I can’t lie, this is a somewhat misleading title as nobody’s really not sure who won. Theresa May still finds herself as Prime Minister and is likely to remain there for the immediate future and the Tories are still by far the largest party. Yet they are humiliated, divided and without the working majority they had two months ago. Technically they’ve won this election yet their heads are held down in shame. On the other hand Labour, rather Jeremy Corbyn and his cult of supporters, are in quite the opposite mood, appearing to be of the view that this a grand victory, a coup against the establishment. They are somewhat justified in their joy, Corbyn has defied all expectations in bringing about a massive increase in the Labour vote and some seats to go with it. But they still remain in opposition with no feasible route to government in this parliament. Corbyn appears to have obliterated perceptions that he is incapable of winning a general election….by losing a general election.
On this basis Corbyn is here to stay in his position as leader of both Labour and the Opposition with a stronger hand than ever. The same cannot be said for Ms May. There is no party quite like the Conservative and Unionist Party when it comes to ruthlessly toppling leaders who are seen as a liability of which Theresa May is the pinnacle. But they do also recognise that a leadership contest would benefit nobody but labour and on that basis she will stay for the time being to provide ‘continuity’. But it can be said with confidence that she will be disposed of at the earliest possible opportunity. Until then the status quo will be very different than it was prior to the election. With 318 seats the PM will survive at the behest of the Conservative backbenchers, who found themselves locked out in the cold under the first May Ministry and of everyone’s favourite evangelical unionists, the DUP and their 10 MP’s. Already Conservative MP’s have forced May to oust her two key advisors in retaliation for last week’s humiliation and it is likely that the DUP are drawing up their wishlist.
It is the latter of those two restraints on May that I believe is the most interesting…and the most dangerous. What happens as a result of the Tory-DUP alliance could go two ways. They will be dragged into political relevance and the political centre by the Conservatives (ironic, I know), providing support to the Tories mostly on the basis that they agree on the issue or out of shared spite/ fear of Jeremy Corbyn, maybe requesting a few token gestures (as of writing this piece the DUP have requested that Team GB change its name to Team UK). A less optimistic view on events however would see the DUP utilise their new found power and force the Tories to succumb on issues deriving from their religious agenda. A more concerning prediction of their use of this leverage could see the DUP attempt to change the balance of power in Northern Ireland which, combined with the current crisis in Northern Ireland’s devolved executive, could spell a return to the times of the Troubles.
So it very much looks like a world of doom and gloom wherever you stand on the political spectrum. The left is locked in opposition and the right has fumbled it’s political capital. Brexit negotiations are a matter of days away and the unknown quantity that is the DUP is yet to flex it’s new found muscles. The only saving grace from this election for those who are fans of the Union being that the very concept of Scottish Independence lies dead in the water and that Alex Salmond is heading to his nearby job cente.