In England, the Conservatives led by Boris Johnson have swept to power in a vote that has rocked Labour and the Liberal Democrats. After almost completely losing their majority under former Prime Minister Theresa May to the Labour Party in 2017, Mr Johnson stormed back into office on the back of his “Get Brexit Done” message and increasing his party’s representation in Parliament to 365 seats. In a 650 seat Parliament that is a 39 seat majority
For Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his party the election was a disaster on a scale that one has to go back decades to find a similar size rout. His party only scored 203 seats. Not surprisingly Mr Corbyn resigned from the Labour Party, which will elect a new leader in early 2020. Where Labour goes from here, I am not sure, but it will surely be looking at other Labour parties around the world and wondering how they managed to so utterly mess it up for the wider Labour movement.
For Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, the failure to take her own seat and the near complete lack of progress in the party across the country – up a paltry 1 seat in Parliament – has led to her stepping down. The Liberal Democrats are a far cry from the victorious middle party of 62 seats that forged a coalition with the David Cameron edition of the Conservative Party in 2010.
In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party swept to victory, strongly suggesting that Scotland’s desire for independence is hardening. With 48 seats out of 59 it was a decisive showing of the party that will lead any moves to make Scotland independent. This is despite Mr Johnson saying that Scotland would not be allowed to hold a vote on leaving. As Scotland voted to remain in the European Union, to have the Conservative Party romp to victory on a LEAVE platform is directly contrary to Scottish ambitions. Thus in the days and weeks ahead we can expect to Scotland begin pushing for a referendum on whether to leave the U.K. or not.
In Ireland the expanding centre ground of Irish politics is overshadowed by the likelihood that Britain will exit the E.U. in a few weeks with some sort of hard border forming. Many will be wary about the potential return of the “Troubles”, the stormy period in Irish-English history rocked by violence. But it also means that the union between the four constituent parts of the U.K. might be finally coming to an end, which may open the way for northern and southern Ireland uniting after many painful years.
In Wales, the only part of the U.K. that does not appear to be wracked with separatist spasms, politicians are probably most likely to wait to see how Ireland and Scotland behave over the several weeks..
What does this mean for New Zealand?
New Zealand will likely continue to enjoy good access to the United Kingdom. Given our historic closeness to the U.K. I cannot imagine a really radical change coming except that crossing the border might change somewhat. How the probable break up of the union that made the United Kingdom possible goes, I am not entirely sure.
Irrespective of whether the United Kingdom disintegrates, I believe New Zealand’s good relations with all factions mean that we will be a high priority for negotiating trade deals and establishing diplomatic relations with. But before then we need to see how Brexit goes – will the next seven weeks whilst we wait for Mr Johnson’s version of Brexit to play out go smoothly or will Britain be plunged into Parliamentary infighting like it was over the northern hemisphere summer? Will Ms Sturgeon conclude the time for a Scottish independence referendum has come and demand it from London?