Monday, 12 June 2017 08:09

UK Election Analysis: Anything could happen next

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Photo: Kyoko Escamilla (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

What happens next is anyone’s guess, frankly, but one thing that has become increasingly clear in the 48 hours or so since the UK General Election is that Prime Minister Theresa May will be very lucky to still be in that job in six months’ time.

By losing 12 seats from her benches, the Conservative party leader’s big gamble has backfired spectacularly.

Right now, she remains PM, but she will be relying on the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, and their toxic brand of social conservatism to govern and members of her own party have already expressed misgivings.

The prevailing feeling in the UK is that this arrangement just will not last; it has too many implications for the devolved Northern Irish state and the still frosty peace process. Many commentators have suggested that the Good Friday agreement which ended the paramilitary Troubles which blighted Ireland for a century has never been this fragile.

The DUP will complicate the Brexit process too, it seems unlikely May will be able to placate both them and the hardline Eurosceptics in her party at the same time. Something will have to give, and it will probably be May.

This General Election was the election that wasn’t supposed to happen, and often over the six weeks of campaigning it felt as though no-one - not the politicians, not the pundits, not the pollsters and certainly not the public - has had a clue what is actually happening.

"Something will have to give, and it will probably be May."

In the end, pollsters YouGov actually called it at the beginning of election week, amusingly no-one believed them.

Theresa May was supposed to win a landslide, instead, she somehow contrived to lose her majority. The increased majority she had asked for has failed to materialise, and given that was supposed to help her get a divisive Brexit deal through parliament, what on earth happens to the soon-to-begin negotiations is up in the air.

Unfortunately for pretty much everyone in the UK, the EU’s Manfred Weber summed things up when he suggested after the election that the country’s negotiating position had deteriorated somewhat overnight.

And for fans of an open, integrated Europe, the election was bad news too. Labour’s surge vindicated the opposition’s acceptance of Brexit, and the parties promising a second referendum, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, suffered a mixed night and a very poor night respectively.

The biggest shock off the night saw former Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister, and noted Europhile, Nick Clegg, lose his seat in the city of Sheffield to a Labour candidate.

What caused Labour’s ‘surge’ is difficult to parse. Local council elections held just a month ago suggested that outsider Jeremy Corbyn, who remains a divisive figure, was likely to lead the Labour party to one of their worst - if not their worst - electoral defeats in history, but a strong campaign changed things, as did a disastrous Tory one.

A series of awkward public U-turns, May’s refusal to take part in a number of TV and radio events, and a general distaste for archaic policies such as dropping the ban on fox-hunting have changed that.

Undoubtedly Jeremy Corbyn’s persona and a genuinely social democratic manifesto helped too, but to what extent these three factors contributed may not be known until we see Corbyn fight another election.

 This may happen sooner rather than later, with odds on an Autumn election shortening.

(That’s another thing the election has changed, Corbyn and his colleagues on the left wing of the Labour party will receive a great deal of political capital now, and what prominent centre-left figures such as Yvette Cooper do now will be interesting to watch.)

So, despite still not beating the Conservatives, it was a good night for progressive politics. Now, the idea of the left collapsing in its heartlands - think the old coalfields of Wales and much of the North of England - seems a tad absurd, and truly, the future of the UK is all to play for.

Frankly, It feels as if the political goalposts are moving at frightening speed.

Meanwhile, people across Europe would do well to keep one eye on the political mess unfolding in the UK. It’s entertaining and unpredictable at the very least.

Last modified on Monday, 12 June 2017 11:29

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