As the dust settles, I am reflecting on the strangest general election. Who won, who lost – and where do we go from here?
Let’s look at it party by party:
Well, they called the election when they didn’t have to. Clearly, they calculated that they would increase their majority substantially as well as extending their term by two years. When I say ‘they’ it must be said that many Tory MPs were less than happy with the early election. ‘They’ seems to have been Theresa May and her rather small inner circle. In any case, the Theresa May Strong and Stable campaign was utterly awful. Bereft of any positive reasons to vote Conservative, it was an attempt to ‘win by default.’ The central message seemed to be that everyone else was dire and therefore we should elect Tories. We were told only Theresa could be trusted with Brexit, but without any kind of detail to back it up. Then there was the rest of the Tory manifesto: another suicide note! Dementia Tax, Foxhunting and more austerity. It was hardly a cheery offer. It was almost as if they didn’t want to win, but i suspect it was pure hubris.
Theresa May must surely go. She has managed to throw away a working majority on an unnecessary election. She has done so after triggering Article 50. Another utterly irresponsible gamble from the Tories, and one which blew up in their faces.
This is an interesting one. Labour supporters are currently strutting around like cockerels. It was almost as if they had won! It seems that expectations of a Corbyn led Labour Party were so low, that this feels like victory to them. Let’s give them some credit: they appear to have been more successful than any other party at inspiring younger voters. The increased turnout among the 18-25 voters must be welcomed, and Labour seem to have been the biggest beneficiaries. But they also benefited from the anti-Brexit vote, despite not really being anti-Brexit. Open Britain colluded in this, urging Remainers to vote Labour in many seats. And they were up against such a dire Tory campaign it was hard not to see them making gains. It remains clear to me that Labour were still held back by having a leader that puts many voters off, and a poor top team. Ill health notwithstanding, the thought of a Home Secretary that couldn’t grasp basic figures was a big turnoff to many potential voters.
It remains clear to me that Labour still have a long way to go to look like a party of government.
Well it was certainly a mixed bag for us, but we have much to be positive about too. Clearly, losing someone of the calibre and experience of Nick Clegg was a huge blow. I do sincerely hope that he will continue to figure in a big way in our future.
But despite having been starved of coverage, and having a leader previously unknown to the wider public, we did what we do best:
We targeted our effort, and focussed our energy on seats where we thought we could win. As a result we now have a larger and more diverse team of MPs. And we did so without compromising our principles. We stood on a manifesto we could all own and be proud of.
So what now?
What indeed! Above all else, it is clear that the system is broken. Opponents of voting reform have always claimed that the advantage of First Past The Post is that it gives rise to a strong government with a clear mandate. Well, this is clearly no longer the case. In 2010, a hung parliament led to 5 years of stable coalition government. Unfortunately, the public reacted at the next election by almost wiping out the junior coalition partner, us. This led to us understandably ruling out joining a coalition government in 2017. What a bitter irony! What the country desperately needs now is for politicians from different parties to work together ‘in the national interest.’
We need a fairer voting system, but we also need a cultural shift. We need to convince both the public and our politicians that working together can be for the common good. As it stands, the only people who will work with the Tories are the DUP. Even if this was a good idea (and I remain to be convinced) the combined working majority would be wafer thin.
Perhaps it is time to cancel the Article 50 notification. The Leavers said we were going to ‘take back control.’ I think we need to learn how to govern ourselves first, before undertaking anything as big as Brexit.