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

Corbyn Has Completely Failed as Opposition Leader

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn makes a speech in the House of Commons in London, March 16, 2016
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn makes a speech in the House of Commons in London, March 16, 2016 (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor)

Boris Johnson had his worst day in the House of Commons yet on Wednesday. Britain’s Supreme Court had just ruled his suspension of Parliament illegal, in effect accusing the prime minister of lying to the country and the queen. He was taking questions on everything from his shambolic Brexit strategy to his shameful rhetoric, using words like “surrender” and “betrayal” to describe the policy of his opponents.

If there was ever a moment for Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to rise to the occasion.

Instead, he reliably underwhelmed. In the same breath as he accused Johnson of steering the United Kingdom toward a disastrous no-deal exit from the EU, he blamed the ruling Conservatives for not bailing out tour operator Thomas Cook. Apparently under his government, no business would be allowed to fail. 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

Jeremy Corbyn Is Not the British Bernie Sanders

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders (Catholic Church England and Wales/Lorie Shaull)

American leftists who are tempted to sympathize with the British Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn — don’t. He is not an overseas version of Bernie Sanders.

Both men were political outsiders for much of their careers until they unexpectedly rose to the tops of their respective parties. Both appeal to voters who are disillusioned with old politics. Both argue for a break with the neoliberal-tainted “Third Way” in social democracy.

But that is where the similarities end. Read more

Seven Lawmakers Resign from Britain’s Labour Party

Chuka Umunna, member of the British Parliament for Streatham, makes a speech, March 30, 2015
Chuka Umunna, member of the British Parliament for Streatham, makes a speech, March 30, 2015 (Labour)

Seven lawmakers have resigned from Britain’s Labour Party, arguing that it has become “institutionally antisemitic” under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. Read more

British Parties Do Just Well Enough in Local Elections

British prime minister Theresa May attends the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017
British prime minister Theresa May attends the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Jay Allen)

In local elections on Thursday, both of Britain’s major parties did just well enough to keep criticism about their leaders at bay without doing well enough to silence it altogether. Read more

American Media Divide Generations, Labour Attempts to Divide Conservatives

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)

Just when Britain’s Conservatives were getting their act together — twenty months after the country voted for Brexit — Labour has thrown a wrench in the works.

Sebastian Payne writes in the Financial Times that by supporting a continued customs union with the EU, Labour is testing the loyalty of those Conservatives for whom a Canadian-style trade agreement falls short.

Labour has consistently stood back and allowed the Conservatives to set out a position and then nudged or fudged its own policy to somewhere slightly softer, but without alienating its own “leavers”. Mr Corbyn is still an unreformed left-wing, quiet supporter of Brexit, but this is about beating the government.

Conservatives who opposed Brexit will also be disappointed by the reality of a “Canada plus” deal. The EU has consistently warned that there can be no cherry-picking. The United Kingdom must be either in or out. Read more