Election Countdown: May hung out to dry as Corbyn triumphs in defeat

Written By: James Douglas
Published: June 16, 2017 Last modified: June 16, 2017

Jeremy Corbyn pledged to “drive growth across the whole of Britain” and create a million “good jobs”, saying a Labour government would pump £250bn into industry through a new National Investment Bank “to rebuild communities that have been left behind”. He accused the Conservatives of presiding over stagnating productivity, falling public sector net investment and low wages. “When Labour talks about job creation we mean decent jobs, jobs which pay a real living wage, which people can get by on, and which give people a sense of pride and purpose,” he said. “Labour will invest to drive growth across the whole of Britain, creating wealth which is shared across our country, rather than concentrated in the hands of the few.”

The Conservative candidate for South Thanet was charged with allegedly overspending in the 2015 General Election campaign. Craig Mackinlay was accused under the Representation of the People Act 1983, alongside his election agent Nathan Gray and party activist Marion Little.

The Tories denied there was any confusion in their immigration policy after Theresa May signalled she wanted to cut numbers to less than 100,000 a year by 2022. The target, which was in the party’s manifesto but without a timeframe, has not been met since it was set in 2009. Brexit Secretary David Davis said they would “aim” to hit the target in five years – but could not promise.

The Conservatives U-turned on a flagship pledge to build “a new generation” of social housing announced in their manifesto. Theresa May had personally promised her policy would deliver “a constant supply of new homes for social rent”, but her housing minister admitted planned homes would be let at up to double normal social rent rate. It was the second about-turn on a Conservative manifesto pledge, after the damaging furore around the “dementia tax”. Tory officials played down the reversal, but Labour claimed it showed one of the Prime Minister’s key pledges to help low-income families had “fallen apart”, while the Chartered Institute of Housing branded it “very disappointing”.

Theresa May insisted Tory tax plans have not changed after a senior cabinet minister signalled there would be no income tax increase for higher earners. The prime minister said it was her party’s “firm intention to reduce taxes on ordinary working families”. But earlier Sir Michael Fallon said that there would be no rise in income tax for higher earners. Jeremy Corbyn said the Conservatives’ tax policies were in “chaos”.

The major parties again suspended campaigning following the London Bridge attack in which seven people – and three terrorists – died. The prime minister said the country must “pull together” and unite to “defeat our enemies”. Jeremy Corbyn said he was “absolutely shocked and horrified” at the attack, but added: “If we allow these attacks to disrupt our democratic process, then we all lose.”

Corbyn accused the Conservatives of trying to “protect the public on the cheap” in a speech focusing on the London terror attack. Corbyn, who has previously questioned the wisdom of a shoot-to-kill policy, also backed the police to use “whatever force is necessary” to save lives. “You cannot protect the public on the cheap,” he said, calling on May to resign given her record as Home Secretary. “The police and security services must get the resources they need, not 20,000 police cuts. Theresa May was warned by the Police Federation but she accused them of ‘crying wolf’.”

Labour slashed the Tory lead by 16 points in just a month, according to a Survation poll which put the Conservatives on 41.5 per cent with Labour on 40.4 per cent. Theresa May’s party had a 17-point lead with the pollster at the start of May, but Labour’s rise
reflected a campaign which more than half of those polled thought had been better than Theresa May’s.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott withdrew from the campaign two days before polling on grounds of ill health. Ms Abbott, who had been ruthlessly targeted by the Tories as one of Labour’s weak spots, had been diagnosed with a “serious long-term condition” according to shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner. BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg reported that her “standing aside is ‘indefinite’.” Whatever the problem, Ms Abbott increased her majority in Hackney North to more than 35,000.

Within moments of close of voting, an exit poll suggested that Theresa May’s gamble on a snap election had failed in spectacular fashion. It proved to be accurate and as the results came in they were met with increasing horror by Tories and Right-wing pundits alike. The UK woke up to a hung parliament, and the Tories facing the humiliation of ending with fewer seats than before the election, just 10 days before Brexit negotiations.

When all the counts were completed, the Tories were down 13 seats to 318, eight short of an overall majority, and a 42.4% share. Labour were up 30 to 262, or 40%. The SNP lost 21, taking them to 35; the Lib Dems gained four, taking them to 12, while Plaid Cymru ended up with four, an increase of one, and the Greens held their one seat.

UKIP was wiped out, but rather than moving en masse to the Tories, as they had expected, their voters also switched to Labour. Labour secured an unexpected win in the previously safe Conservative seat of Canterbury, and also took control of Peterborough, which was one of the Brexit capitals of the country. There were also gains for Corbyn’s party in Battersea, Stockton South, Bury North, Vale of Clwyd and, after three recounts, Kensington.

Big names who lost their seats included former SNP Leader Alex Salmond, who lost to the Conservative candidate in Gordon; the SNP’s leader at Westminster, Angus Robertson, who lost to Conservative Douglas Ross; and former Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg who lost his Sheffield Hallam seat to the Labour candidate. Conservative minister Ben Gummer, a close ally of the PM and a key author of the party’s manifesto, lost in Ipswich while the financial secretary to the Treasury, Jane Ellison, was defeated in Battersea. Home Secretary Amber Rudd faced a recount in a tight race in Hastings but just held on.

Corbyn, speaking after being re-elected in Islington North, said it was time for Mrs May to “make way” for a government that would be “truly representative of the people of this country”. He said he was “very proud” of the outcome, which he said was a “vote for hope for the future” and said people were “turning their backs on austerity”. He added: “Politics has changed. Politics isn’t going back into the box where it was before. What’s happened is people have said they’ve had quite enough of austerity politics.” He said that Mrs May had called the election to assert her authority. “She wanted a mandate. Well the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence. I would have thought that is enough for her to go.”

The Conservative leader appeared crushed as she accepted her victory in the constituency of Maidenhead with a shaky speech in which she repeated her resolve to provide the stability the country needed ahead of Brexit talks. Speaking at her count in Maidenhead, Theresa May said: “At this time more than anything else, this country needs a period of stability. And if, as the indications have shown and if this is correct that the Conservative Party has won the most seats and probably the most votes, then it will be incumbent on us to ensure we have that period of stability – and that is exactly what we will do.” She moved to reach a deal with the 10-strong Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland to prop up her shattered administration.

Conservative MP Anna Soubry, who is against Brexit, said it had been a “dreadful campaign” and Mrs May should “now consider her position”. Former Chancellor George Osborne, sacked last year by Mrs May, said: “Theresa May is probably going to be one of the shortest serving prime ministers in our history.” He added: “Hard Brexit went in the rubbish bin tonight.” Later Osborne slammed Theresa May’s manifesto, which “drafted by her and about two other people was a total disaster and must go down now as one of the worst manifestos in history by a governing party. I say one of the worst, I can’t think of a worse one.”