‘Most important in a generation’: The Who, What, Where, When and Why of December’s Election

By Elliott Stott

 

“This election is a once-in-a-generation chance to transform our country” – Jeremy Corbyn, 31st October 2019

“The most important election in a generation” – Boris Johnson, 6th November 2019.

 

On the 12th December 2019, for fifteen hours between 07:00 and 22:00, from Land’s End in the south to John O’Groats in the north, approximately thirty million UK residents will exercise their voting right. With exit polls immediately following the closure of polling and the first results expected between the hours of eleven and midnight, a clear picture of this country’s governmental future will be likely perceptible by dawn. At the ballot box, these are the major party’s and individuals, obligated to resolve the international conundrum of Brexit and domestic crises back home, fighting for your constituency’s nomination:

 

Conservatives

  • Party Leader – Boris Johnson
  • Significant Local MP’s – Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley), Stuart Andrew (Pudsey), Andrea Jenkyns (Morley and Outwood)
  • 2017 Electoral Percentage – 42.4%
  • Seats at Parliamentary Dissolution – 298
  • Polling Standing: 43% (Yougov, 28/11 – 29/11), 46% (Opinium, 27/11 – 29/11), 39% (BMG, 27/11 – 29/11)

 

Within the minds of Conservative Party leadership, there surely exists a potent feeling of Deja vu to the Election Campaign of 2017. Yet again the party in Downing Street has called a snap election, with a gargantuan gap in polling back to the Conservative’s long-standing opposition. Back in 2017, that gap eroded from a peak of above 20% to a mere 2.4% on Election Day, with the following campaign post-mortem making grim reading for anyone in the camp of Theresa May.

 

Now 30 months of Brexit uncertainty later, the issue that previously spurned articles warning of a permanent, messy breakup of the Conservative Party may now be the collective’s largest unifier. According to Boris Johnson, every one of the party’s 635 standing candidates have pledged their support to the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement, regardless of previous Parliamentary allegiances.

 

If the withdrawal agreement is constitutionally enshrined, the Conservatives support negotiations to forge a separate Free-Trade Agreement with Europe. With the party pledging to pass such a bill within 12 months, the approach has received significant criticism from political opponents for doing little to ensure the codification of worker’s rights.

 

Back home, legislative proposals range from £31billion in improvements to national roads, to the training of 20,000 extra police officers in England and Wales, reflecting minor changes from 2017 Party promises. Otherwise, it is in relation to the NHS where some significant alterations can be identified, with yearly funding for the sector set to increase by £20.5billion by 2024 rather than the £8billion extra by 2023 proposed at the previous election.

 

Where much reservation remains however is Boris Johnson’s publicised ambition to expand photo identification requirements nationwide before future elections, a practice condemned by Jeremy Corbyn for “disproportionately discriminating” against ethnic minorities.

 

 

Labour

  • Party Leader – Jeremy Corbyn
  • Significant Local MP’s – Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield), Hillary Benn (Leeds Central), Naz Shah (Bradford West)
  • 2017 Electoral Percentage – 40%
  • Seats at Parliamentary Dissolution – 244
  • Polling Standing: 34% (Yougov, 28/11- 29/11), 31% (Opinium, 27/11 – 29/11), 33% (BMG, 27/11 – 29/11)

 

In discussing the 2019 parliamentary ambitions of the Labour Party, there may be a decidedly similar environment of familiarity. Under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, the party is attempting to overcome significant polling deficits and consistently pressing accusations of in-house toxicity. In addressing Labour’s internal response to allegations of anti-Semitism, the combative optics following Jeremy Corbyn’s interview with Andrew Neil showed both the seriousness of concerns and the unmistakeable tensions still requiring social defusal.

 

On the topic of Brexit, the party aims to resolve divisions by renegotiating the country’s Withdrawal Agreement, with a confirmatory referendum against remain following within six months. Attacked by Conservative critics as ensuring ‘Brexit in name only’, questions have also been raised surrounding Jeremy Corbyn’s promised adoption of a “neutral” position in a future referendum, described by the Liberal Democrats as an “abdication of leadership”.

 

Elsewhere, Labour’s manifesto promises to roll back the Government’s controversial implementation of the Universal Credit benefits system, alongside lifting the current two-child benefits limit. The party’s proposals also differ from the Conservatives on environmental legislation, with Labour willing to repeal regulations against on-shore wind farm construction. Labour hope the policy will partially facilitate the UK reaching net-zero emissions in the 2030’s, advancing from the Conservative’s target of 2050.

 

However, with Labour’s manifesto proposing a generational high in governmental expenditure of £80billion, the Institute for Fiscal Studies described neither of the two leading parties as operating within a “properly credible prospectus” in a recent Guardian Interview. In response, Jeremy Corbyn categorised Labour’s manifesto as “bold, ambitious, and prepared for” to the BBC, insisting taxes will only increase for the top 5% of earners.

 

The KingMakers

“A person or group that has great influence on political succession, without themselves being a viable candidate”

 

Liberal Democrats

  • Party Leader – Jo Swinson
  • 2017 Electoral Percentage – 7.4%
  • Seats at Parliamentary Dissolution – 21
  • Polling Standing: 13% (Yougov, 28/11 – 29/11), 13% (Opinium, 27/11 – 29/11), 13% (BMG, 27/11 – 29/11)

 

After disastrous results in 2017 and specifically 2015, where the Party lost forty-nine of fifty-seven sitting MP’s, 2019 marks the return of the Liberal Democrats to the forefront of campaign discourse.

 

Throughout the process so far, the party has positioned themselves in contrast to the Conservatives and Labour, advocating in favour of policies ranging from the immediate revocation of Article 50 to the legalisation of recreational cannabis. Controversially, the party has also pledged up to 48 hours of weekly free childcare for children between the ages of two and four, described as a “potentially eye-wateringly expensive election promise” by BBC Economics Editor Branwen Jeffreys.

 

Yet it is the cultural scar tissue, created following the party’s minority coalition partnership with the Conservatives between 2010 and 2015, causing Lib Dem leadership’s greatest headaches. Part of a Government responsible for the expansion of tuition fees and greater privatisation within the NHS, each relenting on significant manifesto promises, Jeremy Corbyn branded the party as “happily signing up to austerity” in recent comments to Metro.

 

Elsewhere within Labour, John McDonnell on Twitter accused Lib Dem leadership of “selling out the people’s vote campaign” by backing the government’s electoral motion, whilst concerns continue over the marginal Scottish seat of Party Leader Jo Swinson, won by only 10% from the SNP in 2017.

 

The SNP

  • Party Leader – Nicola Sturgeon
  • 2017 Electoral Percentage – 36.9% (Scotland)
  • Seats at Parliamentary Dissolution – 35

 

Despite such considerations, the Liberal Democrats’ path to leverage in Number 10 may just be much more conventional than that of the Scottish National Party, even in the event of Labour gains. Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, Jeremy Corbyn emphasised that Labour would “certainly not” allow an Independence ballot before Holyrood Elections in May 2021, despite Nicola Sturgeon’s claim at the SNP’s manifesto launch that the party’s success is a “clear instruction” in favour of ‘IndyRef2’.

 

Internally, the SNP is also likely to have noted the Labour leader’s apathetic public attitude towards the Independence Movement, describing any successful referendum as “bringing with it an economic problem for Scotland” in a recent Guardian Interview.

 

By the morning of Friday 13th December 2019, and constitutionally following the resumption of Parliament four days later, someone will be walking into that famous door at 10 Downing Street victorious. Whether the individual is someone new, or someone familiar, they will be metaphorically accompanied by a mandate to fulfil the office and responsibilities as the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister. In less than one week, the direction of this country, for potentially the next five years, will take a definitive step towards public manifestation.

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