UK Election Round-Up

Jeremy Corbyn (left), Labour Party and opposition leader, will attempt to earn a majority in the UK House of Commons and unseat Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson (right) as Prime Minister on December 12

Labour Party: The Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, has based their platform in increased spending on housing and climate change initiatives to be financed by a mix of increased taxes on high income earners, the reversal of Conservative corporate tax cuts, and borrowing along with a second Brexit referendum. The cornerstone of Labour’s manifesto is a £250 billion Green Transformation Fund—financed through borrowing—meant to fund a slew programs to create jobs in green industries and help Britons adapt to a zero emissions Britain. Aside from this, Labour’s manifesto also includes a plethora of measures to raise public sector employees’ wages, strengthen Britain’s social safety net, and provide new entitlements and services to the British people. Lastly, Labour’s Brexit strategy involves negotiating a new deal within three months of forming a government that would keep the U.K. closely linked with the E.U. customs union as well as the single market, minimizing barriers to trade and travel between Britain and the continent. After a deal is reached, Labour promises to hold a second referendum to either accept the deal or remain in the European Union.

Why it matters: With signs of economic slowdowns around the world and especially in Europe, how the next government approaches fiscal policy will have major ramifications if or when a recession occurs. By beefing up the social safety net, Labour is betting that they can protect Britons from the worst tendencies of the market and prevent any kind of suffering akin to 2008, a strategy that worked fairly well for France during the financial crisis. As for Brexit, it might be naive to think that Brussels would be willing to negotiate a new deal if the specter of Britain remaining in the E.U. remains. It is even more naive to think that Europe—especially France and Germany—would ever agree to a deal that lets Britain leave while still retaining all of the major benefits of being an E.U. member state (i.e. the customs union and single market).

From the Left: Many on the left have praised Corbyn’s manifesto as the radical and structural change that Britain needs to stay relevant form her own identity in a post-Brexit world. But, after a string of high profile defections out of the Labour Party by Jewish members and startling opinion polls showing that large majorities of British Jews consider Corbyn antisemitic and will not vote Labour because of it, many on the left worry that having Corbyn at the top of the ticket will damage the party. Lastly, some Labour members as well as members of other left-leaning parties argue that a second referendum would undermine norms of democracy by simply posing the same question to the electorate until the political elites get the answer they want (something far too reminiscent of Ireland’s approval of the E.U. Treaty of Lisbon in 2008).

From the Right: As can be expected, the British right has slammed Corbyn’s measures as too expensive and too burdensome on the economy such that they would threaten to kill jobs and send Britain into recession. Tories also argue that borrowing large sums is not in Britain’s interest and increased taxes would send Britain’s wealthiest fleeing to the continent or across the pond. Furthermore, on Brexit, the Tories argue as well that a second referendum would be an attempt to overturn the will of the people.

The Conservative Party: The Conservative Party’s platform going into the December 12 elections rests on five legs. First, of course, is strengthening the economy. Like much of Europe and the world in the post financial crisis era, Britain has enjoyed a hearty economy and a long period of growth and the Tories argue that by decreasing taxes on businesses and individuals they will keep that streak going. Second on the list is safety: ever since the string of terrorist attacks in Europe starting in 2015, safety has been a major issue in many European countries, but on top of that, Britain has seen a sharp increase in knife attacks driven largely by youth gangs. To combat this, the Tories propose hiring tens of thousands of new law enforcement personnel and expanding Britain’s prison capacity to accommodate more arrests. Third and fourth are major investments to the National Health Service and the U.K.’s public schools consisting of increased budgets, hospital improvements, new facilities, and increased wages for teachers. Finally, there remains the cause of this snap election: Brexit. The Conservatives’ Brexit strategy consists of using the election to build a majority in the House of Commons that can pass the deal already negotiated between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brussels. With a new majority more amiable to Johnson’s deal, the Tories hope to be out of the Union by January 2020.

Why it matters: As Germany’s economy starts to show signs of dipping into recession, there are fears that low to negative growth might sweep across Europe. The Tories argue that increased stimulus in the form of lower taxes and public sector investments will stave off such a fate from Britain, a strategy that succeeded in spurring the American economy ever so slightly in 2017, continuing a streak of historically low unemployment and tepidly rising wages—a situation very similar to Britain’s. On the Brexit front, how Britain leaves the E.U. will have major consequences for the future of Britain’s economy and the trade deals they make with Europe and the United States. And while a good deal probably wouldn’t make many ripples, a bad deal could through Britain into recession and even dim the outlook of the economies on the continent.

From the Left: Critics on the left argue that Johnson’s Brexit deal fails to protect British workers or create an environment where Britain can stand on her own two feet, leaving the U.K. at the mercy of Donald Trump’s America. Furthermore, they argue that the Conservatives have driven up inequality and their policies only serve the rich and corporations, not everyday working Britons.

From the Right: The argument coming from the right is that Tory policies have been responsible for Britain’s strong economy and, despite the Brexit saga, the status is generally a good one for Britons and by handing the Tories another majority, Britain will finally be able to leave the E.U. as well make improvements on the margins of the economy to keep strong going forward.

What we want to know on Quibbl:

  • Will the Conservative Party retain its majority? Make a bet
  • How will Labour’s plan to nationalize British Telecom play within the industry? Make a bet

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