London (GPA) – Theresa May’s snap election gamble failed miserably yesterday, stripping the Conservative Party of their parliamentary majority, forcing the Tories to declare a minority government with the Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The mood at 10 Downing Street today is most likely one of disappointment, shock and embarrassment following last night’s election results in the U.K. It’s probably not too much of a stretch to imagine U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is now desperately struggling to plan her next moves and deeply regretting her decision to break her promise that she wouldn’t call for an early election.
To be fair to Theresa May, the decision to dissolve parliament and call an early election did seem like a smart maneuver when she made her intentions known just under two months ago. The decision was, after all, overwhelmingly passed in the House of Commons by 522 MP’s voting in favor and only 13 against.
Adding to the almost total agreement of parliament, May and her Conservative Party also believed the voters were on their side. In the initial days of the snap election campaign the Conservatives had a significant lead over the Labour Party in the polls, with the average lead estimated to be over 20 points. May got her election and was presumably prepared to easily navigate her party’s way to increasing their 17 seat parliamentary majority from 330 to anywhere between 380 and 398.
Yet there’s a lesson in all of that May has apparently failed to learn; polling is unpredictable. If anything, May should be the person most aware of this since she was made PM, replacing David Cameron following the Brexit referendum. Cameron’s support for the campaign to remain in the European Union is the perfect example of how modern polling can be mistaken, even if the vote to leave the EU passed by just under two percent.
However, to be clear, misreading poll numbers wasn’t the only poor choice by the Tories, there is also the campaign run by May which will probably come under the scrutiny of her own party. In the span of just a few weeks, May’s incompetence managed to reduce her parties lead from double digits to around one percent, resulting in a loss of thirteen seats in parliament.
May’s campaign was full of missteps from the start, but we should start with the biggest blunder first: Brexit. The snap election, in May’s own words, was portrayed as “the Brexit election,” with the idea being that the Conservatives would have an electoral “mandate” to support their EU exit strategy.
The problem is, May hardly addressed Brexit during the campaign, leaving her open to increased criticisms that there is no actual Brexit strategy. Instead the Tories decided to discuss domestic policy, leading to a chain of politically embarrassing miscalculations.
Between the party manifesto calling for the seizure of deceased Britons’ assets to repay health care costs (labeled the ‘dementia tax’ by opponents), a ridiculous debate on the merit of fox hunts, and May’s decision to not appear in televised debates, the Tories made one mistake after another. The two recent terror attacks in London and Manchester also hurt May by giving opponents a chance to bring up her time as Home Secretary. It was in this position that May made decisions on how to enact the U.K.’s austerity policy at the time, most notably by cutting funding for security services and law enforcement.
So, to sum it all up, May has nobody to blame but herself this time and will have to deal with the backlash of the Tories’ unexpected losses, resulting in the loss of their parliamentary majority. Now May will have to navigate the hung parliament she made possible and do it as a leader of a minority coalition government with the pro-London DUP MPs from Northern Ireland. With Brexit talks set to begin soon, it seems that rather than a likely predictable mandate government , the U.K.’s path out of the EU is liable to be a rough one.