A thematic guide to the UK
Election June 2017
The "Palace of Westminster", London, home of the British Parliament
May took a gamble and 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.
To form a majority government, she has had to form an alliance
(not a coalition) with the far-right Protestant "Democratic Unionist
Party" of Northern Ireland. It is an extremely fragile alliance,
as the DUP is far too right-wing and socially-conservative even for
many Conservatives. There are plenty of points on which the DUP might
not vote with the Conservatives, and other points on which some
Conservatives will not vote with their own government.
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 many in
the Conservative party who now consider that she is a liability to the
party, not an asset.
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, was 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 popularity, 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 would have satisfied more than a minority of voters.
Even at their best in early 2017, the Conservatives only stood at about 45%
in the opinion polls. In this situation, the election was
as much about "Who do you not
want to see in power?" as about "Who do
you want to form the next government?"
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 did May call 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
wereoriginally scheduled, Britain might be in a difficult
situation. In this scenario, Mrs. May could well have lost 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 wanted to
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 was a high
A risky strategy
By calling a general election so unexpectedly,
Theresa May was clearly betting on a number of points that were very much
in her favour
May thus calculated that it was the moment to strike, before the
opposition parties had time to reconstitute and draw up their lines
for a well prepared election campaign.
- The Conservative party was well ahead in the opinion
- The Labour Party was 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, have
fallen apart under a new leader who completely lacks the charisma of
- Opposition parties in general were not ready for a
- In Scotland, the Conservatives were on the up, being
seen as the Party most actively campaigning against a second Scottish
although Theresa May clearly imagined that she would win
the general election – otherwise she would not have called it –
she did not take account of the volatility of public opinion in the UK.
She should have known better.
- In 2015, nobody expected
David Cameron to wih the general election with a large enough majority
to be able to form a pure Conservative government – but he did.
- In 2016, none of the opinion polls suggested that British voters would actually vote for Brexit – but they did.
2017, all the opinion polls pointed to a big election victory for
Theresa May; but instead of gaining more seats, the Conservatives
- And in 2018 ?
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