A thematic guide to the UK
Election June 2017
happen, and why has an election been called?
The "Palace of Westminster", London, home of the British Parliament
UPDATE JUNE 9th
May took a gamble and has lost. She called an unnecessary General
Election with the aim of increasing her majority in the House of
Commons; but the Conservatives have ended up with less seats than they
had before, and without an absolute majority.
Conservatives remain the largest party in the House of Commons, and
Theresa May has vowed to continue as prime minister; but how long can
she remain in power? And why did she lose her gamble? And what happens
In theory, Theresa May can continue as prime minister
for the next five years, but that is unlikely to happen. Without a
majority in Parliament, her government is fragile and is likely to have
to make concessions to other parties on many issues. There are already
some in her own party who are calling for her to resign.
Why did the Conservatives lose seats? Basically for four reasons:
- Voters massively abandoned the right-wing UKIP party, but they did not all vote Conservative instead. Many voted Labour.
- The Labour party fought a good campaign, and picked up a large number of votes from young people.
young people felt cheated by the Brexit referendum, and took the chance
of this unexpected election to vote against the Conservatives.
- In Scotland, the Nationalists lost 19 seats, most of them going either to Labour or to the Liberal Democrats
net result is that Labour have gained 30 seats and the Conservatives
have lost 13, depriving them of the parliamentary majority that they
had before the election.
What happens next?
sure. Some analysts believe that there will be yet another general
election in less than a year – but with the countdown to Brexit already
well underway, the last thing that any UK government will want will be
yet another general election campaign.
As for Brexit, it is
now a massive unknown. While it seems unlikely that anything can now
stop the process, the nature of the eventual Brexit deal that the UK
will try to negotiate with Brussels may be different. The "hard Brexit"
wanted by UKIP and the right-wing of the Conservative party may now not
happen. May was determined not just to implement Brexit, but to take
the UK out of the European Single Market and out of the Customs Union;
as a result of this election, the question of the Single Market is now
once again on the table. But as for what will actually happen,
that is absolutely unclear.
Britain even more divided
result of the election shows that Britain is now even more divided than
it was before the Brexit referendum. Far from bringing the country
together, Theresa May has amplified the divisions in Britain – between
North and South, between England and Wales, between young and old,
between pro- and anti-Brexit groups, between the highly qualified and
educated, and the poorly qualified and educated.
parts of England that voted most strongly for Brexit, notably the
industrial northeast, the Conservatives actually increased their share
of the vote. But in the more prosperous south, in areas that voted last
year to remain in the European Union, there was a surge in votes for
the Labour party.
It is now beginning to look as if the
nature of the two main electoral groups in England has changed. Labour,
who were once the party of the working classes, have lost a lot of
their appeal among blue-collar voters in the north of England, and are
now appealing much more to better-educated young voters throughout the
UK. Conversely, and particularly in the north of England, the
Conservatives have captured a lot of disenchanted working class voters
who first abandoned Labour in favour of UKIP, but have now moved on.
In other words, the British electorate, like electorates in other
countries, appears to be remarkably volatile. The days when politicians
could accurately predict the results of elections long before they took
place, are over.
Theresa May ought to have realised this
before she called an unnecessary election. There were enough signs; she
just needed to reflect on what happened last year to David Cameron...
or to Hillary Clinton.... or earlier this year to the French
Republicans. Instead, she imagined that she was invincible, and has
paid the price.
On 18th April 2017, in a move that took everyone, including
most members of her own party, by surprise, Theresa May
announced a snap general election for 8th June.
Ever since the narrow victory for Brexit in the
2016 Referendum, Mrs. May had been adamant that she would NOT call a
surprise general election.
So what, in a nutshell, is the
choice? What made Mrs. May
do a dramatic U-turn and call a general election for 8th June? And is
she guaranteed to win ?
British 2017 general election : the choice
|Voters will vote
massively for the Conservatives, because they will be persuaded
that the only alternative is a Labour government under Jeremy
Corbyn, which would be a disaster.
Theresa May believes that the Tories can
use Corbyn as a spectre to frighten people off voting for
Thus Mrs. May will
consolidate her position as the leader of the Conservative government.
She will be able to claim in the UK and in Europe that she
now has a "mandate" from
the British electorate to negotiate the Best Brexit deal for Britain.
With a larger Conservative majority in Parliament,
and the support of a large part of the press, Theresa May will be able
to conduct negotiations with less risk of parliamentary
opposition on any points or details of the
deal that she may be able to negotiate. .Even if the result of the
negotiations is a bad deal or no deal at all, with no trade agreement,
Parliament will have a big enough Tory majority to approve it.
Also, until 2022, the Conservatives will hold
power to carry out changes in all fields, including the NHS, grammar
schools, taxes, the economy and the environment.
There will be no effective
parliamentary opposition, as the Conservatives are likely to have a
majority of over 100 seats. Even if UKIP win a seat or two, which
remains unlikely given their falling popularrity, they will be
|The media will
eventually stop repeating the mantra that the only alternative to a new
Conservative government is a disastrous Labour government under
Corbyn... since this is blatantly not true.
Labour cannot obtain a
majority in Parliament without taking
back dozens of seats from the SNP in Scotland – which is not going to
happen. So a Labour government under Corbyn is just not going to happen
The only alternative to a Conservative victory
is a coalition
of opposition parties, but not
under Jeremy Corbyn. Opposition parties will have
to agree on a consensual leader. It will not be Corbyn.
Many countries have successful coalition governments. Angela
Merckel has led Germany for 12 years, though two of her three
governments have been coalitions.
It is possible that many voters, alarmed by the Conservative agenda, may resort
to "tactical voting" in favour of the candidates most likely
to beat their Conservative opponent.
The Lib Dems have said clearly that they will not goi into a coalition with Labour under Corbyn. They have not said they will not go into a coalition.
The only alternative to another Conservative government is a
coalition under someone other than Jeremy Corbyn. And even
if Corbyn were to lead the next government, he could not pass "loony
left" legislation, as coalition partners would be there to block it.
result will satisfy more than a minority of voters.
Even at their current best, the Conservatives only stand at about 45%
in the opinion polls. In this situation, an election becomes
as much about "Who do you not
want to see in power?" as about "Who do
you want to form the next government?"
|The Scots will
organise a second independence referendum, with the big risk of a
breakup of the United Kingdom.
||A coalition government
including the SNP will look for and find a solution that will be able
to keep Scotland in the UK.
If May wins, is Brexit inevitable?
Probably, but May has already done at least three significant U-turns... so she could do another. ►
See Is Brexit inevitable
Why has May called an election for June ?
There are two short answers: opportunity and fear.
The opportunity: since the 2015 General Election,
election of Jeremy Corbyn as its leader, the Labour opposition
been bitterly divided. In April, opinion polls showed Labour at a
historic low level of support - just 25% – presenting May with a great
opportunity to increase her parliamentary majority.
The fear: during and shortly after the Brexit
"Brexiteers" either claimed, or really believed, that taking Britain
out of the EU would be a simple process which could be achieved quite
rapidly, to Britain's advantage. Some still believe this.
However since triggering Article 50, Mrs. May
admitted that the Brexit negotiations may not be completed in the
two-year time frame following the activation of Article 50.
She has talked of a "three year" transitional period up to
which the UK will remain part-in part-out of the EU, to avoid the
"cliff edge" of a sudden exit, which could do enormous damage to the UK
May and her team thus fear that
negotiations may well not go as fast nor as well as the "Out"
campaigners had suggested, and that by 2020, when the next elections
were - until today - scheduled, Britain might be in a difficult
situation. In this scenario, Mrs. May could well lose a general
election in 2020, an election won by a government committed to stopping
Brexit before the process is complete.
By calling an election in 2017, Mrs. May will thus
give her government until 2022 to fully extricate the UK from the
European Union, avoiding a general election in 2020 while negotiations
may be very difficult.
But calling an election in June 2017 is a high
risk strategy. May will probably win; the Conservatives currently stand
well ahead of all other parties in the latest
opinion polls; but a
victory, clearing the road
to a more authoritative Brexit negotiation position, is not a foregone
A risky strategy
By calling a general election so unexpectedly,
Theresa May is clearly betting on a number of points that are very much
in her favour
May has thus calculated that now is the moment to strike, before the
opposition parties have time to reconstitute and draw up their lines
for a well prepared election campaign.
- The Conservative party is well ahead in the opinion
- The Labour Party is currently highly divided, under a
leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who does not have the backing of a lot of his
own MPs, and is not at all seen as a potential prime minister.
- UKIP, the Conservatives' rivals on the right, are
falling apart under a new leader who completely lacks the charisma of
- Opposition parties in general are not ready for a
- In Scotland, the Conservatives are on the up, being
seen as the Party most actively campaigning against a second Scottish
But there are big risks.
A number of Conservative MPs will defect from
the party or not get reelected as they cannot at the same time please all their potential electors. They cannot promise
to support a hard Brexit, as wanted by hardliners, and at the same time promise not to
support a hard Brexit deal that could seriously damage the UK economy,
the preferred option of many Conservative moderates.
In 2016, the majority of Conservative
MPs personally voted against Brexit, and there are plenty who are still
personally against it. In particular, there is a large group
of sitting Conservative MPs who voted against Brexit, and who represent
parliamentaiy constituencies where a good majority of voters voted
against Brexit, and were angry at the result.
These MPs cannot have forgotten that In
a by-election in Richmond Park, on the southwest edge of
London last December, the Liberal Democrat party, standing on
a resolutely anti-Brexit ticket, overturned a 23,000 Conservative
majority, to win the seat with an 1,800 majority from the former
Conservative and pro-Brexit MP Zac Goldsmith –. a swing of 21.5
points from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats.
All those Conservative MPs representing
constituencies in the south of England which voted strongly against
Brexit must now be wondering what to do. Stand as a Conservative
candidate on a pro-Brexit ticket? Stand as an independent on an
anti-Brexit ticket? Or join the Lib-Dems as the only resolutely
anti-Brexit party? None of these solutions will guarantee
victory... and in resolutely anti-Brexit constituencies, standing for
reelection as a pro-Brexit Conservative could (depending
parly on local factors) guarantee defeat to a sitting MP.
Anti-Brexit forces in the UK took several months to recover from the
shock of last June's vote; but for the last
six months now they ahve been regrouping, and although they do not yet
have the power, nor the media
backing, to create a credible or united opposition, the urgency of the
may galvanize them into impromptu action.
There are MPs from the three main UK parties, the
Conservatives, the Lib-Dems and the Labour party, who may be willing to
put "national interest" before "party loyalty" over an issue as
important as Brexit, and come together to stand under a single banner.
May will certainly be hoping that calling a
general election so soon will stop any such coalescing of MPs from
different sides of the centre ground, and this may well be the case.
But recent events in politics worldwide have shown that the unthinkable
has now become thinkable.
Many lifelong Conservative voters who were and remain strongly against
Brexit will not vote for a pro-Brexit Conservative party, and even if
there are no electoral pacts at any level, national or local, in
strongly anti-Brexit constituencies in the Conservative south of
England, the Conservatives may well lose seats to whatever party fields
most credible candidate.
Labour, who lost quite a lot of votes to UKIP in the 2015 election,
will get a lot of their traditional voters back now that UKIP is
increasingly seen as a "spent force" with a rather un-charismatic
leader - who failed to win when he himself stood against
Labout in a recent by-election. Ukip is currently on a sharp downward
trend, and it's only sitting MP recently quite the party. Even if
Jeremy Corbyn is anathema to many traditional Labour voters, he is
hero-worshipped by others... and for other Labour voters he is not at
all what they would want... but less of a bad deal than another Tory
On 18th April, an opinion poll put the Conservatives on
46%.... 21 points ahead of Labour on 25 %. BUT. A
month earlier, on 17th March, another poll had the Conservatives on 43%
and Labour on 30% - a difference of only 13 points.
Public opinion in the UK is highly volatile, and the polls
may well show unexpected movements in the runup to the election. With
support for Labour spread very unevenly over the country, Labour do not
need to match the Conservatives nationally to retain or win back more
seats; they just need to win back voters from UKIP and the
Conservatives in their heartland.
Social media - whose power to influence events has become abundantly
clear in the last 12
months - will manage to generate a lot of tactical voting against the
Conservatives ifor seats where their majority is at risk.
Theresa May loses a lot of her credibility on account of her two 180°
U-turns in nine months. Voters will wonder how one can trust a PM who
campaigned against Brexit, then takes the UK into it, and later
repeated countless times that she would not call an early general
election, before doing just that.
So although Theresa May clearly imagines that she will win the upcoming
general election – otherwise she would not have called it – and even if
this remains at present the most likely outcome, even she
must have a few doubts.
© About-Britain.com 2017 except where otherwise