It is as if Richard Nixon had lost the 1972 presidential election—and not to George McGovern but to Gus Hall.
British PM Theresa May called a snap poll to capitalize on Labour’s lurch to the extreme left and bulk up her majority as Britain embarks on the Brexit process. She went into the campaign with a 20-point lead, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn’s associations with the IRA and Hamas under scrutiny, and a collapse in support for the nationalist UKIP party, which previously threatened the Tory right flank.
In the event, she lost the Tories’ overall majority in the House of Commons and saw Corbyn, a soapbox Marxist, take Conservative heartland seats such as Peterborough and Canterbury—a development, to return to our 1972 analogy, akin to Nixon losing Texas and Indiana. May hopes to cling onto power with the help of the Democratic Unionist Party, a corporatist outfit that dominates Protestant politics in Northern Ireland. However, the Conservatives are famously ruthless towards leaders who fail and even, in the case of Margaret Thatcher, those who win. May, as I argued in the May issue of COMMENTARY, is no Margaret Thatcher. She may be given a brief reprieve to enter talks with the DUP and establish a stable government, but after that, the odds are on a leadership challenge. If she leaves office in the next month she will be the shortest-serving British Prime Minister since the Earl of Bute, who governed for 317 days and lost office in 1763 after introducing a tax on cider.
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Feature image © Garry Knight by Creative Commons 2.0.