Yes, the people have spoken. But we’re still trying to work out exactly what it is they’ve said. Before I try to untangle it, there are some features of this election that are fairly clear:
First, young people were key. Everyone thought they wouldn’t bother: everyone was wrong. Young people came out and voted in large numbers, boosting the turnout in many places by students and young voters. When I turned up to vote I was told they’d been very busy due to large numbers of students from the nearby college and university: ‘we’ve never seen anything like it,’ said one member of staff. When our candidate went to the university he was met by 2000 students going in to exams, many of whom shook his hand and said they’d voted for him (in the end he failed to get in, though he halved Nicky Morgan’s majority.)
Second: the turnout was high. In general there was a high degree of engagement in this election, due in part to Brexit but on the left to urgent concerns about the NHS and social care, and the privatisation of public services. Overall the turnout was nearly 69%, more than two points higher than 2015.
Third, and for me most important: Jeremy Corbyn. Here was an elected leader who from the word go had been derided, attacked, slandered and smeared by the press; treated unfairly by the BBC and undermined by his own party. No sooner was he elected than they set up someone to oust him; he was given no chance in this election. many feared defeat worse than 2015. But they were wrong. Commentator after commentator has (finally!) paid respect to how he has fought and won seats to turn the election round. Labour have taken key seats from the Tories and although they have not gained enough to be the largest party, it is not over yet. If all falls apart in the Tory camp we are waiting in the wings to form a minority government. This, in my view, shows what can happen when, under election rules, the media are forced to report more fairly on the issues. In the space of weeks, JC turned from a hate figure to someone whose policies and campaigning proved massively popular, attracting tens of thousands to public rallies and millions more on live feeds. Canterbury, which has been Tory since Chaucer, became Labour; Derby North returned to Labour and many others were won or retained while Tory strongholds were threatened. Amber Rudd nearly lost her seat in Hastings and the Kensington result has yet to come in because they’ve had a thousand recounts and the staff are all comatose.
So where are we? To be honest, nobody knows. May has no intention of resigning, though resignation would seem to be indicated, partly because there is no obvious leader to take over and partly because to resign might, it is suggested, precipitate another election. And another election is the last thing anyone wants right now.
So at the moment it looks like the Tories will try to do a deal with the DUP. This is not great, but I for one am massively relieved that they didn’t get an increased majority, since it looks like the end to privatisation of the NHS, the end to a hard Brexit and – please god – the end to Murdoch and Dacre dictating the results of elections.
I am now exhausted. I don’t know how politicians do it.