• Development Intelligence

US Election – The big six implications

Gage Skidmore - (CC by 2.0)

Implication No 1

So the media logic goes like this: with Biden in the White House, it’s going to be harder for the UK to get a US trade deal, or maybe even any enthusiasm from the White House for one anytime soon.

Maybe. But the history of relationships of US presidents and British PMs who are not from the same side of the political divide is that, although they may not be natural political bedfellows from day one, in the end the US side realises quite quickly that the UK is their most natural ally and resolute supporter. And there’s some good examples for this happening right now.

How did the EU welcome the Biden win? First, it launched a salvo of retaliatory tariffs on US goods over subsidies it alleges the American government gives to Boeing. (Interesting, as it’s not as if Airbus has ever exactly been self-financing or has never received any European subsidies. It is virtually a department of the French state). Second, the EU’s increasingly combative Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, launched a very large anti-competition lawsuit against Amazon with a potential fine of £15 billion. Both of these will end up on Biden’s desk and, inevitably, he will be forced to retaliate. And these two actions may go some way to explain why Joe Biden’s first phone call to Europe was to Boris not Merkel, Macron or the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, despite all the anti-Brexit, anti-British, anti-Boris types predicting otherwise.

Contrast that with what’s coming up for Boris and Biden: there’s the UK-hosted G7 meeting next summer. And alongside that the first meeting of the D10, the new grouping of the largest ten democracies aiming to be a counterweight to China’s influence, an initiative enthusiastically supported by both Boris and Biden. A chance for face time, personal chemistry to develop, maybe even a state visit. There’s nothing US presidents like more than the magic political pixie dust viewed from back home of rubbing shoulders with British royalty.

Then there’s the COP26 climate change conference in November next year where Boris will be hosting world leaders and re-affirming the UK and now Biden’s newly supportive and synchronistic worldview of climate change. Boris, perhaps uniquely for any country’s head of government anywhere, is going to get two shots at playing host to the US President in that President’s first year in office.

So the DI team’s view is that by the end of 2021, Biden will inevitably see Boris as a trusty ally and his closest European one. But, as was always inevitable post Brexit, we are less useful to him in dealing with the EU now we are outside it.

Implication No 2

With Biden seemingly unlikely to control the Senate, the Biden agenda – whatever that is, as during the election it was pretty much just ‘I’m nicer than Trump’ – will be dead on arrival. All the things many Democrats were hoping for ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. Without the Senate:

  • No Green New Deal

  • No Supreme Court packing, to compensate for Trump’s conservative appointments

  • No statehood for Washington DC and Puerto Rico, robbing the Democrats of potentially four new Democrat senators

  • No Federal Government-sponsored BLM defunding or restructuring of the police

Without the Senate, Biden stands to be a lame duck the day he is inaugurated, the weakest newly elected president since the early 1800s. And in this current horribly partisan era, that could be very painful indeed.

Implication No 3

The Republicans did much better than they thought they would. The US electorate dumped Trump…just…but stuck with the party at other levels of government.

So, in a neat mirror image to Keir Starmer’s tricky Corbyn challenge, how do they finally excise Trump from the party whilst simultaneously keeping hold of the ‘Trump fervour’ that he generated and which helped them do better at the election?

And for that matter, how do they stop Trump from saying some dumb stuff between now and 5 January when the run off happens for the two outstanding Georgia Senate seats which are key for them to hobble Biden’s Presidency?

Moreover, can they stop him running in or, from the side lines, ruining their 2024 Presidential election campaign?

Implication No 4

The polls keep getting it wrong. They predicted a ‘blue wave’ that never materialised. They predicted that Biden would have an easier win. They predicted that Trump wouldn’t win in 2016 in the first place. They underestimated the Boris win last December and consistently overestimated Corbyn’s chances of getting anywhere near the nuclear button. They got the Brexit result completely wrong.

How many times can they keep making these kinds of errors and still bank on “We, the People” believing them? It’s a problem.

Implication No 5

One of the fundamentally endemic problems on the Left of politics right now, emboldened by the widespread liberal Left capture of the news media across the western world – hence the imminent launch of two new right of centre TV news channels in the UK, backed by Rupert Murdoch’s News UK and Andrew Neil/The Discovery Channel respectively – is that the Left cannot see they are sitting in their own massive echo chamber. Hence many on the Left, with their inbuilt belief in their moral superiority, assume that what they read/view is the balanced truth. The problem with honestly believing you are morally superior is that you are drawn to explain away each loss as ‘circumstances’ rather than fundamentally analysing why you are consistently failing.

You would have thought after the Clinton loss in 2016, the Brexit referendum loss, no second Brexit referendum – despite all the quite mad predictions it was inevitable – Brexit “getting done”, the failure of Corbyn, the big Boris win last year and now the absence of the ‘blue wave’ ensuing that Biden has just flopped across the line, after all this mounting cacophony of evidence, that the aroma of coffee might have started to penetrate the nostrils.

Instead of saying ‘we have a different political view and we think ours is better’, the western Left keeps saying ‘we are morally superior and the other side are just evil’. The problem with that approach is that it makes it impossible to reach out to right of centre voters – you cannot attract votes from or do deals with people you keep insulting – and it just turns off the floating vote who see it as arrogant. In election after election. Year after year.

If the DI team were strategists for the western Left right now, we would want to completely reframe how the Left talks about the Right and politics in general.

Implication No 6

Much is being written about how Biden won from the centre ground and that this is exactly how Starmer will break through in 2024.

Errr…no. Sorry. Right now, this is off the scale unlikely. Here’s why:

Labour lost so badly in December 2019 that it was their worst result since 1935. So they are starting from an incredibly low base.

Unless the most extreme, worst case scenario currently unimagined by anyone comes to pass for both Brexit and Covid, which crystallises into an incredible advantage for Labour, Starmer has little to no chance in 2024. Now not having the 40-50 Scottish seats and the 20-30 Welsh seats Labour used to bank in General Elections, he has to win England. The last time Labour did that was with Blair in 2001. And Starmer is no Blair. And Boris is no Hague.

To get the vote swing Starmer would need, he would have to more than double Thatcher’s 5.3% swing in 1979 and need even more than Blair’s 10.2% swing in 1997. To put that in perspective, Starmer would need to win Jacob Rees-Mogg’s seat. Mathematically unlikely, whichever brand of glue you sniff.

Starmer will be the Kinnock: repairing much of the voter damage wrought by the previous Leader to at least make Labour look electable once again.