Rethinking Europe

Who Will Win Next Thursday in Britain?

If Johnson does not win a majority, it would be a major defeat for him and some kind of technical government would have to be formed — mainly to organize a new referendum.

Credit: Visit Britain www.flickr.com

Takeaways


  • The clear message from UK voters is that they want neither Boris Johnson nor Jeremy Corbyn.
  • Are British voters so fed up that they will take a risk on Boris Johnson, Trump’s favorite politician in Europe, and let him leave the EU Treaty set up?
  • Boris Johnson is a better campaigner and a stronger personality than Mrs. May. But his TV interviews are shambolic.
  • Other than repeating his mantra of “Get Brexit Done” and the promise of a radiant future for the UK outside the EU, there is no content to Johnson’s electoral messaging.
  • Brexit party candidates are standing in 275 Labour and LIbDem seats. They will take away pro-Brexit votes from Tory candidates.

One week to go and still there is no certainty about the outcome of the UK election.

To test possibilities, I asked about 30-40 former MPs, mainly Labour but also some Tories, for their best guess. Two of three of my ex-MP respondents said Boris Johnson would win.

However, there were wild variations in the size of the majority, ranging from the Tories having 320 seats (a minority government like Theresa May’s) to a 50-seat majority.

These are veteran professional politicians but out of the game. On the doorstep, the clear message from voters is they want neither Boris Johnson nor Jeremy Corbyn. So, despite the current forecasts of a solid Tory victory, many MPs seeking re-election think the result could be similar to that of 2017 – a parliament where no party has a majority.

More stalemate?

Does that mean a further three years of the UK Parliament blocking everything but not agreeing to vote for anything – the stalemate that led to Theresa May’s ouster?

Not quite. If Johnson does not win a majority, then his bid to insist on his hard Brexit vision is repudiated. And any non-majority parliament could only have temporary technical government in place to do one thing – hold some swift talks in Brussels and then move to a new referendum.

That referendum would decide whether the UK stays in the EU or seeks some milder form of Brexit based on leaving the EU institutions. What it would exclude is, for example, seeking to negotiate a trade deal with President Donald Trump, as Boris Johnson so ardently wishes.

There can be little doubt that neither Jeremy Corbyn nor the Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson, are having a good election.

Corbyn continues to be blasted on his failure to clean up the anti-Israel statements by many Labour spokespersons or their unqualified support for pro-Palestinian positions sometimes linked to open Islamist organisations with their calls for Israel to be eliminated.

His left-wing manifesto whose economic aspects resemble the 1981 Programme commun of François Mitterrand seems out-of-date. That is so even though there is a hunger for more investment in infrastructure and public services like hospitals and police.

The Farage factor

What about Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party? He and his party are reported not to get any seats in the new British parliament.

And even though the Brexit Party is not running any candidates in Tory seats, this is no electoral help to Johnson. What’s the point of piling up more and more votes for seats which are already won for the Conservatives?

By contrast, Brexit party candidates are standing in 275 Labour and LIbDem seats. These Farage candidates will take away pro-Brexit votes from Johnson’s Tory candidates — and thus help Labour or LibDem pro-referendum candidates.

In the end, the election may thus turn on a small number of votes in a small number of constituencies.

Note that Labour does not even have to gain an extra seat to defeat Johnson. If the Scottish Nationalists increase their tally to 50 seats which seems possible and if the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, the anti-Brexit Welsh Nationalist and Northern Irish MPs all edge up, one can easily get to 330-340 seats for those parties.

While they are not likely to come together to form a coalition government, they are all pledged to hold a second referendum.

As regards Boris Johnson, he is more ebullient a campaigner and a stronger personality than Mrs. May. But his TV interviews are shambolic. Other than repeating his mantra of “Get Brexit Done” and the promise of a radiant future for the UK outside the EU, there is no content to Johnson’s electoral messaging.

Conclusion

If the nation refuses to give Johnson a clear majority, it would be a major defeat for Johnson and some kind of technical government would have to be formed mainly to organize a new referendum.

Senior Brussels official in charge of negotiating Brexit say they are ready for this and would work constructively with a UK temporary administration charged with holding a new referendum.

Or are British voters so bored and fed up that they will take a risk on Boris Johnson, President Trump’s favorite politician in Europe and let him leave the EU Treaty set up?

That only means starting unending negotiations. Thus, those tired of Brexit would in reality be plagued by post-Brexit negotiating battles for many years to come.

In a week’s time, we shall know.

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About Denis MacShane

Denis MacShane is a Contributing Editor at The Globalist. He was the UK's Minister for Europe from 2002 to 2005 — and is the author of “Brexiternity. The Uncertain Fate of Britain” published by IB Tauris-Bloomsbury, London, October 2019. Follow him @DenisMacShane

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