Two months ago Theresa May was contemplating an historic landslide with a 100-seat majority. Now she presides over a party that’s lost its majority and is maintained in office only through the support of Ulster’s Democratic Unionists. For American readers, that’s the Reverend Ian Paisley’s old party. They can be strong meat for those of delicate dispositions, but in my experience they’re not unagreeable at close quarters. The DUP are the only significant socially conservative party in the UK, which puts them at odds with most of today’s modish Tory caucus, and they’re also pro-Brexit to a degree the squishier types around Mrs May may find discomforting. But, unlike the Conservatives, they had a grand night last Thursday, and they have the numbers, at least in theory, to keep Brexit on track.
I’m inclined to agree with Fraser Nelson’s generalization:
Tory leaders tend to be chosen because of who they’re not, not who they are: Thatcher wasn’t Heath, Major wasn’t Heseltine, IDS wasn’t Portillo, Cameron wasn’t David Davis. And May wasn’t anybody.
That’s all true. Bonus round: Home wasn’t Hailsham. The trouble is that, because May wasn’t anybody, there’s no consensus on the reasons for her defeat. Nigel Farage says, well, that’s what happens when you put a Remainer in charge of a Brexit nation. But the Left says, no, their stunning revival means that this election was a rejection of Brexit. Except that the Left’s revival was at least partly due to northern working-class Old Labour voters who’d switched to Ukip in the years before Brexit and then decided on Thursday that, after victory in the referendum, it was safe to return to the Labour fold.