Robert Harneis -TDO- (FRANCE) Theresa May has lost her electoral gamble to win an increased majority. She is now condemned to leading a minority government. She has suffered a humiliating personal defeat. There will be no immediate challenge to her leadership but she is seriously weakened. Jeremy Corbyn personally had a great night and greatly increased the Labour representation in the House of Commons. However, despite all the fuss and ballyhoo there is no escaping the fact that he failed, by a large margin, to win power. This is after all what he and his party were fighting for.
Any idea coming from the European Union that this was somehow a victory for the Remainers and a reversal of the Brexit referendum is nonsense. As well as the Conservatives, the Labour party was committed to Brexit – a nuanced Brexit perhaps but Brexit never the less. In the minds of the electorate therefore Brexit was no longer the issue. So, the vast majority of MPs come to parliament having campaigned on a pro Brexit manifesto. Despite the governments electoral setback there is no going back on leaving the EU.
Mrs. May conducted an inept negative campaign based on two ideas. That she was the steady strong reliable candidate and needed a bigger majority to enter tough negotiations with Brussels. The electorate were no longer interested in Brexit and deserted the United Kingdom Independence Party in droves, many of them returning to Labour. As UKIP, themselves have said they were the victims of their own success.
The Conservative leader ruined her image as steady and reliable, by doing a U turn on her unpopular manifesto commitment to demand greater contributions from home owners for care for the elderly. She gave an impression of weakness by refusing to debate with Corbyn. It was fatal and set the tone for the final stage of the election. The terror attacks that punctuated the campaign did not help her either. For five years under Cameron as Home Secretary she presided over a reduction of police numbers in the name of financial austerity and ran the fight against the terrorists.
Jeremy Corbyn by contrast never altered his positions even when challenged on the controversial views he held on the IRA terrorists. He played to his strengths which are peoples’ concern for welfare cover and health care, an area where the Conservatives are not trusted by the less well off.
EU enthusiasts should therefore note that far from being a pro Europe vote this was a big rejection of EU financial austerity policies. Once the anti-Europe working class voters realized that Jeremy Corbyn was not going to renege on Brexit they returned to him in droves from UKIP. It is worth noting that despite her electoral fiasco Mrs. May also increased her vote at the expense of UKIP. However, there is no doubt that Britain’s approach to the negotiations to begin on June 19 will have to take into account the government’s relative defeat. How that will play out is far from clear. Whatever happens, any British government will fight for the best deal they can get for Britain.
The Prime Minister may have been deceived by the opinion polls, a majority of whom also got it wrong (again) with one or two exceptions. Less noticed is that the generally anti-Corbyn main stream media also lost out. Much of the electorate ignored their largely hostile coverage. It is noticeable that a vital part of Labour’s new support came from young voters, who today tend to get their information from the internet where Corbyn gets more balanced treatment. They never buy a newspaper.
It is from the internet that an alternative view of foreign policy comes. Many young voters have thus for some time been exposed to the arguments that Britain’s policy in the Middle East is both immoral and counterproductive. They will have heard and read this on the internet but practically never with the classic media. So, for example, when terrorists struck, many voters did not automatically rally round the government but were open to the idea that terror in the UK is the result of Western actions and policies in the Middle East – policies strongly supported by the Conservatives. Future British governments will have to bear this in mind. Jeremy Corbyn queried Britain’s close relationship with the Saudis. It is clear that perhaps for the first time a large part of the electorate took this into account and agreed with him.
In one area at least, the Conservative leader won her bet and life for all future UK governments will be easier as a result. The Scottish Nationalists lost heavily to both Conservative and Labour. Contrary to comments from Brussels, this will actually make negotiations for Brexit easier. We shall hear no more about disruptive Scottish independence for some time.
The key to the future lies curiously in the United Kingdom’s smallest element, Northern Ireland. The results there again confirm that there will be no going back on Brexit. The 10 DUP candidates are strongly pro-Brexit and will support Mrs. May probably in an informal alliance. Similarly, the seven Irish Nationalist Sein Fein are committed to not taking their seats and have confirmed that they will not do so. In real terms then, this brings the score of the Conservatives, with 319 seats, tantalizingly close to the 322 needed for a clear majority and means that when the Queens speech is voted in the new parliament the government should be able to count on at least 330 votes. The real problems will come from within the Conservative party.
As we concluded when the British Prime Minister first called the surprise election, ‘Whatever her motives, Theresa May is giving up a strong position to get a better one but elections are always risky’. http://diplomaticobserver.com/_haber/may-calls-unexpected-june-election#sthash.c0l355s1.dpuf.’ Risky indeed.