1. “Let’s get to work”
The aim was to secure a strong and definitive mandate for her premiership, ideology, and negotiating position in the upcoming Brexit talks. This morning’s results left that aim in tatters producing:
- A second hung parliament in seven years.
- A loss of 32 Conservative seats offset by a gain of 12 in Scotland and eight in England and Wales.
- Eight Ministers ousted, including Cabinet Minister Ben Gummer.
- A resurgent Labour with 40% of the vote-share - the largest gain in a generation.
- A campaign vilified by those in-and-out of the loop.
- The trashing of her brand and trusted team.
- A media backlash over an “unnecessary” election.
- Further complications on the road to B rexit.
And yet, Theresa May is still the incumbent Prime Minister gaining 57 more seats than the next largest party, Labour.
She moved quickly today to try to cement her position, using the onset of the Brexit talks as an excuse to plough on. Brandishing a new working relationship with the latest power brokers in Westminster - Northern Ireland’s DUP - as her way of creating a majority, without anyone spelling out what exactly this means for either party.
Cue a huge spike in google searches across the country as people asked 'who are the DUP'. The Institute for Government has written about the leverage of the smaller parties in the new Parliament and what that means for forthcoming Brexit talks.
Her message outside No.10 after meeting the Queen was clear. Business as usual. Quite how long this phoenix from the ashes performance will last is anyone’s guess. The fact that she gave a second interview just hours later from inside Downing Street was telling in our view. Her initial attempts to keep calm and carry on seem likely to have alienated those colleagues still smarting from the electoral disappointment.
- The Guardian - “Theresa May has struck a deal with the Democratic Unionists that will allow her to form a government.”
- Financial Times - “[We will] put fairness and opportunity at the heart of everything we do, building a country which no-one and no community is left behind.”
- Daily Mail - “Incredibly Mrs May failed even to mention that she had humiliatingly lost seats to the Labour Party after calling the election three years early in a bid to capitalise on sky high ratings.”
2. Re-shuffling the deck
May will begin a reshuffle this weekend after eight ministers lost their seats. The casualties included former Cabinet Office Minister Ben Gummer who helped write the Conservative manifesto and was heavily tipped for promotion, losing his Ipswich constituency seat to Labour’s Sandy Martin.
Reshuffle speculation prior to the election had focused on how Theresa May would use her renewed authority to make sweeping changes, potentially even removing the Chancellor. Her ambitions will have now been drastically trimmed back. The breaking news is that big beasts Hammond, Rudd, Johnson, Davis and Fallon are all to stay in place. Our top tips for promotion into the empty cabinet roles, include Dominic Raab, Ben Wallace, Helen Whately and Brandon Lewis.
- Financial Times - “The biggest question is whether Mrs May keeps Mr Hammond in the Treasury following months of tension between the Chancellor and Nick Timothy.”
- The Telegraph - “Theresa May is poised to announce her new cabinet this afternoon afternoon after announcing her intention to form a minority Government with the support of the DUP.”
- Daily Mail - “The PM will conduct what is likely to be a very limited reshuffle - if only to replace ministers who were ousted overnight.”
3. “People voted for hope!”
Having demonstrated relative charisma and prowess on the campaign trail, Corbyn called for Theresa May to stand down this morning. His assertion that Labour was ready to form a new government in the absence of majority backing for Theresa May - “we are ready to serve this country” - was redundant before tea time however, as the Conservatives rapidly unveiled a pack with the Democratic Unionist Party.
Despite this Labour, and Corbyn as leader, are in their strongest positions since 2010. They made significant gains in constituencies previously thought lost, and were able to mop up the youth vote as self-registration(controversially brought in in 2015) finally picked up the ‘lost vote’ which was calculated to have impacted both the 2015 election and 2016 referendum result.
It remains to be seen how much power and influence Labour can now wield in Westminster. Whether Corbyn’s detractors within his own party will finally get on board and if he will consider co-ordination with fellow progressives, in the Lib Dems and Greens, is by no means certain.
- Financial Times - “Jeremy Corbyn confounds critics with ‘gobsmacking’ gains”
- Telegraph - “Jeremy Corbyn confronted Theresa May with real ideas, and she had nothing to say”
- New Statesman - “The result is objectively hilarious - but we should still be angry at the Tories for screwing things up”
It was a good week for…
Jezza and Ruth Davidson
When it rains, it pours - with plaudits. Viewed next to the drudgery of the May campaign machine, the positive, relaxed, charismatic authenticity demonstrated by both Corbyn and Davidson captured the mood of the nation.
Corbyn’s enemies are now apologists. The young are engaged and the young at heart are enthused by his stubborn refusal to play by the rules of politics. Conservative grandees are already talking of arranging a safe-seat for Davidson at the next by-election in order to get her into the Westminster bubble. If South of the border, she’d be mad to let them in our view.
It was a bad week for…
Theresa...and Nick and Fiona
She faces a Herculean task to regain her credibility after one of the biggest miscalculations of modern political times (and there have been a few). Taking the blame also are her trusted co-Chief’s of Staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill. The troika have been together for most of the last seven years; the pair screen, monitor, control and communicate everything for the Prime Minister. Nothing is done without their say-so.
This campaign was their devising, their work, their delivery - and the public rejected it. Not only that, but they ignored repeated interjections and advice from Conservative HQ. Fiona may just have come out ahead by aligning herself with Lynton Crosby over the Manifesto. Nick however may have to answer for his last-minute changes to social care policy that were quickly branded a ‘Dementia tax’.
Attempting to run a Presidential campaign with an un-presidential candidate has infuriated those with real power in the party ranks. May is now at her weakest just when she hoped to be at her strongest.
The best political anecdotes go to…
- A Jeremy Corbyn high-five goes wrong;
- Clive Lewis goes overboard in his celebration;
- Dimbleby fighting a fly on screen, and winning! and
- Andrew Neill not knowing whether it was breakfast or Brexit Theresa May would be focusing on next.
Who called the result right?
Heading into the final week, YouGov’s polling and controversial seat modelling was ridiculed but they are having the last laugh now. One commentator said that “its own shortcomings were highlight by the fact it had Canterbury down as a Labour win”. A constituency they have not held in 99 years, Labour won this seat last night by 187 votes.
ICMs (45-34%) and Comres (44-34%) were the big losers, failing to account for the UKIP vote dividing between Labour and the Conservatives respectively. Expect to hear more about turnout and polling assumptions in the days to come.