Politics

UK Election Explained: Why Are The Brits Going To The Polls Again?

Just put the Queen back in charge.

Australian politics is such a perpetual hot mess it can be easy to forget other places are similarly struggling with this whole “democracy” lark. Sure, we’ve had six Prime Ministers in the past decade but that’s largely the result of internal party machinations and less about the ballot box.

Spare a thought for our tea swilling (and microwaving) friends in the UK who are about to vote in their third poll in just two years. Democracy is melting down in the motherland folks, and I am absolutely here for it.

What’s Happening?

Yesterday the UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced that she was calling a general election to be held in June this year.

May has been PM for less than a year, and her government is only two years into its five-year term, so the decision to call a snap election came as a surprise. The last general election was in 2015, but last year the country went to the polls to vote on whether the UK should remain part of the European Union.

That means the Brits are on track for an election every year for the past three years. The general sentiment expressed by locals so far can be summed up by “Aww, not a nuvva’ one, gov!”.

For a country that makes a big deal about the fact they ‘exported’ parliamentary democracy to the rest of the world, these sallow-skinned, chicken tikka masala- (white person’s Indian food, smh) eating weirdos seem to really hate voting.

But why are they having another general election to elect parliament and the PM so soon? It’s mainly to do with Brexit: the decision to leave the EU.

Brexit Broke Britain

Brexit sent the country’s political parties in a bit of a tailspin. The sitting PM, David Cameron, wanted the UK to stay in the EU. So when the voters backed Brexit he did a runner, handing the reigns over to May.

The problem for May is that even though the voters supported Brexit, what that looks like in reality is not really clear. The process of disentangling the UK from the EU is complex and will involve a bunch of negotiating. So May has taken the opportunity to secure an electoral mandate, shoring up her position domestically and strengthening her bargaining position against the EU.

The other reason May is going to an election so early is because her opposition, the Labour Party, are a mess. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is popular with the party’s base but he’s so far failed to build a connection with general voters. The party has also been consumed by internal fights. It’s like this episode of Geordie Shore:

Who’s Going To Win?

The latest polls show May’s Conservative Party has a huge 20-point lead over Labour. If that result was to be replicated on election day the government would probably be re-elected with an increased major, guaranteeing May another five years as PM.

The Liberal Democrats are the UK’s third largest party and they’re current polling about 11 percent. They’re running on a heavily anti-Brexit platform, and could do well if voters start to get more anxious about what the reality of leaving the EU means.

Something worth keeping an eye on are the results in Scotland. The Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, recently called for a referendum on Scottish independence. It’s something strongly opposed by May and the Conservatives. A strong election result for Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party could be interpreted as support for independence and would see the issue prioritised in the next term of parliament.

So the election is not just about who runs the UK. It will end up deciding a lot more, including the future of the country’s relationship with the EU and the potential for an independent Scotland.

Grab your popcorn and settle in.