After Trump, the Brexit referendum, and now the British general election the pattern is clear. Voters are fed up, and politicians and journalists are in denial.
Theresa May’s disastrous election has shown that British politics is now defined by two parallel visions. One is held by politicians and journalists, the other by almost everybody else. For the pundits and politicos, Brexit is the defining issue of our time, a chapter of history being written before our eyes. For the rest of us, what really tends to matter is much closer to home.
In Dagenham, what matters is the rise of moped gangs, and the police’s “no pursuit” policy. In Erdington, what matters is whether or not the rubbish gets picked up on time, or at all. In Harrow, it’s the fact that almost half of all jobs pay less than the living wage, while house prices soar. If you’ve just had your phone nicked for the third time, your front garden is full of rubbish, or you’re living in a car, chest-beating in Brussels is pretty far down your list of priorities.
While canvassing marginals from Hampstead to Dagenham, I did not hear the word Brexit once. What I did hear is that wages are too low, house prices are too high and older people are not a disposable annoyance, and neither are the young.
Labour understood that in a way that has shaken accepted political wisdom to its core. The Tories misunderstood it in a way that has drained the strength and stability from a seemingly invincible leader, in a way that not even Corbyn’s most ardent supporters expected. The much-anticipated Lib Dem surge never really materialised (they picked up just three extra seats), while Ukip all but vanished.
What this election has shown, in both its hope and its bottomless cynicism, is that the link between accepted political wisdom and the lived experience of the population has rusted, and disintegrated.