…but it’s still a long and bumpy road before we’re all bathed in daylight. Oh – and Boris is in trouble.
This is what the election result meant.
In 75 days time, Mr Biden will be inaugurated as 46th President of the United States. I can’t recall such an election being followed so closely in the UK as this one – even the ones in 2008 & 2016. Part of that is due to the continued evolution of communications technology, in particular social media. I followed the live stream on CNN which was receiving most of the plaudits for its in-depth data journalism operation, seamlessly digging into the detail of how different ballot types (in person vs postal) was going to affect in what order the results were going to be counted and reported. That’s not to say the incumbent is choosing to go quietly.
Channel 4 News broadcast an incredible interview with one of his relatives which shines a light on what’s going on.
On comparing the UK with US political systems
We also got a joint crash-course in comparative politics. In the UK each constituency announces the result after all of the ballot papers are counted. Whichever party gets to 50%+1 seats is the one that forms a government.
In the USA, it’s much more fragmented – county by county being added to the totals for each state of the union. Most states have a winner-takes-all-the-electoral-college-seats system, a handful split theirs proportionally. Whoever gets to the winning line – in this case 270, is the one who becomes president.
There were also votes for congressional and senate seats at Federal level, and in the legislatures at a state-by-state level. So in effect this is almost the equivalent say for voters in Scotland voting for candidates in both the House of Lords & the House of Commons, the Monarch, the Scottish Parliament – and even more. We don’t have an equivalent in England.
Although the incumbent is refusing to accept the result, the reaction on the streets of the major cities where the Democrats are traditionally the stronger, has been telling. The spontaneous outpouring of relief, the crowds of masked up people dancing and celebrating in the streets in the face of a pandemic that is still out of control.
That’s not to say that’s the unanimous reaction – the nation is deeply divided. The past decade, and in particular the past five years has seen an organised and systematic campaign of incitement and hatred, resulting in armed gangs marching on the street and some deeply disturbing scenes across the country. The next 75 days will be very tense indeed.
Boris in deep trouble
In a month’s time it will be one year since Boris Johnson got elected in the Brexit election that a weak and divided opposition handed to him on a plate. In a single swoop Johnson not only got rid of most of his high-profile internal party opponents, but he also got rid of the top line of left wing shadow cabinet ministers in Labour, and also most of the incumbent Liberal Democrats whether elected in 2017 or there through defections from other parties.
Therefore any meaningful parliamentary opposition evaporated. Or should have done. But then the Covid19 pandemic broke, and the low-calibre ministerial team that Johnson had appointed was exposed for the weak and pathetic bunch of politicians that it is. Even more, the failure of Johnson to dismiss ministers for actions that would have seen ministers from most other administrations resign in principle (or rather, not carry out the wrongdoing in the first place) also speaks volumes.
Johnson’s inflammatory and racist remarks about Obama in the run up to the previous US presidential elections, followed by the close association he struck up with the current incumbent did not go unnoticed by Biden or his senior team. Biden was scathing of Johnson less than a year ago following Johnson’s election. Note in that same article Biden was also scathing of former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn for going too far to the left – which puts Sir Keir Starmer in a much better position politically.
The Democrats and Labour as sister political parties
A number of young Labour activists go to the USA every year to campaign for the US Democrats at the presidential elections. Although it falls below most people’s radar, it’s become a little more noticeable in social media bubbles as individual campaigners put out social media posts on their activities campaigning in other countries.
We started seeing more international activists coming to campaign in UK elections – in particular in the last two elections for the European Parliament, in particular for The Greens and the Lib Dems who are the most integrated with their European sister parties.
How will it affect UK politics?
Well we won’t have to check our Twitter feeds every five minutes, that’s for sure!
On paper it means that the next UK and US general elections will be happening in the same year and very close to each other – the Fixed Parliaments still being on the statute books. It’s up to Johnson if he wants to repeal them, but given the demands of the pandemic response, there is very little parliamentary time and very little policy-making capacity for anything outside of that or Brexit.
The view from public policy land is that the Biden win means a ‘deal’ between the EU and UK is much more likely. Or rather, concessions from the UK to the EU in order to get an exit deal and a Free Trade Agreement is much more likely. This is because Joe Biden has stated clearly that as a co-signatory of the Good Friday Agreement, he has taken a very dim view of Conservative Party attempts to undermine it – in particular through the Internal Market Bill, the one where the Northern Ireland Secretary stated that the British Government was including clauses in the Bill that would enable the British Government to break International Law in order to get its way. Both the MPs for South Cambridgeshire & South East Cambridgeshire voted in favour of this Bill and the controversial clauses, ones that their party political opponents have vowed to make an issue of at the next general election.
The stench of corruption in Boris Johnson’s operation.
This from the former Permanent Secretary at The Treasury
And that’s just the latest example. It’s not just the eye-wateringly high sums, but the failure of the contracted firms to deliver in full what they were contracted to deliver. Again, the failure of Conservative MPs to call this out and put a stop to it speaks volumes. What makes it even worse is that people are dying unnecessarily early and painful deaths, or are afflicted with awful illnesses and conditions as a result of the pandemic. One of my old friends from school who is a highly-trained physician is one who has been hit by the long term impact of the virus, and has been off work ever since.
The accusations around the EU Referendum campaigns also haven’t gone away. With new management coming into the Whitehouse, and the close links between the pro-Leave campaign and the defeated president (the latter of whom had the former leader of U.K.I.P. speaking at a public rally for him), it seems inevitable that US authorities will be investigating. Furthermore I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those threads led all the way back to the UK.