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

Liberal Democrats Are the Least Bad Option in Britain’s Election

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

This British election is an impossible choice for liberals like us.

We can’t possibly support Jeremy Corbyn, whose policies of nationalization and unilateral nuclear disarmament would compound the disaster of Brexit — which he did far too little to prevent — many times over.

But we are not impressed with Theresa May either. She was the best possible candidate to succeed David Cameron last summer, but only because the alternatives were worse. Many British voters could make the same calculation this week. Read more

Local Elections Test British Parties’ Prospects for June

British prime minister Theresa May and Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon meet in Edinburgh, July 15, 2016
British prime minister Theresa May and Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon meet in Edinburgh, July 15, 2016 (Scottish Government)

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

British Liberal Democrat Revival Starts to Look More Likely

British Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron answers questions from reporters in Brussels, February 18, 2016
British Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron answers questions from reporters in Brussels, February 18, 2016 (ALDE)

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

A (Small) Opportunity for Britain’s Liberal Democrats

British Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron answers questions from reporters in Brussels, February 18
British Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron answers questions from reporters in Brussels, February 18 (ALDE)

If Labour reelects the far-left Jeremy Corbyn as its leader this week, which seems likely, and the Conservatives under Theresa May do lurch a little to the right, that should leave space in the center of British politics for the Liberal Democrats.

Unfortunately for them, that space will never be very wide.

I argued here the other day that May is breaking — however carefully — with David Cameron’s liberal legacy in order to secure the support of suburban and provincial voters who are more right-wing than the party has been. Many of them voted Conservative in 2015 and many voted to leave the European Union in the referendum in June, prompting Cameron, who had advised a “remain” vote, to step down.

A rightward shift under May, on education and immigration policy, could tempt more urban and liberal-minded voters to defect, I warned:

If May seems in thrall to those who voted to leave the EU because they are dissatisfied with the modern world, don’t be surprised if those who only voted for the Conservatives when they had finally come to terms with the modern world abandon her in the future.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron is exploiting this vulnerability. His is now “the free-market, free-trade, pro-business party,” he told a conference in Brighton this week. Read more

Liberal Democrats Call for Political Realignment in Britain

British Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron answers questions from reporters in Brussels, February 18
British Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron answers questions from reporters in Brussels, February 18 (ALDE)

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron looks to take advantage of the split in Britain’s Labour Party, saying, “There needs to be a realignment, otherwise we will be left with a Tory government forever.” Read more

Five More Years: British Should Reelect Cameron, Clegg

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom deliver a news conference at 10 Downing Street, London, December 21, 2010
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom deliver a news conference at 10 Downing Street, London, December 21, 2010 (The Prime Minister’s Office)

With Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives expected to once again fall short of a parliamentary majority in the election this week, this website is hoping the Liberal Democrats will scrape together enough seats to keep the two parties in power. The last five years of coalition government have been stable and successful. The alternative, a Labour government held to ransom by Scottish separatists, would be anything but. Read more