It has happened again.
First the 2015 General Election, then the Referendum, then the US Presidential election and then another non-politician without a party becomes President of France. Now this opportunistic General Election. An enhanced Tory majority was widely anticipated, indeed, that’s why the PM called the election. Yet again, expectation is confounded. A hung Parliament results. Oh yes, and Labour takes Kensington ( Kensington! ).
A disaster for the Tories, the only saving grace for them is that they are still in government, though even more dependant on the Democratic Unionists of Northern Ireland than before. This wasn’t an easy relationship before the election was called and the DUP will demand far more for their support now, which won’t sit well with some Tory MPs. How long can this enforced marriage last? What price an Autumn rerun?
Why is expectation so confounded? And why does the commentariat and the media continue to assume that the old rules still apply? The kaleidoscope has been shaken, things really are shifting. The old certainties are defunct.
Or are they?
Logic does still apply – logic always applies. Theresa May didn’t get to be PM by the usual route, a route which, generally, winnows out the second-rate or the unsuitable. Maybe this didn’t matter immediately post Referendum, after all that febrile campaigning and in which May had been almost invisible. Electioneering for a mandate from the country, however, shines a harsher light and exposes flaws and weaknesses which the winnowing process might have caused her to address.
She doesn’t share decision-making, she trusts very few people, she doesn’t warm to or involve her colleagues unless she has to. She isn’t comfortable with people, has little spontaneity and doesn’t think and respond quickly on her feet. All of this was known beforehand, if little commented upon. It simply became known more widely.
Jeremy Corbyn, whatever one thinks of his performance in the House of Commons, is a good campaigner. He seems genuinely interested in people and comes across as warm and comfortable in his own skin. The Labour Party put together a good manifesto, chiming with what much of the public wants (costings notwithstanding). The Tory press were as nasty as only they can be, but this time it seems to have backfired. Taking a leaf from the Obama playbook, Labour fought a positive and disciplined campaign, (hiccups notwithstanding) eschewing the personal. It paid dividends.
Yet Labour didn’t win.
What was truly remarkable, on further analysis of the vote, was the closeness of many results. This is where to look. With just a little more forethought and co-operation between the progressive parties….
In Richmond where former Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, a Brexiteer who was ousted by the Liberal democrats running on a ‘remain’ ticket, got back in by 45 votes. Over 5,000 votes were cast for Labour. Had the two parties co-operated that would have been another Tory defeat. In Hastings Amber Rudd won by 346 votes, with 1,885 cast for the Lib Dems in third place. The picture was similar in Arfon, Bolton West, Broxtowe, Calder Valley, Cambourne & Redruth, Cheltenham, Chingford & Woodford Green (if you include the Greens), Chipping Barnett…. That wipes out the DUP’s 10 MPs and we’re only as far as ‘C’ in the alphabet.
Harrow East, Hazel Grove, Hendon, Mansfield, Middlesborough South, Milton Keynes North, Morecambe & Lunesdale, Northampton North, Northampton South, Norwich North, Presell Pembrokeshire, Pudsey, Putney, Reading West, St Albans, St Austell, St Ives, Southampton Itchen, Southport, Stirling, Stoke-on-Trent South, need I go on? In all these constituencies, co-operation between Labour, the Lib Dems and, occasionally, the Greens would have toppled a Tory. Swindon South, Telford, Truro & Falmouth, Watford, Wimbledon and Worcester. And I haven’t even touched on constituencies in Scotland and Wales where there were more parties involved.
Yes, of course there might have been an anti-progressive backlash, but the UKIP vote crashed anyway, with a majority of UKIP voters going to the Tories ( and some, it is true, to Labour ). And there were close votes going the other way. But we have a hung Parliament and if only twenty of the thirty-seven seats listed above had gone the other way the result would have been different and Labour would have had a majority.
We may have another election in the Autumn.
Learn. Please learn.