Friday, June 09, 2017
Some reflections on the General Election
It is most probably not a good idea to sit down so soon after a General Election result and commit my thoughts to public record, especially on three hours sleep, but here are some initial reflections:
- Theresa May's position is untenable. She can salvage a majority with the help of the DUP because of the absence of an enlarged Sinn Fein contingent of MPs, but the strong and stable government she was seeking was and remains an illusion. When even the Italians are saying Britain is ungovernable then we know that we are in trouble.
- Having voted for Brexit by a small majority in June 2016, the British public have now clarified their intentions. A hard Brexit is off the table and the sooner that parties like Labour realise that and start to oppose accordingly, then we can make some progress in forcing the Tories to back down on an anti-single market stance that threatens jobs and prosperity.
- Clearly it is up to the Tories to determine Theresa May's fate but her authority as Prime Minister has been destroyed by her failure to deliver on the gamble of an unnecessary election, and that applies within the EU as well as at home. Having a lame duck PM negotiate for us, without any guarantee that she can get Parliament to back her decisions is not in the country's best interests.
- It was a night of mixed fortunes for the Liberal Democrats. I am devastated to lose Nick Clegg and Mark Williams from Parliament, gutted at near misses in Fife North East, St Ives and Richmond Park and disappointed to see promising talents such as Kelly Marie Blundell in Lewes and Daisy Cooper in St. Albans miss out this time. On the plus side we now have a more diverse Parliamentary Party (though with a long way to go to get it completely right) and a record number of women MPs across the party divide.
- I (and many others) were wrong about Corbyn. He refused to tack to the centre and actually got young people to vote, boosting turnout in his favour. The result is a triumph for him and Labour even if they did fall short of putting themselves in the position of forming a government.
- Two party politics is back with a vengeance. By focussing on herself rather than her party, Theresa May created a presidential-style election in which she was pitched directly against Corbyn. She came off worse in that battle largely because she was not up to the job, because she came across as afraid of scrutiny and of the voters, and because she failed to define what exactly she stood for. Corbyn came off better because he started with low expectations, defied them and benefited from being clear about the platform he was standing on, even if large chunks of it were undeliverable and unaffordable.
- The Liberal Democrats and other small parties were subjected to a national two-party squeeze that largely squashed regional and local variations. Tactical voting, with some notable exceptions such as Scotland and some London constituencies was focussed on the Corbyn-May battle, meaning that the resultant increases in Labour and Tory votes prevented wins by other parties in their key targets. It certainly contributed to the loss of Ceredigion by the Liberal Democrats.
- I suspect that the 82% combined share of the vote gained by the two big parties is the largest since 1970 and arrests a declining trend in that vote-share. Whether that is an outlier or a sign of things to come we will have to see.
- Finally, will we have to go through the whole thing again in six months? Is it in the country's interests to do so? My instincts are no to both questions but who am I to say?