The United Kingdom is just four weeks away from electing a new parliament. Both the ruling Conservatives and the Opposition Labour are giving finishing touches to their manifestos. But the electorate is still unenthused. The lacklustre campaign seems to be stuck in the eighties mode of the last century. Even though Brexit is the main cause for this snap election, the politicians are debating at public platforms on strong leadership, sorry plight of public services, denationalisation of rail, mail, energy companies, taxing the super-rich, free education and the controversial Trident submarine and nuclear disarmament. The remnants of Margaret Thatcher and Michael Foot era still linger on. Great Britain is stuck in a time warp.
Surveys are predicting a return of the Conservative government of Prime Minister Theresa May with a majority of 60 to 100 seats. The ruling party has an almost 20 point lead over the main opposition Labour Party of incorrigible socialist, Jeremy Corbyn. A Prime Minister from the right wing of the political spectrum is fighting against a committed socialist from the extreme left wing. History repeats in Britain — neither as a farce, nor a tragedy, but a great ennui. May called the snap election on June 8 to consolidate her position in the party and the government. She is right. The thumping victory in the recently held local council elections justifies her decision. The ruling party has added 550 seats to its fold, besides winning Mayoral posts in Tees Valley and the West Midlands.
The biggest shock is Labour’s loss of the West Midlands mayoralty to the former John Lewis boss Andy Street. Labour was forced to hand over the keys at Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Northumberland. In Scotland the party is now behind Conservatives and has lost its grip on Glasgow for the first time in 40 years. The disappearance of Eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the exodus of loyal Labour voters from the party over Brexit are the key factors for the Tory victory. The Liberal Democrats are still at the receiving end of voters’ ire over their alliance with Conservatives in 2010 and their support to increase the university tuition fee from £3000 to £9000. May’s juggernaut will roll on June 8, crushing the opposition and ushering in the second Iron Lady era in British politics.
The biggest upset in the local election was in the West Midlands — another Labour citadel where most of the councils and the MPs are from the party. The Mayoral candidate Sion Simon bit the dust because of the lack of support from his own fold.He blamed the result on the party’s national leadership’s failure to connect with the “values” of its core voters in areas like Birmingham, West Bromwich, Walsall and Wolverhampton. Although he refused to name Corbyn directly, Simon made it clear he meant the Labour leader and his team had let down its traditional supporters on key issues.
“We can’t duck the reality of what we heard in the places we won on the streets of cities and towns like Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton and Sandwell,” said Simon. “Traditional working class voters, who we were born to serve, quite simply want to hear a clearer, stronger message about traditional values like patriotism, hard work and a defence of decency, law and order,” he added.
An activist turned leader, Corbyn has also confused many in the party. Some of his policies are really contradicting each other. The Labour leader, who rebelled against the party stance over 500 times during Tony Blair’s New Labour Era, was forced to dilute his stand on Trident, immigration and other key issues after his own ranks started deserting him. The party is still confused over immigration and policing. Diane Abbot, the former lover turned shadow home secretary, made the party a laughing stock after appearing in various TV shows claiming to employ 10,000 additional police officers with a budget of 300,000 pounds.
Corbyn has become an albatross around the neck of the Labour party. The party may claim that he is the solution to the ills of Tories under May. But after the election results and the poor ratings, he is now a problem for the party. Despite that he had the audacity to justify his leadership, despite an exodus from the party. Former Labour cadres are reaching the Conservative fold via a stop over at UKIP. In some of the Labour seats, UKIP votes are larger than the party’s majority. A real headache is in the making for Labour. The Midlands victory also shows the victory of Tory strategy to get into Labour strongholds. Andy Street bagged the post by reaching out to new voters with a “moderate, tolerant, inclusive” local plan.
Instead of moving forward, the 2017 election will take Britain back. The arrival of UKIP cadres to the fold will make Conservatives more aggressive on immigration and other issues. Despite the requests from Conservative colleagues and Indian leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister May is still unwilling to change on the tough student visa norms, creating hurdles for several aspiring Indian students to pursue their dream courses in Britain. The prime minister has even ignored calls from the vice chancellors of several universities to amend the decision. British universities are losing about £6 billion in fees because of May’s stand on foreign students. She seems to be just following Maggy on key issues. This lady, too, is not for turning.