John­son’s elec­tion gam­ble pays off

● Early re­sults point to sig­nif­i­cant Con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity which will se­cure Brexit deal in Par­lia­ment ● SNP set to strengthen stran­gle­hold in Scot­land and call for fresh in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum ● Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn faces calls to stand down afte

The Scotsman - - FRONT PAGE - By SCOTT MACNAB Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor

Boris John­son’s elec­tion gam­ble has paid off with his party set for a ma­jor­ity in West­min­ster and a pledge to pur­sue a “fe­ro­cious ac­cel­er­a­tion” of Brexit leg­is­la­tion.

Early re­sults this morn­ing sug­gested the Tories were on course for a ma­jor­ity of more than 80 seats, while Labour could sink to fewer than 200 seats.

Labour was seek­ing to blame Brexit for the cat­a­strophic de­feat, with a vis­i­bly shocked shadow chan­cel­lor John Mcdon­nell say­ing “ap­pro­pri­ate

de­ci­sions” will be made about the fu­ture of the lead­er­ship.

In Scot­land, the SNP was set for sig­nif­i­cant gains on the 2017 re­sult, when the party took 35 seats.

It will mean that the UK is poised to fi­nally leave the EU at the end of next month with the Prime Min­is­ter com­mit­ted to bring­ing back his Brexit bill to the House of Com­mons in the com­ing days.

But it will also re-ig­nite the con­sti­tu­tional de­bate in Scot­land with se­nior SNP fig­ures last night in­sist­ing that the out­come pro­vided a “re­in­forced man­date” for a ref­er­en­dum on Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence which

First Min­is­ter Nicola Stur­geon wants to stage next year.

Home Sec­re­tary Priti Pa­tel said leg­is­la­tion to get Brexit done will be in­tro­duced in the com­ing days to “get the coun­try out of the paral­y­sis”.

She added: “We will not hang around ob­vi­ously. We’ve in­di­cated that if we get a func­tion­ing ma­jor­ity – a Con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment – we will move things for­ward.

“That means get­ting Brexit done, hav­ing leg­is­la­tion and a Queen’s speech so that we can ac­tu­ally start to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion and bills in Par­lia­ment.

“That’s ex­actly what we said we would do in the gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign – de­liver on the pri­or­i­ties – peo­ple’s pri­or­i­ties and pledges that we’ve made through­out the cam­paign, in­clud­ing in our gen­eral elec­tion man­i­festo.”

But Mr Mcdon­nell said the exit poll was “ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing”.

He said: “I thought it would be closer. We knew it would be tough be­cause Brexit has dom­i­nated this elec­tion, but yes if it’s any­where near this it is ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing I must be hon­est about that.”

He ad­mit­ted there were “is­sues raised” over Jeremy Cor­byn’s lead­er­ship on the doorsteps, but put this down to the “me­dia cam­paign against him”.

The first real sign of a po­lit­i­cal shock came with just the third dec­la­ra­tion of the night when the Tories cap­tured the for­mer min­ing con­stituency of Blyth Val­ley, which has been a Labour strong­hold since the 1950s.

Tory Ian Levy edged out Labour to seize the seat with a ma­jor­ity of just 712, and thanked “Boris” in his vic­tory speech.

Other early re­sults in the north-east of Eng­land also saw swings to the Tories in Labour heart­lands, de­spite Labour hold­ing on.

Shadow in­ter­na­tional trade sec­re­tary Barry Gar­diner said it rep­re­sented a “dev­as­tat­ing re­sult for us” and “all the peo­ple who were re­ally need­ing a Labour vic­tory to im­prove their lives”.

Asked if his party needed a new leader, Mr Gar­diner said: “These are things that will be dis­cussed by the lead­er­ship of the party in the next few days.”

The Tories ap­peared cau­tious af­ter the exit poll but said a func­tion­ing ma­jor­ity “would mean we can now fi­nally end the un­cer­tainty and get Brexit done.”

For­mer Con­ser­va­tive cabi­net min­is­ter Jus­tine Green­ing said “the dead­lock on Brexit is fi­nally bro­ken”.

Speak­ing on the BBC, Ms Green­ing said: “I think, at the end of the day, my view was al­ways that we needed to break the dead­lock.

“I was one of the first mem­bers of par­lia­ment who said we needed to do that.

“We’ve now had that pub­lic vote, I think that the dead­lock on Brexit is fi­nally bro­ken.

“But I think the re­al­ity is this elec­tion was very much about do­mes­tic is­sues, and I think that’s why the Con­ser­va­tives have done so well, be­cause Boris John­son talked about the kind of Con­ser­va­tive agenda that peo­ple find ap­peal­ing.”

Labour said – re­gard­less of the re­sult – the party had “changed the de­bate in Bri­tish pol­i­tics”.

A party spokesman said: “We, of course, knew this was go­ing to be a chal­leng­ing elec­tion, with Brexit at the fore­front of many peo­ple’s minds and our coun­try in­creas­ingly po­larised.

“But Labour has changed the de­bate. We have put pub­lic own­er­ship, a green in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion, an end to aus­ter­ity cen­tre stage and in­tro­duced new ideas, such as plans for free broad­band and free per­sonal care.”

On Mr Cor­byn, Ms Green­ing added: “But he [Boris John­son] was up against prob­a­bly one of the worst Labour lead­ers that we have seen in a very long time, and thus he couldn’t have had a bet­ter op­po­nent in those re­spects.

“Jeremy Cor­byn might have been bright, shiny and new in 2017, but by 2019, I think peo­ple have re­ally got the mea­sure of him and you’re also see­ing that come through tonight.”

In 1962, the then US Sec­re­tary of State Dean Ach­e­son ob­served the UK “had lost an Em­pire but not yet found a role”. For sup­port­ers, “get­ting Brexit done” – the big is­sue in the elec­tion – is key to restor­ing Bri­tain’s past glo­ries.

How­ever, this idea over­looks the role that won the UK con­sid­er­able soft power in re­cent decades as a cham­pion, al­beit an imperfect one, of democ­racy, hu­man rights and the rule of law. Added to the last­ing grat­i­tude for the de­ci­sion to stand against Hitler in 1940 – the city of Oslo still sends a Christ­mas tree to Lon­don ev­ery year – this cre­ated an im­age that has served this coun­try well and won over like-minded peo­ple, like Poland’s Don­ald Tusk, across the world.

Last month, the out­go­ing Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent said what he “wouldn’t have dared to say a few months ago, as I could be fired for be­ing too frank”. Brexit, Tusk ar­gued, would not make Bri­tain great, but achieve “ex­actly the op­po­site”. “Only as part of a united Europe can the UK play a global role, only to­gether can we con­front... the great­est pow­ers of this world,” he said. “The UK will be­come an out­sider, a sec­ond-rate player... Brexit is the real end of the Bri­tish Em­pire.” Some will dis­miss this, like Ach­e­son’s re­mark, as a jibe from a for­eigner, but Tusk is a friend, giv­ing his best ad­vice.

And on Wed­nes­day in a Chatham House dis­cus­sion, John Cas­son, for­eign pol­icy aide to David Cameron from 2010-14, warned about de­clin­ing UK in­flu­ence. “The bald fact for me is Bri­tish for­eign pol­icy, as I was brought up to recog­nise it, came to an end in Septem­ber 2013, when David Cameron made a con­scious de­ci­sion to stop be­ing an ac­tivist prime min­is­ter on for­eign pol­icy” af­ter los­ing a Com­mons’ vote on in­ter­ven­ing in Syria. Other “smaller” ac­tors on the world stage were now mak­ing “more of a dif­fer­ence be­cause they have a clearer-eyed sense of their strategic in­tent and the power they hold”, he said. While Boris John­son had spo­ken about stand­ing up to hu­man rights abusers, he had also sent “con­tra­dic­tory sig­nals”. “Are we an open coun­try that as­pires to set an ex­am­ple and stand up for a cer­tain type of norms and in­flu­ence?” Cas­son asked.

Brexit and the phi­los­o­phy of those be­hind it risk di­min­ish­ing Bri­tain on the world stage. If it does go ahead, our new gov­ern­ment needs to take steps to ad­dress a prob­lem that would be bad for Bri­tain but also, to an ex­tent, the rest of the world.

FRI­DAY 13 DE­CEM­BER 2019 www.scots­man.com

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