When 2010 dawned Britain had had one change of government in 20 years. After four terms of Conservative majority rule, the torch was passed, without disruption to Labour. Tony Blair then won three elections handing on to Gordon Brown. He hoped that the 2010 poll would prove that New Labour had found the answer to making Labour the normal party of power.
Until Tony Blair’s hat trick, Labour had never fully established themselves in power. Two brief periods in the twenties was followed by the famous Attlee administration in 1945. Great as it was, it only lasted six years. Harold Wilson won four elections between 1964-74 but the periods of office were interrupted by a return to Conservative rule under Ted Heath.
In the 2010 election Gordon Brown wanted to ensure his party was in charge for the best part of two decades with New Labour’s magic recipe of capitalism with a conscience.
This did not happen. Instead the country was plunged into the most turbulent decade of politics for 100 years.
Labour’s 13 years in office ended with Gordon Brown threatening to go to Buckingham Palace to resign in order to force the Tories and Lib Dems to reach a coalition deal.
At the height of their influence, the Lib Dems threw in their hand with the Conservatives. After getting a taste of power for 5 years, they were decimated at the ballot box and were still being criticised in the recent election for their complicity in austerity.
Many Tories were pessimistic about getting an overall majority in 2015, so perhaps it didn’t matter that much when Cameron made his fateful promise in 2013, that a full Conservative government would organise a “straightforward” in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU if they won.
They did win, albeit with a majority small enough to allow Eurosceptics to make Cameron’s life difficult. But not to worry. With Etonian assurance Cameron decided to quickly redeem his promise. People would clearly vote to Remain, and he could get on with other things.
The Leave vote caused the biggest shock to the political establishment since the fall of France in 1940. An issue that had been a minor for most voters began to assume huge symbolic importance.
The next Prime Minister needed a bigger majority to get her approach to leaving the EU through. The voters once again hadn’t read the script. We were back to a sort of coalition, this time with the DUP.
After two hung parliaments with a brief Tory government dominated by an EU Referendum, it is easy to see how Boris Johnson was able, in the dying days of the decade, to win with a triumphant appeal to end the chaos.
IN the next decade England and Wales are likely to be ruled throughout by a Conservative government. From their immediate reaction to defeat, it appears the opposition parties are just focused on new leaders, without looking at a wide-ranging project for left cooperation.
Maybe Scotland and Northern Ireland also face ten years of Tory rule, but maybe not.