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Plain Old News: UK Election Results In Hung Parliament
Fifty days has felt more like fifty years in Britain recently as the third major political vote in as many years kicked into gear. Theresa May called a snap General Election - held yesterday - with the intention to strengthen her hand in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, due to begin on June 19th, by increasing her parliamentary majority. The Prime Minister's plan appeared sound when she announced the election; polls showed that her party, the Conservatives (Tories) established a 20-point lead over the opposition Labour Party, leaving her strong and stable. "Strong and Stable Leadership" became the mantra Theresa May utilised to encourage the populace to throw their weight behind her. However, she dangerously underestimated her opponent, Jeremy Corbyn and what he offered disillusioned Britons downbeat from nearly a decade of suffering under austerity. Corbyn managed to rally the young, who had a politician they believe that they can count on for once, a man who speaks to their needs. Meanwhile, Theresa May seemed to stick a lone refrain of rhetoric, while taking aim at Tory's stable of voters - Baby Boomers. Announcing in her manifesto that she planned to scrap the Triple Lock on pensions that ensured pensions would rise annually by either 2.5%, above the rate of inflation or earning growth - whichever of the three is the largest. Ensuring this increase cost the government £6 billion in 2015-16, so the logic behind cutting the Triple Lock had austerity in mind, something the public endured since 2010. Then came what critics eventually dubbed "The Dementia Tax."
The new policy meant that any seniors would not have to pay for any care they might need if they had assets amounting to less than £100,000. However, house prices rose thanks to Thatcher's Right To Buy scheme in the 80s and due to a property market that soared over the last 20 years. Today, the majority of pensioners now own property or assets far exceeding £100,000, meaning all of the wealth accrued by older people over their lives are at risk of losing their property to cover care. Although the Prime Minister assured those people could keep £100,000, it was still a slap in the face to those possessed with a material value at least several times that. Add to this, Mrs. May's repeated reluctance to appear on any televised debates alongside the other party leaders gave the Prime Minister an appearance of arrogance and overconfidence in her position. Compare this to Corbyn spanning various segments of society, surmounting even blunders of her Shadow Cabinet - like Diane Abbott messing up figures - Corbyn managed to narrow Theresa May's lead.
With the results counted, it seemingly became a tale of two countries for the Tories at least. In England, the election was a disastrous gamble, going from a Tory majority of 331 MPs to 318, eight seats short of forming a majority government. Whereas in Scotland, the Conservatives performed better than they had in decades and with Labour, left a significant dent in the SNP steamroll that occurred in the 2015 General Election, their seats reduced from 56 to 35. Instead of Theresa May's wish for a strong and stable government, she found herself weakened and created a strong and stable opposition to her government, forced to ally with Northern Ireland's DUP to place the Tories in a majority. Theresa May acted with a surety that failed to convert into reality, maintaining an intransigence that almost believed she had won the election and the vote merely served as a formality. The Prime Minister heads a deeply divided nation, a country where Brexit supporters still are wounded by austerity and will suffer from further Tory cuts to services. The country is far more nuanced than pundits are bleating over, there is a reason Brexit was successful in traditional Labour heartlands because the EU's legacy left many post-industrial regions bereft. For this reason, a cross-party negotiation team should head to discussions on June 19th, Jeremy Corbyn is more Eurosceptic than people would think and heading an opposition party whose MPs represent a large body of the nation, he should head to Brussels with Mrs. May.