What lessons, if any, did this vote hold on the state of British politics?by Jonathan Lis / May 29, 2019 / Leave a comment
As political earthquakes go, this measured high on the scale. A party which didn’t exist a few months ago topped the poll with 31.6 per cent of the vote. The two “main parties” couldn’t even poll a quarter of all votes between them. The Liberal Democrats, all but defunct a few years ago, beat them both. Labour came third and, unbelievably, fifth, in its traditional heartlands of Wales and Scotland respectively, a result both calamitous and unprecedented. And the Conservative Party, the ruling party and so-called natural party of government, came fifth in a national poll for the first time in its history. The Tories were backed by just one in 11 voters nationwide. In numerous council areas they polled in sixth place, and in Liverpool, one of the country’s largest cities, which regularly returned Conservative MPs until the early 1990s, they gained 2 per cent of the vote and finished seventh—behind Labour, the Brexit Party, Lib Dems, Greens, and even Change UK and Ukip. This wasn’t a kicking. It was a liquidation.
But the result was no ordinary earthquake. We saw it coming for weeks. Then it came. And already, after just a few days, it is passing. What, if anything, does it all mean?
Certainly, we can only read a limited amount into a poll which attracted a turnout of just 37 per cent (albeit higher than in 2014), and in a general election or referendum more people would vote and many of them differently. But some lessons are entirely clear.
First: there is no mandate for no-deal. The only parties explicitly advocating that, Brexit and Ukip, polled 35 per cent nationwide. For several months the Tories have effectively abandoned no-deal as a policy, and it is inconceivable that the party’s voters last week were endorsing it.
Second: the results do not divide easily for either Leave or Remain. Certainly, if we assume that all Tory voters were in favour of Leave and Labour voters in favour of Remain, the results split 56-44 for Remain. But of course that will not be the case. Many loyal Tories would still want to Remain, given the chance, and a sizeable minority of Labour voters still back a form of Brexit. Those supporting explicitly pro-referendum parties—the Lib Dems, Greens, SNP,…