The tagline for many a left wing and Scottish Nationalist campaign against the Conservatives was “Let June be the end of May”. While that didn’t quite happen on the 331st day in Downing Street for Theresa May, it’s a day that will be coming thanks to events from 7am last Thursday onwards.
|May at her Maidstone count on the morning of 9 June 2017.|
Yes, that is one of the candidates behind her.
A lot has been written about how dreadful the Tory campaign was, and how it was driven by a left hand of May’s advisors and a right hand of Australian campaign co-ordinator Lynton Crosby. I suspect an awful lot more will come out, once May leaves the stage. However, I wonder if May herself contributed to her downfall. While we may dislike the slimey failed PR guru that was Cameron, at least he did not hide away to the extent that May did during the campaign.
One other thing strikes me with hindsight about the Tory campaign, the utter arrogance of it all. Whether it was the thought that they could go into the campaign with undercooked ideas, that refusal to engage with normal voters or even the thought process which led to May subverting the Fixed Terms Act (2011), it all feels like a party where complacency had smashed in the front door and taken over their house. If not complacency, then perhaps a curse? Certainly every campaign slogan thought up by Crosby has rebounded in grand style on the Tories. “Strong & Stable” lasted as long as it took for the so called Dementia Tax to unravel, while the attack line on Corbyn’s alleged IRA links were countered online by May’s own links to the Daesh funding Saudi Arabian regime, whom May signed a trade deal with several months ago. Now that May is seeking a confidence & supply agreement with a party with it’s own terrorist links, as well as having views that even Daesh might consider backward, then this pretty much immunises Corbyn from further attacks along the IRA line.
The question though is where do the Tories go from here. At this moment, I suspect that it’s not that hopeless for them. I don’t think it’s a given that the government will collapse in a couple of months and we could be back at the polling stations again before the leaves turn yellow. For one thing the Tories are the great survivors of UK politics, having adapted to so many conditions to be the natural party of government for pretty much all of the 20th Century. For another for all of the outstanding praise levelled at Corbyn & Co, the Tories did end up the largest party on Friday falling 8 seats short. It’s a situation which will need managing, but is not without precedent. Even through a four or five year spell.
Most recently, we have seen the SNP, under Alex Salmond wheel & deal their way through their first term. Many thought that they’d crumble, including Scottish Labour who thought that if the SNP didn’t self destruct then they’d win the following election. Well, that was before their leader went for a sandwich. Before that though was the years when Labour were in office with knife edge majorities and having to cobble together deals to stay in office. Who knew that it would be May bringing back the 1970’s.
|Callaghan leaves No 10 for the last time, May 4 1979|
In the aftermath of the October 1974 election, Labour emerged with a majority of 3 seats. That majority soon disappeared, with Labour soon seeking and getting a ‘confidence & supply’ deal with the Liberals. When that collapsed the Labour government existed on a day to day basis. It was the years of long days and late nights voting which partly feeds into Scottish Labour’s visceral hatred of the SNP, their “betrayal” over the events when it all came crashing down. On Wednesday 28th March 1979.
Those two examples show that it’s possible for the Tories to cling on and survive. For May, things will be different. I suspect that if the men in grey suits don’t pay May a visit during the summer, then it will be during the October party conference. I don’t expect her to lead the Tories into next year’s English Local election campaign. As for how long the Tories cling on for, I suspect we’ll be going to the polls again next Autumn. And it won’t be for Indyref 2.
* - 331 days, not out, in office on 9 June 2017