by Morak Babajide-Alabi
Today, the British people (and all Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK) go to the polls to elect new representatives and also a Prime Minister to steer their affairs for the next five years. It is an election called by the incumbent Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to break the deadlock from the 2016 European Union Referendum. However, some political analysts see the December election as a political strategy by the ruling party to “seize the moment to hold” on to power.
No matter how it is perceived, today’s election is crucial in the history of the United Kingdom. This is the critical moment as the results will determine the subsequent relationship of the UK with the rest of the world. As the voters make their ways to the polling stations nationwide, they will be preoccupied with what side of the debate they should swing to. They clearly understand that they have a role to play in the direction the country will move after today.
While this election could be termed as primarily to seal the fate of the 2016 EU referendum, the opposition parties had tried to deflect the attention to other issues. The more they tried, the faster they have realised that it is the outcome of BREXIT that will influence the policies for other issues. The ruling party got the snappy slogan of “Let’s Get BREXIT Done.” They hope to “harvest” the votes of citizens who want the UK out of the EU fast. The strategy of Johnson and his advisers is to harp on BREXIT for long to put the opposition parties in extremely embarrassing positions.
The voters are as divided as their leaders. On one end is the extremists that want Britain to severe a long-time relationship with the European countries. On the other, we have the liberals who think a continued membership of the EU is the most beneficial to the citizens. For the voters, there are no intervening grounds.
The unfortunate twist to this is that these two polarising extremes are represented by not so credible leaders. This is the dilemma of the British people as they approach the polls today. Johnson is not convincing enough to be entrusted with a 5-year parliamentary term. He desperately needs, not just a victory today, but a landslide majority that will confer him the legitimacy to rule. It will be recalled that Johnson took over from her predecessor Theresa May with a majority of two. It did not take long before Johnson got a minority government to run. Many Tory parliamentarians walked out on him because they could not stomach his type of politics. This was the genesis for the call for a general election.
Johnson may be struggling with credibility, but he is not the sole leader in this boat. Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition Labour Leader is a co-passenger. He is characterised by many not so patronising attributes, such as untrustworthy and “very” unreliable. He is not finding it easy to convince the populace that he is worthy of their votes. Corbyn is a man with many stains on his red coat. Over here is a socialist who is not ashamed to scream it on the mountain top. There is nothing wrong in being a socialist, you might say. Absolutely, but the British are not inclined towards a socialist society, not at this time.
Corbyn’s problems are quite worrisome than Johnson’s. The Prime Minister and his handlers realise this fact and they hit hard on the “damaged” reputation of Corbyn for political gains. In the run-up to today’s election, the Tories made sure the racist and anti-Semitic tags were publicised for maximum damage. For the first time in the history of election campaigns, the Jewish Chief Rabbi got involved and had a word or two of condemnation for the Labour leader. Corbyn struggled through the campaign. The final nail on his coffin was delivered by a secret audio recording of Jon Ashworth, a member of his shadow cabinet saying he could not be trusted.
In what he declared was banter with a friend, Ashworth said voters “don’t like Johnson but they can’t stand Corbyn.”Although the Labour leader pooh-poohed it off by saying Ashworth is always “mocking” about, the Tories were quick to cage Corbyn for the comments.
For the Liberal Democrats, the initial “steam” that characterised the start of the campaign has turned to “huffs.” The leader, Jo Swinson admitted it was a mistake to believe she could go for the Prime Ministerial post. She got carried away after winning her party’s leadership position. Probably she could have been a middle ground for the liberal voters, but the “hardcore” stance of cancelling Article 50 repelled many people. She, nor her advisers, were undiplomatic in their choices of words as they thought coming directly at the “Remainers” would be a plus to them.
It is clear as daylight that though Swinson may “live in a world where sometimes strange things have happened in politics”, she is far away from any political upset. The polls are forecasting that there won’t be any major gains for the lady of our time.
Swinson has Nigel Farage, the BREXIT Party leader, as an accomplice in the reality check. Farage started on a “hot” note, but it did not take long before he walked back on all the “promises” of the party. He is not expected to make major gains in the elections, as he coyly “conceded” defeat to the Tories in constituencies where they held the majority in previous elections. Would this election finally consign the “nationalist” Farage into the dustbin of history? It will take just a few hours to know the outcome.
The election is about the two major political parties. The fringe parties are only scheming for the crumbs that will give them the advantage of sharing the limelight should there be a hung parliament.
Whichever way it goes tonight, it is not portending good things for the future of the country. The Tories have presented a “bull in a china shop.” Here is a man that needs constant attention and reining in so he does not go off the handle. Some of the hard-core Tories have regrettably asked how they ended up with a man like Johnson at the helm of the party. It was too late to realise. They were united in chasing Theresa May away without considering the aftermath. They got Johnson on a platter of gold.
For the Labour Party, things are no longer the same. Unfortunately, the leadership of Corbyn has divided the party down the middle. There has been an exodus of loyal members from the party, as they could not stand Corbyn leadership. Notable members have defected to other parties, while those still in the fold are openly campaigning against a Corbyn Premier. It does not look good for the Labour leader. He has lost all the grounds he gained in the 2017 election to infighting and breakaways.
This election will determine the political future of many. Corbyn is certainly one of them.