UK to face its third general election in five years

Source: Vera Kratochvil (via needpix.com)

By Maisie Marston

After falling short of the 434 votes required to trigger a general election under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, on Tuesday October 29th, Boris Johnson announced legislation to try and revive his election plans. This proposition was put to the House as a ‘One Line Bill’ which only requires a simple majority among MPs passed by a margin of 438 votes to 20. The House of Lords approved the bill on Wednesday night, and a five week long campaign period will commence this week. 

Overall, over 100 Labour MPs either did not take part or abstained while 11 voted against the election. 127 Labour MPs, including Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, supported the bill to trigger an election. This included Cardiff Central MP, Jo Stevens who represents many Cardiff University students. Conversely, the MP for Cardiff North, Anna McMorrin, who also represents a number of Cardiff University students voted against triggering an early general election.

The upcoming election will take place on December 12 2019; the first December election in the UK since 1923. During the debate leading up to both votes, timing became a particular issue with many pointing out the logistical problems which could arise from holding an election in winter. Holding general elections is a large-scale undertaking; millions of polling cards are distributed, postal votes need to be organised, and venues for polling stations need to be booked. The concern here was that many of these venues would be booked up for Christmas events. The Association of Electoral Administrators’ Laura Lock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “[they] will find polling stations”, but they may not be where people expect them to be. Polling stations may take the form of, for example, garages or caravan awnings. 

Bad or severe weather conditions have also been mentioned which could have an adverse effect on voter turnout. Studies conducted, such as one from Ghent University in Belgium, have found a connection between voter turnout and the temperature. By analysing the turnout and weather conditions on American elections between 1960 and 2016, researchers at Ghent University found that for every 10-degree centigrade temperature increase, voter turnout increased by 1.4 per cent. Severe weather such as flooding has also concerned MPs, with Tim Farron pointing out that at this time of year, three floods had hit his constituency of Westmorland and Lonsdale.  

Many familiar faces will be lost when the UK next goes to the polls, with more than 50 incumbents set to stand down. Among them is the Prime Minister’s brother Jo Johnson (Orpington) who said he was “torn between family and national interest,” Father of the House Ken Clarke, former Home Secretary Amber Rudd, and of course internationally famous but politically divisive Speaker John Bercow and his iconic “Order!”

Conservative leadership candidate Rory Stewart (Penrith and the Border) is also among those stepping down. After making a name for himself by admitting he had smoked opium and his #RoryWalks social media campaign, Stewart will now try to take Sadiq Khan’s place as Mayor of London. 

Although the Conservatives will have to handle these losses, others are set to return. On Tuesday Johnson decided to readmit 10 of the 21 conservative rebels back into the Conservative Party, who were originally expelled from the party after they backed attempts to pass legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit. The grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Nicholas Soames, is among those who have been readmitted, along with ex-ministers such as Ed Vaizey and Margot James. The whip has not been restored to politicians including ex-Chancellors of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond and Ken Clarke, and former Justice Secretary David Gauke. 

On Wednesday, October 30, Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley told the BBC the party was talking to the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru about potentially banding together in an electoral pact to ensure pro-Remain candidates were elected. It is a previously tried and tested method, with mixed results. A ‘progressive alliance’ was discussed prior to the 2017 general election, but parties disputed who should stand down in which constituencies, so ultimately very little was achieved. However, in August both Plaid Cymru and the Greens stepped aside for Jane Dodds, the Liberal Democrat MP, to gain a seat in Brecon and Radnorshire from the Conservatives. An announcement on this potential pact is expected imminently.

To register to vote go to https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. You must have registered by Monday, November 25 to vote in the December general election. As a student, you are able to register both at your home address and your term-time address here in Cardiff, but you will only be able to vote once as voting twice in one election is a criminal offence. If you plan to be in Cardiff but want to vote at home, you can apply to have a postal or proxy vote online. 

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