Strange how Theresa May often appeared to speak and to treat voters in a rather similar, arrogant and dismissive manner to that of Edward Heath four decades ago and also that yesterday voters in the UK did almost exactly the same to her as they had done to Mr. Heath when he fought the first of two elections in 1974 by removing the majority that the Tories had enjoyed.
So it is that for the third time in the past two years voters in the UK have delivered a surprising or should I say, shock result that leaves the nation in a real political mess. Frankly, for me to suggest anything other than of feeling absolutely shocked and dismayed by the extent of self-inflicted damage done by Prime Minister, Theresa May’s decision to call a ‘snap election’ last month would be an understatement! Yes, I really am stunned, disappointed, surprised and very concerned by what has transpired overnight – moreover I am very angry as well.
What is done is done and what we are left with are dire consequences of what in hindsight must surely be described as possibly the worst political gamble that has taken place in the UK in living memory of most and one that sadly has gone horribly wrong.
The nation will be the loser for what voters decided last night and I fear that the pace of decline in Britain has just speeded up. We have no choice now but to go through a period of uncertainty; a period that unless handled well will inevitably lead to something a lot worse – a period of real instability.
What is certain is that the ‘country’ did not like Mrs. May and that it liked even less what has over the weeks since it was first announced come to be regarded as a really arrogant decision by Mrs. May to call a General Election. They disliked the inability of Mrs. May to debate, to answer questions that they wished to ask and of being told that only she could provide the nation with stability. They thought the message that she presented over and over again not only lacked detail but said nothing new and offered them nothing. And yes, she lacked charisma and rarely looked someone in the eye.
Was this the worst campaign that the Tories have ever fought? One look at what the party manifesto did not say rather than what it did and the answer is surely that it was! Whatever, we can surely all agree that what followed the manifesto and that was to be an apology of a campaign was a disgrace. And will someone please explain to me how it was and why Mrs May managed to cast both young and older members of the community aside with such ease?
True, the ‘maths’ say that the Conservatives ‘won’ the election but I am afraid that the politics say otherwise. Yes, Labour made stunning gains and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn benefitted from what turned out to be a huge and unexpected backlash against the lacklustre and uncharismatic Mrs. May. She is I am afraid her own worst enemy.
Of course, there is more to this than merely allowing yesterday’s election result being seen as a backlash or one that because Jeremy Corbyn promised the earth in respect of tax and spend policies this alone allowed him to somehow win back the hearts and minds of traditional labour voters. This election was also about the ‘young’ in Britain having their say and making the older generation pay for some of its mistakes.
While both Labour and Conservatives polled record numbers of votes in what by previous standards I believe, an amazingly high turnout this election is a backlash not just on Mrs. May’s ridiculous and unnecessary gamble to hold an election but as I say, payback time from the young of this country who feel that they have been sold a pup by their elders.
Britain may have voted to leave the EU but it seems that the young people of this country may have other ideas.
Personally, I do not believe after suffering such humiliation that Mrs. May can or should stay but if that is to be considered right then I make no bones expressing fear of the unknown in respect of who comes next?
That said, I would not wish to see Mrs. May go quickly and that may well exacerbate the situation.
I suspect that the biggest thing that we have to fear is not the actual outcome from this election result, it is moreover what might occur from the next. Of inevitability in my view, while the Tories together with the DUP can and probably will command a tiny majority in the House of Commons, I see that position as being unsustainable.
It is not my intention to speculate what happens next, whether Mrs. May will choose to resign maybe as early as today or whether for stability purposes, she chooses to remain as Prime Minister of a caretaker government until a new leader emerges and a second general election can be called. Neither am I about to second guess who might follow Mrs. May. We must be patient for a while yet I fear and be prepared to watch events as they unfold.
Could the Tories win second time round? Yes, but it may require them to do the unthinkable and promise a second referendum on EU membership.
In the meantime, I cannot envisage that Brexit negotiations will be able to begin any time soon. Indeed, I rather see this as an opportunity for all parties in the process to rethink their attitudes and approach. The Germans are after all pleased with what occurred in the UK overnight and they see the decision as marking the opportunity for more realism and pragmatism to emerge when negotiations to start. Whatever, in respect of Brexit, it is clear that more time will be needed
CHW (London – 9th June 2017)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785