British Conservatives Face Three Structural Challenges

British prime minister Theresa May speaks at the United Nations in New York, September 20, 2016
British prime minister Theresa May speaks at the United Nations in New York, September 20, 2016 (The Prime Minister’s Office)

The United Kingdom’s Conservative Party has arguably been one of the most successful political parties in the Western world. It dominated British politics from 1886 to 1906, from 1918 to 1945, from 1951 to 1964 and from 1979 to 1997. It is now in government since 2010.

Yet, as the party assembles in Manchester this week for its annual conference, there is a sense of decline. Conservative membership is down. Brexit has cost them the youth vote. And the political landscape has shifted in Labour’s favor. Read more “British Conservatives Face Three Structural Challenges”

Election Divides Kingdom as Parties Consolidate Their Base

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)

There is still a lot to digest from last week’s British election. The promised Conservative landslide never materialized. Labour gained seats, including in affluent constituencies like Kensington that it won for the first time, but it also fell short of a majority. Theresa May remains in power but has been weakened. She must rely on the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland for a majority, which threatens to upset the delicate balance of power in Ulster.

We can nevertheless say two things with certainty:

  1. The trends spotted in last year’s Brexit vote are accelerating.
  2. The new poles in British politics are consolidating and that leaves the center wide open. Read more “Election Divides Kingdom as Parties Consolidate Their Base”

Local Elections Test British Parties’ Prospects for June

Theresa May Lars Løkke Rasmussen
Prime Ministers Theresa May of the United Kingdom and Lars Løkke Rasmussen of Denmark answer questions from reporters in Copenhagen, October 10, 2016 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Tom Evans)

Today’s local elections in the United Kingdom should be a good indicator of the national mood going into the general election in June.

The areas holding elections on Thursday are the “shire counties” of England and all counties of Scotland and Wales.

These areas are mostly rural or semi-rural and have a tendency to be either Conservative bastions, particularly in England, or have no single party in control. Read more “Local Elections Test British Parties’ Prospects for June”

Four Reasons to Doubt Conservatives Will Win In Landslide

British prime minister Theresa May is applauded walking into 10 Downing Street in London, England, July 13, 2016
British prime minister Theresa May is applauded walking into 10 Downing Street in London, England, July 13, 2016 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Tom Evans)

This week marked the last prime minister’s questions before the British election in June and seems a good place to examine the reasons Theresa May might be less secure that she seems.

While her Conservative Party is 21 points ahead of Labour in the polls — its biggest lead in almost a decade — there are four reasons to doubt it will stay there. Read more “Four Reasons to Doubt Conservatives Will Win In Landslide”

By-Elections Vindicate May, Give Little Comfort to Corbyn

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a conference of European socialist parties in Paris, France, July 8, 2016
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a conference of European socialist parties in Paris, France, July 8, 2016 (PES)

In an ordinary election cycle, last week’s by-elections in Stoke-on-Trent and Copeland might not have generated headlines. Labour has held solid majorities in both constituencies for years.

But there hasn’t been an ordinary election cycle since Britain voted to leave the European Union this summer. Read more “By-Elections Vindicate May, Give Little Comfort to Corbyn”

British Liberal Democrat Revival Starts to Look More Likely

Tim Farron
British Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron (Shutterstock/Finbarr Webster)

After they formed a coalition government with the Conservatives in 2010, Britain’s Liberal Democrats only lost elections — local, mayoral and national.

The low point came in May 2015, when the party lost 49 of its 57 seats in the House of Commons. Big names, like Danny Alexander and Vince Cable, were voted out. Liberal strongholds across South West England simply vanished.

Liberals have talked up a “LibDem revival” since that dismal election result and commentators have dismissed it as sheer optimism.

But could there be something to it after all? Read more “British Liberal Democrat Revival Starts to Look More Likely”

A Tale of Two Cities in Mosul

Mosul is a tale of two cities.

Eastern Mosul, situated on the left bank of the Tigris, has been fully liberated and a sense of normalcy is returning there. The first schools recently reopened, giving some 16,000 children access to education again. Residents are cleaning and clearing the streets.

Western Mosul, on the right bank of the river, remains under Islamic State control.

Military preparations are underway to retake the rest of the city. Iraqi government forces, supported by the West, have set aside six corridors for displaced people, of which they estimate there will be 250,000 to 300,000.

For now, Islamic State militants continue to use Western Mosul as a base form which to lob missiles at the eastern half of what used to be Iraq’s second largest city. Read more “A Tale of Two Cities in Mosul”

Season of Discontent: Parallels Between Brexit and Trump

Aerial view of Westminster in London, England
Aerial view of Westminster in London, England (Picjumbo/Viktor Hanacek)

The winter of 1978-79 is remembered in Britain as the Winter of Discontent. There were mass strikes and inflation spiraled out of control. The situation led to the election of Margaret Thatcher that spring and the rise of neoliberal policies.

Could the summer and autumn of this year one day be remembered in a similar way?

In both Britain and the United States, there have been revolts against the establishment and the status quo, leading to calls for radical change. Read more “Season of Discontent: Parallels Between Brexit and Trump”

British Hope for Trade Deal But Worry About “America First”

The British flag flies over the Cabinet Office in London, England
The British flag flies over the Cabinet Office in London, England (Shutterstock/Willy Barton)

We spoke a lot last night about the parallels between this election and the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom in June. Anybody who was watching that night and remembers the “Newcastle vote” as they watched the close races in states like Florida and Michigan may have had an inkling about what the night foretold.

Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, has got the diplomatic niceties out of the way by congratulating Donald Trump on his victory. One can be sure that the possibility of an Anglo-American trade deal post-Brexit that Trump so wishes will smooth over any misgivings the British government might have about the American president-elect. Read more “British Hope for Trade Deal But Worry About “America First””