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.