A Khaki Election

The nearest historical precedent I can think of for our upcoming election on 12 November is the ‘Khaki’ election of 1900. That was fought between a worn-out but jingoistic Conservative party and a divided Liberal party, with the burning domestic issues of the day being overshadowed by the ongoing Boer War, which was starting to go badly then, and was provoking extreme language and violence in the streets comparable to what we’re seeing today. The Tories thought they could win with the ‘patriotic’ vote, and did win overall, but not as decisively as they had hoped, and with their chickens coming home to roost in the following election, which gave the Liberals a landslide victory, and the infant Labour Party its first substantial bunch of MPs. By this comparison ‘Brexit’, of course, is our ‘Boer War’. I’m not suggesting we draw any lessons from this.

It might go OK for the Left if Labour offers a new Brexit referendum in its manifesto, after negotiating a new ‘deal’ – which should be easier than most people seem to assume, if it lifts Theresa May’s and the ERG’s ‘reddest line’ against staying in the single market: Corbyn knows he can do that; and  if people can see through (a) Boris’s baseless bluster and (b) the smears of the Daily Mail. I’m not sure that any other Labour Leader wouldn’t also be subjected to that. Look at poor Ed Miliband.

Yes, I’d feel more confident with a more ‘charismatic’ Labour leader. But charisma has its dangers – viz. Boris. Corbyn is – and has always been – right on most things. He’s been far more consistent on Brexit than we’re generally told. (Not coming down on one side or the other  – ‘in’ or ‘out’ – isn’t a mark of irresolution, but of good judgment.) His polite, honest and empathetic style of politics is what we could do with more generally just now. And – I must admit – as someone with absolutely no charisma myself, I rather identify with him.

‘The meek shall inherit the earth’, says the good book. Wouldn’t that be great?!

About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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4 Responses to A Khaki Election

  1. Tony says:

    On the 1918 general election – Lloyd George did not get his ‘reward’ as the ‘Man who won the War’, and the working class Conservative vote held up well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Yes, I’d feel more confident with a more ‘charismatic’ Labour leader.”
    These things are relative to some extent. Corbyn is dazzlingly charismatic compared to what is on offer in Australia’s federal politics. It is a pity that the global system cannot operate more like the EPL, so that when Labour is defeated on 12 December, Corbyn could be recruited by the Australian Labor Party, whose deficit of ‘leadership material’ cost it the recent May election.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. “[T]he ‘Khaki’ election of 1900 …. was fought between a worn-out but jingoistic Conservative party and a divided Liberal party,…. The Tories thought they could win with the ‘patriotic’ vote, and did win overall, but not as decisively as they had hoped.”
    402 of the 670 seats in the House of Commons compared to the Liberals’ 183 is a pretty good result for a ‘worn-out’ Conservative Party; an outcome which in hindsight looks something like a landslide. Ominously for 2019, the Tories of 1900 received only 5% more of the vote than the Liberals, yet received twice as many seats. I hope you are not right, Bernard, that 12 December mirrors 1900. I note also that the Third Marquess of Salisbury, Tory leader, was an old boy of Eton College.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. kstankers5 says:

    Bernard – I’m not sure they’ll wear the Single Market ‘up north’. It’ll mean Freedom of Movement is retained and ‘The Polish’ staying, and perhaps even entering in greater numbers – and ‘stealing’ our jobs again. I have my ear close to the ground in ‘Leave’ (Labour ‘heartland’) towns like Bolton and St Helens and E. Europeans are still coming in, despite all the potential post-Brexit difficulties. The Brexit Party will have a field day – just like UKIP did back in 2016. It got very nasty in Bolton back then, with Tommy Robinson’s mob out in force as well

    Liked by 2 people

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