Very few, not least the political establishment, could have anticipated what occurred on Thursday. A result that effectively butchered Empress Theresa’s self-made portmanteau of 'strong and stable' and her supposedly noble duty to deliver the results of last year’s referendum. The Prime Minister’s gamble, flawed from its conception, has backfired. But it is the people of the United Kingdom that will pay for her folly.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party undoubtedly outperformed expectations. Senior party figures were dreading a wipeout in England and Wales and the continued demise of the Party in Scotland, with the ascent of the Scottish Conservatives serving as the all-too jubilant wake to the funeral that was the 2015 election. Yet, Labour registered net gains in all three nations of Great Britain, and defended its marginal seats in the north of England and Wales, with few exceptions.
Emphatic wins in Canterbury and Kensington, with swings of over ten per cent, consolidated the Party’s new-found strength in England, and the reclaiming of seats lost in 2015 in Wales (Vale of Clwyd and Gower) confounded those who doubted Corbyn’s ability to rally key demographics.
Gains for the Liberal Democrats, albeit underwhelming, in former strongholds such as Bath and Twickenham, the recovery in Scotland, and the reclamation of Oxford West and Abingdon, provides further hope for those looking for the death of the hard Brexit that May was so intent upon pursuing.
This election has provided the so-called ‘progressive alliance’ with firm foundations upon which to fight forthcoming elections, and it is imperative we take advantage of this opportunity.
And yet, in spite of these successes, we have been left with an outcome that will strike fear into the hearts of progressives across the nation. While we rejoice and take comfort in the faltering of the Conservative Party in England and Wales, May’s weakened mandate has prompted her to run, with the depressingly ironic strength and stability of Britain’s post-Brexit economy, into the hands of the hard-line, evangelical party of Northern Irish unionism - the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The DUP, upon which the Conservatives now depend, was founded in 1971 by the controversial pastor Iain Paisley and is the epitome of right-wing, evangelical politics.
Even in recent years, the hate-filled and ignorant narrative spewing from some of the party’s senior figures, has appalled many from across the political spectrum. The former DUP health minister, in 2015, claimed that children raised in a homosexual context were more likely to be 'neglected and abused'. Meanwhile, Trevor Clarke, with disturbing ignorance, recently revealed his belief that only homosexuals could contract HIV/AIDs - an eerie throwback to the Tory-fuelled scaremongering surrounding the issue during the 1980s. Their stance on abortion rights is equally at odds with the rest of the UK. They have repeatedly blocked attempts to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland, with their leader, Arlene Foster, last year telling The Guardian that 'I would not want abortion to be as freely available here as it is in England and don’t support the extension of the 1967 act.'
Theresa May’s dependence on such a regressive and morally reprehensible political force now puts our basic civil liberties at risk, on top of the damage to our public services that has, and will continue, to occur.
This election was a bittersweet success for those hoping for a progressive, tolerant and fairer Britain. Nevertheless, treating Labour’s ‘non-annihilation’ as anything more than a relief will demonstrate and consolidate the supremacy of the Tories across the nation. In the following years, we have the opportunity to build upon the foundations of 2017 and create a Britain that stands up for civil liberties, protects public services and continues to exert a positive and meaningful difference in the world.
Most importantly, we must consider ‘success’ only as the decisive winning of a general election. If we fail to recognise this, the left will commit itself to electoral mediocracy for years to come. It is imperative that we do not allow this.
More articles by this commentator