Having stated there would be no election, Brexit means Brexit and she was a ‘bloody difficult woman’, Theresa May demonstrated she was a bloody incompetent woman after overseeing one of the worst managed campaigns in living memory.
Seeing a political opportunity, she called a snap election for 8 June, expecting to absolutely decimate Labour with a 100 seat majority. The polls were certainly there to support her decision. At the time of calling she had a comfortable 20-point lead despite the Conservatives being in power for seven years, and an (admittedly thin) majority in the Common.
From the moment she called the election though her opinion ratings started dropping – in no small part because people actually saw what she was like. Wooden, robotic, and weirdly uncomfortable among the ‘common’ people she claimed to represent. Building a presidential style election around big personalities has proven to be a good strategy – a la Trump – but the key part of that is ‘big personalities’. May has no discernable personality, which already was a big strategic risk.
Things only lurched from bad to laughable when the manifesto launched. Uncosted and unpopular, the Tory’s appeared to believe they would win on a mandate of stripping the winter fuel allowance from pensioners, who would also see the securities of their pension be watered down, require them to pay for their own care, and somehow feed school children breakfast for 7p. It was by all accounts an abysmal manifesto, not written by a party that wants to stay in power, but more as a party that seemed caught on the backfoot – a preposterous proposition considering it was them who called the election in the first place. U-Turns and damage control ensued.
Meanwhile, the ‘terrorist-sympathiser’, ‘mutton-headed old mugwump’ Jeremy Corbyn was attending rallies promoting his manifesto that represented a different way for British politics. It acknowledged that cuts and austerity can’t keep coming indefinitely, and by all accounts offered a left-wing alternative. “Fully costed” and not requiring U-turns days after announcement, Corbyn was able to ride his massive grassroot support across the country, and while the polls didn’t look great for him, it was clear that people were at least receptive to the idea of change.
It really started to fall apart for May when, perhaps having realised that she had no public appeal and no desire to engage with the unappealing public, essentially disappeared right before the election. In her place were the likes of Amber Rudd and Michael Fallon, the latter of whom appears essentially oblivious at all times as to the reality of the situation so at least can appear convinced by his own sound bites. Corbyn’s surprise appearance on the Leader’s debate added fuel to his fire, with all the other parties deciding to focus on (rightly) questioning where exactly May was. Tim Farron got the delightfully well rehearsed quip in about her sizing up people’s houses to pay for their care – a “hell yes I’m tough enough” moment if ever there was one.
Through all this though, the Conservatives still seemed on the path for a comfortable win, propped up by a press determined to work at all costs to keep Corbyn out. They stepped up their attacks in every which way, with all pretense of political coverage out the window in favour of personal attacks. By the time the election had actually come to end you would be forgiven for thinking that Corbyn was actually the mastermind behind every terrorist attack ever witnessed in the world. Ever. And he rides a bike?!
So election day trudges around, and the polls are still claiming a Conservative win. The prospect of increased homelessness, child poverty, stripped back pensions, a financially starved NHS, fox hunting and dementia-tax seemed appealing to the British public. Good job, folks.
But the exit polls ended up showing a different story – one not anticipated by pretty much anyone, especially not the Conservatives. A hung Parliament. Last seen in 2010, it seemed like the British public weren’t quite as game for Conservative chaos as everyone believed. Perhaps it was shy decency? It was also probably also the incorrect assumption that UKIP voters, who have all but abandoned the party, would return to the Conservatives, but that appeared not be the case.
The results rolled around and it was indeed a hung Parliament. 318 seats for the Conservatives, 262 seats for Labour, 35 for SNP, 12 for Liberal Democrats, 10 for the DUP. No overall majority and no immediate explanation as to why. Just outrage through the Tory ranks, especially from those who had just lost their seat.
Labour were ecstatic, jubilant, at the result, having gained 30 seats… but still coming second in a hung parliament situation. Wet lettuce Nick Clegg lost his seat but the world carried on unphased. UKIP had lost their only seat in Parliament, and the SNP saw their voter hemorrhage, with voters instead going back to Labour, and more surprisingly, Scottish Conservatives. That second Independence Referendum is unlikely to be coming now…
So, with the Conservatives having just blown their majority, and the weak and unelectable Labour gaining seats, May did the only thing she could – point the finger at everyone else and force out her senior advisors in a bit to quell the 1922 Committee who were out for blood. It’s not known yet whether her token gestures will save her head from the silver platter, but it has certainly produced two more disgruntled civil servants who will probably get lucrative book deals down the road.
Her other move was to secure the backing from the most socially conservative (read: backwards) party in Britain, the DUP. By seeking the support from the Irish Unionists, May can get an exceptionally thin majority from which to continue ruling. It will almost certainly require her to backtrack on pensions, provide more funding for NI, and maybe even reduce abortion time limits. The DUP will also seek a soft Brexit due to their border with Ireland, which ties her hands at the negotiating table in Brussels. That is of course, if she isn’t chucked as leader before then.
The second Conservative leader in as many to call for an unnecessary vote to prop up their own support, only to have it backfire spectacularly.
At some point, leaders might realise that settling their internal disputes should perhaps be handled internally rather than leaving the public as arbitrators. If this election has proven anything, it’s that you can’t rely on us to make decisions!