This election has obviously been a disaster for the Conservatives. Instead of gaining seats they have lost them. Now, rather than a “strong and stable” government, they are forming a shaky minority government with DUP support. This snap poll was called to strengthen our hand going into these negotiations, but now we have a weaker one. It is evident what this result means for the supposedly natural party of government, and everyone is talking about it. What too few people are talking about is what this says about our country, which is far more worrying. This election has shown we are a Britain divided.
The disgraced former co-Chief of Staff to Theresa May, Nick Timothy, sums up the state of the country in his resignation article on ConservativeHome:
“Britain is a divided country: many are tired of austerity, many remain frustrated or angry about Brexit, and many younger people feel they lack the opportunities enjoyed by their parents’ generation.”
It is a surprisingly accurate account of Britain today, considering how the Conservative election campaign completely failed to realise this. Young people turned up to vote in greater numbers than ever before for Corbyn, England is split increasingly between remain and leave constituencies, and the rural/urban political divide is growing. While Scotland has shown a balancing in Westminister between nationalists and unionists, divisions are growing in Northern Ireland as moderate parties lose seats and Sinn Fein and the DUP gain. Labour’s iron grip on Wales continues without robust opposition. Young people who have been ignored and who interests have’t been defended have taken their revenge. Half the country are uncomfortable with modern Britain but content with the country’s Brexit direction when the other half are worried or angry about it. These divisions are many and they are growing.
Now our divided Britain has delivered a divided Parliament and a government who will struggle to carry out their central task of leaving the EU. Ironically, because the country delivered such a split House of Commons healing the country’s wounds may be unachievable in this Parliament.
Damage control is what we need now. The Conservative manifesto is dead; gone are proposals for grammar schools, cutting free school meals, social care reform and winter fuel allowances. The Conservatives must look again at their programme for government and remember how David Cameron slowly restored the country’s confidence in them.
What message this election sends about Brexit is unclear; the referendum result still stands, and both major parties are committed to it. It was neither an endorsement of the government’s plans though or a rejection of them. I think that perhaps it is May’s vision for Britain that has been most damaged. Her vision for a Global Britain was the right one, and what we need to become, but her actions worried people. Cosying up to Trump, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, while being the outcast in Europe and advocating a senseless cap on immigration. A new vision for Britain is needed that will build a Global Britain but one that we are comfortable with.
This election has shown how divided Britain is. This government will struggle to unite the country, but it will need to try. Whether it can reinvent itself under Theresa May’s leadership will be the biggest question going forward. This change of direction must happen though and bring with it a new vision for our future. A vision of an open, responsible and global Britain.
Written by James Clark