Sunday, June 11, 2017

May holds on to power, but barely

Theresa May forms a government with her husband Philip at her side - PA
It was expected to be an easy victory for the Conservative Party, but in our tumultuous era everything can change swiftly. Theresa May declared an early election in April to enlarge her majority in the House of Commons. It was going to be an overwhelmingly victory, comparable to the triumphs of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. The Labour Party, now controlled by the far left who pushed out Blairite moderates, was going to collapse. May's position as prime minister seemed to be unstoppable. Now, with the dust settled, where did it all go wrong?

First, a look at the results of the election:

Conservative Party (Theresa May) - 317 (-13)
Labour Party (Jeremy Corbyn) - 261 (+29)
Scottish National Party (Nicola Sturgeon) - 35 (-21)
Liberal Democrats (Tim Farron) - 12 (+4)
DUP (Arlene Foster) - 10 (+2)
Sinn Fein (Gerry Adams) - 7 (+3)
Party of Wales (Leanne Wood) - 4 (+1)
Green Party (Caroline Lucas) - 1 (+/-)
SDLP (Colum Eastwood) - 0 (-3)
UKIP (Paul Nuttall) - 0 (-1)
UUP (Mike Nesbitt) - 0 (-2)

Last blog post, I thought it was important to note that British voters were ditching smaller parties in favor of the top two. Strategic voting played a massive role in this general election. The Conservatives increased from 36.9 percent of the popular vote in 2015 to 42.3 percent. The Labour Party had an even more impressive surge, going from 30.4 percent to 40 percent.

David Cameron won 11.3 million votes in 2015 and May won 13.6 million this time. She won more votes than Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and 1983. Ed Miliband won 9.3 million votes in 2015, but Corbyn garnered 12.9 million votes. Not only did Corbyn manage to close the gap between him and May, but he won more votes than Blair did in 2001 and 2005.

Smaller parties collapsed. When Nigel Farage led the UK Independence Party in the 2015 general election, he was supported by almost 3.9 million voters (12.7 percent). UKIP only won less than 600,000 votes this time around (1.85 percent). Paul Nuttall, the UKIP leader, has resigned. An alarmed Farage is now considering returning as UKIP leader again because he is concerned that Brexit may be in jeopardy.

A similar phenomenon took place in Northern Ireland. Two parties, the Ulster Unionist Party on the right and the Social Democratic & Labour Party on the left, both lost all their seats. Northern Irish voters rallied behind the top two parties in their region. The Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein both made gains.

The Scottish Nationalists remain at third place, but they lost a large number of seats. Most of the changes went to the Conservatives. Sturgeon seems to have overplayed at the Scottish independence issue. No one can deny that Ruth Davidson's leader of the Scottish Conservatives was tremendously critical to keeping the Conservatives in power.

The odd exception to this result is the Liberal Democrats. The party received slightly less votes than it did in 2015, but managed to gain three seats. It just goes to show that in the British electoral system it matters where you expend your campaign resources.

Corbyn celebrates the 2017 election  - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
For the Labour Party, this isn't a political victory, but it is a moral victory. There were expectations that Labour would perform poorly and that Corbyn would resign. Now Corbyn has every reason to stay as party leader by showing that he has encouraged a large number of voters to enthusiastically support the party. Many of  his biggest supporters were younger and they will be voting in many elections to come. It would be foolish to get rid of him.

Corbyn's rise is also a great victory for socialism. The ideology hasn't proven to work and is economic disastrous. Billions of people have suffered from leaders who instrument with socialism to various degrees. Unfortunately, for many voters it does not matter what the historically and current results of socialism have been. It sounds very appealing by having the government solve everything. The election results in the UK, however, legitimize socialism in the very country that founded modern economics. Corbyn was the Bernie Sanders of Britain.

National security issues also benefitted Corbyn. Despite his poor record on terrorism, voters liked to see that he wanted expand the size of the police force. In the midst of terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, Corbyn's support continued to bloom. Rather than look strong and stable, May looked weak and unstable. A last minute attempt to prove herself by saying that she would potentially roll back human rights laws seemed to hurt more than help.

Now we come to the prime minister herself. Her gamble didn't pay off. She rivals Hillary Clinton for the worst campaign ever run in recent history. It's the kind of victory that feels more like a defeat. The way she ran the campaign is also to blame for the loss of the majority. The Conservatives rely on older voters in the elections and asking them to pay for more of their social care didn't sit well with many of those voters. Then there's the issue of May moving her own party to the center, looking like a "red Tory."

Like moderates in the Republican Party alienating Reaganites, May's decision to find a middle ground between the free market and socialism disappointed Britain's Thatcherites. May was criticized by some in her own party for appearing to abandon Thatcherism. Her problem now is that she made moderate promises that she must deliver on. The "dementia tax" was removed from the manifesto, but other policies were not. If she does plan to implement her proposals, then she could face resistance from the die-hard free marketers in the Conservative Party.

The path forward for May is going to be difficult. Luckily for her, the right has managed to win more than the left. She can still govern by the slimmest of margins by forming a coalition with the DUP. Northern Ireland's largest right-wing party managed to win the largest number of seats in their history. Adding the 317 Tories with the 10 Democratic Unionists gives us 327. The prime minister will have a majority of one.

Running a coalition isn't impossible. David Cameron did it with the Liberal Democrats. Before him John Major managed to do it with the Ulster Unionist Party, another right-wing political party in Northern Ireland that has lost a great deal of support in recent years. There is the matter of what the Democratic Unionist Party wants. DUP leader Arlene Foster is on the right, but she prefers a "soft Brexit" rather than the "hard Brexit" that May desires. The Democratic Unionists are also more socially conservative and are the only party left in the United Kingdom that does not support gay marriage. Several members of the DUP have made controversial statements in the past, which could hurt the government as a whole.

This is the situation May finds herself in, but things do get worse. A poll found that nearly 60 percent of Conservative Party members want her to resign. It could be just a shot of emotion following the election results, but if they continue to put pressure on her then she might have no choice. There is some good news for her. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the Tory who led the Brexit campaign, doesn't seem interested in challenging her. Nevertheless, May's battle to stay in Downing Street begins now. I'll finish this post with May's speech after the election:

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