A lot has changed since the 2015 general election. The Tories, Labour, Lib Dems and UKIP have all changed leaders and we’ve voted to leave the European Union. Political parties of all colours now start to ask themselves what their purpose will be in a post Brexit Britain.
The Labour Party have had two leadership elections since Ed Miliband left his post. Jeremy Corbyn, previously an unknown backbench MP was swept into office on a platform far to the left of any leader since Michael Foot. While the Labour party’s membership has shot up to over half a million, this enthusiasm has not been reflected in the polls – with Labour around 15% behind in most polls. Labour’s polling worries are very contentious among its members, some argue it’s due to Labour MPs undermining Corbyn and others argue that Corbyn’s hard left policies are out of step with the electorate. This vast gulf of difference between the membership and the MPs is an issue that is yet to be resolved and some fear it may lead to bitter infighting and MPs potentially being removed from post should it be allowed to continue.
The Liberal Democrats have gone from junior coalition partner with 57 seats, to a relatively minor party in parliament with just 8 seats, this was due in part to the total collapse of the student/young progressive vote. The Liberal Democrats had tapped into this group with, their opposition of tuition fees, stand against the Iraq War and socially liberal policies. However in order to form a government with the Conservative party they dropped their opposition to a rise in fees, causing a mass exodus of this voting bloc.
UKIP have probably had the most successful twelve months they’ll ever have. Their primary issue – that of the European Union – has been rejected by public referenda. The party now finds itself in a bizarre situation, what is UKIP for? Their leader, Nigel Farage, has resigned. Some candidates call for a socially conservative and economically liberal party to take the fight to the Tories, others think the role of UKIP should be laser focused on ensuring the version of Brexit the party has campaigned for is implemented.
The Conservative Party have had their second female leader Theresa May, after Cameron dramatically resigned the morning after losing the EU referendum – a referendum he promised in order to prevent a movement of Tory voters to UKIP. The party now finds itself walking a radically different line in many areas of policy. The desire for control on immigration, for the first time, will now dictate economic policy – with May arguing that the vote for Brexit was a vote against open borders. Grammar schools are also back on the agenda, an issue that many though was gone for good. While there is very little evidence that grammar schools actually improve social mobility, they’re a popular policy with the British public and May’s core supporters.
Despite the uncertainty across the other parties, May’s position is far from secure. She is a Prime Minister who hasn’t fought an election therefore the British people have not consented to her new agenda. She governs with a small majority of 12, meaning an organised and coherent opposition should easily be able to hold her in check at least on contentious votes. The former chancellor, George Osborne, alongside many other former Cameron cabinet members form a large bloc of pro remain MPs who May has removed from post who could make her life quite difficult. It’s because of this that many speculate May will take the opportunity to have a snap general election in 2017. This would allow her to seek a fresh mandate from the British people and secure a safer majority in parliament. However the prospect of three major national votes in three successive years seems somewhat over the top to many members of the public. Most people don’t care much about whether Theresa May has a mandate. Regardless of what the public think, they may well find themselves voting in yet another general election. Isn’t politics fun?