1. This election was and was not about Brexit. The PM called it to ensure a government that could last five years and see out any prolonged exit negotiations, but during the campaign the narrative moved to public spending, because of the mistakes over the manifesto and because Corbyn and Labour relentlessly focused on their raft of spending promises. In London seats Remain voters clearly played a part in large swings against the Conservatives, but the picture is less clear outside the capital.

 

  1. The lack of many explicit differences on Brexit between Labour and the Conservatives was a problem for the Conservative campaign but can be good for the British negotiating position. We now have a government which can only command a small majority in the Commons, even allowing for a dozen strong Labour leavers, and so a consensual approach to Brexit is vital. Both Labour and Conservatives need to work together on joint goals of prioritising trade links whilst respecting referendum result means free movement cannot continue as currently. Soft/Hard Brexit has always been a misnomer; there is no binary choice, as other non-EU European countries relationship with the bloc demonstrate. Whilst the EU insists on the indivisibility of the four freedoms as criteria for single market membership (a political rather than an economic decision) then it remains off the table, as both Labour and Conservatives have acknowledged. The current model with non-EU members having no significant say on its rules for non-EU members also rules out single market membership on those terms. Once the dust settles we may find no real change in the fundamentals of the Brexit negotiations, (the only parties in England committed to a second referendum , the Liberal Democrats and Greens, both saw their vote share decline) except a greater imperative for all parties to work together in the national interest.

 

  1. The public are tired of austerity. Yes, it’s a familiar vicious circle of Labour governments overspending and Conservatives forced to take the flak for necessary controls on the public finances, but something needs to change in the government’s approach and language. Austerity was never simply an ideological choice, it was borne of necessity, our national debt is still rising even after 7 years, but voters need more optimism. In a way that’s what David Cameron’s much maligned (and badly termed) big society was designed to address. I don’t pretend to have the answers – we cannot continue to spend more than we earn as a country – but deep thinking is needed on how to convince voters the Conservative Party cares about their concerns.

 

  1. The Union is Stronger. The SNP have finally rediscovered political gravity, what goes up must come down. Their wilful neglect of Scottish health and education problems in pursuit of the single goal of independence has come back to haunt them at the ballot box. Voters in Scotland, as elsewhere, are tired of uncertainty, they do not want a second independence referendum at this time. Nicola Sturgeon appeared to recognise that yesterday and promised to reflect. Let’s hope she listens to the message of 2017, but no one should kid themselves independence is dead forever.

 

  1. Perception is everything in politics. Theresa May posted the highest Conservative vote share since 1987, posted the biggest Conservative increase in vote share since 1979 (just after the Winter of Discontent) and won more votes than Tony Blair in 1997. Yet, she comes out of the election weakened having lost her overall majority and failed to set out what she achieved. Jeremy Corbyn led Labour to its third election defeat in a row, have only just recovered the party to the level of seats it won when Gordon Brown lost in 2010, but he posted the biggest rise in the Labour vote since Attlee in 1945 and emerges firmly in control of Labour (for now).

 

  1. The Labour left is here to stay. In the event this government did last the full five years there’s a good chance Jeremy Corbyn himself may not be there at the next election, he may want a quieter life in his 70s, but almost certainly his wing of the Labour Party will remain in control. Even if outnumbered in parliament, they have seized the momentum (pun intended) in the national party and will be emboldened by this result. That is terrifying for anyone who read their manifesto and its fantasy economics, sadly it may take the damage a left-wing Labour government inflicts on the country to remind everyone why they have been banished from power for 40 years. Young people voted for Labour in droves because they saw in their utopian platform a brighter future, they will pay the highest price when it does not come to pass. The best the Conservatives can do is present their own optimistic alternative and try to point out the fundamental flaws in Labour’s plans. The media also has a role here. Personally demonising Corbyn was a tactical mistake by the right-wing press, but proper scrutiny of his policies is the responsibility of all parts of print and broadcast media.

 

  1. The rise of Parliament shows no sign of abating. The recent trend of parliament holding the executive to account looks set to continue with another government lacking a firm majority in the Commons. Parliament has an important role to play in scrutinising the Brexit process, but with that comes a responsibility to take tough and sometimes unpopular decisions. The 2013 Syria vote is a reminder that MPs can be tempted by the populist approach. On Brexit we need MPs ready to take responsibility and stand up for the national interest when the crunch time comes.

 

  1. Northern Ireland should no longer be the forgotten corner of the Union. The critical role of the DUP in providing the numbers to support the government has brought the province back into public focus. Since the Good Friday agreement the rest of the UK has quietly forgotten about the 1.8 million UK citizens across the Irish Sea. That needs to change. Devolved government remains in chaos. The Irish border issue needs to work for both sides. The Northern Irish economy needs putting on a firmer footing.

 

  1. What the UK needs now more than anything is stability. People are voted out, another election may become unavoidable, but it is in the whole UK’s interest to have a government, working consensually with other parties, completing the Brexit negotiations in the 22 months remaining. The Prime Minister was right not to resign yesterday, she did after all, win. It has not been a good campaign, but good campaigners are not always good at government, and vice versa. Right now the country needs her to get on with the job of negotiating Brexit, and as long as she is happy to do so the country would not forgive the Conservative Party for focusing on internal politics at this time. The future leadership question is just that, for the future.

 

  1. (b) Supplementary thought. Honeymoon fade / do campaigns change elections? This will be one for historians. To what extent did the contrasting campaigns change the final result? 1987 springs to mind as an example of a bad government campaign and good Labour one not notably impacting a sizeable Conservative victory. Was 2017 the opposite or was it all about May killing her own extended honeymoon when she called the election? Once she was running for something not just seen as almost above politics her stratospheric ratings plunged and her known weaknesses were focused on. Not unlike Hillary Clinton’s transition from Secretary of State to 2016 candidate…
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