June 8, 2017, will be remembered as the day the British people took a step back from the brink of a catastrophic Brexit.
On Thursday morning, Theresa May was Mrs Landslide. On Friday morning, she was toast. A day is certainly a long time in politics.
Her decline is justified. In calling this election, and blowing it in such spectacular style, she has done lasting damage to Britain.
Her manifesto U-turns, her brazen reversal of values on Brexit, her cowardice on debates, her control-freakery towards colleagues, her pathetic fawning towards Trump and Erdogan, her callous disregard for pensioners and dementia sufferers, her high-handed, bombastic attitude to fellow European leaders, the way she narrows her beady eyes when anyone has the temerity to ask her a question… well, if this is all a bit nuanced, we’re not massive fans.
We should be clear about why we are angry with Theresa May.
For all her faults, it is specifically for this reason: the General Election was not, as per the narrative of Tory high command and the right wing newspapers, a gamble to strengthen Britain’s hand at the Brexit negotiation table. The General Election was, instead, an act of high arrogance and low opportunism – a political expediency designed to nail Labour into a box and shore up her control of the Tory Party for good.
And out there, in the real world, her game playing will bite hard for many. Some of those just-about-managings she professed to care so much for in that first speech on the steps of Downing Street, will go on to lose jobs because of her incompetence. Children’s potential will be diminished. Decent lives will be materially worse as our economy falters and investment in Britain slows during this period of self-inflicted instability.
Because Theresa May is instability incarnate. She is the polar opposite to the stability she promised – and, outrageously, continues to promise. When she told television interviewers that the naughtiest thing she has ever done was run through a wheat field as a kid, she wasn’t being fair to herself. No, Mrs May. The naughtiest thing you ever did was jeopardise the future of this nation for purely party political purposes.
And as tempting as it is to relish the sight of Theresa May on the receiving end of electoral karma, this election is – without doubt – a short-term calamity.
As a newspaper that believes passionately that Britain is better off within the European Union (while conceding the EU has flaws), this result is the least bad of any likely outcome. But it’s still not great news. Not yet.
This result will almost certainly guarantee a softer Brexit than the extreme version Theresa May plotted. But a soft Brexit is still Brexit.
In last week’s New European, Labour’s shadow Brexit minister Keir Starmer wrote that Brexit was a fact and would happen.
This Election result must surely give him, and all Remain-at-heart MPs across all parties, pause for thought.
We have long argued that the result of the June 23 Referendum was less to do with our relationship with Europe and much more to do with the British public’s increasing despair with domestic politicians.
Thursday’s vote adds credence to this view.
This is now two displays of revulsion at Westminster’s politics-as-usual in 12 months.
We’ll almost certainly get another go before the year is out to put an end to the potential chaos of a hung parliament. (Brenda from Bristol will blow a gasket. Or emigrate.)
We believe Labour performed so well on Thursday because their lost leader Jeremy Corbyn found himself in the crucible of this campaign and delivered a compelling positive vision of an end to austerity for millions of people. And he did so with a level of personal sincerity rarely seen in politics these days. People like him.
This gives him, and others who share a Remain conviction but have been cowed into espousing the myth of Brexit inevitability through fear of a backlash at the polls, an opportunity to rethink, should the will of the people change.
If the British people go cold on Brexit, then politicians should have nothing to fear about respecting that new will.
If, as we expect it will, the process of Brexit looks like it will inflict permanent harm on the United Kingdom and our economy, our culture and – most importantly – our security, then politicians across the political spectrum should join to reverse it.
Legally, politically and morally, Brexit can be reversed. Today, all bets are off.
Lastly, a quick word – if you can bear it, if indeed you have got this far! – about ourselves. The New European has now published 48 issues. Not that we are superstitious, but it feel auspicious that the pop-up paper for the 48% has made it this far. We are continually humbled by the encouragement we get from our growing community of readers. We think we are a small but much-needed alternative voice in UK media; a fresh approach to intelligent debate and entertaining writing each week.
If you haven’t already done so, please consider becoming part of that community by subscribing to the newspaper. You’ll find some cracking offers on pages 24 and 25. Until next week! And who knows what that will bring!