Thursday, 18 May 2017

2017 General Election - Box of Surprises or Pandora's Box

2017 General Election

No sooner than the echoes of the French Presidential Election are dying down and France prepares itself for a Legislative Election, the focus is more than ever before on what happens in the United Kingdom.

In every election there are different factors in play. The Conservative Party without David Cameron is once again led by a female Prime Minister, the second female Prime Minister after Margaret Thatcher interrupting a very long series of male Prime Ministers in the history of British Democracy.

North of the border, in Scotland, another female leads a majority party, the SNP, with a very different agenda, and in Wales yet another female leads Plaid Cymru - equivalent of SNP but on a much lower scale.

So there are going to be several battles in this war called General Election. In Scotland, SNP needs to justify its predominance (56 out of 59 Scottish MPs are SNP) and the SNP struggle will take place on two fronts: its local politics within Scotland as political party in government and its politics within the United Kingdom and the relationship with the EU. If local politics happen to be the main focus, SNP could end up losing many of the House of Commons' seats that it won in the previous election.

We should never trust electoral forecasts. If forecasts are true then the Conservative Party is due for a revival in England, Scotland and Wales and even seats in the Greater London Region dominated by the Labour Party would be up for grabs.

Even in the middle of an electoral campaign prominent figures of the Labour Party (London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn) don't seem to be on the same wavelength. Just days ago, when the Labour Party Leader went north, the now newly elected Mayor of Greater Manchester didn't want to meet him.

North of the border, things don't seem to be going well for the Labour Party. The Scottish Labour Party Leader Kezya Dugdale suspended Labour councillor in Aberden because they wanted to form an electoral alliance with the Conservative Party. She secured an important majority in the contest for Leadership of the Scottish Labour Party. Would she be obtain to obtain a similar majority today after all that has been happening not just in Scotland but also south of the border? Recent council elections results - May 2017 - seem to indicate that Labour could have to withstand even more divisions.

Prime Minister Theresa May went to Parliament to seek an exception to the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 because she said that she needs a strong mandate to engage in Brexit negotiations with the EU. What we witnessed during Parliamentary debates leading to the triggering of Article 50 more than justify the 2017 General Election.

The news that many Labour MPs would not stand as candidates in the coming General Election could signal the reappearance in Parliament of old faces, should they get enough support to win seats in the House of Commons. One of those faces is Simon Hughes, long standing London MP that lost his seat to Labour in 2015. In his particular case, the struggle is to have to stand against a Labour MP that shares his views about the EU. Would divisions in the Labour Party be strong enough an issue to temp Labour voters to support a Lib Dem candidate?

The 2015 General Election was a catastrophe for the Liberal Democrats. In 2010, they had 57 seats. In 2015, they were left with 8 seats. David Ward who was a Member of Parliament in 2010 and lost his seat in 2015 is not allowed to stand for the Liberal Democrats because of differences of opinion regarding Israel and Palestine.

Thanks to an organisation that opposes Brexit, the Conservative Party has the wind on its sails. Prominent Conservative Members of Parliament who were part of the campaign against Brexit changed direction when the said organisation suggested that it would campaign against the Conservative Party. Party allegiances prevailed and now they act as one in support of Prime Minister Theresa May.

So now is the time for party political manifestos with the Liberal Democrats trying to show that they can offer more than the Labour Party, a Labour Party who manifesto is focused on re-nationalisation and on tax changes that could have a major impact not just from a financial point of view but also from a political and social point of view. The Conservative Party chooses a more cautious approach and in times of great political and financial uncertainty vast sectors of the Electorate would choose to play safe.

The Labour Party has grandiose ideas but even within the ranks of the Labour Party there are voices of disagreement of those who don't support the Labour Party Manifesto thinking that it is too extreme or unrealistic in financial terms. This could be a Clause 4 moment for the Labour Party. Will the Labour Party continue under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership? Will the Labour Party split?

The Liberal Democrats dream about the split of the Labour Party, seeking to attract those who oppose Jeremy Corbyn to form another political party, a centre ground political party, a moderate force in British politics to oppose the Conservative Party.

The strain in British politics is at peak levels. 2017 could end up being even more eventful than 2016.  Alignments and re-alignments in a more fluid political environment could lead to quite a few surprising developments.

Away from the so called mainstream political parties, there are quite a few changes in the offing. Some have already discounted UKIP as political party. Others say that UKIP will adapt to a post-EU membership. Arron Banks, former UKIP supporter is now talking about the launch of a new political movement in the autumn - this is after the General Election.

As always the advice is 'don't try to cross the bridge until you reach the bridge' (or don't put the car before the horses). Despite the talk about a Conservative landslide, I am wise enough not to take anything for granted.

Like everybody else, we will go to the polling stations in the early hours of Election Day and we will wait patiently to hear the announcements about who has won and who has lost. Every election is a box of surprises. I do have my favourite to win. I have my own views about who should win for the sake of the country. We do need a strong government. A dithering government or a government with a very small majority could be a Pandora's Box.


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