By Cameron McIntosh
As Theresa May and polling companies discovered last week, elections are unpredictable. From a seemingly unassailable lead in the polls to a hung parliament, the Prime Minister’s gamble has backfired in spectacular fashion. If only she could rewind two months to her walk in the Welsh countryside.
Jeremy Corbyn’s astonishing campaign defied all expectations to produce one of the biggest upsets in parliamentary politics. Despite this remarkable feat, it should be acknowledged that the Conservatives won the general election. As the largest party in the Commons, albeit not commanding a majority, they will extend their time in government beyond seven years, with the DUP content to play the role of kingmakers. How long that government will be headed by Theresa May is unresolved.
The election was called for personal gain. It ended in personal defeat. Dressing up political opportunism as a Brexit-inspired duty to the British public fell on deaf ears and the mandate sought was not forthcoming. May’s personal authority has suffered an irrevocable blow and with Brexit negotiations imminent, her leadership has been fatally undermined, both within her own party and, most significantly, in Brussels.
Although Tory insiders have been disciplined to date, talk of an impending leadership election will no doubt intensify over the coming weeks and months. The two most obvious contenders being Brexit Secretary, David Davis, and fellow leave campaigner and Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. While Ruth Davidson, the architect of Scottish Conservatism’s phenomenal revival, is often touted as a future leader, she does not have a seat in Westminster and is therefore ineligible. Amber Rudd has also established herself as a strong candidate, despite the scare she suffered in Hastings, where a recount saved her the embarrassment of a Michael Portillo moment.
Theresa May has affirmed her desire to continue as Prime Minister, to ensure the stability that her campaign failed to convince the electorate of. But a lame duck Prime Minister will not serve anyone’s interests, not least those negotiating the Brexit deal. A caretaker government appears most likely for the time being, with a Tory leadership contest almost certainly on the horizon. By the autumn, don’t be surprised if Number 10 has a new resident.
Photograph: Roch Garneau via flickr