What do elections teach us?
Labour’s Love Lost
Britain’s long, lurching political campaign of self-discovery, on the eve of ours in 2020, was a shocker. Thunder on the right, collapse on the left, bye-bye to Europe and banging the door on the way out, the British election gave a floundering Tory clown Boris Johnson the fattest right-wing majority since Margaret Thatcher remade the landscape and found her American match on it with Ronald Reagan. That was 40 years ago, and more than ever the American puzzle is these ties that bind the English-speaking world, to the right, then left, in war and peace, and now to the odd pair in blue jackets and yellow hair who talk in Mad Joker slogans and keep winning.
British election returns can land in the US like weather forecasts. Margaret Thatcher in 1979 cued Ronald Reagan in 1980. Bush the first and John Major were a matched pair for the 90s. Then Bill Clinton here and Tony Blair over there steered back toward a new middle or muddle. The Brexit rebellion in 2016 was a foretaste of Donald Trump and America First. And now on the eve of our 2020 campaign comes a Conservative landslide in the UK, and a rich, rebel, right-wing so-called “populist” leading from London with a short list of slogans. It looks and sounds familiar: Boris Johnson as their Trump; the feckless Labor Socialist Jeremy Corbyn as their Bernie Sanders. Clamorous conservatism up, neo-socialism cooked. But does the quick impression survive inspection?
Professor at Cambridge University, host of the Talking Politics podcast.
Staff writer at The New Republic.