The United Kingdom’s Conservative Party won a resounding victory in the country’s general election on Thursday, December 12th, 2019. The election pitted incumbent Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives against the Labor Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn. Johnson took over as acting Prime Minister in July after his predecessor, Theresa May, resigned over her inability to get an acceptable deal negotiated on Brexit. Prime Minister Johnson is no stranger to holding public office, having previously served as a Minister of Parliament, the Mayor of London, and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Initial exit poll data suggests that this election could be the strongest for the Conservatives since the era of Margaret Thatcher. The Tories, as they are nicknamed in the U.K., picked up 47 seats in parliament, bringing their total to 364. Britain’s House of Commons holds 650 seats, which means Prime Minister Johnson will have a strong majority to get his legislative agenda passed. Contrasting this, the Labor Party won only 203 seats, losing 59, in what amounts to the party’s worst performance in a general election since 1935.
Boris Johnson has pledged to use his strong electoral mandate to invest heavily on domestic improvements, and to make Brexit a reality by the deadline of January 31st, 2020. The Conservatives campaigned on hiring 50,000 more nurses, and 6,000 doctors to bolster the ranks of the National Health Service (NHS). Prior to the election, rumors swirled over privatizing the NHS, which is currently funded and run by the government, and there is a fear of overhauling the service in a trade deal with the United States that would drive the price of pharmaceutical drugs up. Prime Minister Johnson has also pledged to reverse long-standing Conservative policies of austerity at home, and invest heavily within the United Kingdom. Specifically, Johnson has promised to create more jobs in the police force, and initiate “colossal” new investments in science and infrastructure.
For the Labor Party, this general election marks the second time that Jeremy Corbyn has led the party in defeat. He acknowledged as much in a speech to supporters after Labor’s losses became clear, and said he would be stepping down as party leader at the beginning of next year. Corbyn, who has been endorsed by prominent American politicians such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders, ran on a left-wing platform that failed to galvanize support across Northern England, Wales, and the Midlands, where Brexit was a determining factor. Leading up to the election, critics accused Mr. Corbyn of not holding a strong position on Brexit, which contrasted with Boris Johnson’s clear promise to deliver a break from the European Union. In his conceding remarks, Corbyn noted that Brexit had created such a polarized atmosphere in the United Kingdom that traditional political debate had been eroded. In addition to the damage done by Brexit, accusations of anti-Semitism within the Labor Party hurt their chances in the election. Despite Corbyn stating on multiple occasions that anti-Semitism was “vile” and “not tolerated” within his party, there were allegations of institutional anti-Semitism within the Labor Party. However, Corbyn has argued that anti-Zionism is being misconstrued with anti-Semitism, and the two are not the same. Supporters of Corbyn point to the fact that he has spent a great deal of his public life fighting discrimination of all kinds, including being arrested at an anti-apartheid rally against the racist South African government in the 1980s.
Leaders from around the world congratulated Boris Johnson on his victory, and expressed their enthusiasm to continue working with him. German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of her desire to continue the strong relationship between Germany and the United Kingdom as the latter exits the European Union. Other leaders at the European Union were happy that the result was decisive, as it gave Johnson a clear mandate for Brexit negotiations. President of the European Council Charles Michel said as much, tweeting he was looking forward to a vote in parliament on Brexit soon. U.S. President Trump congratulated Johnson on his victory, and hinted at a trade deal between the U.S. and the U.K. once their exit from the E.U. is finalized. There was not as much enthusiasm in Scotland, as leader of the Scottish National Party Nicola Sturgeon suggested her party could go ahead with a vote on Scottish Independence. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union during the Brexit Referendum, and the future of Scotland has been hotly contested during Brexit negotiations. Boris Johnson has repeatedly said that Scotland would not be allowed to leave the United Kingdom and become independent, so the future of Scotland remains unclear.
Moving forward, Boris Johnson’s administration will seek to revamp certain aspects of the United Kingdom. For one, he has promised increases in social spending, which goes directly against traditionally Tory policy in the country. Austerity measures were made popular by the Thatcher Government in the 1980s and continued by most Tory administrations since then. Prime Minister Johnson will also be tasked with negotiating new trade deals with dozens of suitors following his country’s exit from the European Union. Chief among these deals will be the negotiations with the United States, where critics accuse the Prime Minister of selling the NHS to the American pharmaceutical lobby. Johnson also takes office following an increase in violent crimes in many British cities, most notably London, and he has pledged an increase in the number of police officers throughout the country. Prime Minister Johnson certainly has his hands full as the United Kingdom undergoes a leadership transition, but he will hope the support he enjoys from the public, in addition to his strong parliamentary majority, will enable him to enact the legislative agenda he desires.