It’s difficult not to laugh at Theresa May today. Thinking she could take advantage of her huge lead in the polls (remember when that was a thing?), she called a snap election clearly intending to crush a weak and divided Labour Party and entrench the Conservatives in government for the foreseeable future.
Well that didn’t happen, did it?
Instead we discovered that, far from being strong and stable, May is weak, wobbly and terrified of encountering actual voters. Corbyn, on the other hand, has had a spectacular campaign. I remain skeptical of both the man and his agenda, but it cannot be denied that he is able to find and fire up supporters, and get them to go out and vote. This proves, if nothing else, that campaigns really do matter:
Theresa May ran what was perhaps the worst campaign in recent political history—robotic, cliché-ridden, condescending, slapdash and otherwise awful. By contrast Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn ran an inspired campaign. He started off with the huge advantage that expectations were so low; if he didn’t devour a baby on the screen people were pleasantly surprised. But as the election proceeded he turned into an impressive campaigner. He dealt with hostile interviewers with a zen-like calm. He explained his beliefs patiently. Mrs May’s rallies were abysmal affairs. She frequently imported party apparatchiks to pretend to be real people. Mr Corbyn’s rallies by contrast were thrilling—huge crowds of the party faithful flocked to see their leader.
The knives are already out for Theresa May and I really don’t see her surviving as leader of the Conservative Party until the end of the year. At the time of writing this post, it looks like she is trying to come to a deal with the DUP to stay in power but I don’t see this lasting for long. Much of her party have been keeping their heads down while she looked likely to remain in power, but now they’ve scented blood and the more liberal and tolerant (Ruth Davidson) wing of the Tory party are going to bring her down quickly if she cedes to much to the Irish Unionists. And if she doesn’t, they’ll bring her down slowly.
Having voted for Brexit by a small majority last year, it appears that the electorate aren’t as keen on driving the UK economy over a cliff as May had assumed. While Labour are still favouring exiting the EU, they also have their own red lines (such as retaining access to the single market) which has the potential to complicate things and cause no end of delays. As long as Labour are willing to work with other parties, including the more moderate wing of the Conservatives, they should be able to ensure that the May will have to pay more attention to Parliament than she does to the tabloids.
The rest of May’s ‘red Tory’ agenda is, of course, toast. Any dream of marching into Labour heartlands and hoovering up disaffected voters has been revealed to be nothing more than an over-excited fantasy. Labour Ukippers have gone back to Labour, Tory Ukippers have gone back to the Tories and UKIP have finally shuffled off it’s mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. Which is nice.
Against this background and the much vaunted (by most of the media) return to two-party politics, the Lib Dems have done well to increase their total seats. I have to admit that, at the start of the campaign, I expected them to do better than 15 MPs. With hindsight, though, I think the election was too early for a party that bet the house on opposition to Brexit. Brexit hasn’t happened yet, the negotiations haven’t even started and, while I still think it will be a disaster, the disaster hasn’t happened yet.
I find myself feeling pretty positive about this result. The Conservatives definitely deserved to lose but I remain unconvinced that Labour deserved to win. And that’s what happened. So well played Britain and here’s to Round Two in October.