Let’s whoop at the failure of May’s miserabilism – optimism trumped austerity

Let’s whoop at the failure of May’s miserabilism. Optimism trumped austerity

Theresa May’s visionless, empty negativism deserved to fail. This signals a monumental shift in what is to come


The earthquake shock of the exit poll will be forever a “where were you?” memory. Defying all prediction Theresa May was trounced and “Jez we can” was no wishful fantasy. Listen to the sound this morning of the eating of hats and the munch, munch of humble pie from those of us who worried he could never get anywhere near success.

But if this feels like another crashing through the barriers of the known electoral world, remember this: the result follows some good old tried and tested ancient election lores that May and her failed svengali Lynton Crosby ignored at their peril.

Second lore of elections: hope beats fear. Optimism trumped May’s grim finger-wagging warnings of “chaos”. Her manifesto offered austerity forever: that’s no exaggeration. Her budget planned to shrink the state permanently to a size so small it would change the nature of Britain.

Third lore of elections: bribery works. George Osborne triple-bribed the voting pensioners, locking them into ever-rising pensions, every perk protected even for the richest. May thought her position so unassailable she could risk doing the right thing, and reining in the pensions bonanza now that pensioners are the group least likely to be poor. She was right to reach into the untaxed housing wealth of the old to pay for their own social care – but that “dementia tax” did for her: U-turning only made it worse.


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About the author
Polly Toynbee is a columnist for the Guardian. She was formerly BBC social affairs editor, columnist and associate editor of the Independent, co-editor of the Washington Monthly and a reporter and feature writer for the Observer
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