As December 12th is approaching and with it Britain’s seventh snap election since the beginning of the 20th century, the biggest question that comes to the mind of most Britons is: “Will it change anything?” – “Will it bring along a parliamentary composition able to overcome the Brexit-Conflict?” or “Will it even deepen the ongoing country’s political crisis since 2016?”
Well, everybody with a basic background in elections will know that to the most of likelihood it’s going to be “Same ole Same” and a different approach will be needed to find a hole in the wall of the dead end back alley Britain’s politicians from all wings combined have driven their country into.
Why is that so?
First of all, the eight seats the Tories are short of for the absolute majority they previously held might not seem to be that significant at first glimpse, but even if we were to assume that the most added votes will come concentrated from specific regions and not widely spread across the country, a repetition of the conservative’s 2017 winning pattern would still require at least 360,000 new supporters (about 45,000 per seat) without losing any. Maybe even more should their geographical distribution be unfavorable. After all they, are not the Scottish National Party (SNP) who can make a seat out of every 28,000 votes because they are winning almost all of Scotland without any serious competition except some minor areas in the Northeast and the Middle of the Scottish Highlands and the area of Lothian. The latter went to the Libs in 2017.
What Johnson really needs is heavy wins in West Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, and Essex and regaining at least some ground in the counties surrounding Leeds and Manchester. In all of those, Johnson’s party will probably find it difficult to even maintain its previous results, let alone improving them.
London itself will constitute another major challenge to the Tories. Their 33% of 2017 is probably as good as it gets. The best they were ever able to score there in the last 15 years was their 2015 high of 34.9%, which is not at all likely to reoccur on December 12th.
Worse, this time even the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) will not rush to the Tory’s aid with their 10 or so seats, given the differences on Johnson’s newest Brexit-Deal.
But as utterly unpromising as it looks for the Tories, Labour shouldn’t expect too much also. They may have very well already maxed out whatever it is that they can win with 40% of the vote (their highest since 2001) and a gain of 32 seats in the House. They would need to convince Liberal Democrats in the Northern part of Hampshire and Northeast Surrey to switch sides. Corbyn’s rather radical discourse will not exactly promote that.
While some new votes may still come out of Tory-Land Somerset, Dorset, and Wiltshire, they will hardly suffice to induce any significant change unless Labour can also make something out of the Conservative strongholds of Cornwall and Devon. Right now there is no reason to assume that this could actually happen.
So, what’s next?
A meaningful coalition, having more than just simply a mathematical majority that can effectively govern and push through whatever sort of Brexit or No-Brexit Deal seems to be some sort of daydreaming. Even an absolutely crazy constellation of Tory/Lib Dems/DUP would have no more than 350 – 360 votes combined, therewith producing some 55% of the House with a severely unstable coalition that in most cases is more likely to disagree than to agree.
For better or worse, Johnson might have to form a minority government that at best can be suitable for working on a new retirement policy or different health care plans, but deciding Britain’s future for at least the next half of a century should be way out of its scope.
Sure, the 51.9% leave Brexit-Vote itself had a margin that couldn’t possibly have been slighter but a referendum that determines a simple “Yes or No” kind of question is something entirely different than forging alliances that are supposed to make actual politics.
Naturally, Labour is as far away from governing as it can possibly get with gaining another 90 seats being impossible and a coalition with the SNP (which first would have to regain the 19 seats it lost in 2017 and then win some additional ones) being ridiculous. Maybe the Scots don’t want to leave the EU, but going Labour would be political suicide for the SNP.
The Welsh “Plaid Cymru” and Irelands “Sinn Fein” and the “Green Party of England and Wales” will probably continue to NOT play any real role in British politics except for the occasional speech in parliament.
Hence, bottom-line is this, Johnson will face severe complications in passing his “all new Brexit-Deal” as he calls it, without the blessings of the DUP and the Liberal Democrats. Recent indicators would rather point to the opposite at this point in time.
The only advantage Johnson can possibly have out of the snap elections he called is that whatever harm may come to Britain in 2020; he can always blame it on the others.
Mohamed Shirin El Hawary is a Political Economist