By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana
As the Big Ben struck ten on Thursday 8th night, all three news-channels in UK; BBC, ITV and Sky, gave the results of their joint exit poll to a stunned British public: “There will be a hung parliament with Conservatives getting 314 of the 650 seats”. In spite of a blundering campaign, everyone expected Theresa May to win with an increased majority though the prospect of the landslide predicted, at the time of the surprise dissolution of Parliament, faded due to the unexpected good performance of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Many supporters of the two major parties still felt the exit polls to be wrong as Conservatives could not believe they were doing so badly and Labour that they could do so well. As the results started pouring in, the first being out amazingly just 61 minutes after the polls closed at 10 pm, it became clear, unlike opinion polls which got almost everything in recent times wrong, that the exit poll was correct. Conservatives ended up with 318, 13 less than what they had and Labour increased its’ tally by 30 to 262; still 64 short to form a Government. The last to declare was Kensington, one of the richest areas in UK where Labour turned a Conservative majority of over 7000 to win by 20 votes, after three recounts, which was not the only surprise of the night. The mayhem created by this miscalculation by May is likely to continue for quite some time.
While watching this enthralling spectacle, my mind went back to another eight, 8th January 2015; yet another day when a politician committed an unwarranted political suicide. Mahinda Rajapaksa went to the polls two years ahead of schedule, supposedly on the advice of an astrologer. No wonder we are still not a developed country, in spite of all the natural resources and extraordinary human resources we possess, as we are still dwelling in the past entombed by superstitions. Unlike mayhem, the doom and gloom, on 9th June there was optimism on 9th January 2015; the newly elected President making an inauguration speech that painted the glory of a new dawn. Unfortunately, quite soon, it became apparent that the ‘Foreign’ engineered regime change was by the politicians for the politicians to commit ‘day-light’ robberies. Hope turned to despair and the promised new dawn turned out simply to be a mirage.Mahinda’s gamble did not make Sri Lanka any better and do hope the mayhem created by Theresa may’s gamble will not make UK go the same way.
Theresa May wanted to strengthen her hand at Brexit negotiations but the voters showed that they are more interested in their daily life. Of course, Labour promised everything to everyone including dropping ‘University Tuition Fees’ which was introduced by a previous Labour Government. Perhaps, this was the key promise that spurred the youth vote at the last moment which gave them a totally unexpected good result. In fact, it was hilarious to see them celebrating as if they had won though Labour lost the election! There is hardly anything more to promise in a future manifesto and it is unlikely Labour can come to power unless they move to the ‘centre’ in politics which they are not likely to do as long as Jeremy Corbyn is in command. Their most successful leader was Tony Blair, who ‘stole’ the centre-ground from Tories and had three phenomenal wins. But, he is hated now, more by Labour supporters than Tories! Perhaps, his unwarranted intervention helped Jeremy Corbyn. Pity, Tony Blair does not withdraw into retirement, away from the glare like his good friend ‘Dubya’ Bush had done, so that Iraq war may be forgotten and the public give him the recognition he deserves for what he achieved in his ten years in Downing Street.
Theresa May was not the only casualty of this election. The extreme right UK Independence Party, perhaps having served its’ usefulness, haemorrhaged votes not only to Conservatives as expected, but also to Labour which partly explains why Labour did better than expected. Their party leader who contested in Boston, the so-called Brexit capital of UK, was humiliated by becoming third. Former Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg lost his seat in the University town, Sheffield Hallam; really he should have lost it in the last election considering hid U-turn on Tuition fees just to be in political power.
The biggest casualty of this election was the Scottish National Party, the party dedicated to separating Scotland from the union. Having failed in it’s attempt once, Scots voting from their brains than hearts at what was thought to be the referendum for a generation, Nicola Sturgeon wanted to make a second referendum an issue. SNP that had almost a clean sweep in the 2015 election, lost 21 seats including that of their former leader,the charismatic politician Alex Salmond and their Westminster Party Leader Angus Robertson. Party leader Nicola Sturgeon’s clarion call for separatism contributed to this disaster, according to commentators, and she had been forced to admit that the call for another referendum is out of the cards. Hopefully, threats to the Union will recede.
Worryingly, Jeremy Corbyn, who has a reputation for flirting with terrorists in the past, is supposed to have been in touch with the Tiger-rump. One of the pro-LTTE websites states as follows: “In a written message to Eelam Tamil people, the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn emphasised his full support to right to self-determination for Tamils and right to determine their future by democratic means including referenda.” While vehemently condemning interventions in Iraq etc., Mr Corbin seems happy to reach out to supporters of terrorist groups promising interventions in the affairs of sovereign states, just to ‘buy’ votes. Given his attitude towards terrorists, theUK has had a narrow escape. Perhaps, he should heed the warning of Nick Clegg, who stated on his defeat; “If you live by the sword you die by the sword”
In view of the multiple terrorist attacks during her watch, Theresa May has hardened her attitude towards terrorists and their supporters but what she did as Home Secretary by way of reducing Police numbers came to haunt her during the elections. Paradoxically, former Chancellor George Osborne, who forced her do it and dictated the austerity agenda was happy about her ‘loss’. Who can match politicians for hypocrisy? Considering that Conservatives are notorious for back-stabbing, it is unlikely that Theresa May will be Prime Minister of UK this time next year. However, one day, she would be able to take comfort in the fact that she saved the Union, an unintended consequence of her biggest political blunder.