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How can May hang on? asks Chris Moncrieff

By Chris Moncrieff | In-depth | Published:

[STANDFIRST] Theresa May showed how to win an election and be humiliated in the process. How on earth can she cling to power with the political situation in such turmoil, and the Conservative Party in utter disarray? Chris Moncrieff doubts whether she will

Ruth Davidson

n Theresa May achieved the seemingly impossible political feat on June 8: she both won and lost the general election in a single go.

How on earth can she or the Tories survive with a minority Government (controversially including some Democratic Unionists) with a rampant Labour Party and scores of angry Conservative MPs saying she should go? She is not so much a lame duck as a dying duck in political terms.

Her constant repetition of moronic mantra like “strong and stable Government” and “coalition of chaos” began to grate after the first 200 times. And there was too much “me, me, me” about her campaign, which people did not like. She also angered pensioners - a fatal move.

And why can’t politicians follow their own instincts about running the campaign, rather than employing expensive “experts” who proved worse than useless?

It is easy to talk with the advantage of hindsight, but May made a reckless, if bold, decision to call an election, which was totally unnecessary and catastrophic. She ended up with her face spattered with egg and the Tory Party on its knees.

Who might succeed her? Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, is a possibility, but a Westminster seat would have to be found for her. There is the inevitable Boris Johnson, or Home Secretary Amber Rudd, although her majority at Hastings and Rye is too small to risk.

Theresa May looked strong and resolute when she called the fateful election. Now she is a diminished figure, a humiliated political wreck.

n Those who say Labour really won the election are simply wrong. They secured substantially fewer seats than the Conservatives, although Jeremy Corbyn – to the surprise of everyone – ran an impressive campaign, which included pulling out the youth vote. Now those many Labour MPs who have scorned him, will have to eat humble pie.

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Labour is preparing its own Queen’s Speech, while Corbyn still thinks he could be Prime Minister in this Parliament. Stranger things have happened.

n The prospect that the Democratic Unionist Party may prop up a shaky, minority Government at Westminster, has created worries in Ireland - North and South - and consternation at Westminster.

In Ireland, it is feared this could have an adverse effect on the economy of the North, and at Westminster the DUP’s views on abortion and homosexuality do not accord with the norm in Parliament. But these are not issues likely to come up at Westminster for the foreseeable future, and even if they did, they are matters for a free vote in which the Tories could put no pressure on the DUP or vice versa.Even so, they would be strange and unlikely bedfellows.

n Two quirky items from the campaign. Doris Osen who, at 87, was the oldest candidate in the entire campaign, does not appear to have suffered from her election leaflets being delivered in the wrong constituency. Osen secured 369 votes in Ilford North, more than four times the number she polled in 2015, even though her leaflets were being pushed through letterboxes in the Chingford and Woodford Green constituency.

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And how come the majority of Diane Abbott in Hackney North and Stoke Newington increased by a colossal 11,000 votes, despite her health problems during the campaign? An unanswerable question.

n Why was Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, still talking about a Tory landslide victory in the final days of the campaign when everyone else was saying it was too close to call? Did he think he knew something the rest of us did not?

Or was it simply a cunning plan to instil a sense of complacency among Tory voters, so many of them would not vote at all? We may never know...

n Poor Nick Clegg, the man who led the Liberal Democrats to near annihilation in 2015, lost his own seat. Many people thought he would lose his Sheffield Hallam seat at the previous election, but he clung on. If he had lost it then, he could probably have walked into a big grandee job in Brussels. But the prospect of a Briton getting such a job in the EU now must be rated as zero. He wouldn’t even get past the commissionaire.

n Is this the most telling of all comments from the general election and its aftermath? It is from the pen of Jim Pickard, chief political correspondent of the Financial Times: “I had better stop making jokes about Theresa May in case she ends up as my editor by September.” Many a true word...

Chris Moncrieff

By Chris Moncrieff

Journalist and former political editor of the Press Association

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