The PM never really showed up for her campaign, says Emma Bartley. Let’s not make the same mistake as her
“Who the actual f&%* are we supposed to vote for?” was the title of the first post on this blog, the day after the election was announced. When the results came in this morning, the question was more: “Who the actual f^&% is in power?”
Perhaps there’s a line to be drawn between the two. For centrists like me – nervous of hard Brexits and hardcore Socialists – it was hard to back either of the two biggest parties. Theresa May might argue that she tried to talk to the centre… but unfortunately she forgot to show up for her own campaign.
Lots of people are talking about how Jeremy Corbyn has confounded his critics by coming in a strong second place to the Conservatives. There’s some truth in this, in that he’s energised and excited many Labour voters, and brought more young people to the polls. I like him more than I did at the start of the campaign, because he’s stood up for unpopular ideas like immigration, and his snarling, angry side seems to have gone.
Really, though, this was May’s election to lose, and everybody knows it. The great irony is that she and her team seemed to feel that by playing a defensive game, she could hold on to her huge 15-point lead from the start of the campaign. And so she’s spent the past five weeks at stage-managed events, avoiding hostile interviews and – perhaps fatally – dodging the TV debates.
Perhaps she thought that the support of the rightwing press would guarantee her victory, but in practice it turned out to be an own goal. Attacks on Corbyn allowed him to claim (like Trump before him) that he was the victim of a hostile media. Meanwhile, their overblown praise left her struggling to meet expectations – “At last, a PM who’s not afraid to be honest with you!” breathed the Mail, just a day or two before May backed away from the dementia tax in an attack of nerves.
The British don’t like being told what to do, and we don’t like being taken for granted. Just 12 months after they accused the “liberal elite” of doing both these things, Theresa May and the Tories have fallen victim to the same rebellious sentiment that is dragging us out of the EU.
Today, I expected to be winding this blog up. I started it in part to overcome my own shyness in talking about political issues, because I’d realised that in failing to challenge the surest, angriest people, I’d allowed my country to be taken over by beliefs and assumptions that I found abhorrent. I didn’t expect to rebalance the national conversation by adding more female voices, but I had to try.
What’s next for Britain? What the f^&% is going on with us? Honestly, I’m not sure anybody knows. But given that Theresa May has finally shown up to form a government, the rest of us had better stay engaged with what’s going on. Because it we’ve learnt anything from the past year of massive political upheaval, it’s that if you don’t speak up for what you believe in, you’ll be crushed.