I didn’t see that election result coming, although if I had used some foresight, I would have done.
I made a number of predictions about Labour marginals before Theresa May launched the Conservative manifesto. Until then, I firmly believe that all was well. The campaign wasn’t very good at that point, however, there was time for improvement.
After the manifesto was launched, the wheels came off. Theresa May couldn’t even admit she had performed a U-turn on the so-called “dementia tax”. The campaign was too presidential. Saying “me and my team” is not only an incorrect use of English grammar, it also makes Theresa May look self-centred.
She kept repeating, in a robotic way, the same tired old cliches. “Strong and stable” and “coalition of chaos” (repeat ad nauseam) is what many will remember from this general election campaign. She hardly ever met a real voter, and when she did, it didn’t usually end well.
Jeremy Corbyn presented a vision and an appealing narrative to those of a centre left persuasion. It doesn’t appeal to me, but it does appeal to many. What was Theresa May’s vision? Brexit means Brexit? We knew more about what she was against than what she was in favour of. She simply didn’t have an appealing narrative. The campaign was negative.
She said that wealthier pensioners should not get the £300 winter fuel allowance. Most people are against millionaires receiving help with their gas and electricity bills, but she failed to say which pensioners would be affected. That, and the previously mentioned “dementia tax”, gave the appearance that the Conservative Party was interested in kicking its core supporters in the place where it hurts most. The list goes on. So why didn’t I see it coming? Why didn’t we all see it coming?
When the exit poll was revealed at 10.00 pm on polling day, I was sitting in the studio at BBC Radio Humberside where I was co-presenting the election night coverage. I argued against the exit poll. I ridiculed it, as did the other co-presenter. The reason I did was because I thought the voters would vote for May, not because they liked her and thought that the manifesto was wonderful, but because they would not be able to stomach Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister. That had been said on the doorstep, but the public mood had changed, and younger voters who traditionally fail to exercise their democratic right, decided that 8 June 2017 was the day that they gave up that particular bad habit.
Theresa May made this election all about her. The Conservative Party’s name was barely mentioned at times. Local Conservatives were ignored (other than for photo ops), and were relegated to the role of Theresa May’s lackeys. She put herself on the ballot paper, and she lost seats. The blame for this shambles rests firmly at her feet.
You would have thought that a little bit of contrition wouldn’t be the worst idea. Instead she strode out of the front door of 10 Downing Street yesterday and tried to give the impression that it is business as usual. It isn’t Prime Minister, although I have a feeling that I won’t be calling you that for too long.
Theresa May no longer has the confidence of her MPs. They are seething and want to see the back of her. They don’t want another election, so will not rock the boat too much for the time being, but at the same time, she has a target on her back, and if she doesn’t decide to go sooner rather than later, she will be forced out.
She doesn’t have the power to orchestrate a proper ministerial reshuffle. If she had won a decent majority, Philip Hammond would no longer be her next door neighbour. Leading a minority Government, she doesn’t have the authority to do that. She is in office, but not in power.
She clearly does not have the confidence of the people that matter most – us, the electorate. It’s rather like February 1974 all over again. Ted Heath called an election asking the voters: who governs this country? The voters made sure that it wasn’t him.
This time the voters told Theresa May that they don’t want her as Prime Minister. Before anyone says that they don’t want Jeremy Corbyn, either, my response is that that is as irrelevant as it is true.
If you are in opposition, don’t cross the line, and end up leading a minority Government, you have still improved your party’s position. To go from defending a majority, to losing it in an election that you did not have to call, can only be described as failure.
Theresa May tried to hide herself away during the election campaign. She refused a head-to-head debate with Jeremy Corbyn. She looked uncomfortable answering tough questions. She abandoned popular free market policies once espoused by Margaret Thatcher which were electorally successful, and instead inserted the most bland, unappealing policies that moved the party further to the left. And to make matters worse, many of those policies kicked natural Conservatives in the place where it hurts most.
You don’t have a mandate, Prime Minister. Yes, the country needs stability, but the voters don’t trust you to provide it. You have failed. You are in office, but not in power. It’s time for you to go. The sooner the better.