Theresa May has unified not just the Labour party, but the whole country, writes Progress director Richard Angell
Stunned that Labour gained 30 seats and the Tories have lost a majority, the Labour family is applauding its leader for a better-than-expected personal performance, 40 per cent of the vote and the first net gain in seats since 1997. Great members of parliament that I feared were lost have been returned – with five sad exceptions – and they are joined by exciting new MPs who will contribute to Labour’s renewal and parliament’s resolve.
Peter Mandelson led the modernisers applause of Jeremy Corbyn’s role in the campaign and I personally have spoken to many of the MPs that have beaten the odds. The enthusiasm of success is infectious.
But much of the credit lies with Theresa May, and the most arrogant and appalling campaign run by an incumbent government, potentially ever. Her refusal to turn up to debates and the like, her air of irritation that the election was even happening, the blunder of the manifesto and the pathetic U-turn that she then denied was a U-turn. The personality cult behind someone who it turns out has no followers was bizarre. How candidates were barely mentioned on Tory party literature might account for the loss all of itself. Had 75 people voted differently, she would have her majority. How ‘Theresa May’s team’ members were relegated to the P.S. on direct mails did not show much confidence on who they stood across the board.
How the prime minister has appeared so flat-footed compounds her issues. The ‘no election has even happened’-style speech on the step of Downing Street angered not just the 12 million Labour voters, but the chair of the 1922 committee. Last night she apologised privately to her colleagues for the mess she has caused. But why not to the country?
If she was not going to listen to the people’s verdict then why hold an election at all? She asked for a mandate and lost one instead. It is, simply put, time she resigned.
‘I like being at the count’ asserted one of my closest friends, ‘it is the only time people from different political parties are honest to each other’ he concluded. Where he was verifying ballots, the Tories were adamant that May should go. In my local count the story was the same – they had even started splitting into different camps, some supporting the home secretary, others the foreign secretary. Every Tory party member I have spoken to since feels exactly the same. ‘How hasn’t she gone yet?’ was one text I received last night.
Her position look increasingly precarious. Britain’s position going into these Brexit talks seems equally precarious. It is time she walked away and stopped squatting in Downing Street.
Richard Angell is director of Progress. He tweets at @RichardAngell