Losses afoot for big two with election

Editorial | Mary Ma 31 Oct 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is finally able to claim a small victory after his repeated attempts to get Brexit done were shot down in Westminster.

The vote that he won by a 438-to-20 margin for a general election to be held on December 12 is significant in that it may set the stage for a decisive resolution of the Brexit deadlock that has been haunting the country since the 2016 Brexit referendum.

The prediction is that while the Conservative and Labour parties will continue to have the most seats in parliament, both stand to lose a number of seats to smaller competitors, in particular the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party.

Johnson's Conservatives would be hurt by radical politician Nigel Farage's Brexit Party as discontented hard Brexiters may switch camps to vote for Farage's side.

Although Britain has myriad economic woes, Brexit will stand out as the only election theme.

The Conservatives will continue to pledge to get Brexit done either with or without a deal. For its part, the Labour Party is promising to renegotiate the deal and submit it to the public in a referendum. Liberal Democrats want to stop Brexit entirely. The SNP will still be preocuppied with nationalist interest.

When Johnson's predecessor Theresa May made the disastrous mistake of calling an early election a year after the Brexit referendum, she was misled by polling figures that indicated the Tories would decimate Jeremy Corbyn's Labour opposition. The outcome was the exact opposite.

Johnson's chances of regaining a parliamentary majority in the upcoming election are low, if not impossible.

The consensus is that the voting, assuming the Lords consent to the move, will see a record number of non-Conservative and non-Labour candidates elected, with both Liberal Democrats and the SNP outperforming.

In a parliament of 650 members, it will be extremely difficult for either Conservative or Labour candidates to win more than half of the seats, given that the smaller parties that currently control 108 seats are anticipated to bag even more in December.

In view of Corbyn's low popularity, Labour will likely lose more seats than the Tories to the smaller parties.

While parliament will become fragmented, the Tories will still be the party with the most seats and the balance of power will also change with a diminished Labour asserting less influence.

Will Corbyn be forced to resign to bear responsibility for an electoral defeat? If this happens, it will entirely change the way the political game is played over Brexit, for Corbyn's personal character had made it difficult for him to to work out a compromise with May on a cross-party Brexit agreement earlier.

In the event that Corbyn defies expectations and remains at Labour's helm, the political clout that he can marshal to derail a future deal would be greatly weakened.

The Liberal Democrats want Britain to remain in the European Union but they aren't iron-clad in their will to do so. Would it agree to an orderly exit based on modifications to existing drafts so far? Small wonder the British pound has stabilized on the stronger side after the vote for an early election.

However, the new government will likely be short-lived due to a fragmented parliament. Britons may be asked to return to polling stations to choose a more enduring government after an orderly Brexit comes to pass.


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