Labour under Jeremy Corbyn did not win the election, but they came perilously close to it, and hardly anyone saw it coming. They might have won but for two things that contributed to their failure. The two terror attacks during the campaign received extensive media coverage. This meant there was less space for election coverage of Theresa May’s wooden ineptitude or Jeremy Corbyn’s cornucopia of goodies.
Fatal to Labour’s hopes, however, was Ruth Davidson’s achievement in Scotland. The additional 12 Tory seats saved not only the government, but the Union itself. The SNP’s price for supporting a Corbyn led coalition would have been a second referendum. That will not now happen. And the 12 extra Tory seats take them over the threshold needed to govern.
The arithmetic is now this: With Sinn Fein not taking their seats and the Speaker not voting, that leaves 642; so 321 are needed to govern. The Tory 318 and the DUP 10 make 328, giving a working majority of 14, close to that of the previous parliament.
The idea that young people turned out in droves to back a hard left agenda is not supported by the figures, which show that only 9% of Labour’s vote came from the 18-24 group. A larger share was from the 35-45 group. Furthermore, the seats which had a higher than average population in the 18-24 age group did not perform much better for Labour than the others.
The result was partly caused by a worthless Tory manifesto which gave people no reason to vote for them. Conservative statism offered nothing, not even vision. And the Conservatives alienated their own power base among the elderly by pledging to dissipate their assets and the value of their homes to pay for social care.
There was an assumption in Downing Street that the election would be about Brexit, but it was about traditional issues of housing, education, health, transport, pay, etc.
It is not true to say that half the country suddenly decided to vote for Venezuelan-style socialism. It is much more likely that they voted for goodies offered by Jeremy Corbyn rather than the empty platitudes offered by Theresa May.
A few percent more of young people voted for a £10 minimum wage, affordable housing and free university education. A few percent more of older people voted against losing pension rights and forfeiting their assets and much of the value of their homes to fund social care. This is enough to explain what happened.
Labour came close to snatching a surprise victory, but they lost, and the Tories will learn the lesson and behave differently in future.