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Blog How Does The Election Result Affect Brexit? An Interview With 2 Political Speakers

How Does The Election Result Affect Brexit? An Interview With 2 Political Speakers

If you have eyes and ears, you probably noticed that there was a snap General Election this June in Britain. With bets on as to how this will pan out in light of Brexit negotiations and other key issues in the public spotlight, we conducted individual interviews with those engaged with both sides of the political spectrum to try and gain a fair understanding of the result and its potential impact going forward.

Read on to find out what two of our excellent political speakers - Labour MP David Lammy and Conservative advisor Lord Daniel Finkelstein, who has been a member of the House of Lords since 2013 - consider to be likely outcomes:

Speakers Corner: In the recent General Election, what key factors do you think contributed to the result?

David Lammy: I think we saw a Conservative campaign focused entirely on the Prime Minister, but the problem with that strategy was the more the public saw of Theresa May the less they liked her. What people are looking for above all in their leaders is authenticity and that is what the public got in Jeremy Corbyn, who confounded the expectations of the pollsters and the strategists.

Whatever you may think of Jeremy Corbyn he is one of the most authentic politicians around and that was a huge factor in Labour’s success in the current political climate. Of course, we had the crisis of the dementia tax and the U-turn that followed but I think what we really saw in the General Election was an electorate that is sick of austerity turning its back on a Government that offered more of the same. We saw a Government that called an early election asking for a landslide to force through the hardest of all hard Brexits ending up losing its majority.

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"What people are looking for above all in their leaders is authenticity" - Labour MP David Lammy

Daniel Finkelstein: I am a great believer that fundamentals settle election results. Take Donald Trump's victory. If you knew nothing - in other words, you didn't know the candidates - except economic growth rates, Presidential approval, and the fact that one party was running for a third victory as an incumbent, you could have predicted a narrow Republican win. Because we like to tell stories about campaigns we ignore these fundamentals. 

Now, look at this election. In 2015, real wages were rising. In 2017, they were falling. The Conservatives were running for a third term in office. The only fundamental in the Tories' favour was leadership approval ratings. If anyone else had been leader of the Labour Party, Mrs. May would not have called the election. And here's where almost everyone miscalculated. Mr. Corbyn's approval rating wasn't stable and neither was Mrs. May. After the social care error, hers plummeted. His rose. As a result of this, the two parties steadily moved closer together. And this mattered particularly because this was a realignment election.

The Conservatives were trying to win the votes of white working-class voters, Labour of better educated middle-class voters. This was powered to some extent by the referendum. But when the parties moved closer together it meant that labour won the new seats it was going after, while the Tories won extra votes in some Northern towns but fell short.

"The biggest issue is obviously Brexit"

Speakers Corner: How do you see the minority government unfolding?

David Lammy:  The first thing to note is that the Conservatives’ manifesto has gone out of the window and it will be extremely difficult to get big pieces of legislation through the House of Commons based on the parliamentary arithmetic. The Government whips are going to have a seriously tough task on their hands keeping their own backbenchers happy and keeping the DUP happy so I think we will see a pretty threadbare legislative programme.

Under a minority government every single vote comes down to the wire and things like illnesses, deaths, by-elections and family commitments can threaten to bring down the Government. I think we will see a lot of late night votes with nervous whips pacing around frantically calling MP’s to make sure they are in their offices ready to vote.

The biggest issue is obviously Brexit, and now that the Government has decisively failed to gain a mandate for its hard Brexit plan I think there will be pressure from both Conservative backbenchers and the Labour Party to go back to the drawing board.

In terms of another General Election, the Labour Party will be on an election footing and we will be ready whenever the next election comes if and when the Conservative/DUP alliance falls apart.

Speakers Corner: How is the election outcome likely to affect key areas of concern, including the economy and Brexit negotiations?

David Lammy:  The election result will have a huge impact because what we saw was a Government going to the country with a plan, asking for a landslide majority to back this plan and then coming back with fewer seats than when they started. People are sick and tired of austerity so I think the Government will have to react to that, and on Brexit there is clearly no support in the country for a hard Brexit and I cannot see how a hard Brexit will gain the support of the majority of Members of Parliament.

I’m very concerned about the how the election outcome will impact on Brexit negotiations in the context of a Government that has lost its power and authority. A weak and insecure Government is clearly not well equipped to manage the Brexit negotiations, so I think history will judge the decision to call an early election this year very badly indeed as we move further on in the Brexit process.

Daniel Finkelstein: Theresa May called the election because she didn't have - in the old Parliament- a big enough majority to be sure any deal she did would stick. In particular, her threat to walk away without a deal would be an empty threat. And if our negotiating partners realised that, they wouldn't give us a good deal.
 
The result means she is left with this problem, and then some. In the current Parliament, there is no majority for any solution to Brexit. Or its opposite. This could mean a gentler transition, but it could also mean a standoff in which we fail to sign any deal at all. In other words, there is greater uncertainty. And this is never good for the economy.
 
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"There is greater uncertainty, which is never good for the economy" - Conservative advisor Lord Daniel Finkelstein

 
Speakers Corner: What would you say is the feeling of the British public towards politics at the moment? Is it possible to make any reliable predictions about what might be ahead?
 
Daniel Finkelstein: One of the keys to the election result is that we go in long cycles on tax and spending, and it's begun to change. There is a shift back towards higher spending.
 
Because there isn't a majority in Parliament either to resist this spending or to impose taxes, the result is quite likely to be higher borrowing.
 
The Conservatives need to do two things to win a future election. The first is to find a new leader with broader public appeal, the second is to get real income rising. They may fail at both but they will want to try, for this reason, we may not have the quick election some anticipate. The Tories will want time.
 
David Lammy: The pollsters and the psephologists have had a pretty hard time of it over the last few years. Given that this was the third national political event in three years I was expecting that there may have been some voter apathy or voter fatigue but what we actually saw was a public that really engaged with the policies and manifestos put forward by political parties and, in particular, a generation of young people who want to be heard.

There is a yearning for hope out there after seven years of austerity. The Conservatives didn’t offer voters any sense of hope or any vision for the future and they got punished for that, and I think it is that broader feeling that the Labour Party are going to continue to tap into in the next few years.

Thank you to David and Daniel for their insightful commments.

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