You may wonder why I am up at 4.45 a.m. writing this diary when I have a country to run, Queen’s speech to prepare, vast mandate to deliver, and so on. The answer is simple. It is a question of obligation. When I bumped into the editor (at Sajid Javid’s 50th birthday party) a couple of nights ago, he explained — with a slightly glassy expression — that he had taken a gamble. He had already printed the cover of the Christmas treble issue, he said. I know all about the Xmas cover. It is lavish, laminated, and on much thicker stock than the normal cover. It costs a bomb. Once you have printed it, you can’t change it. ‘Your name is on it,’ said Fraser. What could I say? I became editor 20 years ago. I owe this magazine. If the editor is going to be so kind as to co-opt me as a contributor, my duty is to oblige.
Fraser has given me the chance to acknowledge some other massive debts. Let’s hear it first for the thousands of activists — of all parties — who have just allowed our democracy to function. No PM really wants an election; and I certainly didn’t want one in December. But we had no choice; and — thank heavens — the activists understood that. For the last six weeks they have traipsed good-humoredly through rain and wind. With freezing fingers they have rung bells and pushed bumf through the furry fringes of letter boxes — never knowing whether a dog’s jaws are on the other side. Many have put up with undeserved abuse. They have been egged, trolled, spat at, and screamed at. They have seen their expensive Corex boards repeatedly torn down and defaced. Much has been made, in parliament, of the need for a kinder, gentler ‘tone’ in politics. Amen to that, and let’s make sure we all take it out on the campaign trail.
I also want to pay tribute to the handful of superb Conservative colleagues who lost their seats — mainly because of unexpected falls in the Labour vote. One way or another, I am sure that they will all be back. We also lost some first-rate Labour MPs, such as Caroline Flint. On the whole, though, this new parliament that meets on Tuesday is a vast and exciting improvement. It is younger, more female, more ethnically diverse, more LGBT, and, of course, quite a lot more Tory.
As for my own campaign thanks, you will read elsewhere of the heroics of the campaign director, the strategists, thinkers and others. Perhaps I should mention especially the media team, who had to explain such mysteries as why I chose to shut myself in a giant fridge and what exactly I was thinking when I confiscated a TV reporter’s mobile live on air; and the ‘Ops’ team. The ‘Ops’ team basically manage your life. They tell you when to get up, what to wear, where to stand, and they organize brilliantly vivid metaphors for the political points you are trying to make. In the space of 24 hours they had me driving a JCB through a Styrofoam wall to symbolize breaking the parliamentary deadlock; delivering milk on the doorstep, to denote delivery of our domestic agenda; baking an oven-ready pie to show that we have a ready-made withdrawal agreement with the EU; and working in a wonderful Welsh wrapping-paper factory — to show that we could get it ‘wrapped up’ by Christmas (more or less). Some said these metaphors were clunking, but in a general election campaign, clunking is what you need.
Here is Boris Johnson demolishing the “gridlock” pic.twitter.com/NgEqVAAjfi
— Sebastian Payne (@SebastianEPayne) December 10, 2019
All these debts of gratitude are dwarfed, of course, by the colossal obligation that we in this new government have towards you — the people of the UK; and I am thinking particularly of those of you who have only hesitantly lent us your support. For the millions who voted in 2016 to remain in the EU, but who have just voted to get Brexit done, we must develop a new and warm pro-Europeanism. It is good and sensible to achieve close relations with the EU. We can do that, and heal our country’s divisions. For the millions of Labour voters who have lent us your votes — we will work flat out not just to GBD, but to deliver on all the key priorities of the British people. It is now imperative to invest in the NHS, in schools, in safer streets, in housing. We must tackle everything from social care to homelessness. All these projects are part of a vast interlocking program to unite and level up the whole UK, and to unleash its potential. I know these slogans sound trite at the end of a campaign. But I — we — mean them wholeheartedly. As the dawn breaks, I am full of a surging confidence that we can do it. We have the energy, the ideas, the mandate, and we have some time; and since time is a wasting asset I want you to know that even as you munch your mince pies, we are engaged full tilt on a program of change for the better. Merry Christmas!