election of Errors with a potential outcome that the electorate never intended. Whichever side makes the signal error of failing to unite will hand victory to the other. And if neither side unites they will hang the country.