2017 United Kingdom general election

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The 2017 UK general election (also known as the 'First Brexit election' or 'the vanity election'[1]) was one of those surprising results; the Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May became the first leader to lose a parliamentary majority in a snap election of her own choosing since 1974 (by Edward Heath) while a 'New Old Labour' under Jeremy Corbyn proved that despite the around-the-clock attacks by the forces of the right-wing press barons[2] and the repeated 'frontstabbing' of some New Labour types[3] that actually, the ideas of 'socialism' was neither a dirty word or 'unelectable' as Labour scored their best vote-share since 2001. However, much of this surprise can be down due to the election being the ending of the 'Second Act' of the Brexit bowel-obstruction - both throwing out the normal electoral calculus and sucking up the political bandwidth.

Background[edit]

In the previous episode, Prime Minister David Cameron had made a 'EU referendum' part of his Conservative offering to the electorate, in the hopes that he'd be able to neuter Nigel Farage's UKIP's nibbling of the Tory right flank and then the Liberal Democrats would veto it in their 'negotiations' to continue the Coalition after the election. Alas, the Liberals imploded, leaving Cameron having to cash a very unwanted cheque because he'd won a majority - crap. After zipping off to Brussels for some cosmetic 'renegotiation', Cameron then called the referendum, hoping that a variant of 'Project Fear[note 1]' would assure a 'Remain' victory but not realising that choosing the status quo would only happen if people liked said status quo. Thus, a 52/48 'Leave' victory, one which many voters (or even Brexiteer leaders) didn't expect to win[4][5]. Having gambled and lost, Cameron promptly walked off the stage[6], leaving a divided party and nation to try to clear up the huge mess which he'd made for his own political benefit with zero roadmap if it went wrong.

After a bit of fumbling, the Tories ended up with two front-runners; the flamboyant Boris Johnson (Leave) vs the wooden Theresa May (Remain)[7]; but then Johnson pulled out (for reasons we still do not know why for sure[8]), meaning that May ended up the 55th Prime Minister unopposed[9]. 'Poisoned chalice' springs to mind; for May needed to somehow build a parlimentary majority for a version of Brexit within the bounds of reality[note 2] while 'honouring the Referendum vote'[note 3] and without being deposed as Tory leader by the right-wing/hardline 'European Research Group' (ERG) - who were bigger than her 14-seat majority. From a woman who soon became known as 'the Maybot' for her inflexibility and lack of charisma[10] and appeared to be operating close to (if not beyond) her political depth[11]. However, there was apparently a glimmering light... in Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour leader Ed Miliband had changed the electoral system for picking said leaders[12][note 4], which then was used after he resigned on Labour's electoral defeat. However, this meant that the traditional left-wing 'perennial candidate' (traditionally popular with the activist base but disliked by the trade unions or MPs) suddenly became electable, and almost by chance[note 5] Corbyn found himself as the new leader, despite zero ministerial or shadow experience in his 32-years in Parliament except rebelling repeatedly against his own party leadership[13]. Predictably, the civil war began in earnest. Heeding Tony Blair's calls that a Corbyn victory would lead to the annihilation of the party[14], the defeated New Labour rump sniped and plotted with the Tory-aligned media in an attempt to bring him down, or at least 'prove' that he was completely unelectable[15].

To compound this, Brexit tore Labour apart as bad as the Conservatives; Corbyn was very lukewarm to the EU[16], following the old left's view of it being an 'neoliberal/globalist project', but a lot of MPs were firm 'Remainers'... representing 'Leave' constituencies. The ruptures became impossible to contain and caused a 'Blairite' coup attempt [17], leading to Corbyn winning the re-election [18]. As the fighting continued into 2017, the polling swung ever-harder towards 'Conservative landslide' and the media commentariat were chanting 'Corbyn is unelectable!'[19] in unison. It turned MayBot's head, promised her an exit strategy from the political logjam, so called for a snap election in April[20]. Perhaps a little surprisingly for a leader running twenty points behind, Corbyn granted her wish[note 6]

The other main political issue of note was the continuation of 'Austerity' policies brought in the Coalition which became increasingly glaring as time wore on[21], as inequality increased, the economy remained anaemic and public services became increasingly threadbare.

Campaign[edit]

Not even the most diehard Tory would say the Conservative campaign was even adequate - it was the wrong message ('Brexit means Brexit'), the wrong leader (wooden MayBot delivering the former ad nauseam), the wrong vision (anti-Corbyn red-baiting), the wrong tone (arrogant triumphalism) the wrong targeting (beleving in a 100+ majority from faulty polling) and wrong style ('safe space' presidential tours by The Leader). In fact, it was so dire (and with a pigheaded refusal to change tack) that some cynics started to wonder that it was a cunning Tory plot to lose the election on purpose so a Corbyn-led 'coalition of chaos' had to sort out the Brexit quagmire the Tories had made.

Perhaps more importantly, few were expecting Labour to be able to mount a remotely coherent resistance or campaign. They managed to sew up a fragile truce between the warring factions, produce an anti-Austerity manifesto which masked their Brexit weakness, use their younger activist base to bypass the Tory-controlled traditional media by using social media to reach voters[22] and their larger base to counter-act the Tory's war-chest. In many respects, it was a reversal to 1992; when Labour's Kinnock played 'slick statesman' while Conservative Major was the 'scrappy underdog'.

Live head-to-head debates were once again proposed, but May declined, which then led to Corbyn pulling out which put an end to that idea[23]. Instead, there was a couple of 'non-debates' where the leaders were intereviewed by political anchor Andrew Neil and later by Jeremy Paxman. Then the BBC decided to host a mass head-to-head anyway, which Corbyn U-turned on but May sent a substitute to instead[24]. However, in the morning of the election, all but one of the polling companies still gave the Conservatives a ten-point lead while the right-wing print press lined up to fire one last volley into Corbyn's flank[25].

Results[edit]

The polling results were again, wrong; the Conservative-Labour percentage difference turned out to be only 2.5%, not 8-10%[26]. This kept the Conservatives as the largest party, but 5 seats short of a 'working majority'[note 7]. The main two arguments for this was due to weighting issues; that they'd overestimated the 'shy Tory factor' (which had won in 2015) as well as underestimating the percentage turnout for younger (more pro-Labour) voters[note 8]. Cue humble pie from many political experts and pollsters[27].

Corbyn and his left-wing supporters in 'Momentum' were ecstatic; they had managed to demolish the key accusation of the Blairites that their policies made them utterly unelectable, that there were 'no votes' on the left to help them to victory. Their detractors, on the other hand pointed out fairly accurately that it was not a victory for Labour as they were still clearly in opposition and chances were the Conservatives wouldn't run such a damn incompetent campaign next time.

All the other parties slumped; the SNP lost a third of their seats as the 'Unionist' vote acted tactically, UKIP collapsed under the 'mission accomplished' banner (and Farage's quitting as leader, again[28]) the Liberal Democrats continued to slide as they re-entered the public's consciousness as 'a minor party' and the Greens halved in share as many of their voters found Labour's offering the most appealing for decades. Lastly, the political polorisation of Northern Ireland continued; with both Sinn Féin and the DUP ending their more moderate rivals at Westminster.

The end result was fairly predictable; a continued May Ministry, now shored up with a 'confidence and supply' agreement with the DUP[29][note 9]. Naturally, there was not much love for the MayBot, the woman who lost them a majority[30]. Even worse, there was still no majority view on 'how to do' Brexit...

Seats Change Vote % Change
Conservatives 317 -13 42.3 +5.5
Labour 262 +30 40.0 +9.6
SNP 35 -21 3.0 -1.7
Liberal Democrats 12 +4 7.4 -0.5
Other 24 0 7.3 -12.6

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. Which had worked in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.
  2. But Leave was full of wishful thinking and pure 'cakeism'.
  3. Except it was not on the ballot what 'Leave' meant.
  4. Basically, going from an 'electoral college' to 'direct popular vote'.
  5. It was basically, 'Corbyn's turn' to run as the protest vote.
  6. At this point, a supermajority was required for an early election.
  7. Sinn Féin refuse to attend and the Speaker does not count, so the current number of MPs for calculation purposes is 642.
  8. The highest since 1997.
  9. Basically, they promise to stop the government from collapsing by shoring them up in critical votes.

References[edit]

  1. https://www.theglobalist.com/britain-theresa-mays-vanity-election/
  2. https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/jeremy-corbyn-impartiality-and-media-misrepresentation/
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/21/peter-mandelson-i-try-to-undermine-jeremy-corbyn-every-day
  4. https://www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/news/article/brexit-referendum-voting-analysis
  5. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/eu-referendum-nigel-farage-remain-edge-it-brexit-ukip-a7098526.html
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/24/david-cameron-resigns-after-uk-votes-to-leave-european-union
  7. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tory-leadership-race-boris-johnson-theresa-may-new-prime-minister-7108171.html
  8. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2016/06/why-did-boris-johnson-decide-not-to-run-for-the-prime-ministers-job.html
  9. https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/brexit-referendum/theresa-may-become-next-u-k-pm-andrea-leadsom-withdraws-n607026
  10. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jul/10/making-maybot-theresa-may-rise-and-fall
  11. https://www.politico.eu/article/philippe-lamberts-says-theresa-may-out-of-her-depth/
  12. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33976474
  13. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/sep/12/jeremy-corbyn-wins-labour-party-leadership-election
  14. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/aug/12/tony-blair-labour-faces-annihilation-if-jeremy-corbyn-wins-leadership
  15. https://www.gold.ac.uk/news/media-reform-coalition---corbyn-coverage-report/
  16. https://www.politico.eu/article/brexit-eu-referendum-jeremy-corbyn-i-am-not-a-lover-of-the-eu/
  17. https://www.vox.com/2016/6/27/12040056/brexit-corbyn-labour-coup-benn
  18. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/24/labour-leadership-jeremy-corbyn-wins-landslide-victory-party
  19. https://web.archive.org/web/20181122233240/https://capx.co/jeremy-corbyn-has-left-labour-unelectable/
  20. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/apr/18/theresa-may-calls-for-general-election-in-bid-to-secure-brexit-mandate
  21. https://www.vice.com/en/article/payg5b/how-the-tories-fucked-the-country
  22. https://web.archive.org/web/20170612190408/http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/general-election-only-five-out-of-top-100-most-shared-stories-on-social-media-were-pro-tory/
  23. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2017/apr/26/general-election-2017-may-corbyn-final-pmqs-politics-live
  24. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-40105324
  25. https://web.archive.org/web/20170613172717/https://pressgazette.co.uk/daily-mail-and-sun-launch-front-page-attacks-on-corbyn-as-fleet-street-lines-up-behind-theresa-may/
  26. https://theconversation.com/why-2017-uk-election-polls-underestimated-labour-79513
  27. https://web.archive.org/web/20170615062603/http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/political-columnists-eat-humble-pie-and-apologise-over-dire-election-predictions-for-corbyn-and-labour/
  28. https://www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/news/article/nigel-farage-quits-as-ukip-leader
  29. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-40245514
  30. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/09/theresa-may-leadership-in-balance-amid-tory-election-fury