LONDON – The United Kingdom woke up to a government reeling with unelected Prime Minister Theresa May left with a hung parliament following Thursday’s general election.
However, it was a moment of jubilation for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn whose party made spectacular gains.
The result was one for the history books with Corbyn’s chances of becoming Prime Minister almost as likely as May’s.
In 11 days the UK is due for divorce talks with Europe. The Germans must be laughing and polishing their schadenfreude (malicious joy) blades.
It was a gripping night right from when the exit polls put the Conservatives’ possible wins at 314 (they got 312) and Labour ‘s at 266 (they got 260). The night was dark for the Tories (as they are known in moments of contempt) as the nation discarded blankets and waited with bated breath for the results.
In one spot on the BBC coverage, smug BBC veteran election night commentator David Dimbleby sneered at Labour’s shadow home secretary Emily Thornberry’s talk of the possibility of Labour forming a government.
“A coalition of chaos,” Dimbleby remarked.
“Have you asked the Conservatives that?” Thornberry riposted.
“No,” said Dimbleby, “Because they are going to win the majority.”
“There you are,” Thornberry smiled back.
May who is now relying on the Northern Irelanders to keep her grip after an election that she denied would ever take place, and in the morning after, her unshakeability still intact, she declared that she had no intention of going.
The situation now looks ready for the Dimbleby chaos, not in Labour’s but in the other house. Even now there are already pundits talking about another election before the year is out.
This is the post-truth result. A government so brimming with self-confidence (at 20 points lead) reduced to a mere three-point advantage (after a month of opinion polling) over their Labour opponents. The media spoke with glee of the trouncing of Labour.
Senior Labour politicians, still reeling from Corbyn’s upstart rise to the helm thought the moment had come to rid the troublesome priest. The eve-of-election front page of one right wing tabloid pictured Corbyn in the bin below a “Cor-bin him” headline. They were all wrong.
If anything is learned from this election it is that politics has changed and that the mainstream media no longer call the shots. Corbyn the underdog fought long and hard at the grassroots, voiced through Tweets, defied the established order and spoke about politics as if life depended on it. One commentator summed this as taking politics back to the 1970s, not in complimentar way but as a slight. And he was right.
Corbynistas are the young voters whom his band of workers have rallied, students who are tired of the politics of the big bosses and massive bonuses, and people who have no decent housing because land have been grabbed by buy-to-leave buyers from distant parts of the globe. They spoke not of Brexit but tuned the subject to housing, cuts, the national health, and Corbyn, in his manifesto, even brought out the now taboo word, re-nationalisation of the once state assets.
The fear of pollsters who produced positive figures for Labour was that young voters who were responsible for the surge would not turn up for the vote. They did and they delivered. The turnout figure – at just above 60% – was the highest for a long time.
Confoundingly, all the signs were wrong for Labour. There was a series of terrorist attacks during the hustings, the media were dismissive of them as a party led by a former left-wing no hoper, the Prime Minister was riding high in the popularity stake. All indications for an easy sweep for the party in charge. The ballot-box issue was Brexit; it was what Theresa May wanted.
Within a month of the call for a snap election the opinion polls started to give Labour the boost, Corbyn went to the country and spoke at rallies attended by unprecedented crowds (last time that happened was during the time of Winston Churchill) and in the final days, Corbyn polled as London’s favourite for the Prime Minister’s job, and national issues, not Brexit, became the issue at the ballot box.
Politics have changed in Britain and it will reverberate into the coming weeks. – BERNAMA