Prospects during the General Election (2017).

by richardhutton

People may have noticed that the fairly despondent recent post about the General Election was removed – it was written mainly off the back of emotion, rather than reason; and after a short period of reflection, didn’t seem especially constructive.

Looking at the matter more objectively, what I expect to happen as a consequence of this election is not greater cause for optimism, unfortunately; but I think it’s important to be honest.

Labour will probably suffer heavy losses. Voter-intention is one issue, but turnout is another. This is not about Corbyn, or Labour themselves, however; it’s a consequence of Brexit. Labour were left in a uniquely difficult position by the EU referendum – whether they accepted or repudiated the outcome, they stood to alienate many of their supporters, either way.

The factor at issue is ‘depressed voter syndrome’ – namely dejection among many of its supporters about the prospect of overseeing Brexit. I don’t personally want them to win this election if it means presiding over the upcoming economic disaster that Brexit will almost certainly induce. This purview is liable to be shared by many people; and result in a desultory showing of votes. By contrast, enthusiasm for Brexit among its supporters remains high; and evidently favours the government.

Labour will be the first casualty of Brexit. They will not be its last, however; and hopefully, they will be the first to recover.

George Osborne resigned as an MP, heading into a general election which his party are expected to win comfortably. This specific circumstance seems to be unprecedented. There are two primary reasons why MPs resign from Parliament – one, a personal scandal is set to become public; two, their parties are in serious trouble. Osborne is not that interesting. So, the second of these is the more plausible motive.

If the Conservatives are in government until 2022, then they will preside over the full period that Britain is outside the single European market; which is expected to prove economically calamitous. If this does occur, then there will probably be a vote of no confidence in the government before 2022.

However, a strong majority for the Conservatives in Parliament will mean two years with weak opposition – and thereby free-reign over policy; until the reality of Brexit hits home in 2019. Two years can be a long time in politics for those on the receiving end; but it can also be a short time when a dreadful prospect looms.

A strong Tory majority precludes independence for Scotland any time soon. The SNP can present a bill requesting a second independence referendum; but it would simply be voted down.

There will almost certainly not be a vaunted ‘lifetime of Tory government’, no matter what the current prospects may indicate – if the Conservatives themselves believed otherwise, then we would not be having a general election now, instead of in 2020; when they would have benefited from the boundary review changes.

Labour’s members evidently remain committed to the party’s future – even with a bleak immediate outlook. After the election is over, they will have to decide whether they want to continue the good work that was done prior to the EU referendum, as there will be strong calls for a lurch to the hard-right, especially on the issue of free-movement/migration. Public opinion and political expedience will probably undergo a marked change from 2019 onwards, however.

The left is not forgiven its failures the way the right is. Corbyn is liable to lead Labour to dire results – it is obvious that he will be blamed personally; as he was for the outcome of the EU referendum, despite campaigning against it. This will not be valid.

Corbyn kept Labour intact and functioning during the coup which followed the EU referendum. He also steered it through Article 50 – both of these issues could have caused the party to implode. All of the other leadership candidates he faced stated after the referendum that they would end free-movement, which would have committed Labour to support for ‘hard’ Brexit. This would probably have seen the party decimated during the upcoming election; as even many supporters of Brexit do not want the worst version possible to apply.

As it stands, Labour are still liable to suffer heavy losses as a consequence of the EU referendum’s outcome; but hopefully, it will not prove as devastating as it would have done under any other leader. There is at least the possibility that Labour will have a future once the damage of this election has been overcome. Political parties can recover surprisingly quickly from heavy defeats; particularly given a change of circumstance.

This general election represents a lose-lose scenario for Labour – either suffer heavy losses; or enter government, and be responsible for overseeing the disaster of Brexit. One of these outcomes is recoverable. While Labour will suffer the consequences of Brexit this election, the Conservatives will suffer it the next.

Brexit cannot be made to work in actuality. The outcome of this election will primarily reflect public opinion on the issue; which is currently devoid of basis in reason. Reality will intrude at some point down the line, and sanity will eventually be restored; but until then, there is cause for severe pessimism about the future.

The upcoming years will be difficult ones for our country and its people.

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