Future of british politics

01-02-2016 19:16

 

Last general election gave a majority for Conservative Party in House of Commons and forced resignation of Ed Miliband as Labour Party leader. In September 2015, Jeremy Corbyn was elected new leader, but some issues such as vote on Syria airstrikes and recent shadow cabinet reshufflle, were responsible for some criticism inside Labour Party MPS and senior figures. Tony Blair also took part of the critics. Despite the victory, David Cameron has a big challenge in this year, because the result of European Union referendum could split a party that is dominated by his leader. 

OLHAR DIREITO invited two british academics to ask some important questions about the future of David Cameron´s and Jeremy Corbyn leadership. Professor Richard Toye of University of Exeter and Professor Simon Griffiths of University of London give us a lesson about british politics.

 

What will be the main challenge of David Cameron´s and Jeremy Corbyn leadership in this year? 

Simon Griffiths

Cameron’s Conservative Party only has a small majority. They are fairly safe because of the disarray in the opposition Labour Party and the rise of the Scottish National Party, which took seats from Labour. That means that unless Labour can develop a clear attack on Cameron, his biggest challenges will come from elsewhere. He is struggling to satisfy Conservative backbenchers, who are much more sceptical about membership of Europe than Cameron and other leading figures in his party. These backbenchers would also want to move even quicker than Cameron on introducing Thatcherite policies in public services and making cuts to public spending. Cameron’s main challenges at the moment seem to be from within his own party. There are other challenges to Cameron. In particular, the second chamber – the House of Lords – has been able to force Cameron to rethink some of his governments more radical policies, such as the cuts to welfare. Cameron sees this as a constitutional challenge and is creating new Conservative members of the Lords so that his radical policies get through unopposed. Cameron is therefore also facing opposition from outside forces, such as the House of Lords.

Richard Toye

For David Cameron EU negotiations and the referendum, but for Jeremy Corbyn is keeping his job.

 

Who is most at risk of being challenged? 

Simon Griffiths

David Cameron appears to be quite safe in his job. No one expected him to win a majority in last May’s general election. That he did so, despite the poll predictions, has left him safe for the time being. While there are others around him in the Conservative Party who clearly want his job, none of them seem to be particularly threatening at the moment. He is also supported by some very loyal colleagues. George Osborne, the Chancellor, for example is very close to Cameron. While he wants his job in the long-run he is not pushing Cameron out, but waiting until he steps down. He has promised to step down as Prime Minister before the next election in 2020. Of the main party leaders, Jeremy Corbyn appears to be most at risk of losing his job. While Corbyn won the leadership of the Labour Party by a huge margin, his support came from members and activists, many of whom joined the party enthused by his leadership campaign, which seemed to signify a radical move to the left. Unfortunately for Corbyn he never commanded much support from his own backbenchers. His politics are to the left of many in the party, especially those MPs who were shaped by the leadership of Tony Blair. Corbyn gained very little support from Labour MPs, and many of them think that he will be electorally disastrous for the Party. They are looking to find a way of getting him out and getting a more centrist politician in to lead the party.

Richard Toye

Jeremy Corbyn because most of his MPs hate him and everything he stands for.

 

Jeremy Corbyn should step down after bad results in local elections?

Simon Griffiths

A lot of people who want Corbyn to step down are setting up the local elections in May 2016 as a test of his leadership. Whether he accepts that he should go if the Party does badly is another question. The May elections are mainly seen as an examination of Corbyn’s leadership by people who want to find a way to get rid of him as leader. Labour do certainly face significant challenges. They are behind in the polls and have lost huge amounts of support in Scotland to the nationalists.

Richard Toye

Depends how bad - and if the MPs are ready to try to force him out.

 

How will Jeremy Corbyn stop internal disagreement, particularly in House of Commons?

Richard Toye

I don't think he can. he might do well though to make more effort to show that he undertands ither people's points of view.

Simon Griffiths

This is a significant problem for Corbyn. Corbyn has been on the left of the Labour Party since he was elected as an MP in the early 1980s. This has meant that he has rebelled against the party leadership hundreds of times over the years, particularly on issues around defence and military intervention. (He was part of the Stop the War coalition set up to protest against the Iraq war for example.) So Corbyn has been something of a serial rebel. Corbyn’s independence or – from another perspective – lack of loyalty to the party leadership means that it is difficult – or some would say hypocritical - for him to demand loyalty of his own backbench MPs too now he is leader. Corbyn’s view on many issues divides the party as well. For example, he is a long-time member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and is fiercely against the renewal of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, the Trident submarine system. His views of this, and a whole variety of other issues, puts him at odds with many in his own party. He comes across as a man of principle. This is part of what won him the leadership. But he does not come across as a figure who will compromise with his opponents in the Labour Party to ensure harmony and allow the focus to be on attacking the opposition Conservative Party. As a result he is not particularly good as dampening down disagreement in the Party.

 

Should David Cameron resign if he loses the European Union referendum?

Simon Griffiths

Cameron has been clear that he will not step down if the UK votes to pull out of the EU. He promised the referendum largely because his own party is divided on the issue. This was his way out of the Conservative Party’s internal party divisions - the decision about EU membership can simply be passed over to the electorate to make. In line with this Cameron has said that he will allow his MPs a ‘free’ vote: they don’t have to stick to a party position on membership of the EU. As a result he can say that there is no party line, and while he wants the UK to stay in the EU, it is up to the electorate to decide either way. He can then claim this is not a vote that he has lost. While pro-Europeans in all parties will see this a vote to pull out of the EU as disasterous for the UK and an issue that Cameron should resign over, he has made it clear that he won’t step down if the UK votes to leave the EU

Richard Toye

Better that the Eurosceptics don't think that winning will get rid of him.

 

If Cameron loses the referendum and Corbyn lose the local elections, will the next general election be earlier than 2020?

Richard Toye

Doubt it - the Fixed term Parliaments Act makes it hard.

Simon Griffiths 

Cameron has been clear that he will not step down if the UK votes to pull out of the EU. He promised the referendum largely because his own party is divided on the issue. This was his way out of the Conservative Party’s internal party divisions - the decision about EU membership can simply be passed over to the electorate to make. In line with this Cameron has said that he will allow his MPs a ‘free’ vote: they don’t have to stick to a party position on membership of the EU. As a result he can say that there is no party line, and while he wants the UK to stay in the EU, it is up to the electorate to decide either way. He can then claim this is not a vote that he has lost. While pro-Europeans in all parties will see this a vote to pull out of the EU as disasterous for the UK and an issue that Cameron should resign over, he has made it clear that he won’t step down if the UK votes to leave the EU.

 

In next four years will the Lib-Dems, Scottish National Party and UKIP struggle to implement their policies?

Simon Griffiths

The Lib Dems were almost wiped out in the last election. They went from almost 60 MPs in the House of Commons to 8. They will have to rebuild from scratch. They will be helped by strong local representation and support in some areas, and a significant number of local councillors who remain in the Party.UKIP have a rather different problem. They gained a huge number of votes in the general election, but – because of Britain’s electoral system – they only gained one seat in parliament. Their leader is less popular than he once was, and they have several candidates who are on the far right and an electoral liability for the party. It will be interesting to see if they can make a break through and convert their support in the general election in 2020 into seats in national government, or if they have reached their zenith and will now begin to slide into in-fighting and disorganisation.The Scottish National Party is the exception. It gained 54 of 59 seats in Scotland during the general election. This was up from just six seats before 2015. It wiped the Labour Party out, in the way that the Conservatives had been wiped out in Scotland in the 1990s. The SNP are forecast to do well in the May local elections too. Whether this means that they will push for another referendum over whether Scotland should remain part of the UK or go its own way is unclear. They will certainly hold back on that referendum until they are more confident that they can win that vote.

Richard Toye

SNP will be able to implement their policies in Scotland, elsewhere not. Other have no hope.

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