Seeing as my body has decided that sleep is for the weak tonight, you may as well have my two pennyworth.
There are 4 seats left to call, and the Conservatives don’t have enough seats for a majority. The Liberal Democrats flatly rejected any consideration of a coalition deal in the middle of the night before they even had a seat declare for them, and I doubt they will renege on that – their core voters already have trust issues. Thus the news outlets are suggesting a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland.
If I’m honest, I pay so little attention to Irish politics that I know nothing of the DUP’s agenda. George Osborne, for what it’s worth, was saying on ITV a little earlier that the lack of a mandate for the Conservatives this time has scuttled ideas of a hard Brexit. If that’s true, then the return of Scottish Conservatives to Westminster could mean that the exit negotiations will now lean more towards a closer post-Brexit relationship with Europe than was being envisaged. Personally, I hope so, but we don’t even know who the Prime Minister is yet…
As things stand, Theresa May has met with the Conservative hierarchy then apparently sneaked into Downing Street by the back door. (Well, she’s supposed to be in Downing Street but hasn’t gone in the front door, so it’s either that or a secret meeting elsewhere.) We’ve been told that an announcement is due at 10 a.m., but it could happen sooner.
Bear in mind that, untenable as May’s position seems right now, it’s also untenable for her to resign. Negotiations with Europe are supposed to begin in 11 days. This will not be time for the Conservatives to vote for a new leader. This is probably being considered in a meeting even as I type. Nothing about this election has been predictable, so expect the unexpected both in terms of premiership and the make-up of the ruling bloc.
Speaking of surprises, I’d just like to note some things that made me wide-eyed after I put the news back on.
Firstly: Scottish Conservatives?! Apparently this is the year for finding extinct species. I knew that the Scottish Conservatives had gained some ground in Holyrood in recent years, but I never expected this. I sincerely hope that they are a force for good in Westminster.
Secondly: Some really tight races. I’m surprised that Richmond chose Zac Goldsmith by 45 votes, especially ousting a sitting Liberal Democrat at a time when they have otherwise seen a resurgence. The loss of Nick Clegg hasn’t surprised me, though, what with Sheffield Hallam standing on a student vote that the Lib Dems don’t really have any more.
Thirdly: The turnout. Something around 69%. The figures aren’t in yet, but the news media are speculating that there’s been a big youth turnout. I’d say that the sudden Labour swing in central Sheffield (which has never had a Labour MP before, despite the rest of the city being staunchly red) bears this speculation out.
So what does it all mean? Well opinion polls have been suggesting that the main parties moving to their extremes hasn’t been popular. The mood of the country is centrist. (Actually, I’d say that the Labour manifesto was less far from the centre than the Conservative one, but they have the more extreme leader.) This may explain the extra five Lib Dem seats in the face of other losses.
Jeremy Corbyn has been vindicated, and his MPs are starting to get behind him despite their disagreements. This could bode well for the party in five years, so long as they can still galvanise the young voters out of their natural apathy.
The Conservative narrative has now changed on Brexit, but I hope it occurs to some of the movers and shakers that austerity may have also been a motivator of the strong Labour vote. The vote clearly went the way it did because Labour campaigned holistically.
Do I want to make a prediction? Frankly, no. The Conservatives can’t afford for May to go, but she is to weak to keep governing. It really is 50/50. As for a coalition agreement, while the pundits are predicting a working deal with the DUP rather than a full coalition, there are too many variables for me to want to put money on that. There could yet be a surprise if someone genuinely believes they have enough to gain.