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The General Election: I Can’t Even…

Many people stayed up late last night to watch the results coming in for the UK General Election, and for many this was their first time voting. The results of the election and their ramifications are quite complex and may take some time to take effect. Many are left wondering “Did we win?” and there’s not really a clear answer to this. I will do my best to summarise key results and impacts of the results, and forecast some future potential changes and issues.

What is a Hung Parliament?

Last night resulted in a “Hung Parliament”, which is when no single party has a majority and a coalition or “Confidence and supply” arrangement needs to form. Usually the largest party is given the first opportunity to form a government to lead the country. This happened before with the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition (which ended up almost wiping out the Lib Dems) and has happened again now, this time with the Tories partnering up with the DUP.

For the Tories:

They won the election, but lost their majority. Theresa May called the election with a 22 point lead in the polls, believing this election would wipe out many Labour seats in their favour and allow her a strong mandate going into Brexit and to continue with her cuts and policies. That lead evaporated despite having much of the mainstream media (from the BBC to The Daily Mail) treating them very favourably compared with the main opposition. She has now formed a coalition with the DUP (see below) which seems to be one of the few partners she could have taken to form a new government and salvage a theoretical majority. It’s assumed the Liberal Democrats didn’t want to repeat that process.

For Theresa May and the Tory Leadership:

Her authority in her party has gone. Although she has ruled out resigning, it is likely she will be pushed into doing so by her party. Both Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron (Lib Dem leader) have called for her to resign. The so called ‘Nasty Party’ will not tolerate the failure and weakness that were her election campaign and she is unlikely to last very long at all. Many believe this is effectively the end of her political career. Just as she brought in new ministers when she took the reigns after David Cameron stepped aside, it is likely whoever takes her place will do the same. Many suspect this will be Boris Johnson, he is the bookies favourite and oddly enough they are quite good at making predictions (there’s a lot of money riding on it).

Thus far some media are remaining in support of her so it may be the case that she clings onto power, at least for the time being.

For the Labour Party (PLP):

Many called Jeremy Corbyn unelectable, believing he would be catastrophic for the Labour Party in a General Election, and his leadership would lead to them being wiped out. The Tories thought this, and so did a lot of the PLP and ‘establishment’ as a whole. This is why there were a series of attempted take overs by them, including The Chicken Coup and the Vote of No Confidence. Jeremy Corbyn withstood all of these attempts to replace him and grew the Party Membership considerably through these events; but the internal divisions still damaged the public image of the party as a whole were used by partisan media to undermine Labour support. It showed the PLP to be divided internally between those (relatively few) who were fully behind Corbyn, and those often referred to as ‘moderates’ or ‘Blairites’ who wanted to take a more centrist political stance.

The election results did not result in a Labour government, but they actually saw Labour gain 31 more seats. This is likely to add to the stability of Corbyn’s leadership of the party and give his PLP opponents less ammunition to try to remove him from leadership. It is probably the case that Corbyn did better than any of the other potential candidates would have done in his place, and many Labour MPs still have a job under his leadership even if they tried to remove him (Jonathan Pie Video – NSFW).

For Jeremy Corbyn:

There could scarcely be more contrast between the outcomes for Corbyn and May from this election. Where for May she started with her party behind her and confidence in the outcome, she is now in a very uncertain position and likely to be removed in the near future. Corbyn withstood many attempts to remove him by his own party (for fear of being wiped out in an election) and now he is likely to have far more support from his party despite not winning the election. Despite not actually winning the vote, Labour did remarkably well under hostile media coverage

For Labour Supporters:

Under Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party Membership has soared, and as has been proven not just in internal leadership contests, but now in a general election, he is popular with the public at large. Many Labour Supporters turned their backs on Labour after a perceived betrayal by Tony Blair, who was by many definitions centre right (a “Red Tory”). With New Labour there was far less distinction between the Tories and Labour and many people disengaged from politics altogether, or at least withdrew their support from a party that no longer represented their views.

Under Jeremy Corbyn many of these voters have returned to the fold, as well as a new generation of voters who have been galvanised by his leadership and started engaging in politics. It is important to note however that this election result is just the first step for Labour supporters and the party as a whole. There is no short term fix here, and the changes that many supporters wish to see will take considerably more time to realise. If they want to see this through, Corbyn and the Labour party will need their continued support and enthusiasm over the coming months and years. Many in the Tory party will be banking on political burnout, and the trend for Corbyn passing by so that they can retake the lost ground.

For the SNP and Scotland:

The SNP lost 21 seats – more than any other party. This being said, there was almost no way but down for them following the last election when they took all but 3 seats in Scotland. Traditionally Scotland was a Labour heartland, but this changed after New Labour and with an independence movement. Following the loss of the Independence Referendum Scotland has been left quite divided. The “Indy Ref” also galvanised many younger voters and drew them into politics; however the result left many disillusioned especially with many of the promises being left unfulfilled and the Brexit vote passing through. There is a persistent mistrust of Westminster and many are frustrated with the lack of real change brought about under the SNP. There is also the issue of the ‘split vote’, whereby the ‘anyone but Tory’ voters divide their votes between Scottish Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats (who have also previously done well in Scotland).

The Scottish Conservatives played heavily on the prospect of a 2nd Independence Referendum and looked to gain support from those who voted no in the last one and who don’t want another one so soon after the first. This was partly responsible for their best election results in Scotland since 1983.

It is quite an irony that the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn may have taken many votes from the SNP to Labour, allowing the Tories in. The Greens and other parties spoke of a ‘Progressive Alliance’ of parties to counter the Tories and prevent the split vote letting them in. The seats the Tories won in Scotland demonstrate what happens when opponents of the Tory party do not work together. It was the 10+ seats the Tories gained in Scotland which enabled them to form a coalition with the DUP and remain in power, despite the majority of voters not supporting the Tories and their policies.

Corbyn and Scottish Labour refused to play ball with the SNP, and ally against a common foe, and both parties have paid the price for this.

For UKIP:

UKIP have been wiped out. Despite getting a disproportionate amount of media attention for a party of their size, their vote evaporated after the last election. Their ‘raison d’être’ was Brexit, and with the vote having been passed they had little else to go on. They were often a protest vote against the Westminster Establishment, playing on fears relating to immigration and the EU to fuel their support. They lost 10.8% of the UK vote share and may well be a done deal now. This is despite some papers saying that they were a real threat in this election!

For the DUP and Northern Ireland:

Most people won’t have heard much of the DUP or at least know much about them prior to this election. In short the DUP deny Climate Change (DUP East Antrim MP Sammy WIlson was Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister), are against LGBT rights, are Pro-brexit, are anti abortion, are creationists and is a party spun out of the Loyalist ‘paramilitary’ (i.e. terrorist) movement in Northern Ireland. This is the Financial Times take on the DUP and what they may want in return for supporting the Tories.

This is dangerously hypocritical of the Tories who have been attacking Corbyn for speaking to the IRA (and Loyalists) during “The Troubles” to try and bring about a peaceful resolution.

Following the Brexit vote the peace process in Northern Ireland was already strained (although there are many other factors), this coalition could result in future issues in Northern Ireland. The Tory’s taking this coalition to preserve power may have longer term and serious consequences in Northern Ireland. Taking ‘sides’ with the DUP is likely to cause anger and stoke the flames of a Republican movement. Free movement of people across the border in Ireland will be a key issue in Brexit for all Irish which is largely ignored in Westminster. Northern Ireland was also staunchly pro- EU (55.8% remain) in the Brexit vote and now a staunchly pro-Brexit party from northern Ireland has disproportionate influence over the UK as a whole.

Beyond consequences in Northern Ireland, an alliance with the DUP could cause internal divisions within the Conservative party and bring some sectarianism into the UK (historically a problem in Scotland). The DUP believe the Pope is the antichrist, and this may antagonise many Catholic voters across the political spectrum.

For the Electoral System:

Looking at the overall vote, it is clear the electoral system is not democratically representative. The Conservatives won 42.4% of the vote and 318 seats, Labour won 40.0% of the vote and 261 seats- far more seats difference than 2.4%. The Liberal Democrats won more than twice the votes of the SNP yet only got 12 seats compared to 35 for the SNP.

Of course regional representation is important, and the dispersion of voting should be taken into account, however the First Past The Post system favours larger parties, in particular the Conservative party and works against smaller parties like The Greens (and previously UKIP). In this election a lot of people voted tactically to try and undermine the Tory party. This seems to have broadly worked except in Scotland and some parts of Wales where regional parties split the vote with Labour and let the Tories in.

For first time voters:

It may seem an anti-climax to many first time voters, who largely supported Jeremy Corbyn, and may see this result as a defeat with the Tories being back in power. The larger the vote, and the more young people vote, the better Labour traditionally do. As such it is in the interests of the Tories for there to be political disengagement especially amongst younger voters.

It is important in any healthy democracy that young people continue to tune into politics and keep engaged. Your views and interests will not be represented if you don’t show up to vote, or hold those in power accountable for the impact of their actions. There is often no quick fix however, and it takes persistence and dedication.

In short, for younger voters: your fight has just begun.

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