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UK Election: the only constant is change

Nigel Morris-Co...

The UK's General Election is all over bar the shouting: there remain a handful of seats to declare but the result is already beyond doubt: even if the Conservatives will all the outstanding seats, they will still not have enough seats to form a majority government. That, Prime Minister, Theresa May, had thought impossible: her objective in calling an election at short notice was so arrogant that her stated expectation was to increase the majority her party had so as to bulldoze her view of separation from Europe without effective opposition. Now, her first job, is to decide if she will even be PM tomorrow morning after the electorate demonstrated that there is a global move towards genuine democracy and, equally importantly, that Presidential campaigning does not work in today's Britain.

On 21 April we published an article called May's risk outside the Westminster Bubble in which Jefferson Galt said that May's gamble was going to run into trouble, in part because she thought she could stand and tell the British people what to do and they would follow. She was, and throughout the campaign, remained resolutely arrogant, distant, faux-presidential. She centralised the message around herself without regard for the deep unpopularity she has across the whole country. Quite simply, what she really wanted was a personal mandate and the people don't like, don't trust and don't respect her. The loss of her government's majority is as a result of exactly what she wanted: a personal popularity contest, a contest in which she would appear to be the strong leader while Corbyn, for Labour, would be the lost boy, a bit of a shaggy, sometimes shabby puppy at her feet.

The lesson that the Conservative Party failed to learn is that the so-called populist movements around the world (it is neither populist nor a movement) is about one thing: it's about taking back democracy. It's a real people's challenge to centralisation, be it in China, Bahrain, Egypt, Venezuela, the USA or Europe. And May had the best tool in the box: all she had to do was to remind the people that true Conservatism is not right-wing, it is a truly centrist approach where ordinary people have a far more direct say in their futures. Socialism and the communist principles favoured by the senior Labour politicians are all about control. The UK voted against the EU because more people want freedom to determine their own lives: Labour is about the opposite.

But May thought she was invincible. Worse, she's almost a closet socialist. She relied for much of her campaign on her face (bad decision because then her detractors found photos that, turned into memes, undermined her even further) on her name (seriously: who thought putting her name front and centre on election posters was a good idea?) and, lastly, on the repetition of a handful of quasi-socialist slogans such as "strong and stable leadership" which seemed to be on a tape loop. Moreover, an article in May, in the Guardian, said "Urgent work is also taking place to ensure that as many Tory candidates as possible fit the new messaging."

Running a Blair/Brown style campaign was always going to be a terrible idea, especially for a leader for whom charisma seems to have been surgically removed at birth. May was always marginal but now she's been proved unelectable.

Worse, she has no policies except two or three half-baked ideas that are directed exactly at the Conservative middle England, upper working class that are the driving force in British politics.

Now May has three options: first, admit to her failure and leave the front benches. Secondly, try to tough it out and run the country with a minority (but admittedly practically a tiny majority) government. And third, call a further election.

Labour says it's ready to form a minority government, with its manifesto converted into a Queen's Speech but even now there are slogans, brave big-ticket claims and no costings except "we can afford it" which means "actually, you, the electorate can afford it and you are stupid buggers for not pressing us on taxation during the election."

And that's where Labour has won: the lightweight, sloganeering, campaigning coupled with the dignity of Corbyn, in particular, has worked. Given that all parties, not just the main two, campaigned on lightweight sloganeering and close to no substance in anything demonstrates one thing above all else. Corbyn tidied himself up, trimmed his beard, cut his hair, started wearing dark suits and a tie and, suddenly, he looked like a serious politician, not a frantic school teacher whose kids are expected to do as they are told, and not ask questions.

She and her election team are idiots: as Jefferson Galt's article showed, the electorate's response was utterly predictable.

They expected a constant and failed to see that in today's political world the only constant is change and anyone who thinks they can rely on inertia is going to fail.