In a snap election upset, the United Kingdom Conservative Party has lost their Parliamentary majority. They won 317 out of 650 seats in the House of Commons, needing 326, down from 330 at dissolution. They have announced an agreement with the hard-right Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (DUP), who has 10 seats, to prop them up to 327.
Just two months earlier, Prime Minister Theresa May called an early general election in utter arrogance, leading Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party by between 20 and 25 percentage points, expecting to increase the party’s thin Parliamentary majority, which they won only two years prior.
Instead, what they got on election night was a Labour vote which defied almost all pollsters: the Conservatives won 42%, Labour won 40%, up 10% from 2015. The seats won also defied the polls, with only one major polling company, YouGov, predicting correctly that the Conservatives would lose their majority.
This was the second time in less than a year that a British Prime Minister called an election with the certainty of victory, only to suffer a devastating loss.
What led to such a stunning result was a horrid campaign by the Conservative Party, which saw its lead in the polls erode from over 20% to a polling average lead of 7% on polling day, down to 2% in the final result. The campaign was built on being “strong and stable”—against what the Conservatives labelled a centre-left “Coalition of Chaos” between Labour, the Liberal Democrats (Lib-Dems), the Scottish Nationals (SNP), and other left-wing parties, as well as against the European Union in Brexit negotiations.
However, the ‘strong and stable’ turned out to be weak and wobbly. First, May refused to participate in any debates, which the major party leaders had agreed to do for two consecutive elections. Then, her uncosted and ill-conceived policy manifesto was followed by a u-turn on social care. Attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor (finance minister) John McDonnell’s alleged Irish terrorist ties largely fell flat.
It seemed as though, throughout the campaign, the Conservative Party was playing it safe, predicting that even if they were to lose votes, it would be impossible to lose their insurmountable lead.
On the contrary, Labour did everything right. They gained a total of 30 seats and jumped 10% from 2015. Their manifesto, “For the Many, Not the Few,” was leaked to the press early and largely well-received. While Mrs. May seemed uncomfortable in her own skin, Mr. Corbyn seemed at home on the campaign trail (having been on the campaign trail for three years in a row in two leadership contests).
Corbyn waged his campaign against austerity and cuts by the Tory government, not the least of which were the police cuts implemented, which came into the spotlight after the London and Manchester terrorist attacks. UK foreign policy was also a punching bag for Corbyn, having been the leader of the Stop the War Coalition that opposed the Iraqi and Libyan interventions which have destabilised the Middle East into the extremist breeding grounds where some of the terrorists came from.
The irony of such a great victory for the hard-leftist Corbyn is that not only was he opposed by the mainstream of his party for most of his tenure as leader. The 68-year-old was also a 100-to-1 longshot to become Labour leader in the first place. He barely scraped enough nominations from Labour MPs to contest the 2015 Labour Leadership election, in a socialist party that had been dragged to the centre over the course of 30 years.
In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, the Parliamentary Labour Party staged a coup d’etat against Corbyn, declaring no confidence in its leader, before the Labour electorate re-elected Corbyn with an even greater mandate. This general election has all but consolidated the Labour Party as not the centrist party it was under former Prime Minister Tony Blair, but the party of Jeremy Corbyn.
With the hung Parliament, May has been forced to form an alliance with the DUP, a right-wing party that would make the U.S. Republican Party look sane. It is infested with creationists, climate-change deniers, anti-abortion zealots, and homophobes galore. The chair of the DUP’s education committee believes the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, as do many of its party members. They appointed a climate-change denier to be Environment Minister. They are almost universally against gay marriage and abortion.
In addition, Mrs. May’s allegations against Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell of being IRA terrorist sympathisers have become demonstrations of brutal irony, now that she is forging a Parliamentary alliance with the DUP, whose prominent former leaders helped to launch the Paramilitary terrorist group Ulster Resistance, including DUP founder Ian Paisley former DUP leader Peter Robinson.
With such a disastrous election result, there have been calls from both opposition parties and her own party for May to step down. Murmurs are in the air of a leadership challenge from one of her own. Former Chancellor George Osbourne called May a “dead woman walking.” Ministers and other high-level Conservatives are now actively plotting and conniving, sharpening their knives, biding their time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike down a beleaguered Caesar.
Coalition of Chaos indeed, Mrs. May.