UK's snap vote: Political gamble or antidote to Brexit deadlock?

TANKUT ÖZTAŞ
Published 06.11.2019 02:06

On Oct. 29, 2019, the U.K. Parliament voted to hold the anticipated general election Boris Johnson has been seeking since last summer. The election will take place on Dec. 12, 2019, marking the first general election to take place in December in almost a century.

The Labour Party, which has been blocking a snap general election to "avoid a no-deal Brexit scenario," shifted its stance earlier this week, pointing out that the recent Brexit deadline extension until the end of January has met their conditions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson views the snap election as a solution to the current hung Parliament. He is confident in his campaigning skills and believes he can win an outright majority. Likewise, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn claims that this election presents an opportunity for Labour to enter Downing Street.

However, there is a reason to believe that neither leader will be entirely satisfied at the end of this election. Despite the Conservatives' fairly comfortable over 10% lead in the latest national polls, it is difficult to estimate the outcome of the election as there is still considerable uncertainty as to what will be the defining factor of the election.

Before moving on to domestic priorities such as schools, the National Health Service (NHS) and crime, Boris Johnson will inevitably focus on "getting Brexit done" as his main message, with a heavy focus on blaming Labour for being "reckless" in managing the economy. Johnson will make the case that Jeremy Corbyn is not capable of running the economy and that the country would suffer under his leadership.

Corbyn, on the other hand, will emphasize traditional-left issues and put himself firmly on the side of "the many not the few," promising to shake up capitalism to help ordinary working families. Corby's election strategy will draw a stark contrast between "the elite" and "the working class" in British society and accusing his rivals of protecting the privileged few and promising real change if Labour wins office.

Corbyn claims that "the elite" in society should pay more taxes, that wealth inequality is an issue the Conservatives have failed to assuage. If elected, his party will fight harder and dirtier than ever before to end the austerity, expand the welfare state and create a "fairer society."

It is evident that his fierce attack on the elites associated with Tories and what he calls a corrupt system, which he highlights is run by this specific group, is a clear if unsurprising sign he intends to run a radical campaign – one which he believes can deliver him the keys to No. 10.

Yet, it is not clear what the British public will vote on. Even if Johnson gets his way and makes the election solely about Brexit that does not mean he will get an outright majority. Nigel Farage's Brexit Party still stands at a noticeable 10% in the polls, which it extracts mostly from the Conservative Party.

Furthermore, the Liberal Democrat Party's persistent pro-"remain" stance attracts "remain" voters, endangering vulnerable Conservative seats across the country.

In fact, the Liberal Democrats have been surging in the polls, now standing at an average of 18% in poll trackers. If that is true, the U.K. is likely to end up with another hung Parliament, forcing Conservatives to form another coalition or run a minority government.

Nevertheless, the pain of a second snap election for the British political system since the Brexit vote might be more than it can endure when the uncertain political environment in Scotland is considered. It is very likely that the governing Scottish National party will campaign in December's general election on a platform that only independence from the U.K. can save Scotland, which voted 62% to remain in the referendum, from a damaging hard Brexit.

The impact of Johnson's exit deal as assessed by the official report released by the Scottish government this week suggested that the deal would reduce Scottish gross domestic product by 6% by 2030.

The report highlighted that the arrangements for Northern Ireland under the Brexit deal – which keeps it in the EU's customs union and elements of its single market, while also guaranteeing Northern Irish businesses and farmers "unfettered access" to the rest of the UK – could have far-reaching consequences for the competitiveness of the Scottish economy and overall efficiency.

"Scotland will therefore not only lose the benefits of EU, single market and customs union membership but will also be at a competitive disadvantage in relation to Northern Ireland," the report put it.

Boris Johnson has called the snap election to win a majority, get Brexit done and solve his problems. Corbyn agreed to the election hoping that he can find himself on Downing Street by Christmas. Yet, it will be up to the British public to decide who will get the biggest present this Christmas. The data we have suggests it will be a surprise – one that will be revealed on the morning of Dec. 13.

* Researcher at TRT World Research Centre

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