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  • Lawrence Bailey

How June was nearly the end of May

It was the election that needn’t have happened with an outcome that very few predicted. That said, it was newsworthy as hell throughout. Wise heads among the political commentariat chuckled when isolated polls raised the prospect of a hung parliament. The laughter was short-lived.

For me, it was bookies’ odds of 3/1 on a possible stalemate that provided an early inkling. I even wrote a speculative column piece on the likely impact – despite knowing I’d never get it past the editor two days before the election. The received wisdom now is that Mrs May unwisely made the election all about her. What wasn’t anticipated was how a wooden performance and evasiveness in the face of media scrutiny would only highlight her shortcomings.

Jeremy Corbyn was the undoubted revelation of the campaign. His forthright call to fairness resonated with many and particularly the electorally elusive 18-30 year-olds. He effortlessly rose (or dropped) into the role of underdog, depending on how you like your metaphors.

Yet for all Labour’s inroads, it’s a measure of his party’s electability that more voters still favoured what every independent observer agrees was the most incoherent and shambolically elucidated Conservative manifesto in living memory.

I guess a fully formed left versus right contest, after decades of centre ground manoeuvring, made it inevitable that others got badly squeezed. In some constituencies, it was just a matter of divvying up former Ukip support. It’s apparent now that a good number of voters sussed how May’s unexpected stab at a larger majority had nowt to do with Brexit negotiations.

Her opponents claimed it was a ploy to secure more parliamentary muscle in order to further dismantle social safeguards. She did little to discount the accusation.

A final miscalculation was to ask the public loaded questions about her leadership while being totally unaware that contrary-minded electors in Canterbury and Kensington were itching to give the wrong answer.

I’ve read post-mortem tales of poorly deployed resources and tory strategists who showed a surprisingly poor grasp of Labour's knack of translating votes into seats through bigger turnouts. It’s all a bit academic now as the requisite number of advisors have since been thrown under the battle bus.

There was briefly talk of a coup although prime ministers in imminent danger of being ousted very rarely perform cabinet reshuffles beforehand.

Politics is essentially about getting and holding onto power; and no-one gives it up willingly. No matter how unpalatable, a deal with the DUP is simply the only pragmatic move left available.

It says something about our democracy though that despite over 32 million electors casting a ballot, just ten people from a party you’ve probably never heard of (and can’t vote for) will decide who runs Westminster and the government, albeit for the time being.

I doubt Mrs May would ever ask for it, but my advice to her as someone with some experience of the place is that things in Northern Ireland politics seldom work out as foreseen.

Then again, she’s probably getting used to that by now.

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