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Best of British democracy

23rd Jun 2017
Best of British democracy

Jeremy Corbyn engendered great interest and enthusiasm, particularly among young people while PM Theresa May stuttered following the publication of the Tory anifesto

Rarely has it been so crucial for the population to exercise their right to vote than in this month’s general election. So much was at stake after the snap election called by Prime Minister, Theresa May. She called the election with the hope that it would turn her party’s lead in the opinion polls into an improved parliamentary majority and secure her party’s vision for hard Brexit.

“Britain needed certainty, stability and strong leadership,” May said when announcing a snap election. “Britain is leaving the European Union and there can be no turning back. And as we look to the future, the Government has the right plan for negotiating our new relationship with Europe.” Critics accused her of cynically and utterly exploiting the disarray in the opposition Labour Party since the election of its left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn. Opinion polls showed the Tories more than 20 percentage points ahead and it seemed like a formality that the Conservatives would increase their Parliamentary majority to over a hundred seats or more.

As it turned out there appeared to be two largely parallel campaigns running, one in the mainstream media that often appeared very partisan. The other was in social media and in rallies across the country. With Labour offering a largely left-wing agenda, the electorate had a stark choice for the first time in decades. Yet it all seemed to fall apart for May after the stuttering publication of the Tory manifesto, causing her plan to grossly backfire leaving us with a hung parliament.

During the campaign, Corbyn was found to be not quite the figure he had been portrayed to be since twice winning his Party’s leadership elections. He was seen engendering great interest and enthusiasm, particularly among young people who helped to produce a huge 68.7% turnout, two percent higher than in 2015 and the largest in two decades. Hope seemed to be given to voters that some change could be achieved from endless austerity measures.

The result may have produced no overall winners but democracy itself seems to be working, reflecting the difference between the two main parties. If Britain’s political system was not so adversarial and tribal, the inconclusive outcome appears to be crying out for a government of national unity. As if to avoid this eventuality, the country has been left in the unique situation of a minority Tory government with a lame duck Prime Minister grovelling for support.

Perversely it can be called a triumph for democracy. “Our opponents believe because the Government’s majority is so small that our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course. They are wrong,” May had said in her pre-election statement which she has since had to eat humble pie as well as being forced to apologise to party colleagues for the losses she had caused including the Government’s previous majority.

The Muslim community can pride itself with playing a part. According to an analysis from the MCB, in the 39 constituencies where Muslim votes might have had a “high” or “medium” impact, the swing away from the Conservatives towards Labour (or Lib Dems in one seat) was on average around 15 per cent and led to 6 seats being lost by the Tories and decreased majorities in 31 of the others. Muslim Labour MPs also increased their number by three from 12 to 15 Muslim representatives in Parliament.

With the situation being so unstable, it is difficult to see how long it can last. May herself ironically seems to be “weak, wobbly and out of control in the coalition of chaos” rather than leading a strong and stable government she claimed would be in the national interest. One thing for sure is that her manifesto has no majority and more importantly she cannot lead us out of the EU using hard Brexit. In the absence of forming a government of national unity, there is hope that at least the election result has killed off many of the excesses of Tory policies especially at a time that the country faces difficult decisions in negotiating an exit from the EU.

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