“A variety of political parties, multiple outcomes, more issues discussed compared to previous elections that were generally ‘simpler’. Normally the choice was between financial competence, in which the Conservatives have long claimed to be champions of, and safeguarding public services and welfare, of which the Labour Party claims to be the standard bearer.” Not this time however. For Simon McGee (in the photo), Catholic, Executive Director of “Apco Worldwide”, a consultancy firm for Heads of Government and Ministers across the globe, with a journalistic career as political correspondent of the “Sunday Times”, “the result of the upcoming British elections of December 12 is unpredictable and the ongoing election campaign is dramatic. Once again, Brexit is to blame for complicating the British political landscape.”
The Tories presented the largest public spending programme in the history of their party because they understood that in order to attract voters they had to promise funding, guaranteed by Brexit, that could be invested in public health services and the police. Labour launched an unprecedented tax manifesto, with heavy tax burdens on big businesses and the upper-middle classes in exchange for seemingly unrealistic nationalisation and investment in services. The Corbyn plan has been dismissed as irresponsible and dangerous, even by study centres adopting a social-democratic approach, such as the Resolution Foundation, given that there are no funds to finance it.
Is the political scenario more complex than before?
It is, also because Labour and Conservatives are not the only options for voters. In fact the Liberal Democrats represent the only formation firmly positioned against the UK’s exit from the EU, and could therefore gain a large number of votes, especially among young people. And there is also SNP, representing Scottish nationalists. For the first time, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s attacks against Boris Johnson are being reported by English news outlets. As compared to the past, this party, with its demand for an independent Scotland, has recently gained greater importance as it could cause the disruption of the United Kingdom.
As compared to the previous elections, when politicians came from the same universities and proposed public spending programmes that did not radically differ from each other, we are now facing a difficult situation.
There has also been a huge increase in voter registration, with large numbers of young people under 30. These figures testify to just how important these elections are and what is at stake.
What are the possible outcomes?
Although the results are extremely hard to predict, there are two possible outcomes. A majority for Boris Johnson who will then be able to finalize Brexit. Or a “hung parliament” in which neither of the two main parties would have a majority. In this second scenario Labourers, Liberal Democrats, Scottish Nationalists of SNP, the Welsh of the Plaid Cymru party and the Greens, all in favour of a second referendum, could agree to support a Labour minority government. In this case, the price demanded by the Scottish nationalists would be a second referendum on the independence of Scotland.
So is there still a chance that Brexit will not be brought to completion?
Yes, it is still possible that Britain will not leave the European Union because Labour has promised to renegotiate an agreement with the EU and propose it to the electorate. The Liberal Democrats, that might earn a large number of votes in the next elections, intend to request a second referendum in return for joining a coalition. I consider it unsafe to hold another consultation, although, personally, I would prefer the United Kingdom to remain in the EU.
For a democracy, ignoring the outcome of a referendum (the one held in June 2016 when votes for exiting the European Union prevailed), an important tool to understand the will of the people, can be dangerous. Parliament legislated for a referendum to be held and subsequently decided to respect the outcome. Living in a democracy also means accepting the fact that the people have decided differently with respect to your own positions…
Are you worried about the upcoming election?
I am. The result is uncertain and hard to predict. Our politics have become more “extreme”, polarized and, in this situation, no matter which party wins, a significant part of the country will be very unhappy with the result. When public life is so radicalized, even among citizens more elements of division emerge compared to those that unite the country.