By Owais Iqbal
Editor’s note: This is an opinion piece and views expressed in this article are not necessarily reflective of The Beehive or The Beehive’s associated writers.
Having called an election to strengthen her hand in Brexit talks, Theresa May now faces hard questions from her own party on whether she is the right person to lead the country.
The press had been informed there was to be a briefing outside 10 Downing Street at 11.15am. No one knew why the briefing had been called, or what could be announced, and the world began speculating on social media.
When the Prime Minister announced that she was calling a ‘snap’ general election, the world was shocked- a feeling expressed by none other than Brenda from Bristol. Her claim that this was to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations with a parliamentary majority was flawed, as the Labour Party had voted for the triggering of Article 48 on 29th March earlier this year. Theresa May had a majority government, with the opposition supporting her on this debate. She had no need to call a snap general election, and now it has backfired.
The snap election resulted in a hung parliament, with the Tories- no longer referring to themselves as Theresa May’s Team- losing a net of 13 sets. Labour, however, gained a net of 30 seats after many disillusioned young voters- those between 18-34 years of age- turning up at the polls to vote. This significant increase in the youth vote is said to have played a part in the success of the Labour Party, which many people- including nearly all the mainstream media, the Tories, and even the PLP- thought was doomed when the election began, with polls placing Corbyn’s party as low as 24 percentage points behind Theresa May’s.
The manner in which Corbyn managed to overturn this prediction of the voting intention to gain 40% of parliamentary seats, only 2.4% behind the Tories and an increased share of the Labour vote compared to the 2015 general election by 9.5%- the biggest swing towards Labour in any election since 1945, was commended by politicians across the political spectrum. Even Nigel Farage, a man whose views have often been seen as very controversial, praised Corbyn’s ability to not only keep a hold of Labour seats that heavily voted remain in last year’s EU referendum, such as in the capital, but to also hold seats such as Hartlepool which voted 69.5% for leave. Parts of the media, including the left-leaning Guardian, were predicting that the constituency seat of Hartlepool, which has voted for a Labour MP since 1964 and is located on the North East coast of England, could turn Tory.
One should also consider the collapse of the UKIP vote. With bad polling and even more controversy than they usually surround themselves with, UKIP figures did not go into this election with much confidence. Their mantle as the ‘Brexit party’ had been taken over by Theresa May, who had staunchly campaigned for remaining in the EU during the referendum campaign last year. Many had dismissed the UKIP voters as Tories in disguise, however those who had voted UKIP in the past were in fact former Labour voters disillusioned with ‘the establishment’ and its disregard of the ordinary voter. Instead of all the former UKIP voters flocking to the Tory party, the vote split was more equal with Labour. This was very significant as the UKIP vote had been identified as what could swing a key marginal to either of the two major parties’ favour.
Another very interesting observation from this general election was that Kensington, one of the richest constituencies in the country and home to the Duke of Cambridge and the Tory-sucking Daily Mail, voted for a Labour manifesto described as ‘radical’ by the media, as did Canterbury- a constituency that has voted Tory in every general election since its inception in 1918. This is partly due to the high student vote in these constituencies. Labour promised policies to students that would almost certainly woo them, such as the pledge to remove tuition fees for Higher and Further Education, was discarded by the Tories and the press as unimportant- a Tory MP dismissed Under 30s as too lazy to actually get up and vote for Corbyn. This may have resulted in enraged students feeling much more obliged to vote for the first time, especially since the Tory MP made these comments to a highly known national newspaper with a large readership.
So, what now for Theresa May and her team, who seem to have deserted her? The Daily Mail, although not always a reliable source, believes that Boris Johnson is ‘manoeuvring’ in preparation of a leadership challenge. God knows what the world would be like with a Prime Minister Johnson, who was recently humiliated by a man who called him stupid in Urdu.
The last time there was a hung parliament and no coalition was formed was February 1974. Another general election was called only 6 months later. Theresa May now faces tough decisions on how to start official Brexit negotiations, which begin in only eight days (at the time of writing). If she is to govern with the ‘supply and demand’ deal with the DUP which has been suggested, then she will need to discuss which of the DUP’s policies she will accept. For example, the DUP wants to keep the triple lock on pensions and universal winter fuel allowances, and also wants to maintain the Common Travel Area between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The DUP also has a policy of ease of trade with the EU. How this makes the Tory-DUP deal logical is confusing to all those outside Theresa May’s political bubble- the Tory campaign has been focussed on the messages that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’. One must also consider that the DUP is an anti-LGBT, anti-abortion party which has deep roots to terrorist organisations. How ironic that the Tory party repeatedly claimed that Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnel et al. were terrorist sympathisers who would create a ‘coalition of chaos’ to form a government. How ironic.