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  • Mike

The Morning After

A late night but no all-nighter for us on election night. When we were younger we would stay up to watch the poll results coming in until the early hours till the outcome became fairly clear…and invariably be a bit tetchy the next morning! Not this time. Our constitutions are simply not up to it these days. A decent night’s sleep is now more important than any such political excitement.

So, on the morning after the night before what are we left with now that the commentators have picked over all the bones? Are there some phrases which will live in the memory?

One commentator talked about the ‘dullness dividend’. By that he meant that our new Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer, will provide a kind of dull stability after all the sapping dramas of some recent premierships. The paradox is that he takes on the job after this hugely dramatic change in the public’s verdict on who should lead the country. ‘An incredible landslide victory,’ opined another TV pundit. We live in ‘a new age of volatility in politics,’ said another, when a principled and predictable but unexciting approach to the issues of the day is needed. Dependable dullness may be a virtue. Outside Number 10 Starmer himself expressed a wish to enter ‘calmer waters’.

There was that certain pleasure at other people’s failures – that ‘schadenfreude’ which I confess I shared when a few prominent politicians whom I have come to dislike lost not only prominent positions in government but their right to sit in Westminster as well. A feeling, naughty but nice!

There was an ‘alarming drop’ in voter turn-out – down to 60%, 8 points lower than the last election. This indifference towards civic life, this ‘apathy vacuum’, which extremists would like to fill, is a dangerous development.

Then said one, there is the ‘feminine bonus’ with more women elected than in the previous parliament. Is it too much to hope that they can help to create a more civil, less adversarial political climate than did some of their male predecessors?

We can do with more graciousness in public life. To his credit, Rishi Sunak expressed the wish to ‘leave well’ and described his opponent and successor as a ‘decent public-spirited man’. And he was not slow to accept responsibility for failure and offer apologies to those whom he felt he had let down. Keir Starmer in turn paid tribute to Sunak as the first Asian PM with all the extra hurdles to overcome, and to all his hard work in the post.

There was a ‘green surge’ according to one journalist with now four MPs representing the Green Party – up from a sole representative – in the last parliament. They must give voice to questions about the very existence of our planet more than ever before. Can their voices be heard over the clamour for economic growth at all costs?

There was a rare moment of empathy for the losers in all this. One commentator said that we should not forget that some families of government ministers will be very abruptly ejected from their homes. Some will find a mother or a father now frequently absent, in Westminster hundreds of miles away from home. Behind every winner stand a lot of losers. Either because all their efforts and sacrifices come to nothing. Or because their whole family world of the winners may be turned upside down.

The watchword in Starmer’s first address outside Number 10 was ‘public service’. It is a privilege that the electorate have given to him and his team. He hoped to lead a ‘government of service’ and do away with that sense of entitlement which certain members have displayed.

So in the harsh light of the morning after the night before there were some fragments to gather, fragments of interest and even hope amid all the inevitable and predictable rhetoric of the campaign and election day. There was a degree of magnanimity being show by some representatives on all sides, a graciousness of which we can all hope for more. Sunak said the country was still basically one of ‘kindness, decency and tolerance’. Starmer will seek to lead the nation – that is, us – towards that ideal but much depends on our willingness to be led in the to and fro of everyday life.

And rising above it all, there is Larry the Cat, the chief mouser of Number 10 who has worked with more PMs than any politician. The white and tabby came to Number 10 from the less luxurious setting of Battersea Cats and Dogs Home. The trouble is that the Starmers already have a cat, Jojo. Calmer waters?


 Photo Credit: Larry the Cat (AFP)









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