After promising for months that she’d never call an early election, Tory Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap general election in April — fully expecting to be returned with a thumping Conservative majority.
Instead, the cynically conceived June 8 poll resulted in a disaster for Conservative politics in Britain. The Tories have lost their majority and now face a hung parliament.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has emerged from it as the most dynamic political figure in Britain. His vocal establishment critics — within and outside the Labour Party — had long insisted that Corbyn’s socialist ideals of democracy, peace and equality could never translate into electoral success.
They’ve been proved wrong yet again.
Despite early polls showing labour looking set for a wipe out, once the campaign was under way and highly energised, youthful rallies took place across the country in support of Labour’s Manifesto — which contained clear polices to end austerity and shift power back towards working people.
On June 8, Labour won 40% of the vote and 262 seats in the 650 seat parliament — up from 30.4% and 232 seats in 2015. The Tories, so arrogant in April, won 42.4% of the vote, but fell from 330 seats to end up with 318 seats — losing its majority.
The Scottish National Party seemed to suffer from the polarisation between the two large British-wide parties, winning 34 seats — down 21 from the 55 it won its huge breakthrough in 2015. It still remains Scotland’s largest party.
The Liberal Democrats gained four to win 13 seats. Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru won 4 seats (up 1) while the Greens held on to their single seat. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) were obliterated — winning no seats with about 2% of the vote (down from more than 12%).
In Northern Ireland, both the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party and republican party Sinn Fein enjoyed swings, with the DUP winning 10 seats (a gain of two) and Sinn Fein seven (up three).
Labour’s remarkable comeback election campaign has given rise to some noteworthy facts. The 9.5% swing to Labour is the second highest swing to any party in a general election since 1945.
Corbyn Labour’s election return of 40% (12.9 million votes) is the second highest (after Tony Blair in 1997) for Labour since the 1960s. The Labour vote this election greatly surpasses the results for Labour leaders Ed Miliband in 2015, Gordon Brown in 2010 and Blair in 2001 and 2005.
The 18-24 age turnout for the election surged from 58% in 2015 to 72% on June 8 (it was just 38% in 2005). A large percentage of this extra youth turnout went to Labour.
In Corbyn’s own seat of Islington North he won an unprecedented 73% of the vote. Labour shadow home secretary Diane Abbott won an even more decisive 75.1% in her seat of Hackney North & Stoke Newington.
With this result, the Conservative Party was left with no choice but to strike a deal to govern with the hard right DUP. This is ironic, given the right-wing press made much of Corbyn’s supposed links to the “terrorist” IRA. Now the Tories will govern with support of a DUP with strong links to loyalist terror gangs.
The DUP are misogynistic, creationist, virulently homophobic religious sectarians, who also deny the science of climate change.
As the pre-election polls showed Labour’s vote rising, the tabloid press warned a vote for Corbyn’s Labour could result in an unstable, chaotic government with links to terrorism. As it turns out, that’s a rather apt label for the Tory minority government.
In his final campaign speech before election day, Corbyn told a large crowd in Islington North that Labour’s biggest success may be how it had brought long-derided left policies like nationalisation, free health and education, workers’ right to organise and higher taxes on the rich back to the centre of British politics. The drab consensus about neoliberalism and austerity that has dominated British politics for so long is now, finally, under serious challenge.
Corbyn told the crowd: “In a sense, this is the new centre ground of politics. The place where most people actually are. The policies that the majority of people actually want. Not what the establishment and their media mouthpieces insist they should want.
“This is the new mainstream.
“And we have staked out that ground on the kind of society and kind of economy that we want and that we are determined to achieve. And I am very proud, very proud of the positive campaign we have fought.”
[Simon Butler is Green Left Weekly's Scotland correspondent.]