By Charles Kershaw
The December General Election might have been one of the important elections in our lifetimes. It gave the public a decisive say about Brexit and the future of the country.
What happened, however, is not what a lot of people expected – the Conservatives obtained a surprisingly large majority, gaining 47 seats, with the Liberal Democrats losing one. The SNP gained a shocking 13, and Labour lost a catastrophic 59, making this their worst defeat since 1983. While the Tories might be celebrating their victory, everyone else is asking the same question – what happened?
Much speculation has been made about the quality of opposition. Many have questioned whether Corbyn was the right leader, amidst concerns of antisemitism within the party, and over fears that his manifesto was too radical. While the Lib Dems did increase their share of the vote, some have argued that they suffered due to their actions during the Conservative coalition, such as voting for austerity and raising tuition fees.
However, one issue stands above the rest that largely explains the success of the Tories and the failure of Labour and the other parties. Ipsos Mori’s regular survey showed that voters’ main concern in this election was Brexit. Given that it has been such a divisive issue, and negotiations have dragged on longer than expected, Boris Johnson was smart to make sure his slogan “Get Brexit Done” was an unforgettable part of his campaign. This allowed him to galvanise support from areas of the country that would not usually vote Conservative such as former Labour strongholds in the North, where people likely felt that Labour’s stance, which had changed from negotiating a soft Brexit to securing a deal within 3 months and then putting it to a referendum, was not clear or decisive enough.
Voters’ main concern in this election was Brexit
That being said, when it comes to the share of the vote, Pro-Remain parties gained a greater portion than Pro-Brexit parties, at 52.67% to 47.33%. As Scotland largely voted to remain in 2016, this would also explain the votes gained by the SNP, a Remain party. It seems that while Brexit is still a key issue, the splitting of the vote between various Remain parties and the nature of our electoral system may also have played a key part in this election.
It may be hard to state an exact cause of this result, but it is clear that Labour and other opposition parties have their work cut out for them when it comes to tackling such a large Tory majority in the upcoming Brexit negotiations.
Image: Bluebottle71 via Creative Commons