General Election 2019 News in Brief UK Politics

Friday Update: 15th November 2019

Written by Callum Williams

With less than a month until Polling Day, the volatility of this election cannot be understated, and everything is to play for. This week, the campaigns continued with debate over the Economy, NHS and Scottish Independence.

Campaign Overview

This week, the parties continued their bidding war in the race for Number 10. Floods in Yorkshire led to criticism over the Tories failure to fund flood defences and the Tories neglect of the North. Although Johnson eventually declared a national emergency, his trip to Yorkshire demonstrated the resentment felt by many in the North in response to what they see as London-centred politics.

The NHS became a central campaign issue following the release of damning figures which showed the government had failed to meet the A&E four-hour target and the 18-week limit for elective operations, with the worst performance on record. Both parties have pledged an increase in NHS spending with the Tories promising a 3.4% increase and Labour a 3.9% increase. However, this political bidding war for votes won’t help the NHS, although funding is an issue, the NHS faces systemic problems such as staff shortages, administrative burdens and problems with IT systems. These problems won’t be fixed by any government, whose focus is on getting re-elected every five years. Long-term planning is required, something all politicians fail to do, a consequence of tribal politics.

Labour announced one of their flagship policies, the introduction of a four-day working week. They hope to ‘reduce the average full-time working week to 32 houses within the next decade”. There seemed to be confusion within the Labour Party as Shadow Chancellor John McDonald and Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth appeared to give contradictory messages over whether the policy applied to the NHS. Although the statements were confusing, they weren’t inconsistent as Labour plans do not mandate a four-day working week, they simply aim to achieve a four-day working week within a decade.

Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to Scotland led to some challenging questions over his position on a second Independence Referendum. After confusion over whether a Labour government would permit a second referendum, he finally confirmed that it wouldn’t happen in the first two years of his government. Corbyn faces a difficult choice in Scotland, he doesn’t want to alienate unionists who could gain him seats but, equally he doesn’t want to alienate the SNP because he might need their support in a hung parliament. This flip-flopping behaviour from the Labour Leader has disrupted a good week for Labour and could cost Corbyn seats in Scotland if the unionists decide to revolt.

On Thursday Evening, Labour set out another radical policy, the nationalisation of broadband. John McDonald said Labour would nationalise part of BT, the digital network called Openreach, to form part of a new publicly-owned body called British Broadband. Labour has said they will introduce a new tax on tech giants e.g. google to pay for the plan and have guaranteed free fibre broadband for every business and household in the UK by 2030. This announcement adds to an ambitious renationalisation plan including; Rail, Water, Energy and the Royal Mail.

Labour and Tory Spending Clash

This week, the Conservatives released a report stating a Labour Government would cost an eye-watering £1.2 trillion, accusing them of fiscal irresponsibility. However, the £1.2 trillion number was simply not true. The calculations were based on a manifesto that hasn’t been released, they assumed that all labour plans would be implemented in the first year, failed to take into account planned tax increases and cherry-picked unfavourable figures such as the cost of renationalisation which, assumes the companies would be bought for 30% above market price.

Analysis

The Tories always attack labour on fiscal responsibility during elections however, this time the Tories attack looked desperate and incoherent. The numbers were so extreme and deliberately misleading which, reinforced Labour’s message that the Tories can’t be trusted. This was a significant tactical mistake for the Tories as the economy has always been a powerful tool for them during campaigns, showing that the Tory campaign isn’t as coherent as Johnson would have you believe.

Nigel Farage’s U-turn

Despite pledging to field candidates in over 600 Constituencies in Britain, calling Johnson deal ‘worse than remain’, Nigel Farage pulled his candidates from Conservative held seats in what he called a ‘unilateral leave alliance’ after Johnson guaranteed to leave the EU by December 2020. However, despite calls to withdraw from Labour marginal seats from Tory leavers, Nigel Farage insists he will fight all Labour-held seats.

Analysis

So, what does this mean for Labour and the Conservatives? The announcement will have provided some relief to Johnson. However, the decision only makes it harder for Johnson to lose seats but, not any easier to win a majority.

Johnson’s party won 318 seats in 2017, 8 short of a majority. The Tories face a tough battle in Scotland where an insurgent SNP will likely gain Tory seats and a tough challenge in the South from the Liberal democrats. So, to gain seats they have focused their efforts on the North in an attempt to win over the leave-majority Labour heartlands.

Brexit Party voters tend to split between the Conservative and Labour in a 2 to 1 ratio. So, the Brexit Party decision to field candidates in the North will likely split the leave vote allowing Labour to hold these seats. Furthermore, with Nigel Farage essentially saying he wanted a Tory majority, he has alienated those Labour Leave Voters who may have sided with the Brexit Party as an alternative to Labour.

Trump’s Impeachment

As Boris tries to convince the British People to return him to No. 10, his American twin is facing tough questions. This week the first public impeachment proceedings began against US President Donald Trump over allegations he used the threat of withdrawing foreign aid to leverage the Ukrainian Government into opening a corruption investigation into his presidential rival Joe Biden. 

The House of Representative is currently considering articles of impeachment which, require a simple majority to pass. Once passed, the Senate then tries the president for the offence alleged by the articles of impeachment. If two-thirds of senators vote to convict, the president is removed from office and the vice president becomes the new president.

Analysis

So, is Trump’s Presidency Over? In a word, no. It’s highly likely the Democratic-controlled House will pass articles of impeachment against Trump. However, the chance of 20 Republican Senators voting to remove their President from office is minuscule unless evidence of an even more serious offence arises. Although, based on Trump’s history of evading scrutiny and his belief that any bad news is ‘fake news’, he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and still be acquitted by Senate Republicans.

With less than a month until the election, Labour are making gains in the polls and a Conservative victory is certainly not guaranteed. During the next four weeks, almost anything could happen.

Further Reading

Wondering why we are having a third election in four years? Read Fraser Innes’ analysis here.

Want to know more about polling and how regional voting patterns could affect the election? Read Isaac Browning analysis here.

About the author

Callum Williams

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