UK Election Review

Wow! That was my first response to seeing the exit polls from the BBC that predicted a hung parliament. As the night went on as in 2015 it was clear that the exit poll which was widely criticised for overestimating the Conservative vote had this time correctly forecasted a lower Conservative seat amount than what was widely expected. At the time of writing the current seat totals are as followed:

The results below show that the Conservative party have lost 13 seats from the 2015 election which takes them below the threshold of 326 seats to have majority in the 650 seat Parliament. As of writing the Conservative party have formed a deal with the Democratic Union Party in Ireland to return to government in minority form, the DUP being a right of centre party which policy views that see them as a natural ally of the Conservatives, indeed they have worked on policy in some forms since the 2015 General Election. Despite the results not going as well in the United Kingdom as a whole the Conservative party did have a good night in Scotland where they picked up 12 seats that otherwise would have placed them in some danger of Labour forming a left of centre Government with numerous left of centre parties with the SNP being the head of such alliance. While the results in Scotland were seen as being a bad night for the SNP it was unrealistic to expect a repeat of winning 56 of the 59 seats and the Conservatives have been gradually improving their stocks under successive Parliaments having only had one seat in Scotland since 1997 where anti Thatcherism led to an electoral wipeout. The one issue that can be placed at the SNP as being key to their electoral loss is a backlash against a call for a second Scottish Independence vote in the wake of the Brexit leave vote. As the main opposition in the Scotland Parliament the Conservatives were always going to benefit from those who believed it was important for stability in Scotland’s place in the UK currently in the wake of uncertainty in the future of the European Union.

Despite still falling short of being able to form government Jeremy Corbyn was the highlight of the election taking Labour to a far better result than anyone predicted pre Election. Indeed it was interesting watching BBC interview after BBC interview of former shadow ministers and backbench MPs who had called for Jeremy Corbyn to resign now singing his praises of how great he was and how terrible Theresa May was. In picking up a 10 percent swing Labour took their primary vote greater than any Election since the two Tony Blair landslides in 1997 and 2001 and then greater than any vote share by the Labour Party since the Harold Wilson Labour win back in 1974. With this in mind one may have expected a shock Labour win however the Conservatives also picked up over 5 percent of the vote which returned the UK system to more of a two party system which has not been the case for the last 30 to 35 years with the Liberal Democratic Party and UKIP picking up a large share of the vote of disconcerted Conservative or Labour Party voters.

The biggest fall of the night belonged to UKIP who lost as much as 20 percent of their vote in some electorates and 10 percent across the UK. This may have led to only 1 seat being lost but in 2015 there was a lot of talk about this being the election that would set up a voter base for the 2020 election. This involved the party finishing ahead of the Conservative party in safe to moderately safe Labour seats and the hope was then to leapfrog the Labour Party in 2020 by having a non formal agreement where the Conservative member would help ensure some of their vote share would flow to the UKIP member and push them ahead of the Labour vote. However after the surprise vote last year left the UK leaving the EU their was a sense that the work of the UKIP party was finished and combined that with party infighting as to who should replace Nigel Farage as leader left the party without a platform to campaign on, as such their electoral capitulation was not unexpected. The surprise however was where their votes went to, it was expected that the Conservatives would pick up somewhere in the range of 80 to 90 percent of the vote loss, this did not bare out as the Labour Party picked up a third of the displaced UKIP vote. Their are a few reasons for this; Firstly UKIP picked up a lot of protest voters who were not happy with how Westminster operated and Jeremy Corbyn had a much more protest like campaign. Secondly as with the One Nation Party in Australia there is a tendency to label all their voters as homophobic racists who are clueless on policy and therefore have to be conservative in nature, indeed this is not wholly the case and a lot of these voters are lower class workers who would generally vote to the left of centre but have been put off by Left parties move to modern policies on Technology/ Environment and Economic policies that don’t deal with how to transition old economies into a modern one. An example of this is the Current Energy debate in Australia, Left of centre parties want to transition our energy use into modern renewable energy sources. Environmentally this makes a great deal of sense but economically this leaves a lot of people in poorer Economic areas jobless and unskilled to try and transition to a new industry to find jobs in a market where finding employment is difficult, this is what has led to a move away from Left of centre Governments who are embracing a new Economy and will continue to be a conundrum for Politicians in a divided landscape.

Full results (1)

party seats gain loss net votes share (%) change (%)
Conservative 318 20 33 -13 13,667,231 42.45 +5.52
Labour 262 37 5 32 12,874,284 39.99 +9.54
Scottish National Party 35 1 20 -19 977,568 3.04 -1.7
Liberal Democrat 12 8 5 3 2,371,762 7.37 -0.5
Democratic Unionist Party 10 2 0 2 292,316 0.91 +0.31
Sinn Féin 7 3 0 3 238,915 0.74 +0.17
Plaid Cymru 4 1 0 1 164,466 0.51 -0.08
Green 1 0 0 0 525,371 1.63 -2.14
Ind 1 0 4 -4 145,375 0.45 +0.13
Ulster Unionist Party 0 0 2 -2 83,280 0.26 -0.11
Social Democratic and Labour Party 0 0 3 -3 95,419 0.3 -0.03
UK Independence Party 0 0 0 0 593,852 1.84 -10.8
Other 0 0 0 0 166,385 0.52 -0.3

Scotland Results (2)

Party Seats (change) 2017 vote share Share change 2017 votes Vote change
SNP 35 (-21) 36.9% -13.1 977,569 -476,867
Conservatives 13 (+12) 28.6% +13.7 757,949 +323,852
Labour 7 (+6) 27.1% +2.8 717,007 +9,860
Lib Dems 4 (+3) 7.5% -0.8 179,061 -40,614

Above I have already touched on some reasons for the election result however after each UK election YouGov carry out a survey to determine what indicators have influenced the voting patterns of specific demographics.

Outside of the interest in how the Brexit vote would impact the voting patterns across the country the main factor people thought would influence the 2017 election was the age of voter. It has long been thought that in Western Society younger people tend to vote for left of centre parties while the older generation tend to vote for Right of centre governments. This thought was particularly the case going into this election as Jeremy Corbyn promised free tuition for University students as well as a winding back of austerity measures from Theresa May in areas such as Health spending and Public service jobs, these are usually issues that younger people are more supportive of. Older generations tend to have Conservative social views and also have a greater appreciation for fiscal economic policies that look to have a more balance budget so that Governments can then spend money on policies to improve the lives of their constituents. The above graphs (3,4) show that the 2015 election had a fairly balanced vote between the age groups outside of the retired age group that voted Conservatives at a considerably higher amount, however in 2017 there were 40 to 50 percent gaps between the Labour and Conservative vote at the young and older age range of voters. This suggests that the Conservatives may struggle in future elections if they can’t bring in more voters at a younger age demographic to replace voters who die before the next election. The other element that impacts on the age divide is voter turnout. In previous elections older citizens would vote in a higher amount than young people who are often active in election campaigns online but then don’t vote on Election Day, something that is an issue for parties in non compulsory voting elections. This election however there was evidence that young people who were sick of being marginalised in their eyes by governments and by Brexit were ready to vote in larger numbers and give a kick to the ruling government. This was borne out by an increase in registration numbers by younger voters. On Election Day there was still a divide in voting turnout for older votes with 84 percent of retirees voting versus 57 percent for younger voters however that is a large increase from the 40 percent that had come out to vote in 2015, a clear sign that Corbyn energised the youth vote.

As mentioned earlier one of Jeremy Corbyn’s key electoral issues was the removal of tuition fees for University students. Unsurprisingly this bore into the voting patterns for the Conservative versus Labour Party, although it is questionable as to whether the age of voters also shows up in this result due to the increase in education levels of younger people.

 

The Brexit result was always going to have an impact on the 2017 election and despite the Terrorist attacks that placed national security higher on the campaign agenda for the final weeks of the campaign the graph below (5) shows Brexit still impacted the vote. So the graph measures the two party swing from the Labour Party to the Conservatives versus the Labour Party vote in 2015 (percentage wise) multiplied by the Leave percentage vote. The graph clearly shows that where Labour voters remain had a swing towards to the Labour Party as evidence by the large amount of negative y axis results with lower level x axis values whereas where the electorate voted leave Labour voters tended to swing to the Conservative in higher amounts, as evidenced by the large x and y axis values. An indication that voting remain probably helped the Labour vote more than the Conservatives on the night is the greater amount of seats with Labour swings away from the Conservatives.

Brexit vote Impact.png

So all in all a very good night for the Labour Party and Theresa May has now been left in a very vulnerable position going forward. There are a few areas of interest to follow going forward that will determine where UK Politics heads in the foreseeable future. The other influence on the election that has not been discussed widely was National Security. Normally this is discussed as an area of strength for the Conservatives however the revelation of Theresa May overseeing cuts to policing numbers post 2010 election seemed to work against May. Indeed Amber Rudd who is now the incumbent Home Secretary faced a nervous wait as she nearly lost a safe Conservative seat, given that she was regularly seen campaigning with May on the issue of stability post the terrorist attacks it is reasonable to assume that national security played some part in her seat suffering a Labour swing. Leadership of the two major parties is also now part of the narrative going forward. After the 2016 Brexit vote that saw the UK seek to leave the EU David Cameron resigned the following day having come to the determination that he could not lead a country after they had voted against the position he had pushed so hard, a year later Theresa May having also called a vote that many did not see the need for also sees her position undermined having suffered large losses. I think Theresa May is safe for the foreseeable future as she will need to determine the Government doesn’t fallover due to a split post a leadership contest as they could then end up in Opposition because Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party could rightly claim that the new Conservative leader was not embraced at the election. Longer term though the fact that Theresa May ran a presidential campaign that was focussed largely on herself will see her wear a lot of the blame and that could prove terminal to her long term leadership. I also think it’s important to remember that she was not the expected winner of the leadership contest in 2016 and if Michael Gove and Boris Johnson had of combined their similar party base rather than split it by both initially running one of them could well be currently Prime Minister. The Labour Party by outperforming expectation of themselves have given Jeremy Corbyn security in his position that has not existed since he won the leadership and their are some that believe that he can win the next election with a united front and back bench, especially if the Conservatives do split over leadership in the next 12-18 months. My warning to that is have Labour reached their highpoint with this result under Corbyn. Electoral analysis is that the Conservatives had about as bad a campaign as one could imagine and Corbyn outperformed expectations and that if either of these things reverse back to the pre election position then the 20 percentage point lead the Conservatives have may return to something closer to norm. Were this occur then the leadership questions that were asked around Corbyn may return and that would obviously hurt Labours Electoral chances. The last point to consider is if Brexit negotiations become untenable under the new Parliament and May can’t keep her party united then the United Kingdom might go back to the polls sooner than expected!

 

References

(1) https://www.theguardian.com/politics/ng-interactive/2017/jun/08/live-uk-election-results-in-full-2017

(2) http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-40246330

(3) https://yougov.co.uk/news/2017/06/13/how-britain-voted-2017-general-election/

(4) https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/06/08/general-election-2015-how-britain-really-voted/

(5) https://www.ft.com/content/dac3a3b2-4ad7-11e7-919a-1e14ce4af89b?mhq5j=e2

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