On Thursday, the citizens of the United Kingdom went to the polls for their third General Election for Parliament in four years. But this time around, there was one major issue looming over the election, Brexit.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party, who were the party in power, but did not have a majority of seats, made it clear the election was about securing a majority that would support his recent Brexit plan after his predecessor Theresa May struggled for several years. With 650 members in the House of Commons, the Conservatives needed 326 seats to capture the majority. Before the election, Conservatives were a few seats short, but with all results in, the Conservatives will now hold 365 seats in the new government.
Last week I predicted that the Conservatives would get to a majority, but only by a few seats. By many standards, this election was a blowout in favor of the Conservative Party, but most importantly, in support of the Brexit vote. In 2016, 52% of voters backed Brexit, and faced three years of stalled policy by London politicians and complaints from “Remain” supporters that either the votes were manipulated by false information or that voters minds had changed. This election showed that neither were true.
While Brexit was a major factor in the election, a number of now former Labour Party MPs have come out and said they believed that Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and the current leadership of the Party cost them their seats. Phil Wilson, who represented an area of north-east England that hasn’t been Conservative in 84 years, stated that a number of constituents had told him that they would have voted for him if it hadn’t been for “current leadership of the Labour Party.” And Wilson was not the only one. Several other Labour MPs who lost their seats (the BBC notes Labour lost 59 seats) directly blamed Corbyn for making the campaign about being the “Remain” party in Brexit instead of other policies and Conservative leadership.
Corbyn has recently announced that he will step down as leader of the Labour Party due to this election result.
A Warning for the American Left
Many political analysts across both the United States and the United Kingdom see many warning signs in the UK election for the Democratic Party in the United States. The leader of the UK Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, shares many similarities to the leaders of the far left in the United States, namely Bernie Sanders. Both identify as “democratic socialists” and are proponents of big government policies such as government only run healthcare and raising taxes to pay for massive government social programs.
However, Corbyn is more unpopular in the UK than Sanders is in the US for a number of reasons. First, Corbyn is seen as even further to the left than Sanders, openly admitting to his socialist roots. Corbyn has also come under fire for radical foreign policy, anti-American and anti-Semitic comments in the past. Corbyn has criticized the American raid to kill former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, criticized American soldiers in the Battle of Fallujah and has held numerous meetings with anti-Israel advocates and even Holocaust deniers.
While none of the current American presidential candidates have a track record as poor as Corbyn’s, their policies still turn a number of heads across the nation. From an extremely costly and invasive “Medicare for All” policy to the abolishing of borders, Americans remain weary of a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren victory.
However, it is not just Corbyn that the American political left can learn from in this election, it is also Brexit itself. The Brexit situation has become similar to that of the election of President Donald J. Trump in the United States. With a number of Democrats opposing his presidency from the moment he won in 2016. Even with President Trump up for re-election in 2020, Democrats are moving full steam ahead on impeachment, saying that he is “too dangerous” to be on the ballot in 2020.
Many Conservatives in the US see this as attempting to overturn the results of the 2016 election and an attempt to subvert the voters who elected Trump in the first place. This is exactly what “Remainers” in the UK Parliament had spent the past 3 years doing to the British electorate. It is clear that during this past election, the voters saw right through it, and backed Brexit yet again.
While the situations are different in many ways, there are warning signs the Democrats in the US should note. Trying to subvert the votes of the people and moving too far to the left did not work out for the Labour Party in the UK, and similar tactics will not work for Democrats in the United States.
In terms of Brexit, President Trump responded to Prime Minister Johnson’s resounding victory by promising to pursue a new trade deal with the UK once “Brexit” is finalized. The response by President Trump continues to show that the US-UK partnership is one of the most important in the world, and vital for both thriving nations.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Brexit election is that both the United States and the United Kingdom will face major challenges in 2020. Elections are always contentious, especially in the modern era, but the UK can set the standard for moving forward and uniting a divided nation over a difficult issue in 2020.
For more analysis on issues that the US and the UK are facing in 2020, check out my new book America 2020: The Grand American Political Landscape available today on Amazon!