Election 2017: The Conservatives may be the largest party but Theresa May is mortally wounded
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
This was supposed to be the election that brought the United Kingdom stability.
In fact what the UK now faces is a fragile and potentially chaotic informal coalition between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party.
This was supposed to be the election that gave Theresa May the mandate she so craved to enter Brexit with the strongest possible hand.
In fact the prime minister is weaker in terms of her parliamentary clout and perhaps irredeemably wounded in the eyes of the public.
What went so horribly wrong for Mrs May? And how can she now continue with any credibility?
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The seeds of a dramatic election night which saw the Labour Party make gains and the Tories concede seats were sown in the Welsh mountains when, for reasons we may never know or understand, Mrs May had a surge of confidence while out walking with husband Philip and decided to call an election she had repeatedly told us she would not.
And why not? Jeremy Corbyn's Labour were in disarray and her approval ratings were very strong.
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Although some rivals and critics labelled her decision a cynical power grab it seemed, back then, to be a canny move. The pollsters had her turning great swathes of the country blue and her inner circle privately talked about a 100 seat majority.
But Tory dreams of a parliamentary powerbase not seen since the heady days of Margaret Thatcher soon began to be eroded. Quickly it became clear that Mrs May was not a natural performer on the campaign trail. Her team kept her away from ordinary voters, a point which she was reminded of in every interview. Then came a disastrous manifesto and talks of a 'dementia tax' followed quickly by her refusal to debate alongside the other leaders.
In the final weeks of the election the polls began to catch up with what many around Jeremy Corbyn had been saying for some time. Something quite unique was happening with the Labour campaign. Much like Donald Trump in the US, Mr Corbyn was striking a cord with people who felt they had been ignored by politicians for many years.
His momentum grew while Mrs May grew ever-more awkward, defensive and fractious.
And now she is in bed with the DUP.
Disregard what the prime minister might have said outside Downing Street – normal service cannot simply resume. The government cannot simply pretend this nasty election business never happened and get on with it.
And the Tories know it as well – and they are plotting. The reason the Conservatives have been the natural party of government in the UK for decades is partly due to their ruthlessness when it comes to failing leaders. They dispose of them. They don't get second chances. And Mrs May is deluded if she thinks she will be any different. Her leadership is doomed.
In just over a week Britain will enter into the most important negotiations this country has been involved in for many decades. Mrs May promised us she could deliver a stable foundation for those talks to take place. She told us that under her leadership the UK would seize the opportunities presented by Brexit.
But now the public will quite rightly be questioning the prime minister's judgement.
If she can cling on and convince her own party to back her, there remains every possibility that come the autumn Mrs May will be forced to send an election-weary nation back to the ballot box once more. And if Mr Corbyn's current trajectory continues he and the Labour Party will pose a serious threat to Mrs May.
This election was supposed to usher in a generation of Tory rule and send Labour spiralling into ever deeper turmoil.
In fact it has mortally wounded Mrs May and left an electorate confused and asking 'what happens now?'. The answer to that question is simple at least: 'Who knows?'