The next UK election could be terrifying

If there’s a general election in 2019 I’m starting to feel really uneasy about it. A few months ago I felt as though it might transpire that the Tories would do very badly in such a scenario. Well, they still might but the UK remains in the grip of conservative forces with the rise of the Brexit Party and Labour being run not by the massive influx of ordinary members they’ve enjoyed since 2015 but by a clique around Jeremy Corbyn hell bent on securing their own power base within the party.

Labour should be riding high in the polls. The Tories are an utter disaster but Labour is ineffective in Parliament, particularly whenever Corbyn stands up to speak, and their inability or unwillingness to deal with allegations of antisemitism is exceedingly worrying.

There are still many people saying that Labour is suffering from a concerted effort by the establishment to unseat Corbyn partly on the basis of his pro-Palestine views. This is unfortunately the terrible kind of conspiracy theory nonsense that got them into this position in the first place. Most people can see the distinction between antisemtism and showing solidarity to Palestinian people. The Labour leadership can’t dismiss the scale and nature of the allegations. They can no longer claim that the leadership haven’t interfered in the way allegations have been investigated.

The question is whether the public at large actually care. With Brexit dominating everything maybe antisemitism doesn’t resonate with the public as significantly as it should. The ongoing logic since the local and European elections is that Labour needed a less ambiguous Brexit policy and one that sides more with Remain. It has now moved in that direction in the hope of securing votes lost to the Lib Dems and the Greens. There is also a risk that it will shed Leave voters to both Brexit and the Tories.

The rise of the Brexit Party is the most frightening thing to happen in British politics in my lifetime. We have to assume that this is a pre-fascist party because Nigel Farage has form in this respect. He may have left UKIP because it swung to the right but everything he did at UKIP led to that conclusion. I fear that the Brexit Party will go the same way but this time from a position of power.

The Polls keep fluctuating and at times have shown either Labour, the Tories or the Brexit Party riding high over the last few weeks. There are different ways to establish how this might play out in a general election. It isn’t assured that people will actually follow through on their votes of course and some models seem to overplay the strength of the Brexit Party. However, if the Brexit Party do as well as predicted in some polls then they would likely be the largest party in the Commons with the Tories needed to prop them up.

A Farage / Boris coalition is a possibility before the year is out according to some recent polls. With Boris coming to power on 24th July (according to absolutely everyone, even Jeremy Hunt, probably) at a time of crisis I would not bet against an autumn general election. The Tories are getting perilously close to losing their working majority and a number of backbench Tories have indicated that in certain circumstances they would be willing to bring their government down or at least abstain in a confidence vote.

The fact that the Tory vote has been split should create the conditions for Labour to sweep up in any election but the rules of our two party system are in flux, perhaps being rewritten entirely. We now have a four party system without the mechanics to make one feasible. If having Labour, the Tories, the Brexit Party and the Lib Dems all in with a chance of forming a government of some sort isn’t complex enough we can also add the issue of devolution. Some polls suggest Labour would be the largest party in the Commons. The SNP in Scotland could hold the balance of power in such a scenario but that will only be at the risk of an independence referendum and the break-up of the UK. Would Labour accept that as a price worth paying for power?

The last few years have been deeply unsettling. If we do have a general election in 2019 and if it goes the way the polls suggest we have a deeply worrying future. We face the possibility of Farage on the front bench not just handling Brexit but the NHS, military, policing, immigration and benefits. He’s already created one far right party, we cannot assume that the Brexit Party will not develop down the same hell hole.

Jon Bigger


Photo credit: The White House, public domain