HERE we are on the morning after the night before. Big political events have the narrative of a game of sport, with winners and losers, and the exciting sweep of how the ‘match’ goes.
Theresa May played the game and lost the gamble. This contest was unnecessary but Mrs Maybe held it all the same. She plunged into an election she swore repeatedly she wouldn’t hold, so that she would win a strong negotiating hand in the talks over a Brexit she said she didn’t want until she did.
Having U-turned herself into an election, she ran the worst Conservative campaign in living memory, looking uncomfortable in her skin as she droned on about being “strong and stable”, while refusing to speak to just about anyone who hadn’t been preapproved with a quick Tory shake-and-vac. She forced her personality and her presence over the entire campaign, reducing the branding of the Conservative Party into a dreary egotistical hymn to herself.
And now she has thrown away her small but workable majority and Britain faces a hung parliament. The Tories did still win, but aside from that inconvenient truth, Theresa May was the biggest loser in a tempestuous night. And Jeremy Corbyn lost but was easily the biggest winner.
With the plaster still falling from the political ceiling, let’s consider two aspects of this stormy night: the rise of Corbyn and the malign role of certain mainstream newspapers.
I stayed up only until around 11.30pm, when the exit polls were pointing to something close to the outcome we got, although Professor John Curtice did say that those first two seats in the north east showed Labour performing less well than he’d predicted.
I fell asleep and then woke up a few times, checking my mobile (usually a banned activity for anyone with insomniac tendencies), and even posted something on Facebook at 3.30am.
By morning, Prof Curtice was beaming on the election programme, as his predictions had turned out to be right.
My early-hours posting drew a response from a forgivably gleeful Corbyn fanatic, who commented: “Still begrudging support of Corbyn, Julian?”
That’s a fair point. I was a Corbyn sceptic from the start, and it would be unseemly to pretend otherwise now. But throughout this election, I commented often from my ledge that he ran a good campaign. And it’s worth pointing out that some of Corbyn’s own people were managing expectations downwards early in the campaign, saying that if Jeremy ‘only’ lost 20 seats it would be a victory; or that he if matched Ed Miliband’s haul, it would be a cause for celebration.
In the event, Corbyn did much better than that and Labour has many reasons to celebrate, for which I am glad. Scepticism aside, I have only ever voted Labour, apart from one flirtation with the Greens.
Corbyn did well for various reasons, not least the fact that he was comfortable in his own skin. He smartened himself up, wearing a dark blue suit (M&S apparently) and appeared unruffled under pressure, whereas in the past he sometimes turned prickly. He calmly took the fight to Mrs Maybe and bested her, drawing huge crowds wherever he went.
Corbyn’s rise lay in a good manifesto containing policies people could relate too, an appeal to younger voters, and wide support on social media – alongside clever use of the internet. Previously the Tories were the smart ones there, but all those bloody anti-Corbyn ads that popped up every time I went on Facebook were clearly a waste of Tory money.
Old media, certainly as represented by the Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, expended much dyspeptic energy in slagging off Jeremy Corbyn while also routinely rolling out the grovel carpet for Mrs Maybe. And it was all for nothing, or almost nothing.
Yesterday’s Sun had the latest in a series of frankly pathetic assaults on the Labour leader, under the headline: “Don’t chuck Britain in the…COR-BIN” beneath a mock-up of Corbyn in a dustbin. That was lame beyond words.
Perhaps the big-hitting newspapers no longer have the clout they once did; or maybe the acrid bias no longer influences their readers. Today’s Sun goes for the simpler: “Theresa Dismay” – less a pun and more a statement of fact.
This morning, Mrs Maybe is saying that she has no intention of resigning, according to the BBC and others. That may be true, but her party – the one she air-brushed out of the election – has a ruthless streak and the knives will be out soon enough.
But well done to Jeremy Corbyn – you lost, but you won. And for once that paradox wears a smile.