Theresa May bet the farm calling yesterday’s General Election. Confident that she could destroy the opposition and “crush the saboteurs”, she wanted a strong mandate for negotiating the Brexit deal, and presumably wanted to avoid a General Election at the normal time when Brexit was just starting.
At the time, it was considered a ruthless and Machiavellian move by many, me included. But the last few years should have taught us all that politics is unpredictable. Cameron’s gamble with the EU referendum backfired, for example. See also: Donald Trump.
Early predictions suggested the Tories would gain a huge majority. May declined to take part in the TV debates in a move that some people read as arrogance, fear or contempt. More charitable folk pointed out that the debates aren’t exactly longstanding practice, and tend to dissolve into 7 people shouting over each other; maybe May was too dignified for that. Maybe she thought that the frantic shouting would make her opponents look like squabbling amateurs, and so the debates would solidify her ‘coalition of chaos’ catchphrase.
But then the polls started shortening the Tories’ lead. Nails were bitten across the UK. Then, at 10pm last night, the exit polls came out. For the first time, it looked like May’s great gamble was going to backfire utterly. As the results trickled in overnight, bleary-eyed Brits watched as the exit polls came true.
Let’s be honest, this is going to be a political omnishambles. But forgive me a momentary mwahahaha.
A previously derided ‘coalition of chaos’ might be the only way May can stay in power now. Do you think she’ll be able to escape that phrase, like, ever? For all the Corbyn-bashing of the Tories, he has increased his party’s seats, and defied the odds. They called him unelectable; Labour’s vote share went up to 40%. The UKIP vote collapsed, but those voters didn’t flock to Theresa May’s party. Despite claiming UKIP is still relevant (hahaha) Paul Nuttall has quit as party leader.
May’s snap General Election has become a cautionary tale about power and hubris. She had power. She wanted more. She lost it.
Her party still outnumbers the other individual parties, but it doesn’t have a majority. Will she try to run a minority government? Will she try and set up a coalition, or will it just be an informal understanding with the DUP? Will she slink away, humiliated? Will we have to have another General Election in a few months to try again?
Yes, it puts us in a difficult position with negotiating Brexit. No, we don’t have a solid government at the moment. But perhaps lessons have been learned. Don’t rest on your laurels. Don’t ignore vast swathes of the population. Don’t gamble with the future of a nation. Don’t rule people out because you don’t like them. And don’t underestimate how divided the UK is right now. A hung parliament is a pretty sound reflection of that, don’t you think?
There’s a case to make that everyone lost, but let’s see this more positively. The election was called for one reason: to give more power to May. And the UK said no. That’s a win in my book.