9th June 2017 So this is the aftermath
The exit poll was spot on once again. The shock of the prediction that the Tories would be the largest party but without a majority was felt across the country at 10.01pm last night. The first few results sowed some doubt in the minds of the talking heads as the predicted swing to Labour didn’t look big enough, but a few hours later the landscape was clear: Theresa May’s gamble had backfired spectacularly.
I went to bed with the radio on.
The trends are obvious: a higher turnout than 2015 and a greater number of young people turning out with the specific intention of voting Labour. The embers of the EU referedum burn too: Tories were punished or rewarded for their Brexit stance, depending on their location. And finally, the UKIP vote collapsed but did not move exclusively to the Tories as predicted. At least half of it ended up in the Labour tally, perhaps a consequence of Corbyn’s economic arguments on austerity, jobs and a desire for a fairer society. But the underlying story is one of dozens of fascinatingly close micro-battles that tipped the balance one way and then another. Labour took seats from the Tories where the former hadn’t even bothered to campaign. The Tories stole seats from the SNP in Scotland and took Labour marginals too. Margins, last night, were everything.
This morning, in the absence of any word from the Prime Minister beyond the speech she gave at her own count, speculation grew about her plans. Surely, the country thought, Theresa May could see that having sought and failed to secure a larger majority and a mandate to negotiate Brexit, she must step aside or at least announce a plan to do so. But no, within a couple of hours BBC reporters were suggesting that the word from Number Ten was that Theresa May intended to continue as Prime Minister. And so it came to pass: at just after 12pm the Prime Minister nipped to the Palace to seek the Queen’s permission to form a government with the help of….the Democratic Unionist Party. Yes, really.
On her return to Number Ten she made a short statement. This was a government, she said, that would spend the next five years battling terrorism, making the country fairer and seeing out the Brexit transition. No apology, no humility, no ‘Look Britain, I can see you’re a bit cross’. Instead she walked up to that podium and addressed the country as though nothing of any importance had happened.
Let’s think for a moment about the DUP: creationist, homophobic, anti-abortion, climate change-denying religious zealots with links to unionist terrorists in Ulster. Umm…
So May has decided that governing with these bigots is worth it to stay in power and keep Corbyn out. But for how long will her own party tolerate this situation? Will any of them think it’s worth triggering a leadership contest in the middle of Brexit negotiations? To what extent will the party that has caused all of this unutterable chaos want to be responsible for even more? Of course the knives are being sharpened; it’s simply about timing.
Our fate feels sealed. We are heading for Brexit and, now that May has the DUP to create a majority, you can be certain she still wants to give it to us hard. We need to stop her but I’m not sure how.