One despairs. An election assumed to be a formality, returning a large Tory majority, was not just supposed to give Theresa May a strong mandate in the upcoming Brexit negotiations. It was supposed to cement the un-electability of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, showing that a lurch to the extreme left might enthuse the party base but would demonstrably fail as a proposition for government. It was expected to possibly lead to a split in the Labour movement, condemning it to electoral irrelevance for generations. Not so. A few seats short of No. 10, the firebrand activist has proved his critics wrong: the British electorate is ready and willing to accept the economic illiteracy and empty promises of a socialist alternative.
A manifesto that was little more than a list of handouts, combined with the obligatory vilifying of the rich, proved popular amongst those unaccustomed to critical thinking. An important such constituency was the young, and the turnout amongst this group, traditionally not keen on exercising their democratic privilege, proved significant. Largely unfamiliar with the concept of working for a living, they readily bought into the money-for-nothing proposition on offer. More comprehendible, higher education students, of which there are an astonishing 1.84 million (from the UK alone), and hundreds of thousands of prospective applicants, willingly accepted a bribe in the form of the immediate abolition of tuition fees.
But it was of course not just the appeal of the easy solutions being offered by Labour that determined the outcome. An inept Tory campaign contributed in no small part to the resurgence of the left. Strategy was poor, from the disastrous manifesto u-turn to the debate no-show. But the fundamental problem was Theresa May’s lack of political vision. Having given ground to the left with her turn away from Margaret Thatcher’s belief in free market capitalism, she presented no competing vision, readily losing the intellectual argument to Corbyn’s fiery left-wing rhetoric. She allowed Corbyn to present 7 years of austerity as a political choice; an act of economic vandalism, not good housekeeping and a deliberate retrenchment of the influence of the state over the daily life of the citizens. Gone was David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ vision, replaced with nothing. Theresa May has a lot to answer for, and not just to the Tory candidates who lost their seats.
We are left with a fragmented political landscape. A Tory coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party may prove unstable and though there is little appetite for a new election outside the Labour Party, the hoped-for stability is certainly elusive. After being re-elected, Corbyn addressed his Islington constituency: ‘Politics has changed, and politics isn’t going back into the box that it was before.’ And he is right, at least for the time being politics has indeed changed. We, in this blog, have directed much criticism at Theresa May and her turn away from free markets, but the time seems to have passed for such indulgence. The test of the new government will not be in what agenda it implements but that it proves capable of preventing Jeremy Corbyn form implementing his.