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UK 2017 Election In Five Headlines

09/06/2017 07:29 | Updated 09 June 2017
Chris J Ratcliffe via Getty Images

The causes that led to yesterday's election and today's hung Parliament, are numerous and complex. As the votes finish being counted, it seems that the UK has returned to a two-party system, with both Labour and the Tories receiving around 13million votes. Let's draw five more lessons from a night of tension:

1. Scottish Independence is dead in the water

The Scottish National Party has had a bad night. By 2:00am Angus Robertson, leader of the SNP in Westminster, had lost his seat. Across the board, sustained success by Labour and the Tories has crushed their huge success of 56 seats. This culminated in the loss of Alex Salmon's seat by the time the sun rose on a blue Scotland. It is true that they remain the largest Scottish party. But is seriously doubtful to suggest that they have a clear mandate given that all the Unionist parties did well across Scotland.

That said, the SNP has a clear line. First, they point to the fact that they have more votes than the Unionist parties put together. Secondly, they have isolated themselves from the "tsunami" of 2015. By arguing that 2015 was a once in a lifetime result they're trying to suggest that they're still in a position of strength. Certainly, coupled with Labour, they do have muscles in Westminster. But they're highwater mark is behind them. What can they achieve next?

2. Focusing on Brexit was a mistake

Ignore the collapse of UKIP. Nigel Farage, MEP, was spot on when he pointed to the lack of time that the party has had to recreate its image. Despite Paul Nuttall's insistence that the party offers a full suite of policies, for voters who viewed the party as singularly focused on Brexit, this was not convincing.

Look instead to the fact that, in many seats, the UKIP vote was split equally between Labour and Tories. The two are distinct. But they are not polar opposites because the Labour Brexit policy is not as clear as the iron pledge of hard Brexit from the Tories. Sure in some areas the Remain vote was fundamental. In Bath, a 9.8% swing allowed the Liberal Democrats to win the seat. This was an area with over 60% pro-Remain vote. There are two possible conclusions.

Firstly, people who were united in Brexit are now divided over how to balance access to the single market with the economic risk that would come back from leaving. Some are happy to take the potential hit (and went Conservative) whilst others want more flexibility (and went Labour). Alternatively this general election could underline the fact that the British people want to hear things about other than Europe - and the politician most able to do this was Corbyn. He reaps the rewards.

3. Corbyn triumphant

Watching the results of an election makes the very best television. Tonight, the icing on the cake was watching various Labour politicians being asked whether they regretted criticising Corbyn. Squirming, shying, and silence were the overwhelming responses. So let's take a moment to make sure that we're clear: Labour did as well as they did tonight because of Jeremy Corbyn's actions.

Dame Margaret Beckett, on being interviewed, stated that Labour's night was "infinitely better than anyone expected". She added, that Corbyn himself probably wasn't expecting such a good night. But she is wrong. Corbyn must have expected this because, unlike what his critics raved, he isn't an idealist but a populist. Populism can have negative connotations. But the key meaning here is an understanding of the concerns of ordinary people. Corbyn had his fingers on the pulse of public feeling.

4. Tactical voting

The term "shy remainer" was thrown around, at around 6:00am by the BBC's election centre to explain some of the results. But this doesn't hit the mark. Remainers have been loud and proud with regard to their disillusionment. And they've been organised. This election must surely have been effect by the numerous tactical voting efforts that have flooded the social media sphere.

In Norfolk North, the Greens did not field a candidate in order to support the Liberal Democrat attack on the seat. It paid off, with a gain of nearly 6,000 votes. Another example is Oxford West where the electorate were exhorted to vote Lib Dem. Once again, no Green candidate stood.

There have been some suggestions that tactical voting doesn't work. But this assertion shouldn't be made too confidently. Estimates put Lib Dem at -0.8% in terms of the popular vote (when compared to 2015) but have gained four seats. Some will view the half a million votes for the Green returning only one Member of Parliament as failure. This is unfair because they were the first to be willing to sacrifice themselves in order to defeat the Tories. As society, and the issues facing society evolves, so too will democracy.

5. Youth vote

The voter turnout was around 66%. A solid showing in the post 1997-landscape (between 1997 and 2001 the turnout collapsed by 10%). If turnout increases amongst the lowest age bracket then they will begin to claw back some political influence. And if it increases it suggests that the young do care. When faced with a threat to their opportunities (Brexit) the world they inherit (green policies) and cuts to services (with austerity) they turn out to vote. In this sense, the snap election following quickly on the heels of the EU referendum provided a way to keep individuals engaged in the political process. Long may this continue.

It is tempting to speculate on Theresa May's future. This could make a fascinating sixth point. Certainly, the Tory leadership must think so because not one individual has been interviewed by the BBC. But for the moment, we've plenty to chew on.

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