3 Crucial Factors to British Politics Going Forward
1. The Knives will be out for Theresa May.
Theresa May has already refused to resign and hopes to remain Prime Minister for the foreseeable future. What is virtually certain is that, if this government does last the full five years, May will not be leading the Conservative party into the next general election.
There is every chance though that the knives will be out for her much sooner. Unlike Labour, the Tories are rather effective at carrying out internal coups against leaders who disappoint. It’s the nature of conservative, right-wing ideology. There is a drive, a will to power above all else because the prospect of preserving the status-quo and their positions is so important. Truly progressive, socialist, left-wing parties tend to focus on something more intangible than power — change, which does not lend itself easily to the ruthlessness that right-wing parties demonstrate.
One of three things is likely to end May’s time in Downing Street sooner than anticipated:
i) a Commons defeat, featuring a Tory rebellion, signalling an end to her support.
ii) disastrous Brexit negotiations, leading to Tory party in-fighting between the Brexiteers and the remainers.
iii) an even more severe economic downturn, exacerbated by the negotiations and Westminster uncertainty, leading to complaints from the City, Tory paymasters or the right-wing press.
2. Jeremy Corbyn must remain the Labour Party leader
Now that he has exceeded expectations, with Blairites such as Alistair Campbell and Jack Straw showing a degree of contrition, Corbyn’s position is likely to be strengthened. Due to the political instability a hung Parliament has created the right-wing of the Labour party would be insane to launch another attempt to get rid of him. He’s likely to give way to a younger leader within the next few years, once the Labour party is officially remade using the 2017 manifesto as a blueprint. His increased popularity is important; bringing in a new leader at this stage or launching another pointless coup attempt will lose the party the momentum it has gained (pun intended).
Winning over Millennials and, at present, the small number of Generation Z voters is of fundamental importance going forward. The soft Brexit strategy, in an attempt to irritate the least number of people [both remain and leave voters], was a smart one that centrist politicians, stuck in the pre-2008 era of Blair, completely missed. Indeed, Labour’s shift to the left under Corbyn is representative of younger voters, who don’t care about the Daily Mail’s jibes about the Labour manifesto taking the country back into the 1970s.
Even if he never becomes PM, Corbyn’s importance and impact cannot be underestimated. The Overton Window has, 30 years after Thatcher moved it to the right, finally shifted towards the left. It should have been obvious to anyone paying attention that the 2008 crash and the subsequent Tory austerity agenda was a significant factor in the Brexit vote. Once the UK leaves the EU, Tory governments and the right-wing press will no longer be able to blame the EU for the failures of centrist or right-wing governments in Westminster. In any case, most under-40 year-olds never placed the blame for the UK’s ills on Brussels, immigrants, Muslims or any other right-wing scapegoat. That dynamic will only continue going forward.
3. There may still be another election.
While the Tories are unlikely to call another election for fear of inflicting even more damage, especially as the economic outlook continues to look bleak, they may have little choice. At this stage, it’s anybody’s guess whether the Tory government will last the full five years. Indeed, there might be echoes of 1974, in which there were two elections, with Labour forming a government with a majority of three in October.
Therefore, Labour must be prepared for the possibility of fighting another election. That means two things — i) keeping the current leadership, including the Brexit team of Keir Starmer, Barry Gardiner and Emily Thornberry, and ii) ensuring that younger voters remain engaged and committed to voting at the next election(s). Millennials have finally woken up; they must stay that way going forward.