A few weeks ago, I wrote an article for this website arguing for the Prime Minister’s political mastery in calling a snap general election. I argued this election would answer pressing, lingering and important questions regarding Brexit. Sadly, as the 10pm exit-poll came through on 8 June, it quickly became clear that few, if any, of these questions will receive an answer, and we only have the Conservative Party to blame.
Many commentators have noted the ‘presidential’ tone set by Tory strategists, including election ‘supremo’ himself, Lynton Crosby, who sought to capitalise on the presumed incompetence of the Labour front-bench based on a presumption that the Conservatives were an infallible beacon of competence, at least by comparison. Despite assurances from Theresa May that she was ‘taking nothing for granted’, it is clear that this view was not shared by her advisors.
The result was a campaign that flew in the face of normal conceptions of a general-election; that smacked of complacency, exacerbated by the Prime Minister’s refusal to take part in debates; and based on a series of policy gaffes and u-turns contained in a manifesto weak on detail. Whether or not you agree with its content, in terms of policy direction the Labour manifesto was substantially more robust. Indeed, it is not without some sense of karma that the Conservative manifesto author, Ben Gummer, lost his seat this morning.
Worth noting that minister who wrote @theresa_may manifesto, Ben Gummer, has lost his seat. Some will see that as somehow poetic justice
— Robert Peston (@Peston) June 9, 2017
However, it is worth reminding ourselves that the Labour campaign has been far from impressive. Dianne Abbott’s numerous brain malfunctions and failures to grasp the costs of her party’s manifesto contents, and the associations of herself, John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn with numerous terrorist groups and those opposed to British values, marred the Labour campaign. But this only goes further to highlight by comparison just how much worse the Conservative campaign was.
The Labour campaign, despite its spurious costing, was considerably ‘sexier’ than the Conservatives’. Corbyn, capitalising on his ‘under-dog’ persona, whilst promising to scrap tuition-fees and bring in large swathes of nationalisation, was able to mobilise young voters in a way simply impossible for the Conservatives. By contrast, the Tory ‘raid’ on their key demographic via the so-called ‘dementia tax’ was frostily received despite assurances that those concerned would be able to pass on £100,000. Exacerbated further by a u-turn on the introduction of a cap, this only went towards alienating huge swathes of traditional Conservative voters.
On Brexit, though one may find sympathy for the Prime Minister seeking to keep her negotiating hand close to her chest, it is clear she failed to give enough information to the British electorate to foster the necessary trust going forward. Aside from seeking the end of free-movement, and exit from the single-market, Theresa May evidently sought too great a degree of ‘blind’ trust from voters to command the support she sought. By failing to be sufficient open about her ambitions, the Prime Minister scuppered a golden opportunity to command the confidence of the United Kingdom.
Indeed, the only positive to come out of this election for the Conservatives was their surge in Scotland, that will go a long-way to silence calls by the SNP for a further referendum on Scottish independence. Despite the government’s strategy for Brexit remaining an enigma, we can at least be comforted by the knowledge that the United Kingdom remains secure for now.
This writer’s prediction is that the Conservatives will enter into an arrangement with the DUP in Northern Ireland to secure the working majority they require. But this raises further questions with regard to free-movement and the conflicting views over the boarder with the South being simultaneously the boarder to the EU. For a party who sought to end free-movement in its manifesto,this creates a monumental conflict of interest.
— Business Insider UK (@BIUK) June 9, 2017
Based on our memories of the coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats between 2010 and 2015, we already know coalitions lead to manifesto contents being quickly discarded. The result this morning creates the very real risk of this occurring once more. In the context of this election, the purpose of which was to create the certainty and stability required to steer the UK through the Brexit process, the precise opposite effect has been achieved thanks to a sloppy campaign by the Conservative Party.