Election Reflection

Westminster (Photographer: Herry Lawford)

by Conor Holohan and Tanya Harrington

Our Politics editors Conor and Tanya, reflect on the result of the 2017 General Election and discuss how this will impact the politics on the two main and opposing parties in the UK.

Conor Holohan, Conservative

Theresa May signs article 50 letter (Photographer: Jay Allen)

The General Election result, for Conservatives, was largely disappointing, but carried a series of silver linings. There were positives in the Scottish result, which saw the Conservatives gain 12 seats and the SNP lose 21 seats. This was, it is fair to say, an undeniable signal that there is very little hunger for another Scottish independence referendum. This was, for the Conservative and Unionist Party, a very shiny silver lining on a night when there was little to relish. But these Scottish gains were practically neutralised by the Welsh result, which saw the Conservatives lose 3 seats, having expected to increase their number of Welsh MPs.

The Welsh Conservative contingent, constitutionally, does not enjoy the same amount of power over the party as Ruth Davidson and her Scottish Conservatives. Because of this, Davidson was able to run a localised campaign, while the Welsh Conservatives were largely marginalised by the central party, and were expected to take no attention away from Theresa May wherever possible. Meanwhile, in the most recent council elections and in the 2015 election, the Welsh Tories were able to run their campaigns as they saw fit, and they saw massive benefits from this, gaining 3 seats in 2015 and achieving record results in Wales in the council elections.

The Welsh Conservatives paid in dividends for the centralisation of the Welsh campaign to Westminster, while Welsh Labour benefitted from their empowerment of the Welsh Labour leader. Carwyn Jones was able to hoover up Welsh votes not only by running a local campaign on local issues, but also by distancing himself from Jeremy Corbyn: indeed, on most local Welsh leaflets, Jeremy Corbyn’s face did not feature. Meanwhile, most senior Tories were locked away as to not push Theresa May off the airwaves. The arrogance of the campaign was startling, and although Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy’s resignation will not make Theresa May any less bland and uninspiring, their departure from the top advisory jobs was welcomed by most Conservative members. In the end it was the over-saturation of May, which stopped her from cakewalking what should have been the easiest election win for quite some years.

Another silver lining is that the Conservatives gained 5.5% share of the national vote, which would suggest that it was not a collapse of the Conservative vote, which has given way to this hung parliament, but rather a surge in Labour support, who gained 9.5% share of the vote up from 2015. The biggest silver lining, however, amid all of the turbulence of the prospect of a minority government, is that Brexit (or ‘hard-Brexit’ as remainers call it) has been resoundingly approved by the British public. This election saw the stunning rebirth of two-party politics, and both of the two main parties made it clear in their manifestos that our membership of the single market would be terminated. 82.4% of the votes cast on June the 8th were, therefore, cast in favour of parties who back a ‘hard’ Brexit – and that figure doesn’t include UKIP or the DUP, only the Conservatives and Labour.

And the final silver lining is that the Conservatives can offload their empty vessel of a leader for someone with genuinely conservative beliefs and convictions, all without actually losing a general election.

Tanya Harrington, Labour

Jeremy Corbyn outlining Labour's Defence and Foreign Policy Priorities (Photographer: Chatham House)

Many onlookers, both Labour supporters and critics alike, have noted that although Labour did not win the general election on June 8th, we’re certainly behaving as though they did. On Tuesday as he entered the Commons, Jeremy Corbyn was met with thunderous cheers and applause. And can these enthusiasts be blamed? When the snap election was called in April, many polls placed Labour at only 24% – a staggering shortfall when compared to the Conservatives’ 48% at the time (YouGov /The Times). The party was also set to lose a number of seats in parliament, with the Conservatives winning a landslide majority. It was a short, tenacious, and astoundingly successful campaign that instead led to a great many gains for the party, reducing the Conservative lead until they were forced to seek help from the DUP to form a government at all.

At the time of writing, there is still no formal deal between the Conservatives and the DUP – but there are hints at a deal being formed, and further still, whispers that Theresa May should resign from her position as Prime Minister. So how did this come to pass?

As students, perhaps the most notable thing for us to look back on is the youth vote. The youth (ages 18-24) turnout in this election is estimated to be at around 72% – a huge amount when compared to an approximate 65% turnout in 2015. Speaking on this, Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones said that Corbyn had been able to “capture young voters.” Incidentally, and what may hint towards the Conservatives’ particular shortcomings in this area, an unnamed Conservative minister is quoted in The Telegraph as stating that “we have made no real effort to garner support, even on social media.” Instead, they said that they relied on “poxy little slogans,” which, rather than having their intended effect, were mocked relentlessly by the very young people they failed to target.

On election night, as the counts were ongoing and results were coming in, several noted that the voting behaviours of constituencies seemed to reflect their Brexit stance, with its supporters voting Conservative, and its bemoaners tending to vote for Labour or other parties with a more left-leaning stance. However, the Welsh results are a stark contradiction to this argument – with many Welsh constituencies that voted to leave the EU electing Labour candidates to represent them. This could instead be a reflection of public anxiety regarding the nature of the Brexit negotiations – with Labour voters assuming that Jeremy Corbyn might provide them with a “softer” Brexit than Theresa May.

The results came as a surprise to many, even candidates themselves – one newly minted Bristol MP, Darren Jones, told reporters that he was allowed time away from work to run for Parliament on the understanding that he would lose.

As it stands, talks between the Conservatives and the DUP have been ongoing, but confusing. The Queen’s speech has been postponed upon rumours that she may have been misled about an agreement between the two groups. Labour MPs and supporters alike are still riding on the back of the high of our unexpected success, and there is a sense of optimism for the future.

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