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Elections in the United Kingdom: decisive and unpredictable

The British prepare to return to the polls for the second time since 2017, in general elections brought forward because of Brexit, that show signs of being one of the most unpredictable in recent times.

 

Néstor Marín

 

According to a study quoted by Sky News, the traditional competition between the Conservatives and Labour has opened up to new options, which is why no one dare predict whether the electorate will place their votes on 12 December according to their position on the UK’s exit from the EU, or by sticking to party loyalties.

Nor is it clear if these elections, initially scheduled for May 2022, will help resolve the political crisis precipitated by the failure of Parliament to pass the withdrawal agreement negotiated by the Conservative prime minister, Boris Johnson, with his European peers, which forced a further postponement of the controversial divorce.

Analyst Beth Rigby, for example, is one who thinks that many voters could choose to punish the two main parties by withholding their vote, as happened in 2017, and which could return the situation to its point of departure with a House of Commons with no absolute majority able to form a government.

Promises

In any case, the battle for the 650 parliamentary seats is well underway, and the two heavyweights of British politics are leading the charge, as was to be expected.

Though they are undoubtedly concerned by the votes other ‘minority’ parties could wrestle from them.

On one side, the Conservatives have made Brexit their battle cry, and Johnson never tires of asserting that the UK needs to break its ties to the EU once and for all on the 31st of January to be able to sail full speed ahead towards a more prosperous future. According to the controversial politician, famous for his scruffy blonde hair, tattered clothing and sometimes coarse words, once out of the European block, his government will be able to fully commit to putting a domestic agenda into practice that includes, for example, multi-million pound investments in hospitals, schools and fighting crime.

Let’s get Brexit done and release the country’s potential exhorted the Prime Minister in the first television debate ‘face-off’ against Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour, on the other hand, wants to make the most of the election being brought forward to try to push their election campaign much further than Brexit, with a political and social agenda based on radical change in favour of the majority, although without wiping their hands of the need to resolve the controversial divorce from the EU, which is, at the end of the day, the main focus of civic duties.

For example, Corbyn promises to end austerity politics implemented by the Tories since taking power nine years ago. He promises to raise taxes for large corporations and the richest groups and use this income to finance the great investments Labour proposes to narrow the existing social divide.

As far as Brexit goes, Labour assures that on taking power they will negotiate a new withdrawal agreement with European leaders which they will then submit to the British people for their approval in a referendum, where voters will also have the option to choose to remain within the union.

We will make the changes this country needs and deserves, promised Corbyn, speaking to the British people and above all to the young people who have reached voting age since the 2016 referendum, when 51.9% of voters opted in favour of leaving the EU.

In sync with growing calls from young people to stop climate change, an eventual Labour government would also implement a ‘green industrial revolution’ and would create a fund of 250 billion pounds to promote policies favourable for the environment, as well as working towards zero emissions by 2030.

Divided vote

Although they are minorities from the point of view of the number of seats they hold in Parliament, the other parties competing in the 12 December elections could play a decisive role when it comes to whisking a clear victory away from the Conservatives or Labour.

The Liberal Democrats, for example, are taking advantage of the ambivalence displayed by Labour’s leadership when it came to staking a firm position for or against Brexit, and proclaim themselves the only party to openly oppose the rupture. With this standpoint, the party led by Jo Swinson, considered the third political force in the UK, is hoping to attract ‘remainers’, the 48.1% of the population who voted, in 2016, to stay within the union.

On the other side of the tracks, but with a similar intention of capturing votes from so-called ‘leavers’, is the Brexit Party, founded by europhobic Nigel Farage, who punts for leaving the EU as soon as possible, never mind the terms of the divorce.

Nevertheless, Farage showed signs of prudence when he announced that in the interest of not dividing the pro-Brexit vote, his party will not put forward candidates in the 317 constituencies safely held by the conservatives.

The populist leader refused, however, to make further concessions when the Tories asked him to do the same in constituencies controlled by Labour.

In Scotland, the nationalists of Nicola Sturgeon’s party could also weaken the Conservative and Labour vote with their promise to look for ways to deliver a second referendum on Scottish independence, an idea long rejected by the two main British parties.

The Greens, with their promise to invest 100 billion pounds annually to counteract the imminent climate emergency and the Welsh nationalists of Plaid Cymru form a number who, although few, will gather up votes from Brexit detractors.

But their effect could be even greater bearing in mind that these last two parties have made a deal with the Lib Dems to join forces behind the most promising of their candidates in at least 60 constituencies across England and Wales.

Against such a wide and unusual array of possibilities, even the boldest analysts refuse to stake their bets on an absolute victory in the 12th of December elections, even as the most recent polls give the Conservatives a 12 percentage point lead over Labour. (PL)

(Translated by Elizabeth Dann – Email: elizabethdann@blueyonder.co.uk) – Photos: Pixabay

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