Unless exit poll is wrong, UK is facing grave uncertainty

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

It has been clear for about a month now that the Conservative general election campaign was not panning out as the party was assuming it would.

But during that period there has nonetheless been scepticism across the political and media world at the polls showing Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party doing well and even threatening Theresa May’s overall majority.

As this newspaper went to press in the early hours of this morning, it was still unclear whether that would come to pass or whether the Tories would in fact scrape an overall majority as they did in 2015, when the exit polls at first showed a hung parliament.

But it seems clear that the arithmetic will be tight.

How tight it is will be of immense consequence to the future of the United Kingdom.

It seems that Mr Corbyn will struggle to form a government, which if so will be a huge relief to unionists. The Labour leader had good relations even in the early 1980s, when the IRA was stepping up its terrorist campaign in Great Britain, having failed to bomb Northern Ireland into submission in the 1970s.

He is the sort of man who would merrily impose joint authority if Stormont failed to reach agreement, and that knowledge would make Sinn Fein not merely very difficult to deal with, as now, but impossible to deal with.

The exact numbers are now crucial. If unionists hold the balance of power, then a Conservative government will be able to survive. If not, then the only viable option for the Tories is the Liberal Democrats, who are the people most passionately opposed to Brexit.

Unless the early results are misleading, Mrs May’s position is on the line, given how her decision to call an election has turned out. There is no obvious successor now in the parliamentary Tory Party. Whatever her shortcomings, the prime minister is more impressive than most of her cabinet colleagues.