On Wednesday, the campaign period for the General Election began following the dissolution of Parliament. It remains unclear to what extent the country’s exit from the EU is at the forefront of voters’ mind. Brexit is undoubtedly an unavoidable topic for all voters and campaigners at this election. The Conservative Party are campaigning on the basis that they are the party that can get Brexit done, whilst Labour is promising a second referendum on a new Brexit deal that will protect workers’ rights. We are now at day three of the campaign, and for the two biggest parties, it is not going very well.
The Conservative Party didn’t have the ideal start they wanted, beginning with Jacob Rees-Mogg suggesting that the victims of Grenfell died because they had no common sense. This led to the incumbent Leader of the House of Commons apologising and having to admit that this was insensitive and wrong. After this, The Tories came under more fire after they were accused of “doctoring” a clip of Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer to make it appear that he was unclear about his party’s position. In the minute-long video, which has been viewed over one million times, the Conservatives inserted an extended pause following a question from GMB host Piers Morgan about the EU’s willingness to negotiate a new Brexit deal with Labour. Things were even worse for the Conservative Party after Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns was forced to resign after lying about how much he knew of one of his team collapsing a rape trial. Boris Johnson was hoping to shake off this poor start and talk about the economy, getting Brexit done and the danger of ‘Comrade Corbyn’.
The Labour Party also didn’t have the dream start to the election. On day one Tom Watson, who was elected by party members to be the Deputy Leader, announced he was stepping down and wouldn’t be standing in the election. He has claimed family reasons, but nobody really believes him. After this, Ian Austin, who had been a Labour MP since 2005 before becoming an independent MP in February this year over the anti-semitism crisis, encouraged people to lend the Conservatives their votes until the Corbyn era is over. These issues may not have quite as much impact as some of the Conservative ones, but the public will be aware that life isn’t perfect with either of the big two. Away from this, Labour had a few big policy announcements, including plans to borrow £150bn to invest in the North, buy properties to house the homelessness and negotiate the best possible deal with the EU before putting it back to the people in another referendum. Labour also spent today discussing workers rights, with plans to promote flexible working, give longer maternity statutory maternity pay, work on the gender pay gap and give women going through the menopause more rights.
The Lib Dems announced a remain pact this week to get as many Remain MPs elected as possible. This is between the Lib Dems, Greens and Plaid Cymru, covering 60 different seats. Jo Swinson’s team are particularly optimistic about this election, not only because they see themselves as the party of Remain, but also because the Lib Dems are expecting voters to be less tribally loyal as they were in the past. That gives the third party (or fourth, if you’re counting by the number of seats in the Commons) a huge opportunity.
SNP, Greens, Plaid
The SNP launched their election campaign with a list of demands that they would make in return for a backing a minority Labour government to keep Boris Johnson out of Number 10. Nicola Sturgeon made clear that Labour would need to back the “principle” of a second independence referendum and said that she would also seek greater powers for the Scottish Parliament, and an end to austerity. But Sturgeon said that she would not form a formal coalition with Labour if there is a hung parliament, and instead would potentially be willing to back a minority government led by Corbyn on an issue by issue basis. The Green Party launched their campaign saying that the climate emergency is much, much more important than Brexit. They said that they will borrow £100 billion every year for ten years. Seven of the Remain Alliance seats in Wales (out of eleven) have gone to Plaid. The pact is almost certainly not going to help them win any more seats than they already have.
For Northern Ireland, seats rarely change hands with constituencies being either heavily pro-DUP or heavily pro Sinn Fein. Generally, the North and North East areas vote DUP, and these MPs often win over 50% of the vote. Whilst the rest of the UK is seeing less of a two-party system with the upcoming election, it’s looking like more of a two-horse race. Additionally, DUP leader Arlene Foster is rumoured to be planning to stand for election to Westminster.
The Whitehouse team are experts in the potential impact of Brexit, providing political consultancy and public affairs advice to a wide range of clients, not only in the United Kingdom, but also across the member states of the European Union. More information about our Brexit experience can be found here, or, if you have any questions, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at firstname.lastname@example.org.