by Tan Wah Piow
The outcome of the 8 June 2017 General Election in the UK is written all over the faces of Theresa May, and her rival Jeremy Corbyn.
Many abroad expressed surprise, and fail to understand why the winner Theresa May looks like a loser, and conversely Corbyn and his supporters look like winners.
Theresa May’s Conservative Party electorally won the most seats in Parliament, pulling in 1 million more votes than labour, winning 44% of the voter. Although the Conservative is still the biggest Party in Parliament having won 318 seats, Theresa May was short by six seats to form a majority government. Almost all political commentators, with the exception of a few diehard Tory apologists, pointed their fingers at Theresa May as the clear loser, and applauded Corbyn and the Labour Party for the spectacular success of winning 262 seats, albeit 56 seats less than the Conservative.
The winner is the biggest loser, and this is the main story emerging out of this election because this snap election was called by the Prime Minister. It was her own gamble that failed. And failed disastrously.
When she announced the snap election 7 weeks ago, she had a majority of 12 seats in parliament, and was over 20 points ahead of Labour. She opportunistically seized the chance , hoping to win a landslide with majority estimated by some of up to 100 seats, and the opportunity to bury Labour Party for good as almost all commentators, especially those from the right wing of Labour led by Blair, were predicting the end of the Party under Corbyn.
Theresa May hoped to strengthen her position as Prime Minister before entering into negotiation with EU, and wanted a new mandate and a blank cheque. She ran a negative campaign by contrasting herself as strong, robust, firm and competent against Corbyn, portrayed as weak, incompetent and chaotic. After 7 weeks, May lost 13 seats, while Labour increased its seats by 30. Theresa May emerged weaker, politically diminished, without a clear mandate and personally humiliated. By 4.30am on the following day, there was call for her resignation as Prime Minister from within her ranks.
Like the vast majority of Labour members and supporters, I feel like a winner even though my local candidate was not elected. At the last election, our candidate polled 10,000 votes, while the conservative had 40,000. At this election, labour increased its support in my constituency by 6000, and Conservative candidate reduced his share by about 10.000. Every Labour Party supporter in the huge counting hall felt the same, even our candidate. We did not expect to win in Pinner which does not have a Labour MP since 1954. We were electrified by the resurrection of Labour! This trend is repeated all over the country, and spectacularly in Canterbury East where for the first time in a century, a Labour candidate was elected. It’s dubbed by the BBC as the new Canterbury Tales of the unexpected. Such a surprise surge of support is experienced everywhere in the country.
The real story in this election is that despite campaigning on an ideologically left wing manifesto, Labour’s support grew. Corbyn did not try to mimic the right to make Labour marketable. The Labour Party campaigned on a manifesto to end austerity, argued for nationalisation of rail and key infrastructure, increase funding for The National Health Service, ending zero hours, getting rid of tuition fees, raising taxes on the rich, and promised to transform the economy to serve the many, not the few.
Despite being demonised daily for the past two years not just by Murdoch’s press, by the Conservatives and Labour’s right, Corbyn managed to inspire the youth, brought new hopes, and got them out to campaign and to vote. This was a decisive factor in many places especially in University towns.
A new generation of voters has emerged, the youth is our future.
Meanwhile, many from Labour who had criticised Corbyn are out on television acknowledging his virtues as energetic, and a great campaigner. When asked last night on Question Time whether he would have produce the same manifesto as Corbyn did, Alistair Campbell the chief spinner of the Blair years, and one of Corbyn’s high profile critic replied – we are in a very different time now with all the austerity, “I voted for it”.
The Labour family is hopefully coming home, refreshed. And Corbyn is becoming Prime Ministerial. He is now wearing a smart navy blue suit, and fresh white starched shirt. Commentators noted that Theresa May wore 50 different pair of shoes during the past 7 weeks, but Corbyn wore the same pair by black leather shoe throughout.