All this confirms a sense that, Brexit or no Brexit, Britain is madly adrift. It is hard to recall a previous election in which the choices available were less appetizing. In that respect, a hung parliament, in which no party can command majority support, is an entirely fitting, and indeed justified, response to the choice presented to the electorate. With blind stubbornness, May insisted this changed nothing, but the people are wiser than that. Collectively, they knew what they were doing when they declined to offer a ringing endorsement of either major party. And who, frankly, can blame them?
It is now 30 years since the Conservatives won a thumping majority in the House of Commons. Britain has changed since then and the Tory dependence on old and white voters seems likely to be subject to the laws of diminishing returns in future elections too. Then again, Labour cannot count on demographic changes working to its advantage either; the British left remains more dependent on London and university towns than is wholly electorally sustainable.
Perhaps that’s the real message of this election: Britain’s divisions desperately require a political party, and a prime minister, capable of rising above them. On current evidence, however, there is no sign of that kind of savior riding to the rescue. A fractious, disgruntled, country remains just that. The electorate sent a clear message on Thursday: Trust nobody. The U.K. awaits the arrival of a politician who can recognize and then surmount that; on the evidence available, it will be waiting for some time yet.