Theresa May is the laughing stock of Europe

June 11, 2017

by Martin Odoni

Roll up! Roll up! Have I got a deal for you?!

If you are looking for a holiday to the Bahamas, and you have slightly more than enough money to afford it, but want a bit more left over afterwards, this is your lucky day.

Because I am prepared to offer you an arrangement where you give me all of that money, and in return, with absolutely no strings attached, I will give you slightly less than enough to afford the holiday back, and then you can try and borrow the rest of the cash off of a few religious fanatics from Northern Ireland.

How does that sound? What a great offer, right?

So far, I have had one enthusiastic customer taking me up on this generous deal – I shall refrain from revealing her identity except to let you know that her name is Theresa – but I am sure that plenty of you lucky people will leap at this chance too. I mean, you were happy enough to take up an offer of £350 million for the NHS last summer….

Theresa May has committed the biggest blunder in British political history. That is not an exaggeration. I have thought hard about this over the last forty-odd hours and, terrible though some were, I can genuinely think of no other that was this bad. She needlessly called a General Election late in April, in an attempt to dig a very deep hole in which to bury Jeremy Corbyn. But when she tried to push him into the hole, he simply stepped to one side, causing May to over-balance and fall into it herself. Somehow, from a starting lead of twenty points in the polls, facing a deeply divided and dysfunctional Opposition Labour Party, and with the confident expectation of winning a one-hundred-seat majority in the House of Commons, May managed to lose the smaller majority she already had, and is now trapped in a Hung Parliament.

With this mistake, Theresa May has turned herself into the greatest laughing stock in Europe. While polite noises of concern have been expressed by leaders in the European Union over the fresh confusion Thursday’s Election result is likely to cause, there have also been plenty of contemptuous noises. One cannot help suspecting that the contemptuous noises – especially from Radoslaw Sikorski or Guy Verhofstadt – are the more truthful ones.

Brexit is becoming more and more a form of self-harm

A Dutch cartoon highlighting how the British, and in particular Theresa May, are becoming increasingly self-destructive.

The whole pretext for calling the Election was that May wanted a proper mandate for negotiating withdrawal from the EU. This was not as untrue as it might appear. There were a few reasons for it, but it would genuinely have been useful to her to have a larger majority for the negotiations, but not for the reasons she presented. She made it sound like she wanted it to increase her credibility when dealing with EU leaders. In truth, it was more about trying to protect herself against rebellions by Euro-skeptic MPs in her own party, should the eventual deal extracted from the EU prove not to their liking.

But the reality is that, whatever the reason for calling the Election, May has simply wasted six weeks of precious negotiation time, and surrendered three more years of governing with a small-but-workable majority, just to be hamstrung by operating a minority Government propped up by a party of homophobic sectarian terrorists.

(NOTE: If any supporters of the Democratic Unionist Party happen to read this, and find the terrorist references objectionable, I feel it only fair to point out that they have never hesitated to call Sinn Fein ‘part of the Irish Republican Army’. Given the overlap between the DUP and Loyalist Paramilitaries in Ulster, especially the Ulster Defence Association, is at least as great as the overlap between Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA, it really is time Unionist fanatics grew up a bit and accepted that they cannot have it both ways.)

I struggle to think of a more meagre return on an investment in the history of British Elections than what May has sifted from this one. So when she arrives at the negotiating table, if the EU delegates want to push her around, she has handed them fantastic material with which to do so.

As for May’s prospective alliance with the DUP, it is unlikely to remain stable for long at all, given genuine differences between the two parties on social policy, and on leaving the EU. The DUP want a ‘soft Brexit’, retaining access to the single market and keeping the Irish border open, whereas the Tories, perhaps at the insistence of the lunatic, UKIP-bordering fringe in the House of Commons, are looking for a total severance from the Union.

Furthermore, with the DUP’s crazed attitudes to homosexuality, climate change, creationism, and abortion, soft-right Conservatives will really struggle to stomach an alliance. There are already very public rumblings of alarm from some of the (relatively) moderate members of the Parliamentary Conservative Party.

Screenshot from 2017-06-10 17-15-46

The unhappiness of Tory MPs about working with the DUP will be heightened by the narrow margin of some of their constituency victories in the Election. The swing towards Labour across the UK was very dramatic, and even in seats the Tories retained, the winning margin at the ballot box was often slight. The most prominent example of that was Amber Rudd in Hastings, who only retained her seat after two nail-biting recounts. But she was by no means the only one to survive a close shave. A range of Tory MPs are now only in place by knife-edge margins, and none of them will therefore be enthusiastic about supporting any controversial policies. But given the throwback nature of the DUP, it is hard to imagine any policies May can come up with that will simultaneously be uncontroversial enough for her own backbenchers while still being hard-line enough for the DUP to see as worth the bother of continuing to support her.

Not for the first time in recent weeks, May’s handling of her chosen approach has done her and her party no favours. While it is understandable that she sees an alliance with the DUP as the only way of establishing some kind of majority – it is objectively true – she really needs to be more careful about how she speaks about it. On announcing that she was looking to form the alliance on Friday, she dropped yet another clanger by referring to the DUP as “friends”.

Given the endless tidal waves of accusation aimed at Jeremy Corbyn over once, purely as a diplomatic nicety, referring to Hamas as “friends”, it is frankly nauseating that May has not been taken equally to task in the media over referring to the paramilitary-allied DUP in the same terms. This is doubly unsettling given what a serious danger Brexit poses to Northern Ireland and the peace process there.

The alliance itself also creates problems for Northern Ireland. Its legality may be in doubt, due to the Tories’ own ‘English-Votes-for-English-Laws’ rules, and due to the Good Friday Agreement’s requirement for non-partisan British governance within Ulster. For the DUP to exercise an influence on Westminster’s administration that Nationalist or Republican parties, such as the Social Democratic Labour Party or Sinn Fein, do not is a probable violation.

There are so many obstacles, both to setting the alliance up, and to maintaining it, that I find it very hard to believe that May’s new Government will see in the year 2018. If there is, as I currently suspect, a second General Election to happen later this year, I can only see the Labour Party winning it. Theresa May has been made to look hopelessly inadequate, while her party has no serious alternative candidates to put forward to replace her, and their public image is already being further-harmed by association with the DUP. Meanwhile, Labour’s support is continuing to surge without a post-Election pause for breath. If May’s new Government has to resign, Jeremy Corbyn will, after so many people insisted he could not, become Prime Minister.

Here are a few other, miscellaneous conclusions I have drawn from an extraordinary Election Night; –

1) YouGov should abandon its usual model of polling and focus on the one they used for the Brexit Referendum. It correctly projected all the way through that Leave would win, and it was also the first model to predict a Hung Parliament for the General Election. The final poll of YouGov‘s standard model, by contrast, proved to be hopelessly wrong.

2) The Hung Parliament could embolden a lot of MPs in the UK who have long been much too afraid of upsetting right-wing press barons like Rupert Murdoch. (This failure-of-influence is probably why Murdoch apparently threw a childish hissy-fit when the BBC/Sky Exit Poll was announced). For Jeremy Corbyn to run the popular vote so close after two years of unending smears by the Tory red-tops and even the supposedly ‘liberal-left’ media like The Guardian, it is becoming obvious that the influence of mainstream newspapers on public opinion is on the wane.

3) Following on from 2), my hypothesis when Corbyn became Labour leader was that social media was beginning to erode the grip of the traditional press. The  General Election appears to confirm this. Not only is social media effective as a high-speed ‘debunking’ tool, it is also far better at getting through to and mobilising younger voters. When it comes to tapping the potential of the Internet, Corbyn’s Labour (especially support groups like Momentum) appear to be streets ahead of the Tories, whose campaigning style in cyberspace seems not to have advanced since about 2010.

4) A lot of Blairites and ‘soft-left’ Parliamentary figures in the Labour Party have not only been made to apologise to Jeremy Corbyn – and what delicious fun it has been watching them squirm – they are also coming to realise that a very central article-of-faith they have followed for half their lives and more was wrong. They have insisted for years and years that old-style Labour policies will never chime with the British Electorate anymore. But, while Labour still have work to do before they can secure an actual majority in the House of Commons, the Blairites have nonetheless seen that the ‘Real Left’ does have considerable appeal to the public. The last General Election in which Labour secured over forty per cent of the popular vote was Tony Blair’s first as leader in 1997. In Blair’s two subsequent victories, in Gordon Brown’s defeat in 2010, and in Ed Miliband’s humiliation in 2015, the total Labour vote declined sharply and consistently. Thanks to Corbyn’s invigorating campaign, for the first time since 1997, Labour’s vote-share has gone up again, nay, surged up, from a dismal twenty-nine percent to over forty per cent in the space of just two years. In terms of vote-count, Corbyn’s performance is even more startling. With nearly thirteen million votes going to Labour, in most Elections he would have had plenty to secure Number 10 there and then. All of which means the Blairite ideologues have a toe-curling question to ponder; just how much potential support have these fools spurned over the last fifteen years or so, by ignoring the young and disengaged, and insisting on trying to poach Tory voters with half-baked offers of queasy-conscience neoliberalism instead? How many supporters might they have earned by offering a more daring policy-platform? Or indeed, how much better might they have done by trying to engage with the public in a less-television-centred way? Now in fairness, Blairite campaigning approaches worked in the infant age of the modern Internet, because social media still did not really exist back in the late-1990’s. Looking good on television and sounding suave on the radio were still sufficient. But that mainstream-only style is now obsolete, and until Thursday night, the Blairites appear to have missed that development completely.

5) Corbyn’s own campaign-style, in some respects, is even more old-fashioned, but unlike the Blairites’ mainstream-media-dominated approach, it remains effective. Corbyn was going on rallies, talking to people face-to-face, getting on the soapbox and addressing crowds in their thousands. In short, he showed up. He was there in person, which is always good politics. That side of his approach is no different from the campaigning style of politicians from the distant past, such as Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone. But for all its oldness of style, it still works consistently, and probably always will. Indeed, hand-in-hand with modern social media technology, providing live video streams of big events, and avalanches of digital photos that can be shared around the world within seconds, it is probably more effective now than ever. By contrast, radio-and-TV-only skills are really quite hit-and-miss these days, because a lot of the electorate will only have passing contact with them.

6) The main argument for retaining the hopelessly-outdated First-Past-The-Post system for British General Elections is that they are more likely to “create strong Government” than Proportional Representation systems. However, the post-Credit Crunch era in Westminster has given the lie to that once and for all. There have been three General Elections in just the last seven years. Two of them have led to Hung Parliaments, and one of them led to an overall majority of just twelve – with the Prime Minister therefore left at the mercy of the extremist fringe of the governing party. So clearly it is high time to dump the assumption that the older system protects the Government from instability, because the facts do not substantiate it.

7) My my, but Tony Blair has been awfully quiet, has he not? Has there been some development from this General Election upon which he now finds it embarrassing to reflect? I wonder what that might be…?

Screenshot from 2017-06-10 23-11-41

No, nothing springs to my mind either. So maybe Blair is just too busy preparing his defence case for when he is standing in the dock in the Hague in the fairly near future?

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4 Responses to “Theresa May is the laughing stock of Europe”


  1. JC 4PM
    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”. – Mahatma Gandhi


  2. The Torys have lost touch with the people and made even worse by Theresa May?
    They will pay dearly for this in the future!
    The Tories think they are a class above the people and treat them with contempt for which their worthlessness will become more and more transparent!


  3. An excellently presented blogpost. Just one emphasis to add, that while Blair and others rejected Old Labour, a pall of political apathy entered the political stage. The new invigoration by the return of Old Labour shows that a bracing left wing is good for British political discourse in general, and the Labour party in particular. The re-politicisation of the electorate is not just about soical media and populism, it is also about integrity, idealism, and common humanity, traits Corbyn has presented, as well as messaging of policy.

  4. Sophia.George 💋 Says:

    Excellent blog martin. As you know my capacity isn’t great but, I’ve read it a few times and I think it’s in to stay in x keep up the great work xxxx


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