Almost incredible has been the scale of the Conservative setback.
Theresa May’s gamble has come a cropper and the electoral setback is almost as surprising as the decision to hold an election after two years.
Most particularly, the effect will be shattering for the Conservative Party which may yet form a minority government in coalition with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The Tories have lost 12 seats two years after the previous election and the outcome has been generally greeted with a measure of shock and awe.
It would be no exaggerration to submit that Ms May, if unwittingly, has shot her party in the foot and it shall not be easy to bandage the self-inflicted wound.
Severe must be the damage to her political reputation in the cradle of democracy. Of course, she has responded swiftly to say “sorry’’ to her defeated party colleagues, including as many as eight ministers, who she admits “had not deserved to be ousted from their seats”.
She is acutely aware that the boat would not have been rocked so severely if she had not called an election... ostensibly to add power to her elbow in course of the Brexit negotiations. Prospects, both in terms of domestic governance and dealings with the European Union, are now ever so uncertain.
Exposed are the failures of an individual, notably the challenge posed by the voters in their opposition to fiscal austerity, cuts in public spending, and a fall in real wages.
Hundreds of thousands have been hit by the gradual economic slide. Much as she promised that it would be a defining election for Brexit, her campaign was hugely unpopular, even humiliating, for many. Her speeches treated pro-Europeans almost as traitors, promised a “dementia tax” on the old, and the return of fox hunting. Far from wooing the electorate as Prime Minister, her style and substance is believed to have alienated millions against the Conservatives. The other critical facet of this election is the striking resurgence of the Labour Party.
While Ms May frittered away her inherent advantage as resident of 10 Downing Street, Jeremy Corbyn seized the opportunity. In course of the campaign, he had offered “hope, fairness and a better Britain”. Labour’s ambiguity on Brexit is said to have attracted ex-Ukip voters; it has also won the confidence of the Remain camp.
During the campaign trail, Mr Corbyn displayed all the empathy that May singularly lacked. Small wonder that Labour has emerged as a revived and effective party; for the first time since 2001, the surge in votes has fetched a 40 per cent share of the ballots cast.
The Conservative disaster runs in parallel to the optics of Labour’s recovery. Stable governance is the casualty of the quirky Election 2017.