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May's election gamble 'spectacularly backfires' - politics expert

Friday 9 June 2017

"Theresa May's gamble in calling this general election appears to have spectacularly backfired, and her position as Prime Minister is now under major threat" - politics lecturer Ben Williams

Ben Williams, lecturer in politics at the University Salford, said: “Theresa May's gamble in calling this general election appears to have spectacularly backfired, and her position as Prime Minister is now under major threat. This was a notably worse result than in 2015.

“Her own party may ask/force her to stand down given the unexpected Conservative parliamentary losses. Despite hoping to strengthen her negotiating stance over Brexit after this election, she now finds herself in weaker position, which has some major political and constitutional issues going forward.

Small parties squeezed 

“The overall vote share appears to indicate a return to two-party politics, with the smaller parties being squeezed, but who ironically may now play a crucial role in deciding who governs the country in the uncertain hung Parliament that now ensues.

While Labour has performed as strongly as ever in its inner-city northern city strongholds such as Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool, it was seen as being vulnerable in the northern suburbs and smaller towns.

“However its vote has proved to be resilient, fuelled by a higher national turnout and an influx of younger voters, as has been evident across the country. This has led to a relatively robust performance from Labour in this part of the country, and it could be argued that this specific regional swing has been a key factor in depriving the Conservatives of their parliamentary majority.

'M62 Strategy' 

 “During the 2017 general election campaign, the Tories estimated that the vast bulk of the collapsing UKIP vote would go to them, particularly in the industrial north. It was claimed by some that the party adopted an 'M62 strategy' and sought to gain multiple parliamentary gains along the corridor of this motorway spanning across Lancashire and Yorkshire. However but that doesn't seem to have happened and a whole range of key target seats that the Conservatives hoped to gain have stayed Labour red as a result. These have included seats such as City of Chester, Dewsbury, Halifax, Wirral West and Darlington, all of which had slender Labour majorities and which were expected to be fairly easy gains for the Conservatives. Even the very marginal seat of Barrow, held by arch-Corbyn critic John Woodcock, has remained Labour red against the odds.

“Indeed, somewhat surprisingly, Labour have even gone on to make some northern gains such as the long-shot of Colne Valley in Yorkshire, as well as other seats that the Conservatives were expected to hold fairly comfortably given the opinion poll figures, such as Bury North, Warrington South and Weaver Vale. However, such gains were somewhat sporadic, and Labour failed to gain various other northern seats that the party held prior to 2010 and which would be required to form a majority Labour government, while also failing to regain the Copeland seat it lost in a by-election in early 2017.

Corbyn here to stay 

 “This result certainly strengthens Corbynism for the foreseeable future. Against all the odds given such hostile polling and media, he has strengthened the labour party's position in terms of both MPs and share of the national vote. In the north, Labour has been more competitive than expected, and this has helped to deprive Theresa May of her much-cherished parliamentary majority and possibly contributed to the end of her tenure as prime Minister.

“The results in the north, while not particularly brilliant for Labour, were crucially better than expected. This in itself indicates some degree of appeal and durability to Corbynism outside of its perceived inner-city and London strongholds. It could form a launching pad for future further success and progress, but on a night of notable variations in performance for both major parties across different parts of the country, it is still notably below where it needs to be in order for Labour to form a government on its own.”