There are many competing theories as to why May managed to lose her parliamentary majority in a snap election she called in order to increase the slim one she was sitting on. In my book “Apocalypse Delayed: Why the Left is Still in Trouble”, I had a go at few myself. Usually people surmise it was all about Corbyn emerging as a strong campaigner and showing May up. Or the disaster that was the Tory manifesto, with the social care bit of it directly attacking the core Conservative vote. Now, I’m not saying those things weren’t factors. But I think I’ve finally figured out what may have been the crucial element that swung the election so far away from the prime minister.
It came to me this week as the cabinet sat to discuss what a post-Brexit Britain should look like in the broadest terms. You would have thought this would have been a good idea to have done this before triggering Article 50, but I suppose they figured Germany would be begging the UK for a deal by this point, willing to pay billions of pounds a year to get into the British market. Anyhow, the main reason I now think the Conservative Party lost its majority back in June is a simple one: May, in going to the country when she didn’t need to, was expected to have a reasonably thought out plan for Brexit that most people could both understand and get on board with. When it became clear there was no plan, people panic voted, using Labour as a dumping ground. The more I think about it, the more I believe this to be the case.
You might just think this is raking over the coals for the sake of it; a mere academic exercise devoid of actual relevance. In other words, who cares why she didn’t win outright, it’s old news now. Except I think that it might be key to trying to understand what’s coming next.
The government shouldn’t take for granted the idea that the public will accept a bad deal or a no deal over a desire to just stay in the EU. I’m not saying people are going to swing wildly behind Remain or anything like that – in fact, I think it’s still unlikely – but they may be more upset than I think a lot of the cabinet are banking on if the deal turns out to be pretty thin gruel. I’m not sure what exactly will happen, except to say that the Tories look decidedly unprepared for a sea change in public opinion on the topic of the EU. Again, I don’t think it’s going to happen, but as the general election demonstrated, the public opinion on this is more complex than most of us figured.