Labour has eaten into the Tory majority, with implications that reach far beyond May's premiershipby Stephanie Boland / June 9, 2017 / Leave a comment
On 18 April, it felt as if Theresa May had called an election that was hers to lose. Now, it seems she has done her best to lose it.
It has been a tremendous night for Labour, with Jeremy Corbyn’s party taking seats across England, Scotland and Wales. Not only have they managed to cling on in many of the seats that yesterday looked like low-hanging fruit for the Conservatives, but often, they have increased their majority—a coup for Corbyn and his team, and for the left-leaning manifesto on which he ran, which some presumed would be poison to the electorate.
Meanwhile, the Tories have had a bitterly disappointing set of results. At the time of writing, with 630 out of 650 seats declared, they remain short of a majority with broadcasters predicting a hung parliament.
If that is the case, the balance of power could hang in a region that has been overlooked by many British pundits throughout the campaign: Northern Ireland. As in England, the North has also seen a return to two-party politics, with Sinn Féin currently on 7 seats and the DUP, natural allies of the Conservatives, on 10.
Yet even if May manages to bring her party limping over the line to form a government bolstered by DUP report, this is a shocking result, and one which will have implications beyond her premiership.
In the early hours of this morning, Anna Soubry became the first of her ministers to suggest that May must “consider her future” (Soubry narrowly kept her seat in Broxtowe). George Osborne, meanwhile, is presumably near giddy with glee, with the Huffington Post’s Paul Waugh reporting that the former chancellor joked, “The worst thing she’s done in her life is no longer running through a wheat field.”
His movements in the following few days will be watched with interest: as editor of the Evening Standard, his front pages have regularly attacked May’s leadership, with one particularly notable cover earlier this week splashing on Boris Johnson’s critique of her Home Office stint following last weekend’s terror attack in London. If May stands down at some point today, the leadership challenge could be a bloody one.
Whoever ends up as Prime Minister next week, however, has problems beyond party politics. With Brexit negotiations due to begin in less than ten days’ time, the new incumbent will have their work cut out balancing the demands of a hefty opposition with the demands of Brussels.
This is particularly interesting if, as is currently predicted, the DUP plays a key role in forming a government, with the Unionist party having little to gain from a hard border on the island of Ireland.
The single market, free movement, and the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK are all now back on the table.
For many, however, the immediate focus will not stretch as far as Brexit. For the pollsters, there will be another re-examination of methodology following the 2015 polling enquiry, after YouGov’s widely-derided model came very close to accurately predicting the result.
For others, the question will be of where exactly Labour’s tremendous surge came from, and how our understanding of campaigns and engagement must change as a result.
And for the public, there will be the news over breakfast of several key figures losing their seats: from Nick Clegg, who failed to be re-elected in Sheffield Hallam, to former leader of the SNP Alex Salmond, who lost his seat of Gordon to the Conservatives.
The SNP’s Angus Robertson was also felled in Moray, while Ben Gummer, a young Mayite who was one of the architects of the Tory manifesto, lost his seat in Ipswich.
Finally, it is worth sparing a thought—how kind of one will depend on your politics—for Lynton Crosby, widely reported to have been behind Zac Goldsmith’s tone-deaf and unsuccessful campaign for the London Mayoralty and perhaps unwisely brought in for this campaign to be May’s election guru.
Corbyn’s team, which includes figures who had been roundly mocked in the press, will presumably raise a glass to him tonight.