The UK’s third general election since 2015 has been called to take place on the 12th of December 2019.
650 Members of Parliament (MPs) will be elected across the UK (533 from England, 59 from Scotland, 40 from Wales and 18 from Northern Ireland). A majority of 326 MPs from the same political party are what is required to win – anything less and it is known as a ‘hung’ parliament, meaning the party with the most seats must form a coalition with another to make up the remaining number of seats.
This was the case in 2017.
This latest general election (the first to be held in December since 1923) is to end the deadlock that has come about from the 2016 EU Referendum (Brexit) vote in which the UK voted (with a slim majority of 51.9%) to leave the European Union.
The current Prime Minister is Boris Johnson of the Conservative party, having taken over the position from Theresa May in July 2019, who had failed to get support on her Brexit deal after three years of negotiating with the EU and the MPs in the House of Commons.
Johnson does not have enough support to pass any new laws so calling for a general election might increase the number of MPs that will support his Brexit plans.
So, who are the players and what are the key policies voters want?
The three major parties are:
Boris Johnson’s party is contesting 635 seats across England, Wales, and Scotland. Johnson started as a political columnist for the Daily Telegraph and became an MP in 2001. His political experience includes Mayor of London from 2008 – 2015 and has always passionately spoken up about leading his country. Johnson is known to be anti-EU, in recent years, and has raised a few eyebrows and drawn criticism for his racial, misogynistic and Islamophobic comments and alleged misconduct in public office while Mayor of London.
Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the Labour party and the Leader of the Opposition. He has held the position since 2015 and is the oldest of the leaders standing. The party is contesting 631 seats across England, Wales, and Scotland. His political career spans 40 years, starting work with trade unions in the 1970s to local councilor to political campaigner and then MP since 1983. A self-proclaimed democratic socialist, anti-war campaigner and peace activist, he chaired the Stop the War Coalition which came about after the September 11 attacks and protested against apartheid in South Africa and the Iraq War. However, since taking over the Labour party, there has been criticism over allegations of anti-Semitism in the party and his lack of action to tackle it.
Jo Swinson is the leader of the Liberal Democrats, a position she took over in July 2019. The party is contesting 611 seats across Wales, Scotland, and England. She is the youngest leader standing. Swinson was one of the youngest MPs when she won her first election in 2005 at the age of 25. She was the Liberal Democrats Scottish spokesperson between 2006 – 2007 and vocally campaigned against the Iraq War and supported measures to tackle climate change. During the 2010-2015 Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition, Swinson was appointed as Business Minister where she pushed for paternity leave and flexible working hours. Criticism falls upon her supporting zero-hour working contracts and supporting other austerity measures, including the increase in tuition fees and a reduction in funding to public services.
The other parties standings are;
- The Green Party – led by Jonathon Bartley and Sian Berry
- Scottish National Party – led by Nicola Sturgeon (only standing in Scotland)
- Plaid Cymru – led by Adam Price (only standing in Wales)
- The Independent Group for Change – led by Anna Soubry
- The Brexit Party – led by Nigel Farage
In Northern Ireland, the five main parties standing are;
- Democratic Unionists Party – led by Arlene Foster (currently in coalition with the Conservatives and holding the most seats in the Northern Irish Assembly)
- Sinn Féin – led by Mary Lou McDonald (as abstentionists, they do not take up seats they win in the House of Commons)
- Social Democratic & Labour Party – led by Colum Eastwood
- Ulster Unionist Party – led by Steve Aiken
- Alliance Party – led by Naomi Long
The main policy on the agenda is clearly Brexit. Politicians and the country are divided over what should happen, three years later.
One of the contingencies that have been put forward is a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit. This would cease all treaties of the European Union, meaning trade, laws, citizenship, and freedom of movement will no longer apply. British citizens living in EU countries and EU citizens living in the UK would be considered ‘illegals’ and imports and exports would cease therefore a shortage in supplies such as medicines and inflation in the economy.
Boris Johnson has warned if a deal cannot be agreed upon, he will have no choice but to call a no-deal. Hard-core Conservatives and the Brexit Party support no-deal but Labour is insistent that no-deal must be taken off the table before any deal is agreed upon. The Liberal Democrats are, however, campaigning for another referendum, believing that the British public has changed their tone towards the idea of Brexit.
Tackling climate change and pushing for green policies are being put forward by the three major parties in different ways. Conservatives pledge to make the UK carbon neutral by 2050, Labour intends to create 1 million ‘green jobs’ and the Liberal Democrats intend to implement a frequent flyer tax to reduce the number of carbon emissions related to air travel.
Support for education, child care costs, housing, and public services are also promised by each party with funding for the NHS to reduce the strain also promised and very high on the priorities of voters, particularly those who voted ‘Leave’ in 2016.
Early voting prediction polls differ and cannot determine the overall result but so far, the Conservatives seem to be in the lead.
YouGov, the British data analytics firm, put the Conservatives on 42%, 12 points ahead of Labour and the Liberal Democrats on 16%.
The first seat projection models predict the Conservatives will have a majority of 48 and that Labour will lose 30 seats and the Liberal Democrats will lose 6.
Whoever wins and whatever the outcome, hung parliament or majority, it is clear after the general election on the 12th December there will be a long list of things they need to get done, starting with getting Brexit sorted and finally ending a three-year deadlock.