“Boris Johnson won because he managed to unite the people who wanted to leave the European Union. Political analysts have estimated that pro-Brexit political parties could count on 48% of the electorate, while pro-EU ‘remain’ parties could count on 52%. In short, the majority in Great Britain wants to stay in the EU, but while Corbyn failed to take a stand and was unable to bind together this segment of public opinion, the Prime Minister exploited the uninominal electoral system, also backed by the Brexit Party.”
Steven Fielding (in the photo), professor of Political History at the University of Nottingham, with a focus on Labour Party studies, commented on the vote that gave Boris Johnson the victory in Westminster. “Since the 2016 Brexit referendum, Corbyn’s position has been ambiguous. He avoided taking sides, for or against Britain’s presence in the European Union, and this ultimately resulted in a revival of the Liberal Democrats, who supported a second referendum and took away votes from Labour,” the expert remarked. “Voters were thought to be against or in favour of Brexit and Johnson won with a clear message: ‘Get Brexit Done’ by December 2020.” The comments on the results of yesterday’s vote arrive on the day when, in Brussels, EU 27 leaders discuss future relations with the United Kingdom. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said: “I congratulate Boris Johnson and I expect the British Parliament to pass as soon as possible the Withdrawal Agreement” negotiated with the EU. The European Union is “ready to discuss the operational aspects” of future relations. Thus seemingly the EU has no regrets about the “divorce.”
Will Johnson manage to quickly implement UK withdrawal from the EU, which he relentlessly pledged during the election campaign?
Not even Johnson really believed what he said about Brexit to win over voters during the election campaign. With his current parliamentary majority, he can even afford to go back on his word and disregard the deadline, as he now has the freedom to decide when and how to negotiate trade legislation between the UK and the EU. However, with a smaller majority he would have been hostage to the European Research Group, representing politicians who want to leave the EU without a deal.
The other winner of these elections is Scottish nationalist leader Nicola Sturgeon, who is calling for a second referendum to obtain independence from the United Kingdom. Do you think Boris Johnson will agree to this?
I don’t think so. At the moment, in Scotland, those who want to remain in the Union of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are voting Conservative. Johnson, therefore, has a stable electoral base, albeit less than that of the Scottish nationalists. The Labour Party, which had an ambiguous position here as it did in England, has lost. This situation of continuous conflict with Sturgeon, who will be unable to obtain a referendum on independence without the consent of Westminster, will also suit the Scottish leader. Only 50% of citizens want to break away from Britain at the moment. The Scottish Nationalist Party relies on the call for independence, thereby not having to deal with the problem of managing a region that is economically dependent on London, with the advantage of blaming the central power for whatever goes wrong.
What will Boris Johnson’s Great Britain be like, given that the Prime Minister has secured at least five years in power?
Johnson’s election victory speech was very significant because it showed that he is aware of having won, for the first time in the history of the party, with the highest number of MPs, taking Labour seats in the north of England. The Prime Minister said he wanted to maintain this new electoral base. So I don’t think he is going to privatise the national health service, a symbol of equality, which citizens have always been proud of. Johnson abandoned his ‘Thatcher’ role, played out to win the party’s leadership, and became a One Nation Conservative, like David Cameron, a leader who wants to unite the nation.
What about Labour?
It suffered a huge defeat. But I expect that many people, both party members and leaders, will deny that Jeremy Corbyn is at fault, and will put the blame on Brexit. The response is bound to be unproductive, leading to a long period of internal party conflict over the reasons for this situation. This was the third consecutive election defeat for the Labour Party since 2010, after the failure of Gordon Brown’s “New Labour” strategy, after Ed Miliband’s leftist shift and today, with Jeremy Corbyn’s radical approaches. All left-wing options have been tested and there is no clear way out. Ten years of Conservative power await us, almost certainly, and in the first five Labour will most likely be fighting itself rather than Boris Johnson.
The Protestant community in Northern Ireland now feels betrayed by the Prime Minister who, in his negotiated agreement with the EU, has left this region united with the rest of Ireland. Is this a dangerous situation?
Clearly, we will not be seeing a renewed period of stability. Problems will arise because the Republican parties that want a united Ireland, will feel strengthened by the fact that the two nationalist parties, Sinn Fein and SDLP, have gained votes. However, morale will be low among the supporters of the Democratic Unionist Party that registered losses in these elections. There is a risk that some extremist Protestant formations may decide to revert to violence and attacks.