June 10, 2017
What may go down in history as one of the most important elections in recent times for the United Kingdom is less than a month away. What can we expect? What are the key issues? What is likely to be the outcome? Read on to find out more about how one of this summer's most crucial political events is shaping up.
UK General Election Timeline
- 18 April 2017 - During an unscheduled address, British Prime Minister Theresa May shocks the world by announcing a snap general election, to be held on June 8.
- 19 April 2017 - Members of Parliament vote by 522 votes to 13 to prepone the next general election, which was scheduled for 2020.
- 3 May 2017 - Parliament is dissolved, allowing Britain's political parties 25 working days to campaign.
- 4 May 2017 - Local elections, which were scheduled before the snap general election (and are not part of it) are held in order to vote on which parties will occupy 4,851 local council seats throughout England, Scotland and Wales, as well as 6 new “metro mayors”. Although separate from the general election, the results are treated as an indicator of what to expect on June 8.
- 11 May 2017 - The last day for parties to nominate their candidates.
- 8 June 2017 - Polling day. Polling stations open between 7am and 10pm. Exit polls start to come in at around 10pm, giving an indication of the winner.
How does the British Political System Work?
The United Kingdom is divided into 650 parliamentary constituencies, each of which votes to elect a member of parliament (MP) into the House of Commons. The party with the majority of seats is called upon by the monarch to form a government with its leader acting as the Prime Minister. The leader of the party with the second largest number of parliamentary seats is called upon to become the Leader of the Opposition.
The Conservative Party and Labour Party have been the two most dominant in British politics since 1922. Their leaders having provided all Prime Ministers since 1935. Since the last election, the Conservatives hold 330 seats (36.8%) and Labour hold 232 seats (30.4%). The Liberal Democrats have a long history as the United Kingdom's third most popular party, however they fell from this position in 2015 when they lost 49 seats in the House of Commons to occupy just 8. The Scottish National Party now occupies this third place, holding a total of 56 seats.
Obviously, Brexit is to be front and centre as far as the issues are concerned. One of the reasons for the Prime Minister calling a snap election, despite having stated that she wouldn't, is to secure a larger majority before entering into Brexit negotiations with the EU. The word “gamble” has been repeatedly used to describe her decision, however the polls are showing it to be a calculated and highly strategic move that catches the opposition Labour party at a time when it is particularly vulnerable and when it's leader's popularity is at an all-time low. Recent polls have shown the Conservatives to be in the lead by as much as 46%, with the Labour party at 25% and the Liberal Democrats at 11%.
As far as Brexit is concerned, the Labour Party has stated that if elected, its Brexit position will be to extol the virtues of the single market and customs union while guaranteeing the residency rights of EU nationals. This is a considerably softened stance, considering Jeremy Corbyn was firmly in the “remain” camp during the Brexit referendum.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, on the other hand, has been less ambiguous, having pledged to offer the British public a second referendum on Brexit and to remain committed to keeping the UK in the single market regardless of its outcome.
The Scottish National Party's leader, Nicola Sturgeon, has been campaigning for Scotland to have special status post-Brexit, part of which is to remain in the single market. She has also called for there to be a second referendum on Scotland's independence prior to Brexit taking place.
What's it likely to be?
It's looking like landslide victory for the Conservatives. Theresa May has picked the perfect moment to consolidate her power. Her party is at its strongest and the opposition is in complete disarray. Her party will stand firm on its uncompromising Brexit stance, while ridiculing the opposition's only real chance at unseating her, which is to form an alliance with the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party. The Conservatives have already started calling this the “coalition of chaos”.
The local elections held at the beginning of May have also confirmed the Conservatives' dominance, having increased their number of councillors nationwide by 558, while Labour lost 320 councillors. The Conservatives have even managed to knock Labour into third place in Scotland, having gained over 100 councillors there as compared to the previous election in 2012.
Many experts feel that this is bad for British politics since the Conservatives will soon have even more control over the fate of the country than they do now, without a viable opposition party, let alone one that could challenge May for the role of Prime Minister. It remains to be seen how this plays out over the coming month. However, from our current perspective it's looking as though Theresa May will probably get what she wants.
Sources: The Guardian, Telegraph, New statesman
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