London: Well, the unthinkable has happened. It’s a hung parliament in Britain. Last night, as the exit polls forecast a closing of the gap, a bridging of the Conservative lead, the most experienced commentators warned – don’t get carried away. Remember the election where they popped the champagne corks only to see a total rout?
This morning, when the results were out, people who’d sat up all night on tenterhooks were either jubilant or in despair. I was sitting among people who were Remain voters during the Brexit vote last year. They are Jeremy Corbyn backers and so obviously were over the moon at the swing in the Labour Party’s fortunes. Other friends, loyal Conservatives, were in despair. On reading my pre-vote piece on The Wire, a Tory friend wrote to me saying: “Let me just add one thing, that no one – not even [Prime Minister] Theresa [May] – seems to have said. While Theresa was home secretary following the 2008 banking crisis ALL (or almost all) departments were subject to huge cuts. The Home Office was no exception. International aid was safe funnily enough – and that huge sacred cow we have in this country the National Health. So she had to cut. I don’t think she wanted to.
I am clutching at the straw that she is taking this hard Brexit line in order to swing the UKIP voters to vote for her today and once she has one she will soften up.”
Obviously the Tory defeat, or rather May’s enormous deficit, has left her supporters devastated at this totally unexpected outcome.
Someone on TV remarked that May had to be heavily made up before facing the cameras, to repair the ravages of the defeat – hide her tears – as results came in. I’m not surprised. There have been several calls for her head from different quarters, including from people within her own party. Speculation on why foreign minister Boris Johnson has been uncharacteristically silent have been voiced amid chuckles about what surprises he may have up his sleeve. A bid for the leadership cannot be dismissed. Apparently Johnson has been known to grab opportunity whenever offered. Or not offered. But the consensus is, the Tories need a leadership change like a hole in the head. May’s own catch phrase of stability is being bandied about a lot. By all parties. The nation needs stability and strength when it begins the Brexit negotiations.
There’s talk also of whether Brexit can be reversed. “Is exit from Brexit on the cards?” someone asked.
May faced the cameras bravely and with dignity. “She’s a vicar’s daughter,” someone pointed out. “She knows that when duty calls, she must obey and not go running off to somewhere nicer.”
Corbyn’s supporters are dancing in the rain. From being dubbed ‘not prime ministerial’ he has done the unimaginable, in spite of the dire predictions about his poor odds. One election analyst described it as the biggest upset since exiting the Empire!
Corbyn emerged from his North London home after the results were out to victory shouts, smiling and happy but still calm, neither flamboyant nor gloating at his critics. Someone pointed this out, saying his modest, humble demeanour works in his favour. There’s no sign of bombast or triumphalism. In fact, he appeared slightly surprised that he could have swung this incredible victory. He announced that his party would run a minority-led government if given the chance. They would do what they’d promised to do, he reaffirmed, which is ending austerity, focusing on health, education, security and the triple pension lock. An analyst pointed out that when there was a hung parliament in 1974, Edward Heath asked, “who governs Britain?” To this, people replied, “Thats not the question. The question is about our living standards”.
While people seemed to swing to Labour because they promised a better standard of living, including free university education, there is concern about where the money for all this will come from. Few people, except the truly committed, care for taxation.
I’ve always thought well of Corbyn, since he waved an issue of a magazine I worked on, the New Internationalist, in parliament and raised the question of the caste issue, quoting from my keynote article. He’s also shown concern about the communalism question in India. So, that’s Corbyn and India, for me.
In Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP) lost a huge chunk of support to the Conservatives. Scots apparently were fed up of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon raking up the highly divisive question of Scottish independence from Britain. The SNP should have concentrated on governing Scotland instead, suggested one voter who switched allegiance from the party.
The Liberal Democrats provided another upset; they lost many votes and former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg lost his seat. The Lib Dems had previously provided hope to the Remain voters, as they wanted to bring the Brexit question back to centre-stage.
A pleasant surprise was the UKIP – those unpleasant folk accused of shouting racist, anti immigrant, abusive slogans and creating hatred in multicultural Britain – being totally routed. A big thumbs up for the British voter!
“Its started raining,” a television anchor said cheekily. “Probably Tory tears, all things and the unexpected result considered.”
May now has to go to the Queen with a letter asking permission to be allowed to form the government. Will she get the support of the Irish party, the Democratic Unionist Party, given their differences?
All parties, and even the UKIP’s Nigel Farrage, keep returning to the soon-to-be-held Brexit negotiations. A few hold on to hope that the Brexit decision can be overturned.