A couple of hours out from the closing of the polling stations, and the bongs that herald the exit poll, might seem a pretty silly time to write a blog post. Whatever I say has a self life of maybe an hour. So be it.
I don’t have a clue what’s going to happen. If I was a pundit on a TV show, I’d say something about the polls, and probably make a prediction that the Tories were going to increase their vote share on 2015, but not by a massive amount, and how well they do in terms of seats depends on where their new votes stack up.
But that’s neither here not there. What matters, first of all, is this simple fact. We are not facing five more years of Tory government. We are facing two more years of Tory government.
The election was supposed to be in 2020. It will now be in 2022 – or earlier, as the Tories plan to scrap the Fixed Term Parliament Act. From that perspective, little changes for us.
Of course, it’s possible that the Tories will get a landslide. Even a modest increase in their numbers will make life easier for them. In theory.
In practice, a Tory government after today will be as viperous and unruly as ever it was in the old days of John Major’s ‘bastards’.
Their first problem is this. Just as the referendum was intended to solve Cameron’s difficulties with his UKIP wing, this vote was intended to cement Theresa May as the new Iron Lady, mistress of her party. Well, you can kiss goodbye to that.
May is finished. If she gets a big victory, no one will say it’s her victory. They’ll say it’s Lynton Crosby “wot won it”. If she gets a small victory, she’ll be blamed personally for leading a bad campaign full of avoidable mistakes and hostages to fortune. Her critics will point to Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Zen, and say, ‘That man was in the gutter, and still you couldn’t kick him. You blew it against the best Opposition leader we could have had.’ Knives are already being sharpened for May.
Nor is the problem just her own party. May had an image of canniness and competence. Even I wrote in this blog after she assumed the leadership that I felt some relief to have a grown-up in charge. No more. Theresa has been found out.
May is a mean-spirited, unimaginative, slow-witted politician whose sympathies are narrow and judgement poor. She is now seriously damaged goods. If she was a product in a supermarket, she’d have a big yellow sticker on her marking down the price as her sell-by date looms close.
And the Opposition (and the opposition)?
Labour ran a slick campaign for a knit-your-own-yogurt outfit. It had passion, and hope, and excitement. Next to May, Corbyn suddenly didn’t look wanting. In itself, that’s not saying much. But certainly Labour morale is the best it has been in a few years. I’ll wait until we have a result before saying much about where Labour might go from here, but it’s a much less gloomy picture than might have seemed likely when the campaign began.
The Lib Dems were geared up to fight a Brexit election that never happened. But Brexit isn’t going away, alas. I will also reserve judgement on what happens next on that score. One can only hope that the Lib Dems do well enough in their former strongholds to take seats from the Tories. But don’t hold your breath.
So this is where we are as the sun begins to go down on election day 2017. Most likely, nothing has been decided by this election, and nothing has been changed by it. Except the standing of the Prime Minister.
Theresa May had no personal mandate before this election. And even if she wins, and wins big, she’ll scarcely have one after.