Friday, June 9, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What Just Happened In The U.K.?

The results are in from the so-called “snap” parliamentary
election in the United Kingdom (UK), and it is, above all,
clear that Conservative (Tory) Prime Minister Theresa May’s
gamble to enlarge her majority has failed, especially in the
short term.

But longer term pronouncements about British politics, based
on first glance at these results, are likely to be premature if not
possibly wrong.

In sheer numbers, the Tories won 318 seats, Labour, led by
Jeremy Corbyn, won 262, and other parties won about 70 seats
between them. Technically, a majority is 326, but since the 7
Sinn Fein (Northern Ireland) elected members do not attend, 
a majority is in reality 322. Since the 10 Union Party members
elected from Northern Ireland traditionally support the Tory
party in Parliament, Mrs. May clearly has enough (albeit
barely) to form a government.

The UK’s minor parties, especially the Scottish independence
party and the right wing UKIP, suffered dramatic losses. In fact,
the Tories best results came in Scotland where they picked up
seats. (Labour also gained seats in the north, but fewer than
the Conservatives.) The Liberal Party, formerly a partner with
the Tories, gained a few seats, but their overall number is
much-diminished from a few years ago.

Although I pay attention to British politics, and have often
visited there since 1964 (most recently in 2010 just after their
election that year), I am not an expert on UK voting, and
recommend my readers to my friend Michael Barone’s current
astute analysis ("Breaking Down Theresa May's Disastrous 
Night") in the Washington Examiner. Michael spent several days
in the UK during the campaign, and brings his legendary
statistical and analytical mastery to the other side of the Pond.

Bearing his and other voting analyses in mind, I would like to
look at the longer term view, the one which takes into account
the consequences of these latest election results.

That view, as I see it, is not necessarily as dire either for the
Tory Party, Brexit or Great Britain as headlines, anti-Tory
media, and Labour Party partisans might have us believe in
the immediate aftermath.

One matter, however, is clear. Theresa May’s political career
is now on life support, and might well be over soon. She will
likely form a government now, and open the Brexit
negotiations shortly scheduled to begin, but her political
performance, and that of her team, was so flawed, that she
will have to do something remarkable soon if she is to survive
as the resident of 10 Downing Street. Technically, her party
could govern for the next five years, but her Tory colleagues
might well put someone else at the helm. There are indeed
several figures waiting in the wings, perhaps most prominently
Boris Johnson and David Davies.

The Tory majority is clearly very thin, and some future crisis
could easily provoke still another election.

I think the prospects of British politics depend most on how
much and how well the Tory leadership learned from this
latest election. The pro-Labour media is now extolling Labour
leader Jeremy Corbyn’s role in the election as their narrative.
I would say, however, it was Mr. Corbyn who cost Labour the
opportunity to capitalize on the weak Tory campaign, and
actually win the election. A Labour leader with Tony Blair’s
skill and appeal, I think, would have done much better than
the radical and feckless program Mr. Corbyn offered British
voters. His foreign policy views alone (although he did say
he now “softly” supports Brexit) are not what most British
voters hold. Mr. Corbyn apparently did do well with younger
voters. If the Tories ignore this, they will be making a serious

One of Michael Barone’s smart insights is that protest parties
usually fade after the object of their protest is accomplished.
With the Brexit vote, the rationale and energy of UKIP, the
right wing party, evaporated in 2017. Their constituency
melted away. But those who would have expected their voters
to automatically go the Conservatives would have been wrong.
The 2017 votes indicate that in the educated urban centers,
UKIP voters went to Labour. Only in rural area did the Tories
inherit the UKIP protest vote.

If the Tory Party is to recover and enlarge its majority in the
next election (five years from now or sooner), it will have to do
a much better job of understanding what are the concerns of
the British voters in an age not only of terror attacks, but job
insecurity, global realignments and much social change.

Theresa May gets a D-minus for her effort in 2017, but her
party has probably got a reprieve. Mr. Thorpe, like his
American counterpart Bernie Sanders, is thinking in a
political dreamland, and is not likely to reverse course,
especially now.

This is the potential good news for the Tories despite the
bad news of the 2017 election.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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