UK hung Parliament: Is Trumpism pushing Europe Left?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

As of very early Friday morning, it looks as though the election in the UK has produced a hung parliament, with the Conservative Party of prime minister Theresa May failing to win a majority. Whether this outcome will prevent the Tories from forming a government depends very much on whether Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn can find enough coalition partners to form a simple majority himself.

Any election in a country of 65 million is extremely complex, and Labour’s good showing had several major ingredients. For one thing, the Conservative policy of offloading the cost of university education onto middle class families produced a substantial backlash in college towns. In general, youthful voters rebelled against austerity and the paring back of services, and such voters came out in strength.

The collapse of the far right, nationalist currents in British politics, which was supposed to benefit Conservatives, turns out to have been a mixed picture, with many ex-nationalists voting Labour or Liberal Democrats (LibDems).

But you have to wonder about a Trump factor.

Theresa May was famously buddy-buddy with Trump, who is deeply unpopular in the UK. When the American president attacked (under false pretenses) the Labour mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, May took a long time to reply, and then tepidly.

May’s past may have caught up to her. She had been Home secretary in recent years, before becoming prime minister. Jeremy Corbyn accused her of cutting 20,000 police jobs, which would have been nice to have back given the ISIL attacks in Manchester and London.

This meme was genius on Corbyn’s part, since it slammed austerity and so appealed to younger voters, at the same time that it took away from the Tories any presumption that they were better on security issues.

It should be remembered that Trump gave the nod to French Neofascist Marine Le Pen in that country’s recent presidential election. She lost by a wide margin.

At the very least, the British public in swinging to the Left, repudiated Trump and Trumpism in a European context.

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Related video:

Theresa May Offers Limp Rebuke After President Trump’s Tirade At London Mayor Sadiq Khan | TIME

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16 Responses

  1. When May was filmed holding hands with Trump, that was a big turn-off back home. The Bush-Blair comparisons got pulled out but the Orange One eclipses even the Chimp in his unpopularity.

  2. Corbyn received extremely negative press coverage even from traditionally sources on the left. The Blairite wing of the the Labour party never accepted that the country wanted him to steer the Labour party, and were constantly plotting to end his leadership. Despite this extreme disadvantage, his campaign reversed the losses of seats due to Blair and his minions. If Corbyn is successful, he will steer Labour back to it’s socialist roots and hopefully even become Prime Minister.

    His pledge to scrap university tuition fees were reminiscent of Sander’s pledge. These two campaigns demonstrate that the left can only win (in recent elections) if they stay true to socialist ideals and not dilute their principles with Blairite or Clintonian elitist tendencies. It’s easy to dismiss university tuition policies as less important than other economic or foreign policies, but to most families it’s likely to be an extremely important matter. Not many families can afford to be saddled with the extreme debt necessitated through university tuition. It’s also unjust to saddle individuals with such extreme debt even before they begin to earn an income. Much of Europe has tuition-free universities, including France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Austria. We’ll have to get there too here in the US: government financed tertiary education, campaign finance reform, and a single-payer health care system.

  3. It wasn’t Trump himself, so much as similar socio-economic forces; the conflicting priorities of those who favour globalisation and those who perceive themselves victims of it. And it isn’t just globalisation in the modern sense, similar forces were bubbling in the UK before the outbreak of WWII. The war put them on the back burner but they came right off it with the 1945 election of Clement Attlee over Churchill. There were heads shaking in the US and much of the rest of the world then just as there are this morning. Plus, in this case, the perceived arrogance of May, her over confident assumption all she need do is call an election and she’d be handed a bigger majority on bended knee; just like Cameron assuming the British would troop meekly into the Remain queue because ‘obviously it was the right thing’. You can’t treat the British like that, they don’t think like that, they’ll respond with two fingers even if they suffer for it.

  4. Hopefully Trump is becoming so toxic and noxious that even the intelligent element of the Republican vote is becoming repelled by the performance.

    FWIW, another source pointed towards conservative pundit/maven Bill Kristol, tweeting out how he had met with various Repub Senators “this afternoon” and they were “terrified” by the Comey presentation.

    Now is the time to be calling the local offices (because the DC offices can shut you out more efficiently) of Republican Senate leaders (McConnell KY, Cornyn TX, Thune SD, Blunt MO, Barrasso WY, and Cory CO), and Republican potential-waverers ( Sasse NB, Flake and McCain AZ, Murkowski and Sullivan AK and others) and ask them how long they are going to carry water for the greatest fool, And The Greatest Potential Threat to Their Own Damn Party in American and world politics today.

    • We’ll have to see, therefore, if the Trumpeters now attack him as a supporter of terrorism, given he isn’t behind Trump. If he isn’t for victory he’s against it, you see.

      The counterattacks so far have been predictable, but we can expect for them to become absolutely audacious as Trump gets closer to the edge. He isn’t as likely as Nixon to just slink back to NYC when it becomes checkmate in 3 moves. At that point I’d expect a Sicilian defense.

  5. I don’t think Trump had a great effect on the election here. Two factors strike me, though: Theresa May was a hopeless campaigner, while Jeremy Corbyn was in his element out on the stump; the terror attacks in Manchester and London brought to the fore May’s incompetence as a minister in charge of the police and security services. But, above all, people are sick of austerity imposed by a bunch of rich thickoes from posh schools and universities.

  6. It is going to be a hung parliament and Theresa May made a foolish mistake in taking any notice of the polls. On the very last day for voter registration there were over a quarter of a million people registering to vote and it appears they were mostly under 30. Young people were absolutely LIVID that the brexit vote that went to the leave campaign and they were furious with Cameron (the former Tory prime minister), for ever calling for a referendum in the first place. Another important factor in the surge of the young vote was Corbyn (Labour leader) promising free tuition fees for higher education. There is also of course, the under dog syndrome where people vote in sympathy for the person who seems to be having a bad time. The media spent the last six weeks (and long before that) deriding, mocking and generally claiming Corbyn to be some kind of political disease. Not only did he have to put up with this barrage of insults from the media and the Tories, he even had a large number of his own parliamentary party at his throat as well. Only last night after he has done stupendously well Margaret Becket, a Labour MP still said she thought he shouldn’t be the leader! Mrs May made a spectacular own goal when she tacitly attacked the elderly by talking about taking away or curtailing some of their benefits. The elderly in the UK are the very heart of the Tory voter. All in all I’m surprised she didn’t actually lose.

  7. After the Brexit referendum, this snap election has been the second own goal that has brought Britain to the verge of a political crisis. In order to silence UKIP and the right-wing Europhobe Conservative MPs, former Prime Minister David Cameron promised a referendum on EU membership. The British people wisely do not conduct their policies through referenda because complex issues cannot be settled through a simple yes or no vote. Cameron lost the gamble and inflicted a heavy blow on Britain.

    Theresa May made a similar gamble hoping that she would get a decisive majority and a mandate to conduct EU negotiations on the basis of a hard Brexit. She lost the gamble and not only did she not get a 100-plus majority that she had hoped for, she actually lost her slender majority. She did not have a political mandate because after the referendum Cameron resigned and May took his place, without having won an election.

    Now, we are faced with an almost unprecedented crisis. She has had to rely on Northern Ireland’s DUP to cobble together a slender majority, which is not likely to last. Many people, including some prominent Conservatives, are calling for her to resign and to have a new leadership contest. The problem is that if someone else is chosen to replace her he/she will not have a mandate either. So, Britain is faced with a self-inflicted crisis, and may be forced to have yet another election before too long.

    Meanwhile, the Labour Party has increased the number of its MPs by 32, and even more importantly the Labour share of the vote has risen from 30% in last election to just over 40%. This is a great achievement for Jeremy Corbyn despite the vicious campaign that was waged against him by the Conservatives and even by some rightwing Labour supporters.

  8. The DUP has strong links with Loyalist Paramilitary Groups (otherwise known as terrorists), as well as its anti homosexual, anti abortion, anti evolution and anti climate change stances. So …

    link to opendemocracy.net

    • Yes, the Orangemen sound like UKIP with actual blood on their hands instead of having their fanboys do it with plausible deniability.

      Question is, is there any issue where Ulsterite interests and Tory interests collide? I understand that Remain was popular in Northern Ireland.

      • In addition to the DUP’s rather questionable background, there are a number of other reasons why this coalition is wrong and will not last.

        The first problem is that Theresa May did not consult with anyone about it. In the morning when the results of the election were revealed and she realized that she had failed in her gamble, she drove to Buckingham Palace to tell the queen that she intended to lead a minority government with the help of the DUP, and then she came back and announced it in front of 10 Downing Street.

        The second problem is that she constantly claimed during the election that if she did not win, Jeremy Corbyn would form a “coalition of chaos” with the help of the Scottish Nationalist Party that at that time had 56 MPs and virtually represented the whole of Scotland, with the help of the Lib Dem Party and the Greens. Now she has formed a real “coalition of chaos” with just one extremist Northern Ireland party that represents the views of extreme Unionists. In this election, Northern Ireland has been polarized, marginalizing the smaller Nationalist and Unionist parties. There are now 10 DUP MPs in addition to 7 Sinn Fein MPs who do not take up their seats in the House of Commons. The two more moderate SDLP and UUP have lost all their MPs.

        The third problem is that for the past few decades the British government has been trying to mediate between the Nationalists and the Unionists in Northern Ireland, and this has been the basis of the Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland peace process. Now, the British government has placed itself squarely on the side of an extremist Unionist Party. Not only will this alienate the Nationalists, but it will also create problems with Brexit, because some Nationalists may push for a referendum on a union with the South. The issue of a border between the Irish Republic and Ulster after Brexit has been one the main problems. That problem will be exacerbated.

        Furthermore, the DUP holds the most extreme and backward views in the whole of the United Kingdom on a number of social issues. It is opposed to gay marriage and discriminates against anyone from the LGBT community. It wants children to be taught creationism as scientific fact. It wants to bring back the death penalty, and it is even against women’s access to any type of abortion and furthermore criminalizes anyone offering that service. Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Conservative Party in Scotland that has seen a resurgence of Tory votes there, is gay and is planning to marry her female partner shortly. She has already called on Theresa May to give assurances that the position of the LGBT community will not be compromised as the result of the coalition with the DUP.

        So, for a variety of reasons, the alliance with the DUP is problematic and will not last.

  9. Alliance with the DUP is not a done deal yet. Many socially liberal Tories (especially their leader in Scotland, Ruth Davidson) are very unhappy with the prospect. Contrary to received wisdom, I don’t think May is a methodical and careful politician; she actually seems to act on impulse without thinking things through – e.g. appointing Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, calling the wretched election, the notorious “dementia tax”, and now allying with the political wing of the Ulster Loyalist terrorists.

  10. The seat count is bad:
    Party
    CON 318
    LAB 262
    SNP 35
    LD 12
    DUP 10
    OTH 13

    Hard to see anyone but the cons pasting together a majority. Now that the words of the prophets are written on the wall, we may see another election soon. This hash has got to be settled.

    • An unstable, incompetent Tory coalition may be the fastest way to settle this. Question is, how bad would this Likud-Lieberman-like coalition have to be to trigger a swing back to the SNP that re-ignites secession talk? That would be a major political crisis that can’t be delayed until the next general election.

  11. What is driving Europe (including the UK) to the left (or to the populist right) is the same thing that produced the Trump Presidency (or might have made Bernie the President). Those who have not gained from neoliberalism, and some who object to its injustice and distortion of society, are rejecting it. In countries where its prescribed treatment, austerity, have made living conditions ever worse, the movement is even more obvious. The Brexit referendum gave British voters their first chance to reject neoliberalism and its works – it was really a referendum on the Government and its chosen economic ideology. In this election Mr Corbyn stood for an alternative and, when he finally got some exposure in the media, however biased, this expression of hope for reform galvanised his support, especially amongst the young. The British media, especially the grovelling BBC, still won’t grasp this. They are still talking personalities and trying to divert attention in any other direction. Like the bliarites who opposed Mr Corbyn so viciously, they think there is no alternative to free market capitalism and they refuse to see one. The electorate knows better.

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