In the two weeks since GE17, the UK’s General Election on the 8th of June 2017, the political reverberations resonating from it have not abated in significance, and will remain crucial to the future of this country. Here, Burn’s analysts give you their take on how each of the top four parties fared; after reputations rose defiantly, were crushed, or merely never quite took flight. Whatever your take on the events, the policies, and the people, it was quite a night for us all.
How The Liberal Democrats fared in GE17- Catherine Pullinger’s Opinion
It is clear that GE17 held some success for the Liberal Democrats, yet these small moments of success were in no way straightforward, and were ultimately bittersweet. With the majority of their existing seats in Parliament being lost to other parties, the party gained 8 new seats, some in London and Scotland, bringing their total up to 12 seats, an improvement on 2015’s total of 8, yet a long way from 2010’s 57. As far as analysis of these figures goes, political commentators both inside and outside of the party agree on one thing; the Lib Dems did not achieve the success they were after.
In a campaign which sought to engage with the dual demographics of the youth and Remain-voters, the party was not able to bring either ambition into fruition; with many students, in key constituencies for the party, choosing instead to change possible votes for the party into ones for Labour, or more precisely, trying to vote directly against the Conservatives. Yorkshire, in part due to a significant student impact, was one such constituency; seeing Nick Clegg, former party leader and Deputy Prime Minister in 2010’s coalition, lose his seat in Sheffield Hallam. A less symbolic and far more of a pragmatic loss saw the total vote share for the Lib Deems level at 7.4%, down 0.5% from 2015.
With a reputation still singed from the coalition of back in 2010, a fresh coalition after the shock of this month’s election was out of the question for the Lib Dems. What next for Tim Farron’s party? A fast approaching change is that it won’t be his party for long; Farron announced that he will be standing down this summer, citing an inner conflict between political obligations and remaining consistent to his Christian faith, and no doubt the event’s of this month also had their part to play.
Yet, whilst a void left in the leadership of a party can seem a daunting prospect, hopefuls to take up that mantle are determined to forge a future where the Liberal Democrats gain ground on their goal of becoming a power player in British politics. Veteran of the party, Sir Vince Cable, announced his intentions to run for party leadership yesterday. Sir Vince seems similarly determined about the party’s trajectory; “there is a big space in British politics which I am determined that we should occupy”, he wrote, ”With the prospect of another election looming large, we must be ready for the fight.”
Have the Lib Dems missed their chance, or are they biding their time for a future that needs them? Whatever happens next, change will be coming to the Liberal Democrats, and how they springboard from the result two weeks ago, may yet be just as eventful as the party’s varied and chequered past.
How The Scottish National Party fared in GE17- Louisa Bebb’s Opinion
The election brought a somewhat disappointing result for the SNP, whom in 2015 celebrated a landslide victory, winning 56 of the 59 seats in the Scottish parliament. This year however the party lost a total of 21 seats, reducing their number of MPs to just 35. 6 of these seats went to labour and 12 to the conservatives, who celebrated their best Scottish result in decades. The SNP do however remain as the biggest party in Scotland.
The results saw former first minister Alex Salmond, who was responsible for the first referendum on Scottish independence held in 2014, lose the seat he had held in the Gordon constituency to Colin Clark of the conservatives.
The SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has admitted that her proposal of a second Scottish independence referendum (known as indyref2) may have been a factor in the disappointing result. Over 60% of the Scottish electorate chose to vote for parties that wish to remain in the U.K., suggesting that the voters do not have the same appetite for independence as they did in the past. The SNP has since dropped a fundraising campaign for indyref2, and the first minister has promised to ‘reflect’ on whether she should continue with her plans for a second referendum in the near future.
How The Labour Party fared in GE17 – Elliot Keen’s Opinion
It would be easy to sum up Labour’s lack of success in the general election by pointing out that the Conservatives have a greater number of seats than Labour, and – at the time of writing – are in the process of setting up a minority government with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party. If the public and the media had the same mentality about Corbyn’s Labour now as they did several months before the election, Corbyn would have been demolished in the Friday morning papers because, based on the statistics, he lost. But Labour did not lose, and nor did he. In fact, the truth is quite the opposite.
Approximately twelve months ago, Labour was in a state of disarray – Britain had voted to leave the EU, which contrasted the stance of the party at the time, and their leader had been presented with a vote of no confidence just days later. Papers were ripping into Corbyn and his dwindling support for running a ‘lukewarm’ Remain campaign. Several key cabinet members resigned in the wake of the Brexit vote, which had been labelled a ‘leadership test’ that Corbyn had failed. The party had lost momentum, and direction, and was fast becoming a laughing stock in parliament. It is inconceivable to think that the very same party won thirty more seats in the 2017 general election than it did under Ed Miliband in 2015. Thanks to what can only be described as a political campaigning masterclass by Labour, support for the party surged in the weeks before the election. However, no one expected Labour to do so well. Six of the seven major predictions made in the week prior to the election predicted a dominant Conservative victory, with Labour finishing second by almost one hundred and sixty seats in some polls.
The reality was completely different. When the exit poll came through just minutes after polling closed, the country was bemused, shocked even, by the Conservative landslide victory that was not to be. Labour made net gains in South East England and Wales, claimed several former SNP constituencies, and only narrowly lost in several other key seats. Canterbury, a seat that had been held by the Conservatives for almost a century, was won by a Labour majority of less than 200 votes. MP Emma Dent Coad overturned a 7,000 seat Conservative majority in the 2015 election to claim one of the richest constituencies in the country – Kensington – for Labour for the first time in history. Several former Conservative and Plaid Cymru seats in the West Country and Wales were unexpectedly won by Labour candidates who had prior to the election been given little or no chance of winning the seat.
But where does that leave Labour? Where does that leave the country? I am not one to shy away from using a statistic or two in an article, and I feel that this summarises the current political situation quite nicely: The Conservatives received 42.4% of the vote compared to Labour’s 40.0%. In 2015, David Cameron received 36.1% of the vote, whilst Miliband got 29.0%. Corbyn was expected to do no better than Miliband in a best-case scenario. Realistically, the expectation was that the Conservatives would walk over Labour. Instead, the Conservatives lost their majority, lost several key seats, and lost the support of thousands of their voters, and some of their MPs. Labour’s share of the vote increased not because people saw the leader as a haggard old teacher with an obsession for beige, but because they saw a man who genuinely believed in what he was fighting for; a man who has been an MP for the same constituency, Islington North, for nearly 35 years; a man who fought for his position as party leader even when he was told he needed to go. Labour’s motto during the campaign was ‘For the many, not the few’, and that is exactly what Corbyn believes in, and that is why he gained so much support in the weeks before the general election. Corbyn has lead a Labour revolution and, by the sounds of things, he plans to keep on fighting the opposition. Some of the very MPs who called for his resignation last year gave him a standing ovation as he entered parliament this week. His opening speech brutally satirised May and her ‘lacklustre’ campaign, as well as her soon-to-be ‘coalition of chaos’. Even now, after the election that the Tories technically won, MPs and members of the public alike are expressing support for Labour and disgust at the Conservatives.
Labour may have lost the election, but they have by no means lost the war. Corbyn continues to call for Theresa May’s resignation, and criticise every single one of her moves as she aims to form a minority government. Labour support is greater than it has been for years. The party has found motivation, and a purpose, and it would not surprise me if, in the event that another election was to occur this year, Labour were to win a majority.
How the Conservative Party fared in GE17 – Daniel Wootton’s Opinion
The Conservative Party’s lead, or as it was perceived, Theresa May’s lead, in the polls was unassailable – twenty points in some cases. The Prime Minister called the election in order to ‘strengthen her hand’ in the imminent Brexit negotiations, eliminating the risk of other parties supposedly sabotaging her attempts to negotiate on the UK’s behalf, yet, among other things, being accused by political adversaries of putting the country through an expensive and unnecessary election for her own party political gains. Perhaps the excuses coming early from her adversaries – set the bar low for Labour and the bar high for May so that regardless of the outcome the spin doctors can get to work. ‘It may never get any better than this’, many said, examining late April polling for the Tories. In the same position, no doubt any political party would have thought the same.
The campaign was stunted, and never achieved the energy that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party attained – photo ops in front of buses exposed as being under-attended, a wooden personal demeanour in interviews, excessive use of slogans and sending Amber Rudd into a seven-way BBC debate just two days after the death of her father encapsulated this mismanaged campaign. You could see it a mile off, this coming from a 2015 Tory voter. May’s name was emblazoned on the side of buses and leaflets, but the woman herself was nowhere to be seen. The polls narrowed as a result.
Come the exit polls at 10pm on Thursday we first see ‘Conservatives Largest Party’, no surprise here for the many, but few were prepared for the projected seat number: 314 – two fewer than Cameron’s exit poll in 2015. This was immediate concern for the Tories, but not outright panic; Cameron went on to secure a majority, but he had not had the lead in the polls that May had squandered – momentum (small ‘m’) is a powerful force, and this carried through into the results. Talk of the likes of political heavyweights Amber Rudd and Anna Soubry losing their seats seemed unlikely on June 7th, but by June 8th Rudd had to have multiple recounts until she was found to be the winner. Soubry scraped through. Ben Gummer, the writer of the 2017 Tory manifesto, lost his seat. Kensington and Chelsea (you read that right) went red also. The primary source of optimism for the Conservatives came in Scotland, where a charismatic Ruth Davidson led them to twelve seats, robbing the SNP of the outright electoral power they had accrued in 2015. A slight adjustment in favour of the Tories found them ending up on 318 seats – 8 shy of an overall parliamentary majority and 12 off where they stood under Cameron. From the Conservatives’ perspective this had been a catastrophe, despite, as May noted in her own constituency victory speech (where she was successfully able to beat the now meme-worthy Lord Buckethead, who dabbed upon the announcement of his 200-odd votes), the Tories had amassed the highest number of votes and seats. She looked seemingly distraught – a far cry from the strong-and-stable PM who made speeches on the campaign trail.
Senior Tory MP: "We all f***ing hate her. But there is nothing we can do. She has totally f***ed us".
— Robert Peston (@Peston) June 9, 2017
Come the morning the feel in the media was that, as expected, the Tories lost, despite winning. Calls from the notoriously regicidal Tory party were that heads must roll, but whose? May has remained as PM, but just. A deal with the DUP is being struck, and a minority government will be formed. Theresa May’s joint Chiefs-of-Staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, were forced out by Tory MPs – something had to change, and these two invisible political powerhouses were the first casualties. Philip Hammond was rumoured to be on May’s hit-list before the election, but in the wake of losing her majority on a gamble, she cannot risk alienating any Tory ‘big beasts’. May will surely follow Hill and Timothy, but, when?
Surprised to find that I feel almost sorry for her. Imagine having power, yet no shred of authority, dignity or respect. Faintly pathetic.
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) June 10, 2017
As pointed out regularly, May surely cannot last a full parliament, and the parliamentary Conservative party would surely never allow her to lead them into another electoral battle, but two questions must be asked – when and who? With regards to the former, Brexit negotiations are a matter of days not weeks away, so these will need to start with May at the helm, but would it be wise to have someone else conclude them? And on the latter, there is no natural successor beyond potentially Boris Johnson, who was removed from the race in 2016 by wily political assassin Michael Gove. The Tories need to sort out who they want, and who can win, before they poll their party as a whole.
The deal with the DUP will no doubt be examined for years to come, despite being in its infancy at time of writing – nothing has yet been confirmed but outrage from those who oppose the Northern Irish party. It all happened so fast. Will it last with the DUP? Will it work with the DUP? ‘Who even are the DUP?’ said many.
While those in Whitehall work out how they want to play this, one thing is clear: this should have been an open goal for the Conservatives. An unpopular socialist Labour leader in April, with his Shadow Home Secretary suggesting her views on the IRA change with her hairstyle, and his Shadow Chancellor saying there were positive things to be learned from Marx’s Das Kapital. This wasn’t just an open goal, it was the Tories 4-0 up at 85 minutes with Labour five men down. The engraver wouldn’t have been criticised for starting his work on the trophy early, but somehow, somehow, the Conservatives made a mess of it. The wound is still fresh – details on the inner workings of the campaign and its failings will no doubt reveal a true cause of defeat, as opposed to knee-jerk reactions plaguing the 24-hour news cycle. When May eventually leaves office and the gloves are off, no doubt the absolute truth will come out then.
No one won the 2017 General Election, but Theresa May lost it.
The opinions of all of Burn’s correspondents are entirely their own. Heard, read or seen something that’s sparked your interest, and want to get involved with the fiery debate? Follow Burn FM News on Twitter, Facebook and join the News Team to be up to date with every moment of the action.