Kane: Tory press tried to kill off Corbyn but failed
On September 12, 2015, the day he was elected leader of the Labour Party, the Tory press declared war on Jeremy Corbyn. The Tory press is a big, brutal, blood-scenting beast and, day after day, month after month, they pounded him with everything and anything they could find. Whether it was true was neither here nor there. The Tory press decreed that he was a terrorist-hugging communist, a threat to the United Kingdom and someone worthy of relentless mockery and abuse.
But in the early hours of yesterday morning the Tory press lost their war. Corbyn simply defied them, refused to bow to their serial, collective bullying and took his beliefs directly to the people. And enough of those people, millions of them, in fact, voted for Labour. Jeremy Corbyn has inflicted a massive defeat on Theresa May: she had asked for an increased mandate to pursue her Brexit negotiations, yet his electoral popularity deprived her of that mandate and also removed her existing parliamentary majority.
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is now reliant upon the DUP for a paper-thin majority. Her plans lie in tatters. The EU regards her as beaten and broken. She has been stripped of authority and reduced to a bit player in the much broader drama that is the Conservative Party's longstanding internal war over the EU. The Tory press, meanwhile, having failed to devour him, will probably devour her.
Corbyn's victory is, I think, the real story of the general election. I'm no fan of his (although I have a sneaking regard for his ideological passion), but nor am I a fan of the pack-hunting Tory press. It was time they were taught a lesson: time they learned that there's a younger generation who don't buy daily papers and won't be influenced by their bile. Time they accepted that most of us are capable of making up our own minds when faced with credible analysis and factual reporting.
The story in Northern Ireland is the collapse of the UUP and SDLP. I warned in a recent piece for the Irish News that both would be struggling for survival if they couldn't outline a clear role, relevance, purpose and direction for themselves. They didn't. Colum Eastwood muddied the waters—and helped Sinn Féin—when he spoke of the need for a border poll sooner rather than later. The UUP didn't really make much of an effort in most of the constituencies they fought (with the exception of South Antrim and Fermanagh/South Tyrone) and paid a catastrophic electoral price.
I've no idea what they do now. The DUP/Sinn Féin stranglehold is so tight at assembly and parliamentary levels that it's hard to imagine Swann or Eastwood loosening it anytime soon. Working together is no longer an option; and both must surely dread the expense and potential further hits of another snap general or Assembly election. The UUP is just 20,000 votes ahead of Alliance across the province and is in danger of being wiped out by them in Belfast. In the past decade they've been led by Durkan, Ritchie, McDonnell, Eastwood, Empey, Elliott, Nesbitt and Swann and another change of leader won't make a button of difference. Increasing numbers of their existing voters will switch to the DUP and Sinn Féin, and many others will just stay at home. While death is not inevitable, it's hard to see either of them recovering.
It's too early to say how the DUP/Conservative relationship will work out, although it's worth bearing in mind that previous arrangements and understandings between unionists and Conservative governments have rarely ended well. But Foster is in a position to extract some cash, projects and political trophies from May and she would be foolish not to take them. The widening of the gap between the DUP and Sinn Féin—from1168 votes in March to 53,401 on Thursday—has pleased her grassroots enormously. Considering how vulnerable she looked last December the result and outcome of the election represent a remarkable turnaround for her.