What went wrong! Well…pretty much everything, what started as a questionable decision to hold a snap election descended into some kind of slapstick comedy sketch where the Prime Minister was the unlikeable buffoon, even the creator of the thick of it could see his show coming to life as the conservatives tried their luck with a fustratingly bad manifesto and an overly confident attitude.
Holding an election wasn’t well thought out, even Gordon Brown decided against the idea back in 2007 after hearing about George Osborne’s pledge to increase the inheritance tax threshold, it would have put an end to the labour goverment very quickly but not holding the election equally caused problems and dented his popularity for the rest of his leadership. In the PM’s case she previously seemed to be flying high after successfully beginning brexit talks, drafting article 50 and having it passed in parliament by 498 to 114, without any hint of irony she looked “strong and stable,” like a force to be reckoned with in the face of a bitter European Union and a weak looking shadow cabinet but boy did that change drastically.
Innitially she wan’t going to hold a snap election, but her party had put pressure on the PM who had increasingly knocked back the idea but almost overnight she had changed her mind, the election came about so suddenly that it like a way to kill some time before the Brexit negotiations began in June. At the time of announcing the election the opinion polls were in favour of the Prime Minister and the conservatives were overwhelmingly above Labour in voting intentions; the highest recorded gap was a 25% lead on the 19th April (Con = 50%, Lab = 25%.) The news media also increasingly held her in high regards and spent the previous months of the year hailing her as the “new iron lady” but it wasn’t long before she started looking like a delicate wallflower.
The real turning point came when Labour released their manifesto, the conservatives were hot headed and arrogant in their surety they were to win by a landslide, they treated it like it was a victory parade rather than a serious election while Labour were treating it with the upmost importance. In the Tory’s minds it was all about Brexit and that was evident in their policies; they weren’t full of hope like Labours were, there was little change, they had some really bad proposals that punished the pensioners whose votes they often relied upon, school children, internet users and even foxes. They even proposed staying in the European convention of human rights for the next parliament which annoyed many Brexiters who want total withdrawal and to the Britain to regain full control. They did have a pledge to reduce immigration but as Labour pointed out they have failed to reach any of their targets previously and have a long way to go to doing so. Labour themselves proposed scrapping the targets as they felt they weren’t realistic in an economy that forever changes with new requirements but vowed to reduce the amount of immigration too.
What the conservatives had to offer didn’t seem very attractive, meanwhile Labour’s rather lengthy manifesto was well thought out and inspired major change, they had not put in any half measures, not only had they come up with a plan of action but they had also given details on how they were to enforce these policies and how it would work fiscally (there were however some errors.) While it can be argued that their proposals were in some ways unrealistic, they were still widely attractive to a great number of people who are ready to see major change in the way the country is governed.
Things started to shift with the manifesto that seemed quickly thrown together, at the time of Labour releasing their final version the conservatives didn’t look to be even close to finishing theirs, when it was finally released it didn’t seem very well thought through in comparrison to the shadow cabinet and even those who had doubts about Labours ability to enforce their proposed changes efficiently were impressed with their ambition.
There was a considerable change in the wind when it was revealed that the PM had no intention to appear in a live debate, she seemed to have anxiety about the prospect, it wasn’t the fact she would be facing Jeremy Corbyn, she faces him every week in Parliament but in that setting it’s all rowdy jest and witty comebacks, techniques that don’t work so well in the real world, her real fear was the public and not being able to win them over or argue her case effectively. Some had made their mind up from the manifestos alone but support for the conservative party really started to wane and increase for Labour when she chickened out of doing proper TV debates.
Then there was the disasterous interviews that earnt her the nickname “The Maybot” as she was found to be stuck in a loop of repeating herself “strong and stable, strong and stable,” it almost sounded like a mantra she was repeating to herself to stop from malfunctioning, those buzzwords and examples of neuro linguistic programming that MPs are taught to use aren’t anything new but the most effective people use them subtlely, Jeremy uses but within a wider vocabulary and with genuine ease, Theresa May however is not subtle in any way, shape or form. For a long time it seemed to be just Labour MP’s who were making gaffs on TV but arguably Theresa May blew them all out of the water. She also had a few uncomfortable confrontations from the public who questioned her on the current austerity measures, one woman stopped her on the street regarding her disability and the lack of help and funding she receives, she tried to reason with the woman but left only promising to change things in the future.
Then there was another interview which left the country in hysterics when she was asked what was the naughtiest thing she’s ever done was to which she replied “I have to confess when me and my friends used to run through the fields of wheat, the farmers weren’t too pleased about that.” The public had a field day, it wasn’t particually naughty; maybe to a vicars daughter but not to your average member of the public, the memes flew in fast and she was mocked all over social media, the interview provided the public with a little bit of fun in what seemed to be and increasingly disasterous election.
Meanwhile Jeremy had really gained momentum with the public, people were out in force to support him, big crowds were drawn in places like York which saw two thousand people out in the town centre to see the Labour leader, there was also support from celebrities who campaigned for the party such as Steve Coogan, others who urged their fans to get out and vote such as Akala and JME, Labour used the power of social media to get their message out, and were effective in bringing more young people to the ballot box than there had been in a long time with the overall turnout reaching 68.7%, the highest it has been since 1997. The conservative party has never really tried to attract a youth vote, their idea of doing so involves giving people like David Cameron leadership, smug boyish charmers who seems more slimey than sincere, the party really needs to look at modernising in that sense, there is currently no conservative youth movement in the UK and there’s unlikely to be one any time soon.
When votes came in and the narrowed gap between the parties was to be seen, conservatives lost their majority and were left with a hung parliament; having to work out a deal with other parties yet still left going forward as a minority goverment. The effects were felt amongst their MPs while it was a call for victory in Labour’s camp who had undermined the goverment and showed that there was call for major change amongst the public, Labour are in demand and nipping at the heels of the Tories. When Theresa May gave her speech on the podium after winning back her constituency of Maidenhead she looked and like a broken woman, the angst was all over her face and she didn’t look like the strong and stable leader she did at the start of the year, she had single handedly caused her party to lose the majority and her leadership was being called into question; mostly by the oppostion. Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn looked solid and empowered, he was being called the loser that won while May was the winner that lost, he even went onto TV to say that “Labour is ready to serve this country” which brought some mockery from conservatives.
Now that the conservatives are left to pick up the pieces lets hope they have learnt a hard lesson, the fable of Icarus flying to close to the sun seems somewhat fitting. Now would be a time for humility and level headedness rather than ego and cockiness, it is a lesson many of the parties MP’s could learn and one that i hope they do for their own sake. Theresa May gave a speech the day after the results that didn’t show any signs of humility and she seemed somewhat in denial about the whole thing, maybe it was for show, a confident assertive Prime Minister certainly goes down better than an appologetic one, maybe it was used to try instill some confidence in the public, the same nlp techniques that MP’s advisers reccommend but it seemed rather odd and came accross as delusion, maybe this lesson hasn’t gotten through to her yet, we will have to wait and see.
The worst thing the conservatives did was underestimate the Labour party and the general public in this election, they thought they had it in the bag, they thought they were going to be guranteed a win but in the end they came close to loosing it all, the power of politics is it can change suddenly at any moment, you have to be on top of your game, you have to be sharp, quick, intelligent, wise, you need to walk, talk and act like a leader, Jeremy Corbyn did all of those things, Theresa May did not.