Fintan O’Toole: UK election saw three big pillars of political stability crack on a single day

The fragile UK is now in the hands of a man with the touch of a chicken strangler

Boris Johnson on the steps of 10 Downing Street. If it was not already blindingly obvious after the election results came in on Friday morning that the political settlement on these islands is in serious danger of unravelling, it sure is now. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Boris Johnson on the steps of 10 Downing Street. If it was not already blindingly obvious after the election results came in on Friday morning that the political settlement on these islands is in serious danger of unravelling, it sure is now. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

What lesson should the Government take from the results of the election in what is more and more dubiously called the United Kingdom? That denial is deadly. When the tectonic plates are shifting, the natural instinct of every political establishment is to pretend it’s not happening. But it happens anyway and by the time you come to acknowledge it, it is too late to try to exert control. If it was not already blindingly obvious after the results came in on Friday morning that the political settlement on these islands is in serious danger of unravelling, it sure is now. The Government’s instinct is to avoid this reality. The precedents on these islands are not good.

Brexit was always going to undermine the established order of the UK, but on Friday it became clear just how rapidly and radically this has happened. Three big pillars of political stability were cracked on a single day: Labour, the Conservatives and Northern Ireland unionism. Labour’s catastrophe is the most obvious: it has been almost wiped out in Scotland, and is much reduced in Wales, the midlands, and the north of England. But it should be noted that mainstream conservatism is even more battered. Look at classic old school conservatives like Dominic Grieve or David Gauke, both losing their seats by a margin of two to one. The Conservatives are now the Brexit Party.

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