Tide Of Times In UK, The Missing Mandate

P . Kharel

Buoyed by public opinion polls giving her party a landslide majority if snap polls were held, British Prime Minister Theresa May made the gamble, but the voting pattern took a different turn that only saw the Conservatives lose the working majority they enjoyed in the previous House of Commons. Any prime minister would have a difficult task ahead in coping with the Brexit process. But for someone who led a majority party in the hope of winning a larger majority, the June 8 election outcome gave a jolt to both May and her party that lost its majority and is now tied to a hung parliament with no single party securing a clear-cut majority on its own.

Contradicting her earlier pledge, May took a U-turn, and opted for a move that took away the majority. The outcome showed that May tried to chew more than her party could swallow. She sought a larger mandate but miserably failed to secure it. Relying too much on opinion polls can bring unpredictable consequences. More young voters are for the Labour Party than the Conservatives.

Changed map

May’s excessive confidence was built on the stilts of opinion polls that suggested that a comfortable victory was a foregone conclusion. Within a fortnight, however, the map seemed to have changed, giving her and her Conservative Party a scare while the opposition Labour Party breathed a much-needed respite at the prospect of scoring better than the polls previously predicted.

In her maiden statement in parliament as prime minister last year, May taunted the main opposition thus: “The Labour Party may be about to spend several months fighting and tearing itself apart. The Conservative Party will be spending those months bringing this country back together.” After last week’s election results, May’s arrow of criticism boomeranged on her party and not the Labour. The Conservatives need to work extra hard to keep the pack together and ensure her leadership’s strength within the organisation.

Weeks before the polls were announced, the general anticipation was that the Conservatives were ahead of the Labour by up to 20 points, suggesting that the May-led Conservatives could outscore or match Thatcher’s majority of 144 in 1983 and Labour Party majority of 179 in 1997. With barely 10 days left for the general elections, the YouGov opinion poll indicated that the Conservatives might lose their 17-seat majority in the 650-member House of Commons with only 310. The Labour could improve upon its 2015 strength. Smaller parties were also expected to gain more seats at the expense of the ruling side.

On the eve of the snap polls, a stinging but catchy chorus proclaiming the Conservative leader as someone who did not hesitate to lie when it suited her echoed the erosion in her public reputation. The song, “She’s a liar, liar. You can’t trust her, no, no, no,” emerged as a quick chartbuster on the penultimate week of the elections.

The new government faces challenges carrying unusual complexities and complications. It could face leadership struggle. David Cameron led his party to put the Labour in the opposition benches and teamed up with the Liberal Party for a coalition partnership. In the next elections, however, he led the Conservatives to a clear majority. And the Liberal Democrats suffered a strong setback, which many believe was the result of playing the junior partner to the Conservatives.

May did not fall for the temptation of blaming Russians for her party’s less than satisfactory performance. Instead, she accused European politicians and officials of trying to influence the outcome of last week’s national elections. The Conservatives admit that Britain’s pulling out process from the European Union is not easy. EU officials went on record saying that Britain had failed to gauge and grasp the “complexity of the task ahead”. May came down heavily on “some in Brussels who did not want to see Brexit talks succeed”.

Leaving a memorable legacy is a tough task. The Labour leader Tony Blair, 63, who was PM for a decade, seeks to make a comeback and perhaps to remedy the legacy denied by his country’s involvement in the Iraq war in 2003. Documents show what blind loyalty he offered to Washington when George W. Bush was at the White House.

Seen by many as cold and calculating, May wanted a more commanding majority in the Commons. Rated as a controlled character who defines her approach to governance as a no-nonsense woman—as Margaret Thatcher, the country’s first woman prime minister and also from the Conservative Party—she set high ambitions but without the getting to the bottom of the issues at stake. Thatcher led her party to three consecutive election victories and is credited for reining in excessive unionism in the industrial sector and maintaining a tough posture in the international arena.

On April 19, during the debate on holding the proposed elections on June 8, Labour leader said the opportunity: Chance to change government and direction because the nation of 65 million is worse off today than it was seven years ago when the Conservatives came to power. Labour leader would have been questioned within party if defeat had been as heavy as predicted till a month ago. Now he has more than a reprieve, thanks to revived hopes that not all is lot.

Key issues

Not long after May took over 10 Downing Street, Scotland’s parliament voted to back First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second independence referendum by the spring of 2019 at the latest. This has become a headache for the Conservatives as their prime minister battles to keep the country united while negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU and adjusting the kingdom to the implications of the pullout made through a national referendum last year.

The EU is expected to demand up to 60 billion euros from Britain for completing the withdrawal process, also known as Brexit. There have been speculations that Britain could leave the EU without settling its accounts, in which case London’s credibility in continental Europe would dip steeply. That could, however, make many recall that Napoleon Bonaparte more than a century ago mocked at Britain as “a nation of shopkeepers”. But the fact is that shopkeepers are known for their financial obligations.

Another challenge is tossed up by growing voices in Britain, questioning the very economic system the country has been party to all these decades. Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, 67, said at a party conference in September: “People are fed up with the so-called free market system that has produced grotesque inequality, stagnating living standards for the many, calamitous foreign wars without end and a political stitch-up.” Bolstered by a significantly better performance by his party than opinion polls had projected, Corbyn will hammer the point even stronger now.

Will anything change for Nepal, as a result of the latest general elections in Britain? Nothing.


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