Well, I got that very wrong.
I genuinely thought the Tories would have a reasonably large majority. Many, though not all, of the polls were saying the same thing. The bookies, usually the most reliable guide, thought there would be a Conservative overall majority of between 70 and 75.
Of course, there was no reason why my own assessment should have been even remotely accurate. I have no access to privileged information denied to others. My knowledge was limited to the information provided by the media. Yes, in addition, I knew that many of the young (my children’s friends and the offspring of my own friends) had been won over by Mr Corbyn’s promises of riches beyond belief to be provided by “the rich” courtesy of the state. But I assumed, as most of the polling companies did, that they wouldn’t actually bother to do anything so middle-aged and middle class as to wander down to their polling stations and vote.
In my defence, I did know, and constantly, and no doubt boringly, warned the Conservatives, that the tactic of endlessly saying that Mrs May was much more important than her party, that we should all vote for “her” rather than for the Conservative Party, was likely to backfire. It always seemed to me to be obvious, whatever the early polls said, that most voters would become irritated by that tactic by the time polling day came round. And, of course, there was always the danger that something would go wrong during the campaign and Mrs May’s self-proclaimed reputation for strength and stability would dissolve. If that happened, as it pointlessly did with the fuss about “dementia tax”, the emphasis on Mrs May’s allegedly saintly qualities would not help the Tory cause. But I blindly and stupidly, as it turns out, assumed the electorate would be so horrified by Mr Corbyn’s plans to bankrupt the country that it would, even through gritted teeth, vote Conservative en masse.
There is no way of avoiding it: I got it appallingly, horribly, wrong and I unreservedly apologise to my readers.
But there we are. It’s happened and we have to cope with it. Do you wonder what my thoughts are? Probably not, but you’re going to get them.
My immediate reaction is to feel very sorry for Mrs May. I will be alone in that. But I am not afraid to say it. I know, we all do, that she has to take the blame for the disastrous Conservative campaign. Almost certainly, the errors will have originated with advice given to her by Mr Timothy and Ms Hill (her vastly overpaid special advisers). But the Prime Minister of the UK is not a constitutional monarch. She is not required to do whatever her advisers tell her to do. She is meant to make her own decisions. In this case she had no shortage of intelligent friends telling her she should not follow Mr Timothy’s advice (he seems to have been the main culprit) that she should ditch her party and pretend she was a presidential candidate. But she is extraordinarily loyal. She was not prepared to listen to anyone other than Mr Timothy. Right through to the end of campaign, even when it was clear to everyone else that the “vote for me” tactic was not working, she kept on doing what Mr Timothy told her to do
And he, Mr Timothy, is almost certainly not evil, he is just misguided. He thought, when it appeared his incredibly secretive boss (she has never revealed a single political opinion or told any cabinet colleague what she is thinking on any subject) was more popular in the opinion polls than any any other party leader had ever been, that it would be a wizard idea to behave, throughout the election campaign, as though the Conservative Party didn’t exist and it was all about Mrs May. It was just human nature that, when it became apparent his tactics were disastrous, he couldn’t bring himself to admit he had got it wrong. He told the Prime Minister to keep digging. She, again because of human nature, did what he was telling her to do. It is never easy to discard advice from people who say you are the best thing since sliced bread. She obviously lapped up Mr Timothy’s endless assertions that she was more popular than anyone in the whole history of the world had ever been.
This is a tragic story. To change, overnight, from being the most popular leader ever to being about the most unpopular must be awful. And she didn’t do anything terribly bad. She just did what Mr Timothy told her to do. I honestly don’t think she was driven by fanatical egotism when she traipsed round the country saying “vote for me” rather than “vote for your Conservative candidate”. She thought she was helping her party. But, goodness me, how wrong she was.
Yes, I really am very sorry for Mrs May. But I don’t think all is lost.
There has been a lot of nonsense talked about how Mr Corbyn should now be invited to form a government. That really is silly. A minority Labour government couldn’t conceivably command a majority in the House of Commons. With the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, the Green MP and the Welsh Nationalists, Labour falls short of a majority. The Conservatives, while they are supported by the DUP, will have a majority of six or seven, depending on the enormously delayed result from Kensington (the media are quite wrong to keep saying the magic figure is 326 – it is 322 because the seven Sinn Fein MPs won’t take their seats). On the present makeup of the House of Commons only the Conservatives could form a government.
It is also nonsensical to call for Mrs May to give up the leadership of the Conservative Party immediately. Of course she will have to give it up before the next election. Her party will never agree to her leading them in another general election campaign. But she still has a job to do. And, despite her many failings, she should be up to it. She needs to make a dramatic change in her approach. She will have to consult her cabinet colleagues. She must stop treating her opinions as state secrets. She must make up her mind to test Mr Timothy’s advice by asking for advice from others (it would be too much to ask her to sack him). She must give up her mad attempts to get Labour votes by turning her back on Conservative principles (the election must have shown her that doesn’t work). We know she doesn’t have any political opinions, but that should make it relatively easy for her to adopt some Conservative ones.
Mrs May could still avoid going down in history as the worst Conservative prime minister ever. She may even be able to achieve great success in the Brexit negotiations. But she will have to learn from her many mistakes.
We must all keep our fingers crossed.
P.S. I think Labour got Kensington, so the combined Tory/DUP majority is six.
P.P.S. Was anyone else as irritated as I was by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg peering into her laptop and telling us, in that horrid bossy voice which proclaims that no one can dispute anything she says, that her “Labour sources” had told her this or that seat was about to be taken by Labour from the Conservatives? No one bothered to point out to her, when the results came in, that her sources had, in most cases, got it wrong.