It wasn’t the Tory decimation you think, but the worst is yet to come


Credit: PA

Many a bleary-eyed journalist will today be poring over their copy from the day before to learn what sleep-deprived sentences they typed into this morning’s papers.

Was it really a Tory demise?

In six weeks, Theresa May saw her double-digit lead over her “unelectable” opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, whittle away to just a handful of percentage points, and her reputation as the “safe pair of hands” fall to the ground like the rain that fell on Friday morning.

Despite her slim majority being slashed, it is the first time in modern UK political history that either of the leading political parties have seen their vote share increase and their seat takings decrease.

In that sense, it wasn’t the Tory destruction and Labour ascension some of the papers have reported. Labour increased its share of the vote jump by 9.5%, and the Tories grew by 5.5%. The story in the numbers is we have returned to a strong two-party political game.

The last time Labour and the Conservatives both had over 40% of the vote was in the Heath-Wilson election of 1970. Despite the papers saying the extraordinary (and it was extraordinary) turnout by young people “thwarting” May’s victory, this was still a growth for the Tories.

That should not be cause to dampen the spirits of the now-active youth vote in this country. As a new generation of voters comes to the fore, it is with welcoming arms we should accept them into the new era of politics, for a new era it will be.

It is hard to remember a time when both domestic and international politics was so turbulent, and the world needs active, young and innovative minds to turn politics into a system to fit the new world in which we live.

The DUP pact

Despite my fellow young voters’ best efforts, though, it looks to be a backwards step with this new government set-up. Theresa May has done the unthinkable in going into an informal coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland.

Remember 2015? I mean, I know yesterday morning feels like years ago, but 2015 was only two years ago. Remember the Tories deploring the idea of Miliband going into coalition with the SNP? How on earth could the Scottish National Party govern the UK?

It seems the DUP can do a better job of it, because May has now relying on the anti-abortion, climate change-denying, LGBT rights-denying party that caused so much hurt in Northern Ireland, and still has high-profile MPs in the Orange Order.

Edwin Poots MLA, DUP politician, also once said of the big bang theory: “You’re telling me that cosmic balls of dust gathered and there was an explosion. We’ve had lots of explosions in Northern Ireland and I’ve never seen anything come out of that that was good,” he told the Radio Times.

The only positive thing in the DUP partnership is their softer approach to Brexit, and their unwilligness to have a hard border with the rest of Ireland.

This is not a partnership that will stand the test of time. Already, political pundits are expecting another general election in 12 to 18 months time, and it might not be Theresa May leading the Conservative Party in that election.


Meanwhile, in Scotland, there was a significant shift away from the SNP. The move should not be jumped on too much, though. Bear in mind, the election of 56 MPs from the SNP came after a political “tsunami” that was taking place at the time.

I interviewed Scottish Justice Secretary Michael Matheson on Thursday on that point and he admitted “it is going to be very difficult to hold onto the title of 56 out of 59 MPs”.

Even though the SNP lost far more MPs than they would have liked, they still salvaged 59% of Scottish seats, more than any other party combined.

At the same time, despite their good performance in Scotland, the Tories now face a crisis whereby the more moderate Scottish Conservatives strongly disapprove of the DUP arrangements.

Ruth Davidson retweeted several tweets yesterday, calling on the safeguarding of LGBT rights. Apparently, she has received assurances from the PM those rights are guaranteed.

The north-east

The biggest loss for the SNP was the north-east, with political heavyweights like Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson losing their seats of Gordan and Moray. This highlights a significant disconnect between Holyrood and the top right of the country.

According to the ONS, the higher median wage areas in Scotland tended to vote Conservative. In the north-east, places like Gordon, Aberdeen South, and West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (areas with media wages £20-25K and Aberdeen South with £25-30K).


Credit: ONS

All areas voted Conservative. Stirling, another high-profile switch, also clocks a £20-25K median earning. Meanwhile, in East Renfrewshire (the only Tory seat in the Glasgow area, has one of the highest median salaries in Scotland.

Of course, these are heuristic methods of analysis, for there were many areas in which the Tories were successful with below £20K median salaries, and places where Labour and the SNP won with high median salaries.

The national issues

Certainly, independence and personality had an effect in Scotland. Resistance to another independence referendum – which, unlike in 2011’s Scottish election or the 2016 election, was framed as being dependent on this election – was a factor this time around.

Support for #indyref2 has had a turbulent few months: search “Support for independence in Scotland” into Google, and you have a BBC report in March on independence support being at “highest ever level”, and a Telegraph article immediately below it with support slumping to 40% by April.

Whether that is down to methodologies from the pollsters is up for debate, but it is lower than the 45% in 2014, but certainly higher than what it was in 2011.

It could also be the case this was a vote against Nicola Sturgeon. Her popularity slumped since September, according to Ipsos Mori. Then again, so had most of the Scottish leaders’ approval ratings.

Nevertheless, Sturgeon has always had very divided approval, being the most approved of and, at times, most disapproved figure in Scottish politics. She has become the face of Scottish politics, and it would not be surprising to have seen that backfire on her.

Where to from here?

In the end, it is impossible to imagine a long-term relationship between the Tories and DUP going forward. It is unlikely such a partnership would be allowed to last, and that can really only mean another general election, or a minrotiy government.

Trouble is, would that create a majority government? It is almost unlikely. Like a bus, you do not get a coalition government for decades, and then two come along in less than ten years.

And we have barely talked about Brexit this past 24 hours.


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