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A hung parliament and a lot of disappointment. The 2017 General Election

We did actually have an article prepared for a hung parliament with the Conservatives as the largest party and popular vote winner. It was about their collapse, May’s humiliation and the difficult road to coalition. Where two of those three things are true – the road to either coalition or supply and demand agreement is rather simple now – that isn’t the most interesting angle of these results.

I don’t think I’ve made the fact I don’t like Jeremy Corbyn and his campaign group Momentum a secret. Here’s what I wrote two years ago. I also don’t think I’ve made the fact I don’t like the right wing of the Conservatives, especially the Eurosceptic fanatics (you know, the ones who’ll blame the EU if they trip up on their shoe laces) a secret. Yet those are the groups that (in an abstract way) won yesterday.

Corbyn lost this election by every normal measure. He lost the popular vote and he won fewer seats in Westminster than the Conservatives. We can’t get away from that. He, and his campaign group, also proved a concept.

Labour decided before this election to hand out billions of pounds (if they won) to students, in one of the most regressive redistributions of wealth proposed in post-war Britain. That was to build on a constituency in which he was already strong – students. More likely to vote than your average young person, more likely to vote Labour than your average voter, and more likely to like Corbyn than your average Labour voter.

Over 90% of students were registered to vote, and the majority of them were voting Labour. Yet we’ve heard that before – and it rarely makes a difference. After all, students are back home, term is over and they don’t all vote in the same place as a big bloc.

This is where Momentum come in. They managed to make the most of every single student vote in a way that we’ve seldom seen before. Some of Labour’s most impressible, or unexpected, victories came in university seats. Portsmouth South, Cambridge, Sheffield Hallam. The other parties didn’t expect such Labour gains in any of those constituencies.

Momentum not only mobilised young people to vote, but to register in the constituency in which their vote meant the most.

Labour’s gains in popular votes and seat numbers, and the Tories slipping back on the latter count, means that Corbyn is probably safe as Labour leader. The fact that his great victory against the polls and expectations leaves Labour with no possible route to coalition – a problem that would topple other leaders – is no issue with the current Labour membership.

It is worth noting that the figures we have don’t indicate a massive Tory collapse. They were polling in the high 40%s at the start of this campaign, with a high point of 49%, and slipped back to a final result of 42.4%. That is within the range of what you would expect looking at the campaign they ran. Labour was polling relatively consistently at or around 25% early in this campaign, but finished on 40%. 

The greatest irony of all of this is that all of these Labour voters have given a huge amount of power to the DUP – an anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion and pro-Brexit party to the right of the Tories. They are now the kingmakers.

You may previously have expected that an increased Tory majority would reduce the influence of pro-hard-Brexit extremists in their parliamentary party. The smart money was on an increased Tory majority negating the ‘no deal’ faction and promoting a hard-but-not-too-hard Brexit.

For all the talk from leading Brexit supporting commentators of the UK’s departure now being at risk, and the popular – though not entirely correct – interpretation of the vote as a vote against Brexit, the Conservatives are now held to ransom by a party that will only accept the hardest of departures.

This is the worst possible outcome of the election. Corbyn lost but stays on, May stays on, hard Brexit is cemented, the Tories are held to ransom by a party to their right, and third parties collapse across England. The only ray of hope now comes in the form of Ruth Davidson, and the SNP collapse. Perhaps the successes of a charismatic and liberal Tory leader in Scotland will provide the party with a far more palatable roadmap in the future. 

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