‘The Brexit Election’ has been coined by political pundits and commentators as the label for Theresa May’s (now successfully) proposed election in June, announced this morning (18/04), which she hopes will prevent Labour from voting against the final Brexit agreement and to stop the Liberals from bringing government to a stand-still. But I ask the question – is it just me, but aren’t we tired of voting when it has been constantly reinforced that, “Brexit means Brexit”. Surely Theresa May, with her already existent majority, could push through Brexit; is she simply doing what needs to be done or is she just being too much of an opportunist?
Putting my scepticism aside regarding voter apathy, this blog post will be about my thoughts on the forthcoming June 8th snap election and what this could mean for the whole of the UK, including Scotland, which has been sidelined for a while now by May.
As someone who has a passion for politics and is currently studying it at A level, it is not a surprise that I believe younger people should be able to vote. Although lowering the voting age below eighteen will realistically never happen, perhaps it’s my cynicism which leads me to believe that proposing the election for June 8th was a tactical move by May to try and prop up the amount of Tory votes as less students would be likely (and even perhaps able) to cast their ballots due to many students above the age of 18 starting or in the midst of their exams, a prime example of who is me! Unfortunately I am not legible to vote as my 18th birthday is in July, however, my first exam is on the proposed election day itself. It’s a known fact that younger people, especially students, are likely to vote for left wing parties, those being Labour, the Lib Dems (despite their tuition fee blunder) and the Green Party. My point is, this is just one conclusion that illustrates Theresa May’s drive to increase the Conservative majority from 17 seats to much higher in order to sustain a huge mandate and propel Brexit negotiations in favour of what the Tories perceive as a ‘good Brexit’, which to many of us lefties will in fact be a ‘hard Brexit’.
Nevertheless, before we discuss the potential results, let us take heed that YET AGAIN, we will be bombarded with seven weeks worth of campaigning encompassing Brexit, most likely foreign policy and defence plans, as well as a lot of leaflets from a plethora of candidates and parties! Despite that this most certainly will feel like a repeat of the run up to June 23rd, the day of the Brexit referendum, it could well be the birth of something great for the left, or effectively, their death. To elaborate, opinion polls show that Labour, according to YouGov’s voting intention statistics, are around 21 points behind the Conservative government, this clearly shows that Labour are a party in a bit of turmoil, this is especially clear as they are currently pitted against the Liberal Democrats and UKIP at 11 and 12 points on the same YouGov chart! This sheds light on what I deem to be a real risk and potential fatality of the election: the loss of the Labour Party as our main opposition and so, our leading second party.
In recent days after the announcement of the election, many MPs have decided not to stand for election, some have declined commenting and some have admitted that they do not feel they would regain their seats in June. One of these former-MPs is/was my own local MP, Gisela Stuart, a prominent member of the leave campaign, who appeared on the television debate last year alongside Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson. From this, I think it is safe to say that many people who support Labour in Birmingham, moreover, in our Edgbaston constituency, will be very happy to see the back of Gisela. Nevertheless however, this indicates something to me that the media have not, as far as I am aware, picked up on – perhaps Stuart resigned her seat because she thought that it would be ousted by a Conservative MP, or even worse for her reputation, by a Labour remainer. Both are equally as valid thoughts as each other and to me signify that Stuart knew that she was not fulfilling her duty in representing her constituency, who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union (leave votes compensated for 33.34% of the collective Edgbaston vote). Other Members of Parliament who have decided to not run in June 2017 are George Osborne (Tatton), Nigel Farage and Douglas Carswell (Clacton). Well, I suppose that removes some not very popular faces from the political scene for a while, although Osborne has said him not running in 2017 is due to his wanting to concentrate on his new career as editor of the Evening Standard…. Everything has a silver lining, eh?
Aside from those Members of Parliament who are now irrelevant to the election, it is important to understand what Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, had to say about the Theresa May’s plans, which she nearly immediately dubbed as a huge mistake and political miscalculation. Let’s explore this further, as of May 2016 in Holyrood, the Scottish National Party (SNP) possess 63/129 seats in Parliament, with the Conservatives firm as second party with 31 seats. Paired with the SNP’s majority, Scotland’s Brexit vote result which was 62% for remain, hints at the potential for the Conservatives near elimination in the Scottish Parliament, which would allow the SNP to full take jurisdiction over matters regarding their laws, the NHS, the European Union (perhaps their own deal) oh yes and Scottish Independence! I think that with Sturgeons rallying call for a referendum a few weeks back, the election could prove vital for Scotland in achieving their independence and freedom from what is now becoming even so less of a United Kingdom. However, with Labour’s diminishing role in Scottish politics, Scotland’s election result might still allow Conservatives to take the position of most Labour seats in Scotland as between 2011 and 2016, they have lost 13 seats while the Conservatives have increased by 13; this shows that although the likelihood of the Conservatives surpassing the SNP is small, the likelihood of doing the same to labour is high. If Labour in England and Wales cannot unite and rally behind Corbyn, on a national basis, this could be a terrifying election for the Labour Party.
It is very interesting to me that while Labour are in disarray, Jeremy Corbyn is still up to go head to head with Theresa May in a televised debate, however, with most of her party’s support, May has immediately ruled out participating. Although it might not seem an important aspect when pitted against the main issue at hand which is Brexit, I think that people are forgetting what this general election will mean if she wins. Theresa May will have won the elected mandate which all of her opponents were moaning about when she took over from David Cameron. Furthermore, that she does have the right to propose any agenda she wants to, whether it be regarding the Brexit negotiations (which is a certainty at this point), or on a domestic front, which could encompass issues such as tuition fees, further liquidation of the NHS, cuts to the mental health budget, more projects similar to HS2… All the same, Corbyn, if elected, would have the same mandate.
This is what we need to remember, this election cannot be used to solely redeem our previous Brexit vote or just to have a say Brexit for the sake of it, because this is real, Brexit will happen. Although I regret to sound like May herself, I have learned to accept that although referendums are not politically binding, leaders (regardless of their own political affiliation and opinion) have to take heed of what the majority wants. Nevertheless, they must also remember that a marginal vote result like the one in the summer of last year also obliges them to take into account the opinions and needs for the opposition.
Although this blog post is brief, I urge you to go out and vote for what you truly want, not based on what your family, friends or peers urge you to do, but from the campaigns which you think are right and just, for you.
I can assure that neither of the leading parties in this election will parade around a false figure on the side of a colossal red bus or have Nigel Farage taking credit for their campaign!
Most importantly however, I do urge all of my friends and family within the age bracket of 18 to 21 to vote; for many years this has been the demographic with the LEAST and therefore the WORST voter turn-out and it is absurd.
These decisions will effect us the most, more than the millions of elderly people who will vote and will not live very long to see the implications of their ballot decision. It is definitely harsh to say that, because their political opinions are as valid and credible as ours, however, I am saying that this age bracket need to go out and voice their concerns and opinions; this is our subjective right to exercise and we cannot let the work of the thousands of people who pioneered enfranchisement campaigns (like the suffragettes), be for nothing nor in vain.
There are many people who will say that, “politics is boring” (for that, you are most definitely wrong), or that they cannot be bothered or that there has not been enough to engage them in the political world. Regardless of these reasons, it must show that in recent years, a majority of politicians never have and never will guide or educate us on politics or the vote, it is up to us to educate ourselves. We have resources at our fingertips, it is time for us all to pull our fingers out and become more politically active, because these decisions will be the ones we have to live with for the rest of our lives. I do not apologise for being dramatic, because it is true – do you want to waste the right you have to make the country and potentially the world a better place?
Then go and register to vote at: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote and read your options regarding how you can vote, where your designated polling station is or how to get a postal vote card.
Thanks for reading