It has been about 24 hours since the conclusion of UK Election 2017. The seats are declared, and someone, somehow must get on with the business of running the country.
For the entirety of the campaign, it looked like Theresa May. Then, for several hours on election night, it seemed like Jeremy Corbyn. After that, for a little while, cameras chased Boris Johnson, a potential Tory prime minister picking up the ruins of May’s campaign. Finally, again, it looks like Theresa May, saved by Scotland of all places and propped up by the Democratic Unionists.
How in the hell did we achieve all that in such a short amount of time?
Point #1: The Tories Ran A Terrible Campaign
Last night, when David Dimbleby asked Conservative MP Anna Soubry in what way the Tory campaign was dreadful, she said “Where do you want me to begin?” Her frustration was visible, but her sentiments among Conservatives were not unique. Soubry survived in her constituency, but others did not.
Theresa May called this election to grab a bigger majority. With a bigger parliamentary party, May could supposedly hold better leverage in Brexit negotiations. It would also put her stamp on the Conservative Party.
She put her stamp on it; just not the one she wanted. The Conservatives finished down 12 in an election, when it was called, in which they expected to gain 50. It’s no secret that May ran a very bad campaign. The Tory manifesto caused an uproar, and the U-turn made her appear indecisive. May didn’t connect with enough voters and convince them the early election was necessary. The Tories made the campaign all about her, and she didn’t even show for the BBC debate.
Further, while Brexit was central, social care became a big issue, and that’s fertile Labour territory. Finally, they went hard after the UKIP vote, at the expense of others. This included targeting Labour seats and neglecting defense of their own.
Compared to that of Jeremy Corbyn, May’s campaign was wooden and impersonal.
Point #2: Labour Turned Out New Voters
As bad as the Tory campaign was, Labour’s was equally good. It has to be if you’re going to avert a landslide. They did far more than that by the end of the results.
Young voters turned out in big numbers to back Labour. Corbyn’s left-wing message appealed to this demographic, who reportedly turned out at a 70 percent clip. This led to such shocking results as Canterbury, a seat the Tories had never lost to Labour. Several universities lie within the constituency.
Point #3: “Revenge of the Remainers”
Points 2 and 3 are related. Across the United Kingdom, a certain amount of young voters (perhaps most) felt shock at the Brexit referendum last year. This helped spur them to get out to the polls.
It extends beyond the youth vote, however. There was real surprise on behalf of the Remain supporters the night that the UK voted to leave the European Union. For the last year, British politics have been crazy, and the realities of what it will take to successfully mount Brexit become all the more real.
While the Conservatives tried to rally support for Brexit their way, Labour centralized enough Remain voters to become electorally viable again.