This election is one arguably one of the most important in recent history
On the morning of the 18th of April, Britain woke up to the news that it would be once again going to the polls, following Prime Minister May’s announcement of a general election to be held on the 8th June 2017. The news shocked pundits, especially after May had previously downplayed the chances of an early election, telling Andrew Marr in September that “the next general election should be in 2020.”
The people of Britain will likely see this vote as a “Brexit election” – less than a year after the decisive vote to leave the European Unions, voters will likely cast their ballots based on their preferred terms of Britain’s exit. On one side, a vote for the Conservatives or UKIP is a vote for a “hard Brexit”, meaning leaving the single market and giving Britain full control over its laws. On the flipside of the coin, a vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to stay in the single market but at the same time leaving some of our law-making powers with the European Union. Labour sits in the middle – they will fight for a Brexit which protects the rights of workers, but have no clear position on single market membership.
The Conservatives have struggled since 2015 with a slim majority of 12 seats in the House of Commons, making it difficult for them to pass the laws that they want. A fresh election is a gamble for them, in the hopes that they will gain more MPs and increase their majority, meaning that it’ll bear easier for them to pass laws. It also gives May a chance to separate herself from the manifesto that the Conservatives were elected on in 2015 and set out her own agenda; following criticism of her recently proposed National Insurance hike, which had been explicitly ruled out in Cameron’s manifesto 2 years earlier.
The election comes at a time when the Labour party are struggling with infighting and poor polling numbers. Their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, faces opposition from his MPs, many of whom do not believe he can lead the Labour Party to victory, deeming him too left wing for the public. However, Jeremy Corbyn still has massive support from his party membership, mainly from young people alienated by politics who believe that Jeremy Corbyn is an honest and principled politician . If young people came out to vote, Jeremy Corbyn could do well in this election. Historically, this has never been the case, as people aged 18-25 are the worst at turning out for elections. Perhaps anti-establishment Corbyn could be the one to buck the trend.
A victory for May’s Conservatives has many implications – most importantly, we will leave the single market, reduce EU migration, reintroduce grammar schools and pursue closer ties with the US and Commonwealth states. Grammar schools will likely have a large effect on the British youth for years to come – will they increase social mobility and help the poorer kids get a good education; or will they only help the better off who can afford tutors to help them get in at the expense of poorer pupils?
A win for Corbyn would be a departure from the political status quo we’ve had since 1979 – Corbyn wants to increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour, increase government spending with taxes and borrowing, as well as provide free school meals for all pupils. Critics would argue that the higher minimum wage could lead to mass unemployment, and that more borrowing could lead to another financial crisis.
The Lib Dems are also profiting from anti- Brexit sentiment among some, even unexpectedly winning a by-election in Richmond Park last year. Many have accused them of being undemocratic for wanting a second EU referendum. Could students forgive them for increasing tuition fees, to prevent a hard Brexit? Only time will tell.
It’s important for everyone to vote on the 8th June, especially the young (who are traditionally ignored by politicians) no matter what politics you follow; it’s important that everyone’s voices are heard. This election is one arguably one of the most important in recent history, as it will shape our domestic politics as well as our relationship with the EU for years to come. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister called this election being confident in her party, due to good polling and infighting in Labour and UKIP, making a Tory victory look very likely. However, as the 2015 election proved, we can’t always believe the polls. Will May’s gamble succeed in increasing her power, or will Corbyn ride the anti-establishment wave of Brexit and Trump all the way into 10 Downing Street?
Words by Samy Hamdane