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THE BRITISH GO TO THE POLLS FOR A THIRD TIME IN LESS THAN FIVE YEARS

by Nazir Tabassum

The last General Elections were held in the United Kingdom on Thursday, 7 May 2015 to elect 650 members to the House of Commons. These were the first General Elections at the end of a fixed-term Parliament. The outcome of these elections was that the Conservative Party in the leadership of David Cameron won 330 seats (John Bercow, the Speaker excluded) while Labour Party under the leadership of Ed Miliband could bag only 232 seats. Scottish Nation Party won 56 seats in the leadership of Nicolas Sturgeon and Liberal Democrats took only 8 seats in the leadership of Nick Clegg. Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland won 8 seats while Sinn Fein also from N. Ireland won only 4 seats. Plaid Cymru 3, Social Democratic and Labour Party 3, Ulster Unionist Party 2, UKIP just one, Green Party 1 and one Independent.

Forming the first majority government since 1992, David Cameron became the Prime Minister. A referendum was held on 23 June 2016 asking the people to express their opinion if they want to Leave or to Remain in the European Union. The Leave won and thus David Cameron stepped down leaving the way for the rise of Mrs Theresa May as the new Conservative leader and Prime Minister. Theresa May, who had campaigned to Remain in the EU, now became a hard Brexiteer and stressed “Brexit means Brexit”. She felt uneasy with the majority she had and to achieve her goal of hard Brexit, she wanted stronger support by bringing in more MPs of her party. To do this she announced snap elections that were held on Thursday 8 June 2017. But instead of gaining she lost the majority won under David Cameron and had to be propped up by DUP’s 10 MPs.

Theresa May became a casualty of Deal / No Deal of Brexit and thus paved the way for Boris Johnson who was given very tough time by his own Party MPs in case a Deal/ No Deal Brexit. In the end, he too was left with no other choice than to announce general elections before Christmas this year.

This is the whole story how the UK reached to the stage of the Third General Elections scheduled to be held on December 12, 2019.

Conservative Party, while launching its 2019 election manifesto, gave the slogan “Get Brexit Done, Unleash Britain’s Potential”, promised to increase the number of nurses by 50,000; get Brexit done early in 2020; no income tax, VAT or National Insurance rises; pensions will rise by 2.5 % per year; no one will sell their home to pay for care; meet the pledge to cut emissions to virtually zero; spend £6.3 billion on 2.2 million disadvantaged homes; introduce a points-based immigration system; reduce poverty through changes to tax and benefits; help parents by making child care available in the holidays; freeze of tuition fees at £9,250 likely to continue; a new Manchester to Leeds rail line and £2 billion to fill potholes; launch a democracy commission which will look into the constitutional power balance.

Labour Party manifesto pledges to increase health budget by 4.3%; hold a second referendum on Brexit; raise minimum wage from £8.21 to £10; stop state pension age (66 years) rises; introduce National Care service; bring forward net-zero target of carbon emission by 2030; nationalise key industries; scrap universal credit; abolish private schools’ charitable status; free bus travel for under 25 years of age (including bringing back railways to public ownership); give EU nationals to continue living and working in the UK; build 100,000 council homes a year.

The scale of spending ambitions between the two parties is now stark: for every pound the Conservatives have pledged to spend by the end of the next parliament, Labour has promised £28. Labour said that the pledge of Boris Johnson on 50,000 new nurses is nothing but a deceit.

The £83 billion a year promised by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnel would cover Labour priorities such as a huge increase in NHS funding, the scrapping of tuition fees, an expansion of free child care and further schooling funding.

Launching his manifesto in Birmingham, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party unequivocally supported the freedom cause of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and condemned the locked down of the Valley by the Indian Security forces. He said: “The Conservatives have failed to play a constructive role in the resolving of world’s most pressing humanitarian crises, including in Kashmir, Yemen and Myanmar, and the escalation of tensions with Iran.”

Labour, in their 2017 manifesto had advocated bilateral or multilateral negotiation on Kashmir. The 2019 manifest is considered a hardening of Labour’s position on Kashmir because of Corbyn’s pledge to adopt a more pro-active role on the question of “human rights”.

On September 25, 2019, Labour Party in their Conference at Brighton passed a resolution that supported “international intervention in Kashmir and a call for UN led-referendum”. The resolution condemned “the recent actions of the government of India to revoke Article 370 and 35 A of the Indian constitution and the special status” granted to Kashmir.

In these elections, saving the NHS is one big issue apart from many others. The fear is commonly felt all over the UK that in the wake of Trump/Johnson collusion, Boris Johnson might follow the Trumpian theory of empowering private sector more and more. And thus, may privatise NHS. There is little reason to believe that Boris Johnson is expecting the country’s health service would be protected in a post-Brexit trade deal with Donal Trump. On the contrary, Jeremy Corbyn declared this to be proof that the NHS is up for sale. Though Johnson insists that NHS is not vulnerable to US corporate aggression, yet Labour says that the leaked documents destroy the prime minister’s defence.

While going to the polls, Labour’s strategy has been that election is more than Brexit and to get voters to focus on issues which would unite Labour voters in Leave and Remain areas. But the fact is that there is a flaw in this scheme of things. This is so because in Leave-supporting areas, the defining issue for voters is the NHS and the cost of living. That is supposed to be good news for Labour yet the party sees that its vote may drain away in the very places that it needs to retain to deprive Boris Johnson of an overall majority.

So, Labour intends to move activists to areas that backed Leave in a bid to reassure voters that the party is not opposed to Brexit but only to Boris Johnson’s deal and turn around a stubborn Conservative poll lead.

Jeremy Corbyn promises to plant two billion trees while Boris is trumpeting, he would support women, forgetting his diatribe about the veiled Muslim women as “Letter Boxes”. Jo Swinson. Leader of the Lib Dem attacks Boris Johnson saying that he cares for none except for himself.

SNP in its election manifesto has pledged that to “Stop NHS becoming a lever in any international trade deal” through its NHS Protection Bill. Other parties too have criticised the Tories, including Lib Dem Shadow Brexit Secretary Tom Brake, who said the public would be “horrified by what looks like a deal cooked up between the Tories and Donald Trump that puts our NHS on the table”.

Boris Johnson’s advisor who won notoriety in the recent past, has told Brexit supporters that the general election is “much tighter” than polls might suggest. He sent out a message to Vote Leave supporters which says: “You will see many polls in the coming days. Some will say Boris will win. Trust me, as someone who has worked on lots of campaigns, things are MUCH tighter than they seem and there is a very real possibility of a hung parliament”, he said.

 Beyond Cummings apprehensions, my predictions won’t be any more needed.

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