UK ELECTION ANALYSIS: Not the result Ireland wanted but really the best we could get
We don’t have a vote, but when it comes to UK elections most people in Ireland pick a side – and the side we mostly pick is Labour.
An iReach survey, conducted in the days before polling, showed that 23% of adults in Ireland expected the Conservatives to win an overall majority but only 10% thought that would be a good outcome.
So there will be disappointment here at Boris Johnson’s impressive victory. But, in truth, the result is the best that Ireland could realistically hope for.
There was never any real possibility that Britain would decide to stay in the EU and a win for Labour, or another hung parliament, would only have prolonged the wrangling and uncertainty.
Far too much of the European Union’s time and energy has been absorbed by Brexit. There are other important matters to deal with – climate change, international trade and the refugee crisis, for instance – and now the EU’s politicians and officials can give them the attention they need.
The Brexit issues have not vanished, of course. The really hard negotiations are still to come and it will be interesting to see how Boris and his squad fare up against an EU trade team led by Phil Hogan.
But those talks will be a sideshow. They will no longer take centre stage and they can be conducted without the need for constant reference back to Westminster and its pantomime politics.
In any case, the Westminster picture has also changed.
The Prime Minister is no longer beholden to the DUP or the hardline European Research Group. Free from these malign influences, he may well steer a course which will keep Britain closer to the EU than hardline Brexiteers would wish, and that would be good for Ireland.
It has been a terrible election for the DUP. Their vote was down everywhere. Their sitting MP was trounced in South Belfast and their deputy leader, the arch-Brexiteer Nigel Dodds, lost out to Sinn Féin in Belfast North.
Moreover, their hopes of taking a seat in North Down were confounded by a fine showing from the Alliance Party’s deputy leader, Stephen Farry.
Alliance and the SDLP were the parties that gained most in the north and their success is a rebuke to the DUP and Sinn Féin for failing to work together in the Stormont Assembly.
The SDLP’s huge win over Sinn Féin in Foyle seems to point also to nationalist disapproval of Sinn Féin’s abstentionist policy at Westminster.
So who were the other losers? Nigel Farage, most obviously. He has been exposed as a paper tiger, all growl and no bite, and his Brexit party is left in tatters.
The Labour Party has suffered very badly. It has lost seats in the heartlands of northern England and south Wales, in constituencies where they used to joke about weighing the Labour votes, not counting them. It has been virtually wiped out in Scotland.
On the bright side, Labour will now get rid of Jeremy Corbyn who achieved what many thought impossible, a worse result than recorded under the leadership of Michael Foot in the 1983.
In Foot’s day, Labour’s leader was chosen by the MPs, so it was easy enough for the party to change course and embark on a process that eventually led to Tony Blair and unprecedented electoral success.
Now the leadership is in the hands of party members, a majority of whom are young and lean to the far Left. They must choose between a leader who can confront the Conservatives with a reasonable hope of success or being doomed to the role of perpetual Opposition.
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