Almost right up to election day most of us were feeling pretty blasé about the British elections. Theresa May was sure to get in with an even larger majority than she had before. After all, who would vote for that terrorist-supporting, antisemitic, anti-Western Jeremy Corbyn?
An awful lot of people it turns out.
Theresa May got in by the skin of her teeth, and has ended up losing her majority, although she is still Prime Minister, albeit with a hung Parliament and a minority government. The knives are out now for Mrs. May to resign although for the moment she is refusing to step down.
With Jeremy Corbyn’s terrifying and contemptible record as an antisemite, terrorist-sympathiser and all-round anti-West, the British Jewish community is feeling that they have lost this election. The Times of Israel’s David Horovitz explains:
Watching Britain begin to play coalition politics on Friday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might have ruefully mused that he’d be delighted with an election result leaving his party just a few seats short of a parliamentary majority.
Like Theresa May, Netanyahu in 2015 called snap elections. And while May’s Conservatives on Friday came close to retaining their parliamentary majority, his Likud won a mere 30 seats — just a quarter of the Knesset. Yet here he is, having cobbled together the routine bickering Israeli multi-party coalition, as safely ensconced in office as any Israeli prime minister ever is in our endlessly chaotic political system. And there she is, battered and discredited and facing calls from within her party and without to resign.
The fact is, however, that while Netanyahu has long proved himself the master of Israel’s complex and splintered political reality, his British counterpart showed herself incapable of capitalizing on a straightforward opportunity to cement her hold on power, and seemed to do everything possible to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Netanyahu has wanted to believe that political forces in many places worldwide are shifting in what he considers to be Israel’s favor. Not in the UK, they’re not.
More than 20 points clear in the polls when she called these elections less than eight weeks ago, and hoping for a majority of 100-plus in the 650-member House of Commons, May’s Conservatives wound up losing 13 seats.
Labour under the ostensibly unelectable leftist Jeremy Corbyn gained 30. …
May ran a truly dreadful campaign. She alienated core voters with talk of making the elderly pay more for their care. Three terrorist attacks in three months brought her past record as home secretary — when she cut police numbers — under awkward scrutiny. She stayed away from a TV debate. She appeared strained and wooden in public appearances.
Corbyn, by contrast, belied his radical reputation and proved a charismatic, affable candidate who resonated particularly among young voters. Relatively high turnout nationwide was widely attributed to his appeal. Hugely unpopular with many of his Labour parliamentary colleagues, who had hoped this election would spell his demise, the left-winger is now in a position to remake more of the party in his own radical image.
Like Bernie Sanders in the US, he was the anti-establishment candidate whose unapologetic conviction politics proved compelling in a Britain riven with inequality. Unlike Sanders, Corbyn is hugely bolstered in defeat.
Needless to say, neither attitudes to Israel, nor anti-Semitism, were central factors in the British campaign. But Corbyn is emphatically no lover of Israel, and his success will embolden those who share that mindset in the re-energized opposition party. Many in the British Jewish community also feel he has not acted with sufficient determination to marginalize the anti-Semitic elements within Labour. He will be less vulnerable to criticism over that, or over any other aspect of his leadership, after this vote.
Jeremy Corbyn — who notoriously once referred to his “friends” in Hamas and Hezbollah, who has indicated support for an arms embargo on Israel, and whose party manifesto promises the unilateral and immediate recognition of a State of Palestine — has garnered more momentum than almost anybody had expected to challenge her.
You can be sure there is no delight over that in Jerusalem.
Jonathan Arkush, the President of the Board of Deputies (the British Jewish representative organization) called the election a loss for the Jewish community and Israel:
For the Jewish community and Israel, however, the result was unequivocally a “loss,” at least according to Jonathan Arkush, the lay leader of British Jews as the president of the Board of Deputies umbrella group.
“If the governing party, which is a strong supporter of Israel, loses so much ground, then of course it has to be something of a loss for Israel and the Jewish community,” Arkush, who is currently in Israel, told The Times of Israel in an interview Friday morning.
And that loss is compounded, he said, when it comes to the gains by Labour. Corbyn’s party, said Arkush, “has policies that are supportive of Israel, supportive of the two-state solution,” but will see its “far-left faction, which is far less sympathetic to Israeli concerns,” bolstered by the strong showing.
“Overall, without question, the result will be disappointing for Israel and disappointing for the Jewish community,” Arkush said Friday, adding that “the smell of anti-Semitism still lingers around some sections of the [Labour] party.”
Criticizing the “lackluster” Conservative campaign for an “uninspiring manifesto, a downbeat message and a series of serious errors,” Arkush conceded that despite Jewish concerns, much the UK population chose to overlook reports of Labour anti-Semitism in rallying behind the “hopeful” message that Corbyn projected.
“Remember,” he advised, “when you are one half of one percent of the population, the overwhelming majority will probably have no idea about Jews and may have never even met one. The anti-Semitism discussion probably meant rather little to them.”
You might be surprised (as I was) to learn that there is a sizable proportion of Jews who support Labour. Some were even candidates:
A poll of voting preferences before the election showed that while only nine percent of Jews over the age of 55 supported Labour, that number rose to 23% among the 18-34 set. Still low, but not negligible.
In an attempt to utilize the Jewish vote for the party, two leaders of the Jewish Labour Movement ran against two pro-Israel Conservative MPs in areas with large Jewish populations.
JLM Chairman Jeremy Newmark and Vice-Chairman Mike Katz challenged Mike Freer and Matthew Offord, respectively, in the adjoining London constituencies of Finchley and Golders Green — Margaret Thatcher’s old seat — and Hendon. Both seats are in the Barnet heartland of the northwest London Jewish community.
Both Newmark and Katz ended up coming short but succeeded in increasing Labour’s share of the vote.
One prominent member of the Jewish community, Stephen Pollard, writes in the Daily Telegraph that those who voted for Jeremy Corbyn terrify him (Text provided by Sussex Friends of Israel because the Telegraph article is behind a paywall):
Now we have to wait to see what kind of coalition Theresa May can cobble together. She has won the support of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, but how that will be reflected in the new government remains to be seen. In fact, very updated news reports that this coalition is not a done deal at all, and may in fact not come about:
Theresa May’s plan for a loose alliance with the Democratic Unionists to prop up her government was thrown into confusion last night after the Northern Ireland party contradicted a No 10 announcement that a deal had been reached.
A Downing Street statement on Saturday said a “confidence and supply” agreement had been reached with the DUP and would be put to the cabinet on Monday. But the DUP last night put the brakes on that announcement, saying talks were continuing, not finalised. The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, said “discussions will continue next week to work on the details and to reach agreement on arrangements for the new parliament”.
Following talks between May and the DUP last night, a second statement from No 10 clarified that no final deal had been reached. A Downing Street spokeswoman said the prime minister had discussed “finalising a confidence and supply deal when parliament returns next week … As and when details are finalised, both parties will put them forward.”
Who thought that British politics could be so riveting?
Meanwhile, a very interesting analysis by Briticom, a British-Israeli financial services provider, explains what happened during these elections and how it all went so disastrously wrong for the Conservatives.
Indeed, Theresa May’s specific reason for calling this snap election was to strengthen her hand against these rebellious “colleagues” when going into the Brexit negotiations. Now these rebels will have even more reason (and ability) to humiliate her, being angry at her for causing many brother Tory MP’s to lose their seats, and jobs).
So to my eyes, even though Theresa May has strenuously denied any intention of resigning, I believe she will be kicked out by her Party and a new leader will be chosen to be Prime Minister in her place. Pundits are talking about Boris Johnson and David Davies as early alternatives. Tories are probably also squirming at the thought of Mrs May facing Labour’s Jermy Corbyn at future PMQ’s (Prime Minister’s Question Time) in Parliament. They would abhor the probable humiliation.
How did this result happen? The election campaign began with a huge (opinion-poll) lead giving an expected 50 to 100 majority for the Conservatives. There are a number of reasons:
Hubris. Mrs May made the election about her leadership and about her vision of Brexit, and only these subjects. She did not give the rest of her team much “air time” and her manifesto was remarkably clear of policies and numbers.
As a follow up to the above, she refused to compete in the TV debate which made her look either arrogant or cowardly. Or both!
A huge manifesto U-turn was needed when Labour exposed the fact that alzheimer/dementia patients would have their NHS nursing contributions capped at a perceived low level. This gave, even hardened Tory voters, grim reasons for concern, as it would badly hit their personal pocketbooks, hence the need for a humiliating U-turn in mid-campaign.
Mr Corbyn correctly reasoned that the only way he had a path to being PM was to energise young first-time voters. So his manifesto included a pledge for free university education. This worked brilliantly for him, but the Tories, locked into their single-issue Brexit campaign, did not ask the simple question who would be paying for theses students’ free education. The answer of course is that it would be their parents, via increased taxation, but this simple fact was not emphasised.
And lastly, and most importantly, it is apparent that the populace rejected Mrs May’s “hard” Brexit strategy and prefers a “soft” version. What this means, is that unlike the PM, they want to remain in the Single Market and the Customs Union, conceding Free Movement of People (for Europeans, not the rest of the World’s riff-raff) which would better ensure easy trade and fuller employment. The only tangible thing they seem to want from Brexit is the return of Sovereignty, ie: no more laws and irritating regulations being rained down on the UK by Euro-bureaucrats.
If the last paragraph accurately reflects the populace’s wishes (and those of those Tory rebels) the Conservatives will have no choice but to change their Brexit negotiating policy and tactics, which will necessitate the selection of a new leader.
Briticom also looks at the financial impact of the election results:
The pound fell (only) about 1.5% from 1.29 to 1.27 following the election exit poll and results, and the stock market is expected to rise this morning. Why? Because “Big Business” as reflected in the market’s larger shares much prefer a soft Brexit to preserve their trading patterns and partners. If this is how it pans out then one can also look forward to a recovery in sterling and an improved economic performance in the UK.
And given the breaking news mentioned above, there is a prescient note here too:
Ending on a note of caution – if the coalition with the Ulster Unionists doesn’t materialise and/or if the Tories tear themselves up in a leadership campaign and/or if they persist in going for a “hard” Brexit, then we are probably looking at another General Election before the year is out.
Another helpful summary of the situation, slightly tongue-in-cheek, was this post:
And one more post, this one stressing the brighter side of the elections: