May Day: lessons in how not to run an election campaign and why Brexit is still a goer

By Ian Wishart

British Prime Minister Theresa May is licking her wounds today, but it won’t be enough to save her.

May squandered a plus-20 opinion poll lead eight weeks ago to wake up this morning to a reality probably more heinous than any nightmare she conjured up during a brief rest overnight.

May is a dead woman walking. She’s done the right thing for market stability by ruling out any resignation – she had to do that to save the pound and preserve as much of British composure as she could ahead of this month’s Brexit negotiations. But make no mistake, she’s as dead politically as a plate of cold chopped liver. And Boris Johnson will probably succeed her.

Not immediately. It’ll be May who presides over the Queen’s speech and restores political stability in coming weeks, but her MPs won’t keep her on beyond three months, I’m picking.

Amber Rudd won’t get the nod as successor, not with a wafer thin majority in her own seat of just over 300 votes. Johnson may have seen a 10,000 vote majority in his seat halved, but with a margin of 5,000 he’s still light years ahead of the Scottish Nationalist MP Pete Wishart whose majority sank from nearly 10,000 in 2016 to just 21 votes today. He was one of the lucky ones – the SNP lost nearly half their seats – most to the Conservatives – in one of the bizarre twists of this election.

And it’s this twist that signals Brexit will go ahead despite speculation. The SNP suffered a backlash against their pro-Europe pro-independence stance. Given the opportunity, Scottish voters sent a clear signal that they preferred Brexit and staying in the Union, despite the rest of the country swinging against the Conservatives.

Commentators from liberal media who were getting excited about a possible cancellation of Brexit overlooked a simple fact: working class Labour voters supported Brexit, and Labour was quick to reassure that Brexit negotiations would proceed as scheduled if they were government.

This election, in the end, was not decided on Brexit. It was the arrogance of calling an unnecessary snap election that was duly rewarded with an electoral spanking, fuelled thanks to thumping political errors like scaring the elderly – a demographic Baby Boomer stronghold for Conservatives – that stripped Theresa May of her political mana and legitimacy.

So today she finds herself the archetypal lame duck leader, plucked of her majority and now facing a roasting. She’ll cook for the next three months, and then she’ll be done.