Quote of the Day:
Basil Fawlty: “Do you remember dear, when we were first married, we used to laugh a lot?”
Sybil Fawlty: “Yes, but not at the same time dear.”
Fawlty Towers, ‘Communication Problems’
And that, is that. In a Fawlty Towers-esque scene, the honeymoon period for Theresa May is definitively over with the electorate certainly not finding her proposals for the next five years remotely amusing or appealing. There most certainly have been communication problems with the Tories performing the most stunning political example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
All news commentators are now talking about the ‘gamble’ Theresa May took – a few weeks ago no one was talking about it being a gamble as it was inconceivable that the Tories would lose. In a brilliant – and unusual for them – case of understatement, Sky News has badged it a ‘bad’ night for the Conservatives. For most Tories it is catastrophic, except perhaps for arch-Remainer, Anna Soubry, who is struggling to contain her glee at the downfall of Theresa May.
So, just when we thought global politics couldn’t get more weird, and as America (and France) says – ‘Look at how messed up our elections are, no one can beat that’, Britain responds – ‘Hold my pint’…
The Tory strategy to strengthen their hand by shoring up their majority has spectacularly back-fired. As the evening/early hours moved on, it became clear that both Manuel and Basil Fawlty had actually masterminded the Tory election campaign. Although perhaps Fiona Hill or Nick Timothy are actually Labour moles, surely only someone working for the Labour Party would tell Theresa May that a dementia tax, talking about how pro-fox hunting you are, fluffing the fact that you have cut 20,000 police officers at a time of heightened concerns over security and not bothering to turn up to the Leader’s debates was a good electoral strategy.
Expect a series of memes over the next few days of May’s best moments – another must surely be that there are a ‘number of complex reasons’ for why nurses use foodbanks. Yes, lots of complex reasons mainly based around the fact that they don’t have access to a ‘magic money tree’.
With results still coming in it is now impossible for the Tories to achieve a Commons majority and that JC truly has risen (much to the disappointment of a significant number of Labour MPs). At the time of writing and with just seven seats to go, the current state of play is:
- Conservative – 314
- Labour – 260
- Lib Dem – 12
- SNP – 35
- Other – 23
Aside from the political excitement, this brings into question a whole raft of major issues. The Election was called on the basis of the Tories needing a clear majority to negotiate Brexit, this clearly will not happen and any coalition could completely change the direction of Brexit.
For those Remainers who are hoping for a second referendum, I expect they will be disappointed, any new government may have to take a softer line on Brexit but is unlikely to seek to withdraw from the process entirely – although, what do I know, given that politics and politicians appear to be looking to take lessons from Dynamo in performing seemingly impossible tricks.
We can expect a 2010-style media camp to be set up on College Green until the future government is clear – we can only hope for another Alastair Campbell/Adam Boulton style showdown on live TV to provide entertainment during the long government negotiations. Those calling for Theresa May to stand down immediately should be put back in their box, this is highly unlikely to happen and we actually do need a PM (whether temporary or permanent) to be there until a new government is in place.
At a Glance – Seats Changing Hands
In Wales the Tories failed to take a foothold. However, in the North and also in Scotland, under Ruth Davidson, the Tories have managed to steal a march both on the SNP and Labour. To the extent that the vultures are already whispering about the potential for Ruth Davidson to take the helm from Theresa May.
The Lib Dems have gained seats but it is by no means the comeback which Tim Farron promised – although probably enough to keep him in as Leader for the time being unless Vince Cable manages to topple him with his funereal glare.
Labour have undoubtedly defied critics, but, despite the initial hysteria today, it is not a ringing endorsement of Labour nor does it demonstrate unequivocally that their current strategy is correct. Given the utter shambles that was the Conservative campaign, with a more universally acceptable leader (such as Andy Burnham), Labour could actually have convincingly won this Election.
The SNP have suffered heavy losses to the Tories – something really is rotten in the state of Scotland. Any talk of a second Independence Referendum is now redundant. Whereas part of May’s mistake was to try to talk only about Brexit, Sturgeon clearly misjudged the mood of the Scottish people by trying to make her campaign all about Independence.
Conservatives took some seats where you wouldn’t expect it and Labour did the same. The picture across the UK is of shifting allegiance, some based on individual performance or popularity of local candidates, others on changing demographics or perhaps policy alliances. Some of the headlines are:
- Labour took Canterbury for the first time in 99 years.
- Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell (author of ‘How To Win A Marginal Seat; My Year of Fighting For My Political Life’) lost his Croydon Central seat to Labour. Always a marginal, Labour’s Sarah Jones now has a comfortable majority of over 5,000. At least Barwell can now get a sequel about how to lose an ‘in the bag’ election.
- Government Minister Jane Ellison lost her seat in Battersea to Labour.
- Another Cabinet Minister, Ben Gummer (son of John, the infamous former Agricultural Minister who force fed his children beef burgers during the Mad Cow Disease crisis) lost his Ipswich seat to Labour.
- Alec Salmond lost his SNP seat also to Labour, which is a terrible result for Sturgeon and the SNP.
- Conservatives took Stoke on Trent from Labour
- The SNP speaker in the Commons, Angus Robertson, saw his 10,000 vote majority evaporate as he lost his seat to the Tories.
- Zac Goldsmith won back his Richmond Park seat – he will be relieved, apparently his wife had been displeased that he had voluntarily resigned from his job previously. Obviously, when you are down to your last £100m, that £65K a year is all important…
- There are rumours that the Conservatives are about to lose Kensington – surely not?? However, one should not rely on twitter for accurate information, or any information.
The Scalp Taking
Ever since the election in 1997 brought the ‘were you up for Portillo’ moment, those of us who get more excited about General Elections than we do about Christmas, have focused on which political giants can be unexpectedly felled by a young upstart.
First of the night was Nick Clegg, who was finally ousted by students who have borne the brunt of the tuition fees rise and in turn risen up against the man they hold responsible. Strictly speaking that isn’t quite fair as he had eff all to do with the decision. But never let the facts get in the way of a good political fight. And so ends the dream of the man who dared to dance in the Rose Garden with the enemy.
Vince Cable won back his Kingston seat, two years after losing it. Looking ever more like an undertaker, despite his victory, his result demonstrated the strength of personalities within constituencies.
Amber Rudd almost paid the price for being, well, being herself really, holding on to her seat with her cracking fingernails by just 300 votes after two recounts. Surely that should rule her out of being a potential leadership contender?
And could Theresa May be the biggest scalp of all? Her result in her true blue Maidenhead constituency was never in doubt, but her future as Leader and PM surely must be. Don’t be surprised if, by the end of the weekend, we see Theresa and her Amanda Wakeley trousers leaving the building – but not before Philip has put the bins out, obviously, given that this is apparently a boy’s job… Her position is surely untenable now, knives will be out and seemingly there is already maneuverings for a leadership election – never let it be said that politicians are mercenary opportunists…
Speculation that her joint Chief of Staff Fiona Hill has secretly been working for Labour is bound to be rife today after she was spotted wearing a blue suit and bright red shoes. Notably, she and Nick Timothy, May’s other Chief of Staff, left Tory HQ at the same time but most certainly not together. Many will blame them for the utter disaster that has been the Conservative campaign so expect them to be touting their CVs around the private sector soon. Although what value their contacts will have in a potential coalition government is another question.
What About Brexit?
A major mistake of the Tory campaign was to try to make it all about Brexit when, in reality, most of the electorate have moved on from that and are far more concerned with domestic issues. The NHS crisis has also brought into sharp view the importance of immigration in terms of our domestic workforce.
It seems unlikely that Brexit negotiations will begin in the next few weeks as originally planned. Until we have a government who actually have established their own position on Brexit, it will be impossible to enter negotiations. Anyone being sensible would put Keir Starmer in charge of negotiations anyway regardless of party politics (clearly a personal view, but I struggle to think of anyone else who has the skills and experience to match his).
The rest of Europe will be looking on and laughing at how the mighty have fallen. Theresa May had managed to isolate herself – and by default the UK – within Europe before negotiations had even started.
What Will the Government Look Like?
Well, for a start, we could once again see the return of Nigel Farage to the political fray – he really is like the villain in a horror movie who just refuses to lie down and die. Luckily UKIP haven’t won any seats so there is no chance of them being the king makers. UKIP basically no longer exist and against expectations, their vote generally went to Labour rather than to the Tories. This does rather demonstrate that Farage is UKIP and also that people aren’t stupid – post-Brexit, what is the point of UKIP?
A Hung Parliament in itself is not terrible – the general view is that the ConDem government actually performed well. The Lib Dems tempered the right wing of the Conservatives (despite what students may think). The problem this time round is that we are in very different territory. Tim Farron has been clear that he will not join a coalition with the Conservatives – although there is a difference between election promises and real promises so perhaps we should hold that thought. This leaves the DUP potentially holding the balance with the Tories or a multi-party coalition with Labour at the helm.
The worst of all worlds would be a multi-party coalition – see ‘Italy’ for reasons why. Under these circumstances, decision-making would be even slower and more archaic than is currently the case and we would likely see yet another election within 24 months. And seriously, could we deal with yet another election. On the upside, Katie Hopkins declared that if Labour won she would leave Britain so there is hope yet.
For a tranche of the Labour Party it will be bittersweet – there is no chance of getting rid of Corbyn for the foreseeable future and much of the party will be questioning where they sit now without there being a party which appeals to the centre ground.
So who should be Leader of the Conservatives? Could we yet see BoJo back in the fray as a contender? Or perhaps Anna Soubry, bringing together the Remainers?
In terms of who should be PM, I asked my two year old when he joined me at 6am – although, disappointingly, he seemed to be utterly uninterested in watching the election results come in, in his informed view, Fireman Sam should be installed as PM. Having become an expert in Fireman Sam’s skills at diplomacy, heroism and generally always knowing what to do in every situation I am inclined to agree – we could certainly do worse.
The Snapdragon team will be busily working on individual constituencies and regional analysis throughout the day and we will be monitoring the formation of an eventual government. Watch this space, we will be back as the drama continues to unfold!
“I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them.”