What is happening in Britain?

Written By: - Date published: 10:31 am, June 8th, 2019 - 22 comments
Categories: International, uk politics - Tags: , , ,

There was a by election yesterday in Peterborough.  Labour won it, just, which is a little surprising although the by election was necessary because the previous Labour MP had been sent to jail for perverting the course of justice and had been the subject of a successful recall motion by the voters.

In second place was the Brexit Party candidate, a party that has only been in existence for a few months.  Peterborough had voted overwhelmingly for Brexit in the referendum so Farage’s party must have fancied its chances.

And the Conservative Party came a distant third.  Compared to the general election Labour lost 17% points and the Conservatives 25% points.

But this does not appear to be a one off fluke.  The Brexit Party, as well as the Liberal Democrats and the Greens have surged recently.  And Labour and especially the Conservatives have seen their support plunge.

In February of this year an Opinium poll had the major parties level pegging.  From Michael Savage in the Guardian:

Labour has pulled level with the Conservatives, according to the latest Opinium poll for the Observer that suggests significant potential support for a new party.

Jeremy Corbyn’s party had trailed the Tories by seven points two weeks ago. However, the result proved to be a blip and both parties are now on 37% of the national vote. It marks a return to the tight poll results that have been a feature in recent months.

Approval of the Labour leader’s Brexit response has gone up slightly over the past fortnight. The poll found that 17% approve of his Brexit response, while 57% disapprove – a net approval rating of -40%. It is an improvement from the -45% recorded a fortnight ago, in which 16% approved of his performance and 61% disapproved.

But Savage also said this: 

The poll confirmed that a large proportion of the public are disillusioned with the two main parties. Almost half (41%) think that both Labour and the Conservatives have become extreme, with 39% of Tory voters and 37% of Labour voters agreeing with this. A similar number (42%) think neither party stands for anything.

Two-fifths (40%) think a new political party would be the best way for people like them to be represented, while 59% would consider voting for a new centre-ground party.

This Wikipedia graph gives you an idea of how unstable things have become with the Brexit Party coming from nowhere to being in some polls the most popular party.

In a first past the post system these sorts of surges can be catastrophic for parties.

Britain’s problem is that it is locked in a Brexit/No Brexit death spiral.

Brexit has already cost two Conservative Prime Ministers their jobs.  And as stated by Jonathan Freedland it has turned conservative politics on its head.  The party of big institutions and slow change is facing the destruction of the former and the acceleration of the latter.

Labour is also struggling and I still have no clear sense of what its position on Brexit is.

I bet progressives wish there was an MMP system in the UK.  A Labour-Social Democrat-Green-SNP coalition would more often than not become  government in this scenario.

22 comments on “What is happening in Britain? ”

  1. greywarshark 1

    If Boris Johnson can get away with saying this: about 1 hour ago

    The High Court has thrown out an attempt to prosecute Boris Johnson over claims he lied during the 2016 referendum campaign by saying the UK gave the EU £350m ($NZ669m) a week.

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/world/391537/attempt-to-prosecute-boris-johnson-over-brexit-campaign-fails

    Then making a fuss because Gabriel Mahklouf mispoke about a deep rummage in Treasury's drawers similar to a hack, as being a 'hack' then I'm a money's uncle. (In a land of monkeys not men and women. Or we are silly chooks pecking at tiny objects, instead of looking at the objects of our time.)

    • Dukeofurl 1.1

      This is what UK is spending in EU contributions this year

      GNI calculated contribution 14.7 bill pounds

      VAT payments 3.0 bill

      Customs duties 3.4 bill

      Customs rebate -0.7 bill

      EU GNI based abatement -4.3 bill

      Public sector receipts from EU -5.1 bill

      nett payments is 11 bill to EU or 211 mill pounds per week. Or 300 mill per week if the EU public sector contributions are excluded

  2. AB 2

    The Tory right wants a hard no deal Brexit so it can crank up neoliberalism to the next level and return the UK to the sort of epic inequality that prevailed before 1914 – after which the disruption of two great wars temporarily created a middle class.. The Labour Left wants a 'Lexit' (Left Exit) that enables a future socialist UK free from the restraints the EU might impose around nationalisation of parts of the economy and the opening up of corporations into worker co-ops. That's why they won't push for a second referendum. The centrists (LibDems, large chunks of Labour, smaller chunk of the Tories) just want to preserve the material comfort they have become accustomed to by going back to the pre-referendum status quo. The Brexit party are a mixture of those who want the foreigners out and those who fancy that shitting all over everything will stop their economic pain.

    Layer this on top of the anti-democratic FPP and who knows. I would want the Lexit option to prevail – but I doubt it will. If Labour don't win the next election, or can't form a government with anyone, the UK may well end up with something that looks proto-fascist, is tied even closer to the US, and as Louis MacNeice said of Spain in his great poem 'Autumn Journal', is "ripe for revolt or ruin".

    • Siobhan 2.1

      "The Tory right wants a hard no deal Brexit so it can crank up neoliberalism to the next level and return the UK to the sort of epic inequality that prevailed before 1914".

      .and they need hard, no deal Brexit to achieve that? I suspect that many who voted for Brexit would describe inequality, while in the supposedly benevolent watch of EU, is pretty spectacular already.

      https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/jun/27/century-income-inequality-statistics-uk

    • woodart 2.2

      yes, cant see any real winners in the u.k. anytime soon. obviously, the wealthy will have a cushion, everybody else will need a parachute.your comment about them needing mmp(a.k.a. grownups electoral system) is quite correct. both the untied kingdom and the untied states are splintering and fpp doesnt help.

    • Sabine 2.3

      @AB, this was well said.

  3. greywarshark 3

    The happy face of Lisa Forbes on Peterborough by-election win.

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/07/peterborough-byelection-result-labour-sees-off-brexit-party-threat-to-hold-seat

    Jeremy Corbyn's response to Brexit questions. Does he say vex it about Brexit? https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/07/jeremy-corbyn-shrugs-off-referendum-calls-after-byelection-win

    and a month earlier – April 2019 another win!

    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unIWtA9Sq44

    Ruth Jones has won the Newport West by-election, retaining the seat held by veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn until his death earlier this year.

    And on the Conservatives (Cons serving VAT dives) go –

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/world/391537/attempt-to-prosecute-boris-johnson-over-brexit-campaign-fails The High Court has thrown out an attempt to prosecute Boris Johnson over claims he lied during the 2016 referendum campaign by saying the UK gave the EU £350m ($NZ669m) a week.

    • Pierre 3.1

      Forgive my Labour sympathies here, but despite a reduced vote share, Lisa actually won a larger majority in what was a marginal seat. It was held by a Conservative from 2005-2017. The overall direction of travel is concerning, but the Labour vote held up here, and on its own it's not a bad result.

      • mickysavage 3.1.1

        Aye it was marginal then and it is still marginal which is a good result given the circumstances.

  4. Macro 4

    As the Irish Border so eloquently puts it:

    I've got no time for Brexit. But I do admire it's ability to divide a country.

    I've given up trying to work out what is going on in England – and yes it is <b>England</b> is driving this whole sorry state of affairs. If David Cameron had had any sense he would never have run that "Referendum" in an attempt to appease the demands of UKIP essentially giving voice to a minority of RW Nationalist idiots.

    Labour could still Nationalise essential industries if it really wanted to. But the indecision of Corbyn and his obvious desire to be PM above the desire to sort out this mess is turning Labour members away in droves. Farage obviously has charisma for the beer drinking little thinking Alf Garnetts:

    Alf Garnett:
    Well, I mean, see if we go into Europe…

    Else Garnett:
    I thought we was in Europe. I mean, I thought we always have been.

    Alf Garnett:
    I know that, yer silly moo. I'm not talking about that aspect am I? I'm talking about the Common Market aspect of the going into Europe.

    Alf Garnett:
    Old Enoch's against it, in't 'e, eh? He don't want no more bloody foreigners over here. We got enough bloody foreigners here as it is. Bloody country's swarming with Eities and Krauts and Froggies and Spagnollies and Brussel Sprouts. All coming over here and taking our jobs off of us, aren't they?

    Else Garnett:
    Well, we can go over there and take the jobs off of them.

    Alf Garnett:
    I don't want to go over there, do I?

    Else Garnett:
    Wish you would.

    And 40 years on they haven't changed .

  5. SPC 5

    Back in Jan 1998 I wrote to the new Labour PM Tony Blair (after they established the Jenkins Commission in late 1997) proffering my advice.

    What they came up with was nearly as effective as MMP – preferential voting in the electorates and a few extra list seats determined by party vote (about 500/125 split). A half way house between the Enzed and Oz systems. It allowed smaller nationwide parties a (greater) presence in parliament (but no advantage to regional parties) while allowing a major party with a significant margin of support to still form a one party government – albeit coalitions would be more likely.

    One wonders how much better off the UK would now be if this system had been enacted.

  6. CHCoff 6

    If the so called leading Brexiters had been off to the races, leading flotillas down the thames,etc, you name it, with President (the guy who can do the Irish border deal) & first lady Trump, the situation would have been well on it's way to being sorted.

  7. One has to bear in mind that FPP rewards concentrated votes. It's entirely possible for Labour to come second or even third, and actually win the most seats. The Tories are in a much greater problem, since their vote is being cannibalised en masse by the Brexit Party.

    I will say this for Corbyn: notwithstanding his famous dithering, he's the only leader in Britain that is actually behaving like both sides of the debate actually have a point.

    • mickysavage 7.1

      Thanks Daniel. You are right. Corbyn has refused to occupy a populist position. While carnage has occurred around him he has kept his cool. I hope his strategy works.

    • Heather Grimwoood 7.2

      To Daniel at 7 : Fingers crossed that Corbyn proves to be a wise owl especially in refraining from the melee. Hopefully a strong somewhat younger echelon of backers up/ eventual leaders is there for him.

  8. peterlepaysan 8

    Corbyn has been around a very long time. He can bide some more.

    There will be a general election sometime. The tories are going to lose (I suspect badly). Johnson is currently favourite for leader for tories (they all despise him).

    Labour has signalled a policy shift from "social mobility" ( a piece of neo-lib bs propaganda) to 'social equality'.

    IF the Lib Dems and Labour can get along for a long time the tories are out for a long time, and they know it

    BREXIT might make UK a MMP state. I am a hopeful dreamer.

    Minor matters like Scottish/ Irish / Welsh / EU / immigration issues could be sorted without squires from the shires and their relations projecting their born to rule mind sets on the population

  9. greywarshark 9

    This is a highly charged meeting about Brexit. It might have been put up before but it is good to look at again, it shows the divisions and the mere fact that having a decision is of major importance to some, whether it means that Britain/UK as they know it will be fully wrecked and not still repairable as, one hopes, at present. The game's the thing! Onward despite all. And listened to by teflon Farage with a self-contained downward gaze at first and then a smirk of satisfaction. We know the type here also.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x3NDW7nbhg

    I think some people think about political sides in the same was as they think about sports sides. Of course there is a vast difference in importance, but to the shallow thinker they aren't obvious as it would require deep thinking, sitting down and working through the likely scenarios from start to finish, with breaks for oranges and water at intervals, keeping their mouths shut and breathing through their noses.

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