When Theresa May called for the election on April 18th, she was the most popular UK leader since the late 1970s. Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was at his most unpopular. At the time the Conservatives also held a 16.1 point lead over Corbyn’s Labour. Over the next few weeks leading up to the election, the media and many pundits told us to expect a Tory majority of 50, 75, or even 100 seats. So how did Theresa go from a 12 seat majority, to possibly winning up to a 100 seat majority, to being 8 seats short or a majority?
Last week, an extra 1,499,083 people came out to vote, than did in 2015, which translates to a 2.6% increase in turnout. This additional turnout came largely from a significant increase in the youth turnout. Last week, the Tories gained 2,332,457 votes, with Labour gaining 3,527,681 votes, symbolising a 9.5% gain since 2015. However, more important to the final result of the 2017 election was the voter turnout of the fringe parties. Such as UKIP who lost 3,287,247 voters, the Greens who lost 632,242 voters and the SNP who lost 476,867 of their voters.
One of the most important influences on the outcome of this election was the increase in the youth vote. With a manifesto promising hope and a fairer society, targeted at promoting the youth and creating opportunities for all. Labour had a strong hold on the youth vote, and as the results seem to suggest, this appears to have shifted this election.
Most notably in Canterbury. Labour won in Canterbury for the first time ever in this election, with a margin of only 187 votes. However, a major student movement swung the Labour vote by 20.5%, increasing from 13,120 to 25,572.
Another decisive point of the election was always going to be, where would the UKIP voters go this time? 3.2 million UKIP voters left the party this year, who appeared to feel their vote in 2015 had achieved what they wanted from UKIP, the UK leaving the EU. Many of the 3.2 million will have gone back to their usual party of choice. As can be seen in Clacton, UKIPs only seat after 2015, which overwhelmingly went back to the Tories this time.
However, many UKIP voters would have been left undecided for this election. Having got what they wanted from UKIP and with both Labour and the Tories backing Brexit, who did they prefer? May or Corbyn?
These former UKIP voters represent a wider portion of the electorate though. Those not devoted to a single party and swing to the leader that takes their fancy. This election was also a prime opportunity for May to steal Labour voters not sold on the unpopular Corbyn. Instead, a poor election campaign by Theresa May put off undecided voters.
This highlights the major difference between the Corbyn campaign and the May campaign, and by extension, why the Tories now need the DUP to keep May in Downing Street. She could not connect to the electorate! Whereas Corbyn had the feel, and after 30 years rightly so, of someone who was a rare politician who came from the electorate, not just a private school. Simply, away from the manifesto promises or any individual issue, May never engaged the electorate. Whether you look at May’s pathetic speeches compared to Corbyn’s massive rallies. Or, turning up to the public TV debate. Or even eating a Pringle from the crowd.
Corbyn became a trusted and popular leader, opposed to the image May created of herself of a brick wall that couldn’t engage, couldn’t answer a question, and couldn’t speak without a catchphrase. Altogether which rather than presenting a “strong and stable” leader, painted her as out of touch and empty of humanity or vision.
This over-sloganisation and de-humanising of the campaign became the downfall of Theresa May’s campaign. Therefore, when the Conservatives look at what went wrong they will have to look first and foremost to their leader. She went from the most popular since the 1970’s, to one of the Tories biggest problems. Second, they can not write a manifesto the young can get on board with. Third, a growingly popular Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn.