Woah there, you socialists!
It is not yet time to pop those champagne corks.
When Labour Members of Parliament troop into the chamber and take their oaths, they will resume their seats on the opposition benches.
The number of Labour MPs will be little different from when Gordon Brown was defeated in the 2010 general election.
Jeremy Corbyn lost the 2017 general election. He remains Leader of the Opposition.
Mrs May remains Prime Minister. The Conservatives remain the governing party. Labour relief at avoiding a meltdown is being misinterpreted as a cause for celebration.
In similar conditions to the current state of the Conservative Government, the Labour government of 1974-79 was able to push through massive social and economic changes in this country. This was despite having to depend on the support of smaller parties. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Sex Discrimination Act 1976, the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act 1977, and a slew of other measures, including numerous tax rises, were all passed by a government that had to battle for every vote in the House of Commons.
Labour Party candidates discovered that Jeremy Corbyn was poison on the doorstep. Hardly any Labour campaigning literature had his photograph or even mentioned him. When challenged about their extremist leader, these parliamentary candidates would try to defuse the issue by stating that it was they who were standing for election in the constituency, and not Jeremy Corbyn. They promised they would work for their constituents and not for Corbyn. Some of them even promised that if they were elected on June 8, Corbyn would be gone by June 9. They were seeking support from Labour voters to get rid of Corbyn. It is possible this is why some people continued to vote Labour despite the leader.
Did Corbyn go on walkabout with any of his fellow parliamentary candidates? Did he do any kind doorstepping whatsoever? The Labour campaign played to Corbyn’s strengths, which is lecturing packed meetings of the already-converted.
It is clear that concerted scaremongering about Corbyn’s cosying up to any dodgy group that would have him had limited to zero effect on Labour-supporting voters. The Troubles in Northern Ireland came to an end nearly two decades ago. As such, Corbyn’s associations with the IRA are as relevant to voters under the age of 40 as the behaviour of former Tory minister Neil Hamilton, and the split in the Conservative Party under John Major over membership of the euro. Corbyn’s sharing of platforms with various hard-left organisations did not resonate in a world where the Soviet Union no longer exists. His support for Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as his paid work for Iranian State television, did not register.
The reason for this blind spot by the average voter has to be because Corbyn’s association with any Israel- or America-hating group has no relevance to everyday life, outside certain communities. If people were not interested in current events, and newspaper readership in this country is on a downward spiral, then they were perhaps not interested in these associations.
For all the celebration, Jeremy Corbyn lost this election, just as badly as Gordon Brown did back in 2010. All Jeremy Corbyn has done is to retrieve the Labour Party from the depths where it was taken to under the leadership of Ed Miliband. The only reason the Labour Party has to be happy is that while it lost this election, the Conservatives did not win it outright. However, after the slightly-depleted ranks of Conservative MPs have taken their oaths, they will resume their places on the government benches. With the support of the Democratic Unionist Party, Mrs May’s government will still be able to push legislation through the Commons with a majority.
Mrs May’s honeymoon period is over. The sky-high expectations have not been realised. Politics is a brutal business. There are always candidates for the top job, even when there is not a vacancy. The Conservatives have a history of being ruthless with leaders when they stop being successful. There have been several calls for Mrs May to step down. It will be a test of her political ability to see if she can weather the storm that she created by seeking a personal mandate.
From a practical point of view, nothing has changed. From a political point of view, a lot has. The challenge for the Conservative Party is to recover lost ground before it is required to go back to the country in 2022. It is possible that Jeremy Corbyn may continue to be an asset to the Conservatives. While gaining a number of seats, there has been no validation of his politics or indeed his manifesto.
The Conservatives can no longer assume that the 2022 election is in the bag with Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Opposition. The boundary changes coming into force next year may improve matters somewhat. The Conservatives, with their DUP allies, may do as much as Harold Wilson and James Callaghan did with their wafer-thin majority following the 1974 elections. However, it has to be remembered that after Labour fell in 1979, they were out of office until a whole new generation could grow up and vote for them.
Despite remaining in government, the Conservative campaign is not over.
(Image: Chatham House)