This general election’s outcome will impact the Brexit process and decide where the United Kingdom will head next
The United Kingdom will head for an early general election on December 12, to send new representatives to the House of Commons.
The election results are expected in the early hours of December 13, soon after voting ends.
With the then prime minister Theresa May calling for snap general election in 2017, the UK was not supposed to head for parliamentary polls until 2022. However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who took office in July, was forced to call for early polls amid the Brexit stalemate.
This will be the first general election to be held in the month of December since 1923. Hence, the voter turnout could be impacted due to the weather, holiday season and large number of people travelling.
More than anything else, the outcome is expected to impact the Brexit process. In fact, the election is being largely fought on Brexit and related issues.
How does it work?
The House of Commons has a total of 650 parliamentary constituencies spread across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The UK follows the first-past-the-post system, just like India and many other Commonwealth nations.
This means that a candidate who secures the most votes in a constituency is declared the winner. So, the candidate need not win more than half of the votes in the constituency. They become Members of Parliament (MPs) and enter the Lower House.
As many as 46 million voters are expected to cast their ballots. Besides citizens of Britain and the Republic of Ireland, qualifying citizens of Commonwealth nations (including India) who reside in the UK, can also vote. The single-phase polling will begin at 7:00 am and close at 10:00 pm.
At the end of the counting process, the political party with the most number of MPs is invited by the Queen to form the government.
While the majority mark is 326, the actual working number to run a majority government is slightly lower. This is because, Sinn Féin — a political party from Northern Ireland — is abstentionist and its MPs do not take their seats in the House. They refuse to recognise the UK Parliament's right to legislate for any region of Ireland. This reduces the overall strength of the House.
How did we get here?
In 2017, the then prime minister Theresa May called for snap polls seeking a stronger mandate for herself to negotiate a favourable Brexit deal. May had taken over after David Cameron stepped down when the pro-Brexit camp won the referendum on the issue.
However, the May-led Conservative Party ended up with a weakened strength in the Lower House. With Parliament not willing to pass her deal, she resigned earlier this year. That’s when Johnson took over.
Johnson faced a rebellion from some of the pro-European Union (EU) members of his party. These MPs joined hands with the Opposition to pass a legislation that blocked a no-deal Brexit, which Johnson was pushing for.
He sought early election but could not get the Opposition’s requisite approval to do so. Johnson was forced to postpone Brexit until January 31, 2020. Only then did the Opposition approve early polls.
Johnson is now hoping to secure a strong majority to see Brexit through.
Parties and leadership
The Conservative Party, led by Johnson, is currently in power. They are being challenged by a fragmented opposition including Shadow Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats led by Jo Swinson.
Leader: Boris Johnson
The Conservative Party, often referred to as the ‘Tories’, want to push Johnson’s EU withdrawal agreement through Parliament before Christmas to meet the January 31, 2020 Brexit deadline. Johnson could then seek a new trade deal with the EU.
They have also promised allocation of additional funds for schools and pledged to increase funding into the National Health Service (NHS).
Leader: Jeremy Corbyn
The Corbyn-led party has promised a “sensible” Brexit deal within three months of coming to power. Labour wants to keep the country allied to the EU via new customs union and a single market.
It proposes to hold a legally binding referendum that would offer the new deal against the option to remain in the EU.
The party wants to boost the NHS budget by around 7 billion pounds per annum, provide 5.5 billion pounds additional funding per annum to schools, and nationalisation of key public services.
Labour also wants to change the tax structure with the rich paying more in taxes. It proposes to increase corporation tax from around 20 percent to 26 percent.
Leader: Jo Swinson
The party has promised to revoke Article 50. This would effectively cancel Brexit without a public referendum.
They promise to invest in the NHS and public transport.
Leader: Nigel Farage
The Farage-led party advocates a no-deal Brexit. They want to get it done as soon as possible. The Brexit Party has fielded candidates only in 275 constituencies to avoid splitting the Leave vote.
The party has promised to halve overseas aid, reforming the first-past-the-post voting system and rolling out a new net migration cap.
Farage was earlier affiliated with the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
Scottish National Party
Leader: Nicola Sturgeon
The SNP is concentrated in Scotland where voters had overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU during the Brexit vote in 2016. Many voters in Scotland do not want Brexit.
Hence, the Sturgeon-led party has stated that another independence referendum for Scotland would be a key demand (in return for support) if a minority Labour government comes to power. A similar referendum in 2014 had failed.
Leader: Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley
The party has promised to bring in a People’s Vote Bill, for a second referendum on any Brexit agreement, which would have the option to reject the deal and remain in the EU.
It also has promised funds worth 100 billion pounds per annum by 2030 to help tackle climate crisis, scrapping Trident nuclear programme, tuition fees, and nationalising the railways.
They have also promised to hike NHS funding by 6 billion pounds per annum by 2030.
Opinion polls and results
Most opinion polls show the Tories having a significant lead over the Labour Party. The latest opinion polling average places the Conservative Party at 43.2 percent against Labour’s 32.8 percent. This 10.4 percent lead is greater than May’s lead in 2017.
Exit polls are usually announced at 10.00 pm on voting day as soon as polling closes and before the results start trickling in.
Solid trends which indicate the trajectory of the final result are expected to be clear by 8.00 am Indian Standard Time (IST) on December 13.In case of a Hung Parliament, the Queen would invite Johnson to attempt forming a coalition government first as he is the incumbent. If he is not able to do so, the leader of the largest Opposition party could then be invited to attempt government formation.Get access to India's fastest growing financial subscriptions service Moneycontrol Pro for as little as Rs 599 for first year. Use the code "GETPRO". Moneycontrol Pro offers you all the information you need for wealth creation including actionable investment ideas, independent research and insights & analysis For more information, check out the Moneycontrol website or mobile app.