Stakes Are High in British Election, But Outcome Is Up in the Air

The Houses of Parliament in London, England, February 19, 2013
The Houses of Parliament in London, England, February 19, 2013 (Martin Robson)

In a month, Britain will have its third election in four years. Once more the reason is Brexit, or rather the lack of Brexit.

I’ve argued before that Britain’s departure from the EU is accelerating a breakdown of the two-party system. The upcoming election is like a kaleidoscope. Every time you shake it, a new pattern appears.

Yet the stakes are simple enough. For the Conservatives, all that matters is winning a majority. The other parties merely have to stop this from happening to claim victory.

Already we can say the new Parliament will be more partisan and less experienced. Sixty lawmakers with 750 years of combined legislative experience are not seeking reelection. Many blame the coarse political discourse of recent years. Read more

After Week of Turmoil, What Next for British Politics?

Elizabeth Tower of the Houses of Parliament in London, England
Elizabeth Tower of the Houses of Parliament in London, England (Unsplash/Paul Green)

Tuesday was an historic night in British politics, and one whose outcome could reverberate through the coming months and years.

Lawmakers voted 328 to 321 to take control of the parliamentary agenda from the government in order to demand that Boris Johnson, the prime minister, ask for an extension of Britain’s exit from the European Union if no withdrawal agreement is in place by October 17.

Johnson, who currently has a 100-percent loss rate in Parliament, and is the first British prime minister since William Pitt the Younger in 1793 to lose his first vote, refuses to delay Brexit and called for an early election instead.

But that too failed. Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, a two-thirds supermajority is required to call an early election. Many opposition lawmakers, who fear an early election is a government trap to bring about a no-deal Brexit, abstained. Read more

Election of Britain’s Next Prime Minister Feels a Little Ridiculous

London mayor Boris Johnson waves at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, England, October 9, 2012
London mayor Boris Johnson waves at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, England, October 9, 2012 (Andrew Parsons)

The contest to succeed Theresa May as Conservative Party leader and prime minister of the UK is about halfway through. A field of more than two dozen candidates has been whittled down to two by parliamentarians. The final contenders are Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

The entire thing has an air of ridicule to it. Many in the country have watched the televised debates between the candidates setting out their policies on not just Brexit but controversial domestic issues, such as social care and high-speed rail. But out of millions, only 150 to 160,000 party members have a vote.

On top of this, to spend the better half of two months choosing a new leader, who will be the new prime minister by default, when the country faces perhaps its greatest crisis in half a century seems rather like rearranging the deckchairs on a sinking ship — futile and even a little insulting to those who suspect more could have been done with the six-month Brexit extension granted by the EU in April. Read more

Brexit Is Tearing Britain’s Conservative Party Apart

British prime minister Theresa May attends a NATO summit in Brussels, July 11, 2018
British prime minister Theresa May attends a NATO summit in Brussels, July 11, 2018 (Shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis)

In last month’s European elections, Britain’s Conservative Party outdid expectations that it would perform poorly by performing terribly. It placed fifth with just 9 percent support, the party’s worst result since 1832.

This is a humiliation for a party that prides itself on being Britain’s “natural party of government”. Theresa May promptly announced she would step down as prime minister and party leader. Twelve candidates are vying to replace her, including the former mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

A fresh face won’t be enough avert the next electoral disaster, though. The Conservatives have lost their reputation for competence and prudence during the Brexit process and the issue of Europe — which has brought down every Conservative prime minister since Ted Heath — is unlikely to go away. Read more

Local Elections Highlight Political Fragmentation in United Kingdom

View of Bideford, England from the River Torridge
View of Bideford, England from the River Torridge (Shutterstock)

The outcome of local elections in the United Kingdom last week painted a stark picture for the country’s two major political parties.

The ruling Conservatives were expecting to lose around 800 of their 5,521 seats. They ended up losing 1,330 and with it control of 44 councils.

Labour, who were expecting gains, ended up losing 84 seats and control of six councils.

The clear winners were the Liberal Democrats, who more than doubled their seats, from 658 to 1,351, with 19 percent support. The Greens also won.

It is tempting to write up the result to those parties’ pro-EU message, but there is actually more at play. Read more

Brexit Is Restructuring British Politics

The British flag flies over the Houses of Parliament in London, England
The British flag flies over the Houses of Parliament in London, England (Unsplash/Matt Milton)

Friday was meant to be Brexit Day, but it wasn’t. Instead, after two “meaningful votes” about leaving the EU, a third was held in Parliament, which — like the previous two — did not succeed.

On Monday, Parliament will continue its indicative voting to see what, if any, resolution to the crisis can command a majority in the House.

Meanwhile, British politics continues its Brexit-themed realignment. Read more

After May’s Deal Defeated, Brexit at Impasse

The Houses of Parliament in London, England at dawn, April 14, 2011
The Houses of Parliament in London, England at dawn, April 14, 2011 (Chris Goldberg)

Last night, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was voted down by the British parliament in an historic defeat.

This came even after she delayed the vote, which was meant to take place in December, to try to shore up support for the agreement.

The three largest opposition parties — Labour, the Scottish Nationalists and the Liberal Democrats — voted against the deal. So did the junior governing party, the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (DUP), along with 118 of May’s own Conservatives.

In all, the treaty, which is meant to regulate Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, was rejected by 432 to 202 votes. Read more