British Prime Minister Theresa May rolled the dice and took the biggest political gamble of her career by calling a general election for yesterday. As clearly seen in the results that have been returned, it blew up in her face.
The steely and workaholic prime minister was never seen as a great campaigner. She certainly wasn’t any Tony Blair or David Cameron, politicians who knew how to work the stump, give rousing speeches and connect with voters at a human level. May seemed stiff throughout the entire seven-week campaign; when she did give speeches, it was to people who were going to vote for the Tories anyway. It’s difficult to determine how much her absence from the lone debate between the candidates—she sent her home secretary—contributed to her loss, but it certainly didn’t help mollify the perception of her as detached and distant.
What was once billed as a political masterstroke—calling an early election sure to yield a landslide—turned out to be anything but. Projections during the first few weeks of the campaign had May solidifying her Conservative majority by dozens of seats, and plenty of Labour insiders were despairing on the assumption that they would get creamed and need to reshuffle their leadership —especially Jeremy Corbyn himself. Instead, Tory MPs face a situation very few ever thought possible: a hung parliament, with May scrambling around town hoping to find coalition partners rather than counting up her party’s gains.
In the end, Jeremy Corbyn proved to be an incredible campaigner. He jetted across the UK, spoke to tens of thousands of voters during massive rallies, and never gave up despite British politicos betting on a Labour bloodbath. His tenacity and work ethic paid off: Labour gained 31 seats, which means Corbyn’s leftist politics actually bested Ed Miliband’s 2015 establishment program. Coupled with a loss of 12 seats for the Tories, Corbyn has done nothing short of shutting up his Labour critics in Westminster who just a year ago introduced a no-confidence motion against his leadership. Even more than embarrassing Theresa May, teaching the Blairites a lesson was important for Corbyn.
It’s likely that Prime Minister May will throw some of her ministers off their portfolios in order to demonstrate that she realizes how poorly her campaign was run. But ultimately this election rests on May’s shoulders—she called the vote and now she’ll have to live with the disappointing result.