With the announcement of the British Labour Party leader that his
members of parliament will support Prime Minister Boris Johnon’s
effort to hold a new national election in early December, the long
and bitter battle over Brexit (U.K. withdrawal from the European
Union) appears to be getting closer to a conclusion.
The parliament has just voted to adopt a December 12 election
date. If confirmed by the House of Lords, as expected, it will be set
Johnson’s governing Conservative (Tory) Party against not only
the Labour Party, but also several smaller parties, including the
Liberal Democratic Party, the new Brexit Party, Scottish National
Party, Irish Union Party and the Green Party. No party currently
has a majority in the parliament.
Delays in implementing Brexit following a national plebiscite to
leave the EU brought down Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May,
and it appeared that he would also fail until, at the last minute, he
brokered a deal with a parliamentary majority that would set an
orderly Brexit withdrawal acceptable also to the EU.
With only five weeks to campaign, British national elections are
much shorter than U.S. ones, and with so many parties the outcome
is uncertain. Although a controversial figure, compared by many to
Donald Trump, Johnson’s stubborn efforts to complete Brexit
made him increasingly popular with the British electorate. Current
polls indicate Tories have a double digit lead over Labour, its main
However, the Liberal Democrats, an anti-Brexit party, seek to make
gains on December 12 primarily at the expense of both Labour
and the Conservatives. Nigel Farage’s hardline Brexit Party might
take away Tory votes. How Ulster (the U.K. part of Ireland) will vote
this time is uncertain. Wales and most of England outside the largest
cities likely will vote Tory, and the urban areas likely will back
Labour. The leader of the latter promises a “radical” campaign
to take U.K. politics to the left, possibly bringing back wavering
Labour voters. Scottish Nationlists could take away otherwise
Labour seats. Finally, there are Green Party voters. They could
be part of a parliamentary leftist coalition with Labour, Liberal
Democrat and Scottish Nationalists.
Polling at 35%, the Tory lead over Labour (25%), Liberal
Democrats (18%), Brexit Party (12%) and Greens (4%) does not
translate necessarily into a majority of seats in the British
parliament. “Snap” elections, especially just before Christmas
in December, are notoriously unpredictable.
In 1945, just as Allied victory over Nazi Germany was to take
place, British voters rejected Boris Johnson’s political hero
Winston Churchill (who had led them so eloquently through the
war) and made socialist Clement Attlee of the Labour Party
Boris Johnson has seemed to accomplish the impossible by
crafting a last-minute Brexit deal and then getting a petulant
parliament to agree to a new election just before Christmas. Yet
these accomplishments pale before his challenge of convincing
the U.K.electorate to give him a majority of seats so that he can
finish the Brexit job.
In fact, if Johnson loses, and the Labour leader becomes prime
minister, Brexit would likely be scrapped, and the U.K. could
return to a controversial socialist agenda as it did in 1945.
We have only seen Acts One and Two of this current British
eccentric political melodrama. Act Three might even be more
Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.