(Edit: this is not one of my better pieces, which I have acknowledged here. Take it as an instant reaction, felt at the time of writing, rather than as analysis)
As the sun sets on the first day of our new post-election Britain, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the result of the vote last night. I’ll settle for disillusionment and anger instead.
Anger principally projected at the higher echelons of the Conservative Party, and most especially Prime Minister Theresa May. Born out of self-interested desire for power, and confounded by her own incredible incompetence, she has screwed over our country.
I’m not a Tory, and I didn’t want the Conservatives to win by a landslide. As mused upon a few days ago, I was so thoroughly unimpressed by any of the parties that yesterday I spoilt my ballot. I didn’t want this election to happen in the first place – I’m not sure anyone really did. What I wanted more than anything at this crucial time in our nation’s history was stability. Crawling from the aftermath of a divisive referendum and about to undertake some of the most complicated negotiations imaginable, we needed stability.
Mrs May ran on a message of providing “strong and stable” leadership against what she suggested would be a “coalition of chaos”. In what can only be described as a brutal irony, she has proved herself to be completely lacking in the former, and has instigated the latter.
Through her extreme political incompetence, the Prime Minister has thrown everything up into the air. Her party is in disarray; the nation is even more polarised than before; the markets are wobbly; and the British government looks like a laughing stock in Europe. Her much-vaunted “mandate” for a strengthened hand in the Brexit negotiations has been crushed by her own fall.
Jeremy Corbyn has an undeniable – and, to be honest, well-earned – mandate to continue to lead his party for the foreseeable future. I was hoping that this election would lead to his removal, and pave the way for a new, more modern leader to take his place. Now, it looks like we are stuck with an old-fashioned socialist Labour Party. Tim Farron will also probably escape the axe, meaning that the Liberal Democrats – my usual party of choice – will continue to be led by a flaccid non-entity. Theresa May has simply strengthened her enemies and allowed weak leaders to continue heading our major parties.
The sheer weight of her incompetence staggers me. This election should have been in the bag for her – Corbyn was toxic, she led in the polls by a country mile, and most people, I think, accepted the notion that this was going to be a “Brexit election”. Now, we have a hung parliament and a climate of uncertainty, almost entirely due to her own failings. Yes, Mr Corbyn put up a spirited campaign and fought his heart out – credit where credit is due. But, regardless, I think his success is less to do with his own actions, and more to do with the failure of the Prime Minister.
The Conservative manifesto was weak, poorly thought-out and politically idiotic, alienating core voters while refusing to reach out to new demographics. Serious talk of the upcoming negotiations was curiously absent in this “Brexit election”; instead it became a battle over political arguments that the Conservatives could only lose. Mrs May seemed secretive and arrogant throughout the campaign, making the unbelievable decision not to debate with any of the other leaders when she was supposedly running on a ticket of providing “strong and stable” leadership. How she could do this is beyond me – hubris and stupidity is the only answer that I can provide.
Does she still deserve the position of Prime Minister? No. However, in an ironic twist that makes this result still more depressing, we can’t really get rid of her any time soon. With the start of the Brexit negotiations happening in less than two weeks, we cannot risk any more instability. In any case, who would replace her? The Tories have few real options, especially since Mrs May’s leadership style has pushed potential up-and-coming rivals into the shadows. My personal favourite would be Ruth Davidson, but as she is a Member of the Scottish Parliament that will probably not be happening any time soon. As such, Mrs May has managed not only to create chaos, but also a situation in which we cannot get rid of a Prime Minister who has just proven herself criminally – quite literally, I would say – incompetent.
God knows what the future holds for us. I cannot see much good coming out of this – almost certainly more elections and referendums are on the way to blight us with the political plague that infects and divides our society. The one good piece of news that came out of this fiasco is the reportedly-massive increase in turnout from young voters. Did they sway the election? It is too early to tell. Nevertheless, I’m glad that people of my age are generating a political consciousness and becoming a new force in politics; hopefully now the Westminster elite will finally start paying attention to us in a meaningful way. I’ll give it to Mr. Corbyn – he managed to get young Britons out to vote.
One group who should be crucified – along with the Prime Minister and Lynton Crosby – are the professional pollsters, for failing yet again to predict the result accurately. They just contribute to the climate of instability we now live under in the UK, and continue to fail miserably at their job. Politics is changing in Britain, and it seems large swathes of the political establishment have failed to register this fact.
Perhaps this election, in the long run, will lead to some good. Perhaps it will provide for a more careful, thoroughly-negotiated Brexit. Perhaps we are simply burning in the cleansing flames needed before a new, better society can rise up out of the ashes and flourish in the United Kingdom. However, at this point in time, I do not have my hopes up.
The ship of state, rocked by tempestuous storms, continues to be steered myopically, turning in ever-tightening circles. The captain has just proved herself a moron, the crew and passengers are continually more fractious, and every day it now seems more and more likely that we are going to hit a rock. Let’s just hope that we don’t completely capsize.