I write in the early morning of 8 June 2017, General Election day. Within 24 hours, most results will have been counted and announced. Some will come in later in the day on the 9th.
Against almost all expectations (including my own) the election looks as if it may be close-run. Predictions from polling organizations offer everything from a hung Parliament (no overall House of Commons majority) to a solid Conservative HoC majority. However, few if any “experts” are now predicting the 100+-majority landslide that seemed almost inevitable just a few short weeks ago. What happened?
To my mind, what happened to the “Conservative landslide” is that voters suddenly woke up to Theresa May as a brittle, nervy, unhealthy (type-1 diabetes) woman who, though clever at the Westminster version of office politics (outmanouevring opponents etc), is not really a national leader. Her “strong and stable” mantra played well at first against a Labour Party frontbench that was (and still is, largely) a joke, but May’s U-turns on policy damaged her and her party badly. The impression was twofold– first, that policies which impact upon almost every family in the land had not been properly thought through; secondly, that faced with public and newspaper opposition, Theresa May was willing to trim or even abandon her policies. “Strong and stable” became “weak and vacillating”. There is a third aspect: Theresa May was seen suddenly as someone who might be ruthless in stamping on such as the pensioners whose votes are so vital to the Conservative Party.
There is that “backroom person suddenly given power” thing about Theresa May. Her career outside politics was at the banks’ cheque-clearing organization, BACS, hardly exciting or cutting-edge work. In fact, as MP and minister, Theresa May did not shine and her long tenure as Home Secretary was marked by absurd initiatives and continuing mass immigration, as well as by the sacking of 20,000 police officers. Her main focus was on careerism, becoming a minister, then plotting for years to become Prime Minister.
The people around Theresa May are not impressive and had been kept in the background by the Conservative election machine. In particular, clown prince Boris Johnson was not prominent. When he did emerge, he messed up (again).
Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, went during the campaign from looking like a mixture of crazed radical and ineffectual duffer to looking quite reasonable and, in a word, electable, at least to many. Corbyn too was surrounded by people at best mediocre: Diane Abbott (replaced a day before the election on grounds of “ill-health” after several staggeringly-bad TV and radio interviews); Dawn Butler; Angela Rayner. All deadheads.
Corbyn had been the hate-figure of the mass media, the Jew-Zionist-Israel lobby and the Conservative Party to such a great extent that he eclipsed those around him. In the end, ironically, that may have played well for Labour. The Presidential-style campaign pitted May against Corbyn and, as May’s campaign unravelled, Corbyn’s did not and Corbyn himself began to look a lot more reasonable than May to many.
Labour has promised much. It may not be able to deliver; but the Conservatives seem to offer nothing but ever-more poverty, low pay, poor prospects, more “austerity” nonsense and repression of free speech, egged on by the Jewish Lobby which is so powerful in the Conservative Party (Theresa May herself being a member of Conservative Friends of Israel, as are 80% of Conservative Party MPs).
Few, if any, expect Labour to somehow “win” the election, either by getting a House of Commons majority (practically impossible in view of Labour’s long-term shrinkage and the dominance of the SNP in Scotland) or by becoming the largest party in the HoC. However, Labour now looks as if, far from shrinking its MP numbers from 229 to 200 or even 150 as many (including me) had thought likely, it might retain a Commons bloc (cadre?) not very much reduced from where it was after 2015. A small increase is also not now impossible.
The small Conservative majority in the House of Commons (6, but in practice more because of the non-voting of the Speaker, Sinn Fein MPs, suspended MPs etc) might as easily decrease as increase. A hung Parliament would leave the Conservatives as the largest party, almost certainly, but unable to rule except as a minority government, outvoted easily by hostile parties, notably Labour and SNP.
Could Labour form a minority government? The convention is that the largest party in the Commons has first chance to cobble together sufficient Commons support. As Bagehot put it, a government is formed when a party has “the confidence” of a majority in the Commons. If the Conservatives as largest party could not agree something with the SNP, then Labour might try, with a greater prospect of success. Labour social policies are closer to those of the SNP. The same is true in the foreign policy arena.
If the Conservatives achieve a majority greater than that presently enjoyed, then the above will be –in the American sense– moot and irrelevant. If, however, the Conservatives have no majority, then it is quite likely that Labour, even if not the largest party, will be able to form a minority government.
The only fly in that ointment is that the SNP has fewer than 60 seats in the HoC. It may well have only 40 or 45 after the election. If Labour ends up with, even, 250 (20 more than where Labour was before the election was called), that will still be far fewer than 300 even with SNP support, 326 being the necessary number. That would necessitate support from LibDems, Plaid Cymru, Northern Irish MPs etc. Difficult.
One thing is for sure: if the Conservatives lose seats, then Theresa May will have to resign. Corbyn is in a better position. His power comes from the members, who still seem to support him strongly. Moreover, the anti-Corbyn Labour MPs (many of whom are pro-Israel mouthpieces) lose either way. If Labour does reasonably well or not too badly in the election, Corbyn’s position will be upheld. On the other hand, if Labour is badly defeated in the election, the most aggressively anti-Corbyn MPs will lose their seats. They are toast either way.
Looking beyond the election, there will be a space for a new social-national movement down the line. The System parties are increasingly less capable of sorting out Britain’s problems.