UK general election: Conservatives win, Brexit to follow

uk general election
© iStock/oversnap

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative party has achieved a sizeable majority in yesterday’s general election, setting the stage for Brexit in January.

With 649 of 650 results announced, the Conservatives have gained an additional 66 seats in the UK parliament, bringing their total to 364: a parliamentary majority of 79. In his victory speech, the Prime Minister said: “With this mandate and this majority we will at last be able to [take the UK out of the EU] because this election means that getting Brexit done is now the irrefutable, irresistible, unarguable decision of the British people; and with this election I think we’ve put an end to all those miserable threats of a second referendum.”

The opposition Labour party has lost 42 seats in its lowest result since 1935. The devastating loss has been attributed to a number of factors, most notably:

  • A perceived failure on the part of Labour’s leadership to address prevailing antisemitic sentiment within the party, which is currently under investigation by the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC);
  • Unclear policies on Brexit: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who voted against joining the Common Market in 1975, has been criticised by Labour supporters and Remainers since the 2016 Brexit referendum for failing to take a strong position on remaining in the EU; and
  • Corbyn’s leadership in general, which appears to have been the most common criticism levelled at Labour campaigners in the lead-up to the election: aside from the opposition leader’s public image as an antisemitism-enabling Eurosceptic, prospective voters expressed disapprobation over Corbyn’s previous support for extremist groups; as well as a general sense of insularity within the Corbyn-supporting left wing of the party. As the election results became apparent, Labour’s former Home Secretary Alan Johnson said Corbyn ‘couldn’t lead the working class out of a paper bag’.

The Scottish National Party (SNP), which supports an independent Scotland, has won 48 of Scotland’s 55 seats, paving the way for a second referendum on Scottish independence. While 2014’s independence referendum saw just over 55% of Scots vote to stay as part of the UK, 62% of Scottish voters opted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum on Brexit. Since then, the SNP has argued that Scotland should not be dragged out of the bloc unilaterally; and that once the UK leaves the EU a fully independent Scotland would be able to remain an EU Member State.

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