Thursday, 22 June 2017

Reflections on the election #GE2017

Wow what an election! It's been unlike any I can remember, with an incredible turnaround from Labour which floored the 'expert' pundits - most of whom still don't understand what happened. Since 2010 we have been told 'there is no money' - with austerity being used as an ideological weapon by the Tories (and their friends the Liberal Democrats) to destroy the welfare state - something the Tories have wanted to do since 1945. From 8 June this position has become untenable which is the good news the UK desperately needed.

At the start the Tories were riding as high as 49% and Labour as low as 27% in the polls that I saw. A Tory majority of anything from 80 to 180 was predicted. Theresa May's ratings were sky-high and Jeremy Corbyn's rock bottom but from the start it was fairly obvious there were major flaws in the Tory campaign. Theresa May's robotic repetition of the 'strong and stable' mantra, her stage managed 'public' appearances and refusal to take part in the leader's debates all damaged the Tory campaign. Lynton Crosby may have been playing it safe but the electorate aren't daft, they expected much more leadership from someone seeking a mandate to be Prime Minister of the UK.
The wisdom of the punditocracy

In contrast to this performance from May, Corbyn played to his strengths, going on a nationwide campaign tour and reaching out to larger and larger crowds as the election progressed. Naturally this was treated with scorn by the pundits who 'knew' that Corbyn was preaching to the converted, and predicted that there would be no impact on the wider electorate.

What were the key points which turned the election in Labour's favour?:
  • The leaking of the Labour manifesto gave Labour several days of uninterrupted headlines. The contents proved popular with a populace weary of austerity, and increased the turnout of younger voters
  • The dementia tax - the Tory manifesto was a drab and uninspiring document - foxhunting anyone? - but people soon picked up on the removal of any kind of cap on social care costs, something which was bound to hit the support of the Tories core pensioner vote. May failed to deal convincingly with this blunder claiming 'nothing has changed' despite the Tory u-turn.
  • The 'debates' - Corbyn 'debated' May indirectly and although many thought these 'debates' a score draw they were good for Corbyn because they gave him exposure. People could see that he wasn't the monster portrayed in the Tory press
  • Tory u-turns - almost too many to count but including the classic that May had denied there would be an election until 2020 several times
Despite the fact that the MSM and pundits stuck to their guns about the result I could sense the tectonic plates of UK politics were shifting online - Twitter and Facebook - and that more people wanted real change. The final result? Good for Labour and the left but ultimately disappointing in that May was able to hang on in a lame duck government with support from the DUP. As in 2015 Scotland let the left down badly by providing the Tories with an extra twelve MPs without which Corbyn might have been able to form a government.  The headline figure though is not the number of seats the two main parties won but the percentage of the vote for Labour, at 40%, getting its highest vote share since 1945!

The key outcome is not that May has been fatally wounded by this but that the Tories and their austerity agenda has been badly damaged. They are clinging on to power trying to negotiate Brexit with no plan and from a position of weakness. How long can this carry on? Its hard to predict because the wheels could come off at almost any moment, or they might cling on for twelve months or more. My money's on them hanging on by the fingernails for as long as possible because of the fear of Corbyn.