The fractures in the United Kingdom’s political scene have never been so visible—just as it enters its most important negotiations in seventy years.
By Rhea Pankhurst.
The United Kingdom’s unexpected general election on June 8 returned a just as unexpected hung parliament, leaving the incumbent Conservative Party hanging on to power by a thread. Prime Minister Theresa May had called the election six weeks earlier with the express intention of increasing her slim parliamentary majority of 17 in order to obtain a mandate for her premiership and strengthen her hand in the imminent Brexit negotiations with the European Union, despite having pledged not to hold an early election. At the time, the Conservatives had been leading Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the polls by 20 points, but the campaign saw a rapid, unprecedented shift in public opinion, with the Conservatives’ lead collapsing to just 2 points and even their slender majority lost.
With the Brexit negotiations, arguably Britain’s greatest constitutional crisis since World War Two, due to begin just two weeks after the election, the Conservative Party simultaneously scrambled to retain power and descended into civil war. May was largely and openly blamed by her party for the upset. Senior and backbench Conservative Members of Parliament called for May’s resignation and a former Conservative chancellor gleefully referred to her as “a dead woman walking” on breakfast television. Chancellor Philip Hammond, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, de-facto deputy prime minister Damien Green, and other senior ministers have all publicly called for an easing of May’s fiscal austerity program and a national debate on May’s approach to health and education. May ran a presidential-style campaign, largely focusing on herself and marginalizing her party and government. She was widely criticized for her robotic, sound-bite orientated performance and her aversion to interacting directly with members of the public. Her manifesto was developed by her own officials with little input from her cabinet colleagues and offered little deviation from the status quo while pushing a number of deeply unpopular policies—most notably the …
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