Tag Archives: General election 2017

May adopts contrite tone after Tory MPs vent anger over election

Prime minister apologises to Tories who lost seats and reaffirms top cabinet posts in DUP-backed minority government

A chastened Theresa May has apologised to her party colleagues, after squandering the Conservatives majority with an ill-fated snap general election, forcing her to turn to Northern Irelands Democratic Unionist party for backing.

A surge in support for Jeremy Corbyns Labour party and its anti-austerity message drove the Conservatives into retreat, leaving them unable to form a majority government alone.

Labour won the last seat to declare, Kensington and Chelsea, meaning it had 262 MPs and the Conservatives 318 MPs. The prime minister will seek to govern with the help of the DUPs 10 MPs.

In a contrite interview, May said: I wanted to achieve a larger majority. That was not the result we secured. And Im sorry for all those candidates and hard-working party workers who werent successful, but also for those colleagues who were MPs and ministers and contributed so much to our country and who lost their seats and who didnt deserve to lose their seats.

Her explicit apology came after some colleagues were infuriated by an earlier statement in Downing Street that failed to acknowledge the disastrous election result, which many regard as self-inflicted.

After returning from Buckingham Palace, where she received the Queens blessing to form a government, May had promised to provide certainty, and urged her colleagues: Lets get to work.

The prime minister received the staunch backing of pro-Brexit MPs, including Brexit secretary David Davis, amid fears that the election result could stall the process of leaving the European Union, with formal talks due to start within 10 days.

Steve Baker, chair of the influential pro-Brexit European Research Group of backbench MPs, said: My principal thought is that its essential that Conservative MPs support Theresa May as prime minister and make it possible to form the most stable government possible.

But throughout the day, the prime minister faced a growing public backlash from MPs and defeated candidates, who expressed their fury publicly at the way the campaign was run, and the secretive, controlling management style of Mays joint chiefs of staff: Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy.

Nicky Morgan, who was sacked as education secretary by May, said: Im reeling. I think were all reeling. I think theres real fury against the campaign and the buck stops at the top.

She said it was right for the prime minister to continue in office for the time being, but added: I think she wont fight another election and I think eventually, whether it takes weeks or months, we will have to look at the leadership.

Other MPs speculated openly about the likelihood that May could be forced to call another election within months, as she struggles to govern with a wafer-thin majority, even with the backing of the DUP.

Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP for Totnes and former chair of the Commons health committee, said: I do think she should stay on but I wouldnt be surprised if we end up having another election soon and people will be absolutely appalled by it.

May, who used a threat of a Labour-led coalition of chaos as a key attack line during the campaign, will not enter into a formal deal with the DUP but hopes to win its backing on a vote-by-vote basis. She is expected to address parliamentary colleagues next week in a bid to shore up support.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron accused her of trying to form her own coalition of chaos. He said: She put her party before her country. She has been found out. She should be ashamed.

She has brought weakness and uncertainty. If she has an ounce of self-respect she will resign.

In a sign of the prime ministers weakened authority, she reappointed the five senior cabinet members Amber Rudd, Davis, Boris Johnson, Philip Hammond and Michael Fallon despite expectations that Hammond, and perhaps Johnson, could be moved aside if she enhanced her majority.

One cabinet source said May had offered them a reassurance that things will be changing, and a remark in her television interview that she would announce further personnel changes was read by insiders as a hint that she could be ready to sacrifice Hill and Timothy. The pair were not in their usual place at her side in No 10 on Friday night, Downing Street insiders said.

More junior appointments are expected to be made at the weekend as the prime minister replaces frontbenchers who lost their seats including Ben Gummer, the former Ipswich MP who was one of the key authors of the ill-fated manifesto, and housing minister Gavin Barwell, who lost Croydon Central.

While Labour fell well short of a parliamentary majority, Corbyns team believe the result was a vindication of their upbeat, anti-cuts message, and will seek to obstruct fresh austerity measures, including Tory manifesto policies such as means-testing the winter fuel allowance, in the voting lobbies.

A spokesman for Corbyn said: We will be using the changed parliamentary arithmetic to drive home the fact that the Tory programme for five more years of austerity will not go on as before.

Labour was invigorated by an upbeat campaign, which saw the party leader address scores of mass rallies, and resulted in many MPs significantly increasing their majorities.

Longtime Conservative seats, including Canterbury in Kent, were snatched by a resurgent Labour, which polled 40% of the vote, with the Conservatives on 42%, as minor parties were squeezed. The increase in Labours vote share was the largest for any party between two general elections since 1945.

Corbyns colleagues, including those who had previously expressed strong criticism of his leadership, praised his campaign. Owen Smith, who challenged Corbyn for the party leadership last summer after saying he was unfit for the job, said: I take my hat off to him, Chuka Umunna, the Streatham MP previously considered a potential leadership challenger, said he would consider accepting a role in a Corbyn-led shadow cabinet.

In Scotland the Scottish National party lost 21 of its 56 seats, including those of party heavyweights Angus Robertson and Alex Salmond, with the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour all making gains.

Nicola Sturgeons dramatic demand for a second independence referendum before the UK leaves the EU appeared not to have enthused the electorate.

Ruth Davidsons Scottish Conservatives, who put preserving the union at the centre of their campaign, achieved the best Tory result in Scotland since 1983. Davidson pointedly tweeted a recent speech she made about gay marriage on Friday, after Mays announcement that she would work closely with the socially conservative DUP, which is opposed to gay marriage.

One explanation for Labours better-than-expected performance was its success in picking up a share of the votes lost by Ukip, which withdrew from many seats and saw its support collapse in others. Corbyns party has made a deliberate populist pitch for left behind voters; and sought to neutralise the issue of Brexit by backing Mays legislation triggering Article 50.

Ukip leader Paul Nuttall announced on Friday that he would be stepping down, after less than a year in the post, prompting speculation that Nigel Farage could step back into the role. In a speech in London, Nuttall promised his party would continue to be the guard dogs of Brexit in the months ahead.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/09/theresa-may-hopes-to-remain-pm-as-voters-deliver-hung-parliament

READ MORE

Eight reasons why Jeremy Corbyn robbed Theresa May of a landslide | Zoe Willlams

The game-changing manifesto, the galvanised youth vote a number of factors combined to create the worst Conservative campaign for decades Support our journalism by becoming a Guardian supporter or making a contribution

Youve got to love it. A political system in which theres no winner. Almost everyone, from some angle, is a loser. Nobody can work out wholl be prime minister in the morning. Everyones muttering darkly about another election in October. Weve come down to wondering whether Sinn Fin will drop its absentee policy. And all any progressive can feel is triumphant, unbridled joy. I mean, youve got to love it. Even when you hate it, youve got to love it.

What delivered this almighty blow to Theresa Mays magnificently misplaced self-belief? In no particular order or rather, I believe all these factors to be of equal importance.

1) Jeremy Corbyns manifesto

The strategically magical thing about the manifesto was ending tuition fees, which was simultaneously a brilliant, simple, persuasive bid for the self-interested allegiance of a very large and coherent body of voters, and an iteration of his authentically held belief, that tertiary education is a public good.

2) Jeremy Corbyns campaign

I read in November as part of the dazed explanation for Donald Trumps victory that stans were more important than supporters. I had to Google what a stan was: it is a wild enthusiast, an off-the-charts believer, a person who will bore the pub down. Corbyn has these, and no other British politician does. If Im honest, I read that and I still didnt believe it, but when our Wales correspondent Steven Morris said this morning: Corbyns crowd was so big in Colwyn Bay that nobody could believe that many people lived in Colwyn Bay, I thought, stans.

3) The youth vote

This is not simply about student fees: it is about Brexit; about pensions as somehow being exempt from the toxic benefits narrative; about the housing crisis; about the dovetailing of so many issues in which the status quo was seen to serve the old; about the radical, the young.

4) Voter registration among the young

From the National Union of Students; from civic tech entrepreneurs, building apps and websites of dazzling innovation; from celebrities too cautious to endorse a party but feeling it enough to push the importance of representation. One million 18- to 34-year-olds have registered to vote since the election was called. It is seismic.

5) Turnout helps

All progressive parties pin a lot of their hopes on the people who traditionally dont turn up. In the few seats that have declared as I write this, turnout has been much more like referendum levels than 2015 GE levels.

6) The Green party

They have taken a hit in vote share. Numbers in the north-east are down to the hundreds. This is because they took a moral decision to stand aside in some seats, campaign together in others, form non-aggression pacts across constituencies to prevent a Conservative landslide at any cost. The cost, to them as a party, has been pretty great. Typically, it will hit them in university towns, where their vote share was high for reason of a concentration of educated people, thinking about things. In Newcastle-upon-Tyne East, they were down nearly seven points. The very least the Labour party, and all of us, can do is to acknowledge that this was the result of decisive action on their part, and not just an unfortunate loss of interest in the environment.

7) That coalition of chaos (or progressive alliance, as we prefer to call it)

While the Greens were the only party to pursue it officially, local activists in huge numbers, from the Liberal Democrats, Labour, the Womens Equality party, the National Health Action party, worked together to maximise their chances.

8) The internet has finally done something useful

The Conservatives ran their banner ads on Facebook as usual, but this time the progressive wing came back: Crowdpac raised money for candidates and campaigns; networks built up between British progressives and Bernie Sanders campaigners, which yielded new activism in the squishy meat world; tactical voting found online organisation that turned it into tactical campaigning.

Psephologists and commentators will spend the next few days talking about technicalities and tactics: how did the SNP lose what to whom? Why didnt the Liberals bounce? When will the Conservatives turn against May? Who will seek allegiance from where, to demand what kind of dominance? But never forget that this was the power of the swarm, people in huge numbers voting in ways that even the bookies told them they never would.

And just as an afterthought: it was the worst Conservative campaign in living memory. And thats even if you remember Michael Howard.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/09/jeremy-corbyn-theresa-may-landslide-manifesto-youth-vote-conservative-campaign

READ MORE

General election: May falters during challenge over record on public services

PM confronted by nurse over issue of low pay in Question Time special, while Jeremy Corbyn is questioned over Trident and national security

Theresa May came under sustained pressure over the Conservative partys record on public sector pay, mental health services and social care in a combative election edition of BBC1s Question Time broadcast less than a week before polling day.

The prime minister faced a string of awkward questions from members of the public, including a challenge from a nurse, Victoria Davey, who left May faltering after confronting her over the 1% pay increase received by NHS staff.

May said she recognised the hard work people did in the health service but said her party had taken the difficult decision of enforcing pay restraint. Im being honest with you saying we will put more money in, but there isnt a magic money tree that we can shake to get everything we want, she said.

The prime minister claimed wages in the NHS had increased, to which a man in the audience shouted that there had been a real-terms salary drop of 14% since 2010, adding: So dont tell us were getting a pay rise.

One woman from the audience became emotional as she described emerging from a fitness-for-work test in tears after being asked about her suicide attempts. Im not going to make any excuses for the experience youve had, said the prime minister.

Under pressure after refusing to turn up for a TV debate earlier in the week, May was animated at first and rejected an accusation that she had performed a U-turn by calling a snap general election. No its not, sir I had the balls to call an election, she said.

Appearing straight after May on the programme, Jeremy Corbyn also faced hostile questioning, coming under pressure over defence and security.

Pressed over his willingness to push the nuclear button in the face of imminent threat, the Labour leader said: I think the idea of anyone ever using a nuclear weapon anywhere in the world is utterly appalling and terrible. It would result in the destruction of lives and community and environment of millions of people. I would be actively engaged to ensure that danger didnt come about.

Asked again if there were any circumstances in which he would use such a weapon, Corbyn said his party had committed to renew Trident. I would view the idea of using a nuclear weapon as something resulting in a failure of the whole worlds diplomatic system, he said. There has to be no first use. There has to be a process of engagement to bring about ultimately global nuclear disarmament You cannot countenance a world in which we could all be destroyed by nuclear war.

Jeremy
Jeremy Corbyn takes questions from the audience. Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images

The comments led to a heated exchange, with an exasperated member of the audience asking if Corbyn would not even fire back if attacked.

I would say no first use of the weapon. That has to be the basis of what we do, the Labour leader said.

He then argued: Weve only got one planet, lets get together when we live on it and above all lets not destroy it The most effective use of it is not to use it because it is there.

Corbyn did receive support from one woman in the audience who said she could not understand why others wanted to kill millions of people by discharging a nuclear weapon.

Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, said later: There is no point in having a nuclear weapon unless you are willing in principle to deploy it. Im afraid there is a lesson here about Jeremy Corbyns psychology and his politics and his naivety, with which he approaches not just the logic of the nuclear deterrent but also the Brexit negotiations.

Corbyn began his appearance, and received cheers, when he said that he would have preferred to be debating the prime minister head-to-head. He challenged May to spell out the impact of her dementia tax in the final days of the election, saying it was staggering that pensioners would not be told the level of a promised cap on social care costs.

In her session, May was asked why she was not able to provide details of the maximum amount of money people would have to spend on social care, which was only promised after days of backlash against the policy.

May defended her failure to set out additional details, even though the policy is blamed for reducing the Conservatives lead in the polls in the past fortnight. Were talking about two different things. On the floor, its important people have a protection of their savings, which is greater than it is today. Thats why weve set it at 100,000. But on the cap, I think its right we have that consultation, with individuals, with organisations that deal with these issues, with charities to make sure we get that at the right level, she said.

May focused on Brexit and attacks on Labour over the question of leadership two subjects her campaign is planning to concentrate on in the final few days of the campaign.

I called a general election because I believe the British people have a right to vote and say who they want to see leading them through the Brexit process, she said. And I believe they should have a prime minister with a resolute determination to carry out their will.

On Friday, May attempted to court business with a Financial Times interview in which she vowed to consult companies during Brexit negotiations. She promised she would work with business and identify with them what their main concerns are when it comes to designing a new immigration system, and stressed that there would be an implementation phase.

On the BBC1 programme, she hit out at Corbyn with her election mantra that he could only get into Downing Street propped up by the Lib Dems and the Scottish Nationalists, adding: Youd have Diane Abbott, who cant add up around the cabinet table, John McDonnell who is a Marxist, Nicola Sturgeon who wants to break our country up and Tim Farron who wants to take us back into the EU.

The audience challenged Corbyn on Labours policies on a higher minimum wage, corporation tax rises and zero-hour contracts, with one man claiming the agenda would hurt business.

The Labour leader responded by saying there would be support for small firms to cope with the increase in the wages that employees would be entitled to. There are many big companies that could well afford to pay it and shouldnt be just paying the minimum wage, he said.

Small companies could have problems, we fully recognise that, Corbyn added, but said a Labour government would work with them, either to give them tax relief or support in order to make sure the real living wage was paid but they didnt close down as a result.

Asked by student Edward Robbins about the zero-hours contracts that offer casual, flexible work, Corbyn said: Im not going to stop you working, its OK.

Andrew Gwynne, Labours election coordinator said: Its very regrettable the prime minister wouldnt debate with Jeremy and, after tonight, I can see why. She has no answers to the issues that really concern people on the doorstep, the NHS and cuts facing our schools, and far from appearing strong and stable, she was definitely on the back foot answering most of the questions pitched to her.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/02/general-election-may-falters-during-challenge-over-record-on-public-services

READ MORE