A General Election is Coming, What Now?
It’s finally here – a General Election is happening.
With the British electorate heading to the polls for the third time in five years to decide who will form the next government, parties and leaders alike have been rushing to plead their case to lead the country for the next five years; mind you that's if there isn't another election before then.
The Conservative Party
Boris Johnson opted to call a General Election following continued deadlock over his Brexit plans, as his minority government continued to be frustrated by a lack of parliamentary backing. Combined with this, the now-defunct deadline to deliver a Brexit deal and withdraw from the European Union on the 31st of October added pressure to Johnson to finish the job or see his tenure and his party lose credibility.
He and his party hope to base their success on the promise to finally leave the European Union in January 2020 and fend off the threat of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Express, Johnson called Corbyn a 'political fossil' who would 'trash' the 'dynamic economy' of the UK. This just shows the kind of rhetoric and message that Johnson will repeat as part of his upcoming election campaign, and it is something that the Conservative Party, in general, seems to want to get behind.
In recent weeks the polls look to be in favour of the conservaties, with the party leading by as much as 16%, hovering at nearly 40% in poll ratings compared to Labour’s mid-twenties. Such ratings would suggest that a Conservative landslide majority is to be expected.
So, the message that the party has put forward appears to have traction, particularly on the issue of Brexit because a lot of people still support the idea and want to see it through.
However, there are some issues to consider. The Conservative Party have been in power now for nearly ten years, and any party that has been in power for that long will begin to suffer. Ideas may become less dynamic and effective, certain leaders and figures within the party may become less popular, and a desire for change among the electorate, particularly in the light of problems the country has faced for years such as austerity, could lead to a change in government.
Additionally, Johnson’s ratings are not that impressive, though he's the most popular Conservative politician, he still only has a positive rating of 34%. So, it will be of particular importance to the party to offer something new, to concede on certain issues like spending by injecting more money into the state and promising new state-led initiatives like affordable housing, to appease the electorate.
After years of struggle, perhaps this could be the start of a new era of Conservative and indeed British politics, should Johnson and the party get it right.
The Labour Party
Labour has struggled to gain favour with the electorate for quite a few months now.
Leadership has continued to be a controversial matter not only within the party, with the activities of Tom Watson and his contradictions with Corbyn, but also to the electorate. According to Ipsos Mori, Corbyn’s ratings have slumped to the worst ever net score of any opposition leader since their polls began in 1977. Corbyn’s approach on Brexit has not won many supporters, with the leader’s position being perceived by much of the electorate to be confusing and lacking resolve compared to Johnson and the Conservatives.
On a broader level, the polls also do not look good for Labour at the beginning of the campaign, with the party trailing the Conservatives by a considerable margin. And again, this may largely be the result of Brexit and Labour's promise to hold a second referendum, which while popular with many within the Liberal Democrats and other centre or left-leaning parties and their supporters, does not hold much favour with those who support the Conservatives or Brexit in general, particularly those in favour of a hard Brexit.
The issue is indeed a tough one because Labour stands to lose a good portion of support, either way, depending on their approach. Many of their supporters voted Leave and would do so again, so by holding a referendum, they risk alienating key supporters, many of whom reside in Leave constituencies which could easily switch to the Conservatives.
It will be key for Labour to try and take the focus away from Brexit, at least for the time being and draw a greater focus on issues like climate change and the NHS, something Corbyn is trying to place at the centre of the campaign. Such issues are more problematic for the Conservatives to counter, particularly on the issue of the NHS which has been the subject of speculation that its future could be part of a US-UK trade deal- something Boris Johnson has struggled to respond to.
Whilst the outlook for the Labour party may seem a little bleak right now, they could make inroads on the Conservatives after a few weeks as the message that the party puts forward about transforming the UK and ending the policies of the Conservative government after ten years of power might allow them to stand a bigger chance of winning a majority. Considering that Labour gained seats during the 2017 General Election despite polls predicting a Thatcher-style landslide for Theresa May, it shows that polls must be taken with a pinch of salt.
Internal stability will also be key for the party; there must be no infighting between the backbenchers, the Shadow Cabinet, and the leadership. Of all times to be in unity, the time is now. A clear, coherent agenda combined with speakers and messengers who believe in the project or at least are willing to co-operate to avoid disruption during the campaign, could produce a Labour government.
This will be a key opportunity for Corbyn to make a success of his vision and prove the doubters wrong by forming a Labour government, a Labour government that is entirely different from the days of Blair and Brown and brings about a new era of left-wing politics and a new phase of British history. But should he not win, then his chances of remaining the Labour leader look bleak. Corbyn has declined to comment on whether he would stay as the leader in the event of a Labour defeat, but he will likely step down in such a situation- at least in my opinion.
The (initial) verdict
My verdict is this, so far – a hung parliament.
I expect the Conservatives to remain strong but begin to lose their support in the polls over the coming weeks. Labour can produce a compelling message that may come across very well in TV debates, interviews, and public events. The fight between Corbyn and Johnson will be intense and close, with both leaders offering a different dynamic and vision that appeals to different kinds of people. However, I foresee Corbyn edging Johnson in terms of appeal, despite the problems that have plagued his leadership for quite some time- like his stance on Brexit. However, with the other parties in play too, especially the Brexit Party who remain an unknown at the moment, a hung parliament seems likely. In that case, coalition bargaining will begin, or we go to the ballot for a second time.
It is early days, and many things can change during an election campaign. We have until December 12th to decide on who to vote for.
Don’t waste your opportunity to decide the next government. This is not a plead for any particular party, but democracy must be fulfilled and executed. The country needs to refresh its decisions on who exactly leads them.
Also, I have not commented on other parties; that is not to disrespect them. Indeed, the prospects of the Brexit Party should be considered and whether that could decide who enters No. 10 in the final month of 2019. Elsewhere, the SNP has called for a second referendum on Scottish independence in 2020; their fortunes in this election may either derail or fuel that momentum for such a request. Regardless, the election will be pivotal in deciding the future of Brexit, and many other issues; turnout must be high, and decisions must be made.
This is the opportunity the nation needs to get things moving again in the political climate.