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As I See It: General Election

Election should prompt big shifts in policies

Terry smiling headAn extraordinary night and one that has left a field full of casualties. Hard Brexit? Probably dead. Second independence referendum? Also badly injured. Austerity? Ready to surrender.. Alex Salmond, Angus Robertson, Nick Clegg? No longer in action. Mrs May? Walking wounded. Jeremy Corbyn? Fighting and flying the red flag. Nicola Sturgeon? She led her troops into battle but brought few of them back.

A month ago it looked like Theresa May was a shoo-in. Twenty points ahead in the polls, she only had the election to lose. And while the Tories remain the biggest party, she has indeed lost her majority and as a result a lot of things are going to change.

Mrs May called the election to strengthen her hand in the Brexit talks, only to weaken it. Any leader who finds themselves in that position has to go. She has lost the confidence of the country and will struggle to govern in a minority government.

Even if she stays on she will now have to listen to alternative demands on the Brexit negotiations. Those talks will probably be delayed as European leaders and City institutions believe the UK government will not be in a position to begin negotiations. When they do start they will do so with Mrs May’s ‘hard Brexit’ position seriously in doubt.

Mr Corbyn, regarded only weeks ago as Labour’s least likely hero, now has a smile as wide as the Clyde. Despite having a good night, some in the party will be asking what might have been if a less divisive and more popular leader had been in charge. Even so, Mr Corbyn offered an “alternative” and the public bought into his message of hope, arguably tired of austerity and Mrs May’s matronly and centralist style of leadership.

Sturgeon pondering
Sturgeon: questions to answer

In Scotland, Ms Sturgeon has to explain to the country why she has been left with a sharply diminished group of Westminster MPs. There are unlikely to be photos of her latest intake under the Forth Bridge arches this time, or risk comparisons with two years ago when the party enjoyed an almost clean sweep of seats.

There were repeated calls for her to abandon her demand for a second independence referendum. It is difficult to see how she can continue to argue the case after the voters dealt her party a bloody nose.

In contrast to Mrs May’s woes, Ruth Davidson will regard it as a night of triumph, delivering the blows on Ms Sturgeon that puts her party in the ascendancy in Scotland. Ms Davidson enjoyed the resurgence that commentators had been predicting, while Labour performed much better than expected.

The result leaves Britain with a hung parliament, an outcome the markets dislike, but as Daily Business argued in a pre-election commentary, it also creates a new environment for a more consensual style of politics.

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