Friday, 13 December 2019

General Election 2019 ~ Conservative win

The 2019 General Election ended with a decisive majority for the Conservative Party under the leadership of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.   The outcome was Conservatives 365, Labour 203, SNP 48, Liberal Democrat 11, Others 23 - Full results.  The election was held under the First Past the Post system (FPTP) and the voter turnout was 67.3%.  The impact of FPTP can be seen in that the Conservatives achieved 56% of the 650 seats on the basis of 43.6% of the votes cast.

The House of Commons Library has issued this analysis of the results and further detail may be seen at Democratic Audit where the impact of FPTP is considered.  A third interesting look at the results is by Robert Ford (Professor of Politics, Manchester University) at The Guardian 15 December 2019.

On any view of the politics this was a disastrous result for the Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and also for the Liberal Democrats under the leadership of Jo Swinson who lost her own Scottish seat and resigned as party leader.  A Labour Party leadership contest is inevitable.

The Conservatives fought the election
on a "Get Brexit Done" policy and, in his Downing Street speech, the Prime Minister stated that there was an 'overwhelming mandate' for the 'new one nation government' to 'get Brexit done."  In the narrow legal sense it will be "done" by 31 January 2020 but the year ahead is likely to be dominated by potentially difficult negotiations with the EU about the future trading and security relationships and the possibility of  "no deal" remains. Even now, three and half years after the referendum, there is no clarity as to the government's plans for the future relationship with the EU.   The Labour Party's election stance was to seek renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement and then hold a referendum but with the Labour leader being "neutral". The Liberal Democrats had a clear policy to revoke the Article 50 notice and to remain in the EU.

Scotland presents a very different picture (BBC News 13 December) with the Scottish National Party (SNP) obtaining 48 of the 59 Scottish seats. The SNP manifesto was clear: remain in the EU and hold an independence referendum.  Scotland has been consistently pro-EU.  In the 2014 referendum, Scotland rejected independence.  The Conservative manifesto was also clear. It stated - "We are opposed to a second independence referendum and stand with the majority of people in Scotland, who do not want to return to division and uncertainty. Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP promised that the 2014 referendum would be a ‘once in a generation’ vote and the result was decisive. We believe that outcome should be respected."  Battle lines are therefore drawn !

In Wales, the Conservatives gained some seats mainly at the expense of Labour (BBC News 13 December) but Labour have 22 of the 40 Welsh seats.

In Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) lost seats (The Journal 13 December).  Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU and still appears to hold that view. The strengthening of support for a "border poll" with a view to leaving the UK cannot be ruled out.  The 7 elected on the Sinn Féin ticket will not take their seats at Westminster.

Overall, the election produced a clear decision in favour of Brexit and the question of Remain v Leave is settled. The new government will wish to immediately introduce a Bill to legislate to give effect in domestic law to the Withdrawal Agreement and, with its considerable majority, the Bill will pass.  The previous Bill fell with the dissolution of Parliament but it could be reintroduced either unchanged or with modifications. In the previous Parliament, the Bill passed its second reading but there was unhappiness with the very short timetable motion put forward by the government. How much time will be allowed for scrutiny of the Bill on this occasion has yet to be seen but the likelihood is that it will be minimal.

The Conservative Party manifesto contained various statements relating to the constitution and the legal system - see previous post 25 November 2019.  In particular, paragraph 48 stated:

"After Brexit we also need to look at the broader aspects of our constitution: the relationship between the Government, Parliament and the courts; the functioning of the Royal Prerogative; the role of the House of Lords; and access to justice for ordinary people. The ability of our security services to defend us against terrorism and organised crime is critical. We will update the Human Rights Act and administrative law to ensure that there is a proper balance between the rights of individuals, our vital national security and effective government. We will ensure that judicial review is available to protect the rights of the individuals against an overbearing state, while ensuring that it is not abused to conduct politics by another means or to create needless delays. In our first year we will set up a Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission that will examine these issues in depth, and come up with proposals to restore trust in our institutions and in how our democracy operates."

This ought to give rise to considerable concern and it will be essential to watch closely how policy develops in these areas. The likely trajectory will be one of strengthening executive power at the expense of Parliament, further limitations on the ability to bring judicial review of governmental actions, and the battle for human rights protection is set to return.  Significant restoration of legal aid is unlikely.  The makeup of the proposed Commission has yet to be seen.

You can look up the full result in your area - and in every constituency across the country - here.

An article published by the Institute for Government - Now for Brexit - and a battle for the Union - comments:

"This is an historic election that will change the UK – and may lead to its break-up. Boris Johnson will now take the UK out of the European Union within the next six weeks. The risk of another cliff-edge in talks over the future relationship is still there but his victory enormously strengthens his hand with his party and Parliament.

The real battle now for the Conservative and Unionist party, as it calls itself, will be to keep the Union of the UK together. The SNP, the second big winner of the night, will step up its calls for a second independence referendum. Johnson can refuse, but that will lay the ground for a clash between his parliamentary authority and the SNP’s claim of a new mandate which could be ugly. Any deal that treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK – as Johnson’s deal does – will stir up further talk of the reunification of the island of Ireland."

Votes Cast:

Table shows that, compared to 2017, Conservatives gained 329,767 votes but Labour lost 2,582,006 votes.


UCL Constitution Unit -David Natzler and David Beamish - Getting a new parliament up and running: what happens after the election? 

House of Commons Library - General Election 2019

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