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Political parties have much to reflect on after decisive victory for Tories

PUBLISHED: 05:30 19 December 2019

Prime Minister Boris Johnson poses for photographs after the election - but he now has his own challenges to face. PA Photo. Picture date: Monda: Leon Neal/PA Wire

Prime Minister Boris Johnson poses for photographs after the election - but he now has his own challenges to face. PA Photo. Picture date: Monda: Leon Neal/PA Wire

A week after the 2019 General Election produced a Conservative landslide in the House of Commons, all the parties are now having to work out where this result leaves them.

The Tories have, in many ways, the best kind of problem as they work out what their 80-seat majority means for the way they will run the country over the next four and a half years (the next election WON'T be in December 2024, the Fixed Term Parliament Act is likely to be an early casualty of this parliament).

They have to find a way of reconciling the views of their wealthy, metropolitan, socially liberal voters (and they do still exist) with the millions of working-class socially conservative voters they have picked up in seats where they have previously failed to make any impression.

I'm sure it's a dilemma Boris Johnson will like to have - but dealing with this will set the tone for his administration for many years.

The Liberal Democrats have to pick a new leader after Jo Swinson lost her seat. The party's campaign was pretty feeble overall - its delusions of grandeur in seats that were never really in play (like Chelmsford) diluted its ability to win seats where it stood a good chance (like South Cambridgeshire or Cheltenham).

While it's easy to feel sorry for Ms Swinson personally, I can't help feeling that the voters of East Dumbartonshire have effectively given the party a welcome chance to make a new start.

But it is the Labour Party, and its hundreds of thousands of members, that has the really crucial decisions to make over the next few months that will set its course for years ahead.

And it seems that there is already a firm row bubbling under the surface which is likely to burst into open warfare once the leadership contest starts in earnest in the new year.

As David Ellesmere said in his column at the start of the week, the battle is on again for the soul of the Labour Party - and it looks like being a really tough fight.

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On the one hand there are the true believers in Jeremy Corbyn's vision of a socialist Labour Party, many of whom only joined the party either to elect him leader or after he took over the leadership.

They probably make up the majority of the Labour Party members these days - but in many places they are not the kind of people who go out knocking on doors week in, week out throughout the year.

Many of these Labour members have spent the last week or so looking for reasons why the result wasn't so bad for the party - and genuinely believe that the manifesto was right and that the only reason they lost was because of media bias and a failure of the electorate to understand the party's Brexit message..

As an outside observer of the party, it seems that for many of them it is more important to preserve the socialist purity of Labour than it is to win elections - I've seen local and national supporters tweeting this week that it would be better if Jess Phillips and her supporters went off and voted Tory.

Well millions of Labour voters did just that last week - and look where that left the party!

On the other hand there are those like Mr Ellesmere, and several other local Labour members I have spoken to since the election, who feel that the party has to be much more than an ideological talking shop.

They worry that while the membership of the party - making Labour by far the largest UK party in terms of members - likes the left-wing agenda and remains convinced by the policies in the manifesto, the public as a whole remains firmly unconvinced.

They would point out that while the party now has almost half a million members, that is only about 1% of the UK electorate and you need to attract floating voters with policies and leadership candidates that they don't find threatening.

But while Labour now has to think about where it wants to go next, I suspect the rest of the country will feel a tinge of relief that the world of politics may have a bit more certainty injected into it.

Yes politics will continue to hold a fascination for many of us, but for those who are not a die-hard supporter or opponent of one party or another there will be a sense of relief that the machinery of government will be able to proceed without it constantly being subject to knife-edge votes.

And at least we can go away and celebrate Christmas without having to keep one eye on the latest opinion polls!


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