11/06/2017
Alex Eastwood-Williams
Opinion
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Weak and Unstable: Why Theresa May's election gamble backfired

The most important British general election in a generation has resulted in a narrow victory for British unionism, and absolute humiliation for Prime Minister Theresa May. 

Before we delve into why, let's recap what happened for the benefit of anyone who may have just returned from the Planet Mars, and hasn't heard what happened yet: The UK, despite predictions of a Tory landslide, has elected an hung parliament, with the Conservatives now reliant on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party  to stay in government. 

I for one could not be more pleased at this result.

As I said in my pre-election article, I do not trust Theresa May or the Tories, and believe they need to be kept on a short leash.

While UKIP would have been my preferred support partner, the DUP are undoubtedly the next best thing. The DUP are a Eurosceptic, pro-Brexit party and while I am a little concerned at rumours that they would seek a soft Brexit, I still feel that ultimately the party's Euroscepticism, more hardline social conservatism and slightly more centrist and compassionate economic views will act as a benevolent influence over the Conservatives until the next general election - whenever that might be. 

I suspect I'm among a very small group of people feeling they have cause to celebrate and claim victory following an election in which there were no winners. 

A narrow victory for unionism

As I wrote the other night, what was at stake in this election was more than just Brexit or economic policy - it was an election that had the potential to end the United Kingdom. It's not often that a country, particularly a western country, goes to the polls to potentially decide to end their existence as a nation.

In one way or another, all parties bar three supported ending the United Kingdom: The SNP, who won 34 seats, wanted Scotland to leave the union. Plaid Cymru wanted to end the union of England and Wales that dates back to 1284 and won 4 seats. Sinn Fein won 7 seats, and advocate Northern Ireland leaving the United Kingdom and becoming part of the Republic of Ireland. The Liberal Democrats and the Greens, winning 12 seats and 1 seat respectively, were hell-bent on having the United Kingdom subsumed into a European superstate and dictated to by a government in Brussels. 

And Labour, by virtue of their willingness to work with all of the above, can therefore be deduced to support all of the above - and even if they don't, their policies on immigration have always suggested that perhaps they'd prefer an Islamic Britain. 

On the unionist side, standing not just for British independence but the continued existence of the United Kingdom, were the Tories, the Democratic Unionist Party, UKIP and the Ulster Unionists - the latter two winning no seats in Westminster. 

The election result was a narrow victory for those wishing to see the continuation of British unionism - although it should be noted, with considerable alarm, that the anti-unionist parties (including Labour) won more of the popular vote than the pro-unionist parties - in spite of the collapse in support for the SNP, and unexpected success of the Conservatives in Scotland.

While it probably doesn't help that you don't have to be British to vote in a British election, the results show that patriotism, national pride and support for the continued existence of Britain is now at an all time low. 

While British nationalists and unionists such as myself can breathe a sigh of relief that the union is intact and Brexit (notwithstanding the DUP's perfectly reasonable demands about the Irish border) is probably safe, we can't afford to rest on our laurels - the struggle for the preservation of the British nation may well be only just beginning. 

Corbyn uses Trump tactics

Dear readers, I don't get things wrong often, but I know when I'm licked - I was wrong about Jeremy Corbyn when I said he was unelectable. In that regard I join Tony Blair, Barack Obama, most of the Parliamentary Labour Party and the mainstream media in wrongly predicting that Jeremy Corbyn would face an electoral wipeout. 

Hindsight is 20/20 and I'll admit that my blind devotion to my own conservative ideology deafened me to the voices of the silent majority (to use a horrendously mixed metaphor). I should have seen the signs. After all, Corbyn used tactics that were straight out of Donald Trump's playbook. 

When the mainstream media says a politician is using Trump tactics, they tend to mean it pejoratively, but as this is not mainstream media and as I'm generally quite fond of the President, I do mean this as a compliment. 

The fact is that Corbyn was the anti-establishment candidate in an anti-establishment age - the mainstream media were as savage to him as they were to Donald Trump. While Corbyn was no anti-globalist or nationalist, his openly socialist policies were nevertheless a threat to the neoliberals, multinationals and globalists - enough to see them savage him (deserved or undeserved) at every and any opportunity. 

And yet during a campaign in which an establishment female was polling 20 points ahead and predicted to win a landslide victory (sound familiar?), Corbyn dominated the narrative and shifted the entire political paradigm in the UK to the left. As the Guardian's Aditya Chakrabortty notes, "The Conservative manifesto is closer to Labour’s than at any point since the second world war.

The Tories, arrogantly believing that victory was assured, ran a vague campaign on empty platitudes - the crux of which was opposition to Jeremy Corbyn. This is identical to what Hillary Clinton and the Democrats did in 2016 - their entire campaign hinged on opposition to Donald Trump, and by doing so they allowed Trump to set the agenda - just as Corbyn set the agenda in Britain. 

Even though Corbyn lost the election, the impact he had on British politics overall could have dramatic repercussions for years to come. While those of us on the right may be mourning the fact that it seems he won't be going away anytime soon, there upside is that Britain will have a strong and stable (to ironically quote Theresa May) opposition to keep the government to account - something it has lacked since 2010, and something that is essential to democracy. 

The Corbyn Coaliton vs the Maybes of May

Jeremy Corbyn's other great strength this election was his ability to do the most important thing that you can ever do in politics if you plan to win: He built coalitions. 

The unprecedented turn out from the ignorant, I mean young, in his favour - turnout among young voters was estimated at 72%, compared to 44% in 2015 - as well as the return of the old socialists who supported Labour in the 1970s but gave up, all contributed to to the spike in support for Corbyn.

But there was another big surprise that no one saw coming - including yours truly - and that was the number of UKIP voters who went to Labour. While it's been a long established fact that UKIP has drawn considerable support from ex-Labour voters, the conventional wisdom was that they would back the Conservatives due to Labour's opposition to Brexit. 

The problem with this logic was that Labour stated they would support a hard Brexit if elected - and while Labour's record on Brexit would usually cast them as untrustworthy on the issue, the Conservative Party were stupid enough to elect a pro-Remain leader and put her in charge of negotiating Brexit. Suddenly, the choice is between trusting two duplicitous former Remainers to back Brexit - one a darling of the establishment, and the other a big personality promising another opportunity to give the middle finger to the establishment. Given such a choice, UKIP voters are almost always going to go with the latter - as even Nigel Farage himself admitted. 

Whatever you might think of Jeremy Corbyn, the fact that he was able to build a coalition of young people, middle class Remainiacs and former UKIP voters is a testament to some pretty extraordinary political skill. 

On the other hand, there's Theresa, who ran a campaign devoid of personality, devoid of policies and devoid of any indication that she was worth voting for. 

Aside from the uncosted and vague manifesto and her lacklustre response to Britain's recent terrorist woes - which I wrote of last time - what really killed her was her flip flop over the dementia tax - a planned surcharge on the cost of care for those with assets above a certain threshold. A plan that would affect wealthy elderly people more than anyone else, or to put it another way: a plan that would damage a core Conservative voter bloc more than anyone else.

While Jeremy Corbyn was building coalitions of support, Theresa May was alienating people. Not only was she alienating her core constituency with the ill-conceived dementia tax (and undermining her own "strong and stable" slogan by later U-turning on it), but she was also alienating swing voters by promising to cut school meals - thus destroying any chance of winning the support of working class people who may have been planning to vote against Labour.

Media vs Meeting people

The other area where Theresa May failed and Jeremy Corbyn succeeded was the use of new media - that is social media - to advance the campaign, and it's another area where Corbyn borrowed from the Trump playbook. 

To quote the Sydney Morning Herald;

Mr Corbyn has drawn huge crowds to rallies around the country, in an energetic last push for votes – while May has settled for smaller, more contained events in front of core supporters and TV cameras. Writer Robert Harris recalled covering the 1983 election when Margaret Thatcher ran "a new kind of election, an American-style copied from Reagan where you didn't do the monster rally, you just got good pictures for the evening news". Meanwhile, Michael Foot fronted huge rallies around the country – and lost.

In other words, Theresa May failed to realise that the 1980s are over. What worked for Reagan and Thatcher failed spectacularly for her. What failed for Michael Foot worked wonders for Jeremy Corbyn.

We've all seen that famous picture of a Trump rally versus a Clinton rally - yet the Clinton-style campaign is actually what kind of campaign the Conservatives ran.

The fact is that mainstream media - television in particular - no longer has the mass penetration it once had, and particularly that it had 30 years ago. Social media has individualised media consumption habits - people read what they want to read, from sources they trust, and the mass media is no longer able to control this - they are neither able to force more people to watch what they want you to watch, or hear their narrative - such as a speech by Clinton or May, nor are they now able to prevent you from watching or hearing things they don't want you to see - such as a Trump or Corbyn rally. 

In his excellent autobiography The Purple Revolution, Nigel Farage notes that without social media and new technology, UKIP would have never become the force that it is today - as mainstream media would have continued to ignore it, while the absence of new technology would have prevented the ability of what was essentially a word-of-mouth campaign to go viral and reach a large audience. 

Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump utilised new technology to reach people and succeeded. Theresa May and Hillary Clinton relied on old technology and techniques and failed. 

Conclusion

Despite technically winning, Theresa May lost an unlosable election through a combination of arrogance, bad campaigning and a failure to listen to the people and she absolutely deserved what she got.

Jeremy Corbyn on the other hand revitalised the Labour Party and proved that left-wing populism is just as viable electorally as right-wing populism by using a number of techniques similar to those used by President Donald Trump during the 2016 Presidential campaign. 

While the end result was a narrow victory for British unionism, ultimately this is an ominous sign for the future of the United Kingdom and much work needs to be done to ensure that those forces seeking to undermine the British nation are never again allowed to get this close to the reigns of power. 

Unfortunately it seems unlikely that Britain will be able to hold off a Corbyn-led socialist government forever. Those on our side of politics must instead pray that the British right learns its lesson, reconnects with the people - and come hell or high water, that we get out of the EU before the socialists get a chance to put Brexit in jeopardy.  

About the author

A failed artist turned to politics (because when has that ever gone wrong?). A right-wing populist, Red Tory, civic nationalist and Westie, railing on behalf of blue-collar people against the liberal globalist elite.