I had intended to do a few posts on post-Brexit reactions, but now I realise it should be abreactions. Large quantities of stupefying substances must be in circulation, leading people to gabble out their innermost thoughts whilst dribbling profusely. I cannot follow the plot at the moment. Something to do with rivalry, tribalism, fear and loathing, I think. I recall the wry saying (privately given to me by the partner of a political figure) that politics is no business to be in if you want to have friends.
The story goes back to a Mr Heseltine, who ran for the Conservative leadership against Mrs Thatcher. The Tory tribe did not thank him for toppling their notable leader, though they all felt she had become a liability, and instead went for an amiable man who, against expectation, won the next election by being likeable and saying, after the divisive achievements of Thatcher, that “the nation needs to be at ease with itself”. He lost the following election by being himself, and because of Tory infighting about Europe, and because the Labour Party, guided by Peter Mandelson, elected an electable leader in the person of Tony Blair. British elections are determined by voters deciding who will best manage their conservatism. Now Boris Johnson has advertently or inadvertently dethroned David Cameron, winner of two Conservative elections against the general leftwards national trend, (a fall which has reduced the still alive Heseltine to tears). The successful are to be punished.
Therefore Boris was the front runner, as Heseltine was in his day, but has now been dumped, or has dumped himself for unknown reasons, probably related to an internal “anyone but Boris” campaign. Boris (no surname required) is the best known and electorally most successful Conservative challenger since Heseltine, with the highest name and image recognition bar none. Boris won Red London against Red Ken Livingstone, overturning the natural urban, and also large immigrant left-leaning vote by being an entertaining blond. He could defuse most tricky situations by quoting some Latin and making a joke, the sort of skills which can save your life in out of the way places. He would most probably have won the Conservatives the next election.
Speaking of political partners, this could all be seen as due to the advice or machinations of political wives. I do not know any of them, so am betraying no confidences, but here is a possible scenario.
Mrs Cameron may have told her husband: your friends are not your friends, they have shafted you and I am sick of the lot of them, and I have taken up smoking again, and the children are all upset and I have had enough of this, and we could have a normal life and live happily, not among this savage band of treacherous scum. I have toned it down a bit, but you get the drift.
Mrs Gove may have told her husband: all I hear about is Boris, Boris, Boris; but you, my dear husband, with my help, won the Brexit election, and I don’t want to see you as a lapdog to Boris, who is a scatter-brain whereas you are a man of principle, and don’t screw around so far as I know, so why don’t you stand for the leadership, on the basis of the following points which I will write down for you, because you only got a 2.1 in English. I may have toned that up a bit, but you get the drift.
Mrs Johnson may have told her husband: my dear, I am so sorry that you won’t be Prime Minister, but we are rich because of your journalism, and young enough to fight another day, and as for Mrs Gove don’t get me started. There may have been some other bits about living a happier life together, but you get the drift.
Teresa May took very little part in the great Brexit debate. She backed Remain, feebly, so will probably end up Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, in the Labour camp, the rank and file have overwhelmingly elected a leader who most accurately champions the views of activists, but who least commands the confidence of members of Parliament, who have to look past activists to the general public for their votes. Also, they doubt his abilities, because he can only win by preaching to the unconverted, and did not manage that during the Brexit debate. Every political act is a compromise between what you want and what you can get, guided by your core voters, but determined by those yet to be convinced. Politics is the art of the possible in search of the desirable.
Does psychology have anything to say about politics?