American Herald Tribune | Saurav Dutt: On the face of it, British Prime Minister Theresa May secured a victory, surpassing the vote count of John Major and even Tony Blair in 1997. Yet she stands alone for despite the strong turnout and numbers in her favour, her majority has been stripped bare, her authority from a public relations standpoint is at its weakest ebb and her two closest advisors have left her side, bewildered by the campaign strategy and approach she countermanded.
This was not in the script and we did not know how this film was going to end. The snap election was to reinforce May’s power in Parliament and highlights the volatility of British politics in the wake of the EU referendum for Theresa May has the keys to the kingdom but has seen her throne briskly whisked away under her nose.
Two-party politics now reigns supreme after this particular election. UKIP has imploded and while it led to an uptick in Conservative votes it did not allow the Conservative Party to make the pro-Brexit breakthrough it wanted. The target was working-class communities in England and Wales and while their vote share increased by 5.5% since the last general election, many UKIP voters in the North and the Midlands actually voted Labour instead.
Jeremy Corbyn defied expectations and boosted support of his party to the tune of a rise of 9.5% since Miliband dropped the ball in 2015. This stopped May from winning her expected majority, in spite of Corbyn’s troubling associations both past and present which current voters either ignored or thought were relatively unimportant. Corbyn played it smart, far smarter than even the backstabbers in his party would give him credit for. A Euro-sceptic his entire life, Corbyn did not resist the Brexit result, he ignored the Labour moderates stuck in ‘Bremain’ mode and advocated the case for leaving the EU, thus placating UKIP supporters living in Labour strongholds.
Yes the EU was a major election topic but it was not the only done as the public were increasingly concerned about the domestic state of play, a factor May would not concede. Public services were placed as a front-line issue, whether it was the NHS or U-turns over social care, this quickly was eclipsed by security concerns and bizarrely May and the Conservatives failed to talk tough on preventing future terror attacks and failed to convincingly deal with the issue of cuts to police numbers. A counter attack was vitally needed and none was forthcoming.
May ended up alienating a key vote base, that of individuals aged 65 and over, a key support base that got Cameron his majority in 2015. Labour labelled May’s social care policy and cuts to the winter fuel allowance and state pension as anathema to the assurances that this vote base needed, not helped by the press dubbing the social care plans the “dementia tax”. Corbyn spoke constantly about hope which voters latched onto, May led a negative campaign in comparison which might, even should, have worked but clearly showed voters have a greater appetite for a bright and breezy future (probable or not) rather than finger pointing and doom-mongering.
Labour then realised different generations were angry about a host of issues, particularly austerity economics. Their manifesto proved to be a Left wing dream that attacked the naughty rich, promising giveaways funded by taxes on the wealthy and through borrowing. People seemingly did not care about the ‘magic money tree’ they just cared about magic.
The most popular Labour policy was the promise to scrap university tuition fees and cancel all student debt, appealing to the young membership base that got him the support he needed whilst moderates in his party were desperate to throw him to the wolves. He managed to suck support from the Greens and Liberal Democrats as well as digging into Conservative strongholds across London and Southern England.
The drama in Northern Ireland brings us to the lifeline May needed. An equally It is now divided between 10 seats held by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), one pro-union independent, and seven seats held by the far-left nationalist Sinn Fein, with no seats held by the centrist parties. This turnaround for the DUP is the reason May has a working majority in Parliament.
Even though May holds the keys to the kingdom, many will scoff and say she is simply an interim PM, a kind of glossy caretaker. Whether or not there is a leadership election in the summer, May has to concentrate on Brexit negotiations while trying to stave off attention from David Davies and Boris Johnson for her pedestal. Brexit itself comes as an opportune time in a sense for it is the elephant in the room that now has stomped to the front seats and will dominate the Conservative legislative agenda, leading to potentially painful negotiations.
What kind of Conservative party and Brexit will we now see? Britain is horrendously divided between its provinces and its metropolitan bubbles with the young and the elderly wanting different things and now unionists and nationalists add to the electoral gumbo.
May realised full well that these challenges existed but the vision in her mind was never translated to the voting pens of an electorate that continues to believe in hope, without knowing exactly what it even looks like.