Labour surprises in UK election


I continue my almost unbroken record of being wrong when it comes to predicting the results of elections but in this case I am really pleased by it. Theresa May and the Conservatives were expected to increase their majority to between 50 and 100 seats. Instead, they have lost their majority altogether and now have just 318 seats, which while eight short of a majority still makes itthe single largest party. Jeremy Corbyn has surprised the pollsters and pundits by hugely increasing his party’s vote. The Conservatives now have 318 seats, while Labour has 261 seats, the Scottish National Party has 35 seats, the Liberal democrats have 12, and others have 23 seats with one still undecided (In 2015, the Conservatives won 331 seats with just 36.9% of the vote, while Labour won 232 seats with 30.4% and the Scottish National Party won 56 seats with 4.7%. The remaining 28% of the vote garnered just 31 seats spread over nine other parties.)

Exit polls issued immediately after the polls closed predicted Conservatives with 314 seats, Labour 266, SNP 34, Liberal Democrats 13, and others 18. That sent shock waves through the country but it looks like they got it fairly close.

The big losers were the Scottish National Party and Ukip and maybe readers who are from the UK can explain what happened. Voters from both groups seemed to go to the Conservatives more than to Labour. I can understand Ukip voters going that way but am puzzled by why the SNP lost so many seats and why the shift was to Conservative rather than Labour.

Voting turnout was 69%, 2% higher than in 2015 and the highest since 1997 and seems to have been driven by the enthusiasm of younger people for Labour and Corbyn.

The “youthquake” was a key component of Corbyn’s 10-point advance in Labour’s share of the vote – exceeding even Blair’s nine-point gain in his first 1997 landslide. No official data exists for the scale of the youth vote but an NME-led exit poll suggests turnout among under-35s rose by 12 points compared with 2015, to 56%. The survey said nearly two-thirds of younger voters backed Labour, with Brexit being their main concern.

The Conservatives have now gambled twice with elections in two years and lost both times. Prime Minister David Cameron got ousted with the Brexit vote and now May will likely face a challenge to her leadership because of her underwhelming performance. She gambled on running a US presidential style campaign centered around her slogan of being “strong and stable” which was widely mocked as “weak and wobbly” because of her lackluster performance. One good thing for her was that she won her own seat, beating a challenger by the name of Lord Buckethead, an “intergalactic space lord” who “enjoys planet-conquering” and “dominating inferior species”. Sadly, he got only 249 votes.

In an interview before the election where May was asked what was the naughtiest thing she had ever done, she replied that it was running through fields of wheat. That may now have to take second place to her decision to call a snap election. That anecdote also reveals that British interviews can ask the same type of silly questions that US interviewers ask, and British politicians are silly enough to answer them instead of brushing them off as not worth answering.

As the single largest party, the Conservatives will now have to try and cobble together a coalition to form the government but those things tend to be unstable and the UK may well see another election fairly soon. But next time, Corbyn will have the wind at his back as the neoliberal Blairites who constantly undermined him get sidelined and the media realize that he is a force to be reckoned with.

It looks like Corbyn, an old-fashioned progressive, has turned the party around in an astounding manner by giving British voters a real choice. The Democratic party in the US should take note. Being neoliberal Republican-lite like Hillary Clinton may win you some elections in the short time but is not the way to go for long-term progressive gains.

Comments

  1. says

    “The black knight aaaaalways triumphs!”

    The Conservatives have now gambled twice with elections in two years and lost both times

    Important to remember – they have gambled twice with England as table-stakes. Politicians of all stripes use people’s livelihoods as chits in their stupid games. We should hate and reject them all, not simply shrug over which are the least bad. They are all horrible.

  2. jrkrideau says

    running through fields of wheat.
    What?
    As a farmer’s son, I consider this is about as bad as it gets. I don’t think I can convey to a non-farmer how horrified I am.
    Oh, and I am not joking.

  3. cartomancer says

    Oh yes, supporting Section 28 and working to deport as many asylum seekers as possible while she was Home Secretary are mere flights of fancy next to ruffling a few stalks of wheat. What a whimsical and charming leader we have!

  4. Siobhan says

    I can understand Ukip voters going that way but am puzzled by why the SNP lost so many seats and why the shift was to Conservative rather than Labour.

    Sturgeon credits a lack of enthusiasm for Scottish independence. The SNP are separatists and that is more or less their defining feature. Since that often overlaps with patriotism, and patriotism with Conservatism, it doesn’t surprise me at all that Conservative would be their second choice if the voter wanted to stay in the UK.

    As for the Conservative-DUP coalition, it might not be as unstable as we hope. The DUP are small and uncomplicated. It’s unlikely they’ll defect from their party position, and May is probably alright to make a few theocratic concessions for them to secure their confidence.

  5. Dunc says

    Well, from here in Scotland, it’s certainly perplexing… I have a very hard time believing that significant numbers of people decamped from the SNP to the Tories – the two are mortal enemies. What I think may have happened is that many SNP voters may have shifted to Labour in order to support Corbyn (the modern SNP is very much a left-leaning party of the sort Labour used to be), and simultaneously many Unionist Labour supporters may have switched to the Tories as the most credible Unionist party. Some pro-Brexit SNP supporters may have jumped to the Tories, but I have a really hard time believing that there could be that many of them.

  6. mnb0 says

    “were expected to increase their majority”
    That was quite a while ago. Especially last few days it became clearer and clearer that May faced problems.

    “Jeremy Corbyn has surprised the pollsters”
    Again not really.

    https://www.demorgen.be/buitenland/voorsprong-van-tories-op-labour-slinkt-dag-voor-parlementsverkiezingen-b87ca7e9/

    “The lead of the conservatives becomes smaller the day before elections”.
    The most important news is that the UK won’t fall apart – Scotland will not become independent.

    “those things tend to be unstable and the UK may well see another election fairly soon”
    ??
    American prejudice?
    It has happened before in the UK. Only recently the Tories/LibDem coalition was pretty stable.

  7. deepak shetty says

    @Dunc

    I have a very hard time believing that significant numbers of people decamped from the SNP to the Tories – the two are mortal enemies.

    But if you are unhappy with SNP wouldnt you choose something different? (I.e. if you didnt like what Obama did then you wouldn’t vote Hillary whether you are a Democrat or not)

  8. Siobhan says

    @deepak shetty

    But if you are unhappy with SNP wouldnt you choose something different? (I.e. if you didnt like what Obama did then you wouldn’t vote Hillary whether you are a Democrat or not)

    That’s a shitty comparison. The USA is functionally a two party system. This creates the “Not _____” vote, and thus at least some of Clinton’s voters were “Not Trump” voters.

    Though this is reproduced on a per-riding basis thanks to first past the post, the UK is considerably more pluralistic than that.

  9. says

    jrkrideau@#2:
    As a farmer’s son, I consider this is about as bad as it gets.

    …. wearing shorts.

    Running through a cornfield is no damn fun, either.

  10. jrkrideau says

    # 3 cartomancer
    supporting Section 28 and working to deport as many asylum seekers as possible

    This is what we expect of any depraved Con (Sorry, the “depraved” is redundant). But “running through wheat fields” is beyond the Pale.

  11. deepak shetty says

    @Siobhan
    2 parties win roughly 90% of the seats and you think that shows the pluralistic nature of the UK ?
    In any case Im not referring to the 2 party system – if the SNP and Labour (and lib dems and the greens) all vehemently oppose the Tories and you dont like the SNP you might go with the Tories simply because you are going for the perceived opposition. I used to see this happening in India sometimes where even Muslims would simply vote for the Hindutva party (BJP) because they didnt want the Congress and even though there are many other parties it was the BJP that was perceived as the opposition(at that time)

  12. sonofrojblake says

    Firstly: this almost as good as result as could have been hoped. It’s a shame the Cons have got enough to form a government, but they’ve been incredibly weakened and we have a credible, progressive, properly leftist opposition now. Full disclosure: I wrote to my MP, twice, to state clearly that I would never vote Labour (after a lifetime of doing so) with that man in charge. His performance in the campaign changed my mind, and I voted Labour after all. I’d have been more pleased if they’d done better, or won, but one must keep one’s hopes realistic.

    The big losers were the Scottish National Party and Ukip and maybe readers who are from the UK can explain what happened

    These are both very simple to explain:
    The SNP in 2015 effectively wiped out all the other parties – Scotland gets 59 MPs in Westminster, and in 2015 the SNP had 56 of them. The remaining 3 were one each for Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour. Realistically, from that high point, the only way is down. They still have 35, which is a more sensible number. It’s reasonable to point to their demand for another independence referendum as an important reason for their loss, although obviously there are many others. This election was not as disaster for the SNP, though – they simply could not expect to go anywhere but down from their ridiculous 2015 result.
    UKIP are a different matter – it’s questionable why they even still exist. They are a single issue party, and their issue is (was?) that they wanted the UK to leave the EU. Given the referendum result, it’s baffling why the whole lot of them have not simply gone to the pub to celebrate and not come back. That they fight on, ostensibly to get the “right kind of Brexit”, is ridiculous, and the result bears this out.

    One anecdote: my next door neighbour is a nurse who lacks any political awareness. She confessed herself confused on polling day. I expressed surprise that anyone who works for the NHS could contemplate voting anything but Labour, since anything else (unless you’re in a Con/LibDem marginal) is a vote for Christmas by turkeys. She told me that several of her colleagues had expressed an intention to vote Conservative. When I asked (perhaps a little too loudly) WHY???? she said their main reason was that it was only the Tories that would, and I quote, “get rid of all the immigrants”. The layers of wrongness there beggar belief, not least because if you wanted to “get rid of immigrants” the last people you’d trust to do it are the Conservatives, who have presided over an increase in net immigration despite promising to reduce it to a five-figure sum annually.

    What I think has gone unsaid here is the achievement of Corbyn managing to get this result in the teeth of some of the most egregious character assassination in the press that has ever been seen. The Barclay Brothers (look them up), Rupert Murdoch and others have painted him as practically a former IRA member turned ISIS stooge. It’s been sickening.

  13. Dunc says

    deepak shetty, @12: Scottish politics are rather more complicated than that. On the major issue of the day (Scottish independence), Labour (well, Scottish Labour) and the Tories are in complete agreement. In fact, both ran virtually indistinguishable single-issue campaigns in Scotland, opposing a second referendum. The only way you could tell their leaflets apart was by their colours. In many places, the local Labour party even went so far as to explicitly advise their members and supporters to vote Tory.

    There are 3 significant political axes in Scottish politics today – left / right, pro / anti Brexit, and pro / anti Independence. The SNP and the Tories are opposed on all 3.

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