Big win for Boris Johnson in British elections

Published : December 13, 2019 17:41 IST

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP

The ruling Conservatives registered a big victory in the snap mid-term elections they had called under the leadership of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The Prime Minister had gone to the electorate with the single point issue of “getting Brexit done”, targeting traditional Labour seats in the industrial north and Midlands that had voted for “Leave” in the Brexit referendum. Labour failed to shift the focus from Brexit to the social issues it was championing. The election results have shown that Labour’s “red wall” was comprehensively breached. The Conservatives, who will now have a 70-plus majority in parliament, have scored their biggest victory since Margaret Thatcher’s win in 1987.

Despite the size of the Conservatives victory, the country continues to be divided. A recent opinion poll revealed that those wanting to remain in the European Union (E.U.) slightly outnumber those who want Brexit. The Scottish National Party (SNP) also did very well, winning 49 of the 59 seats in Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, is being described as the other “big winner” in the election. The SNP is dead set against Brexit and is demanding another referendum on Scottish independence after Brexit happens. Prime Minister Johnson will have to face another constitutional crisis sooner rather than later.

The ruling Conservatives ran a negative campaign with a lot of help from the corporate media to paint Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as a left winger out to ruin the fifth biggest economy in the world. The Labour Party’s manifesto had called for a more equitable distribution of wealth, raising living standards, ending university tuition fees, and the strengthening of institutions like the National Health Service (NHS). The Labour manifesto had promised to renationalise the railway network. The most radical pledge was to commit to a four-day working week while protecting the wages of employees.

The Tories and the influential media houses which have given their full-throated backing to Boris Johnson dubbed the campaign pledges of the Labour Party as a “Marxist manifesto” that will lead to economic chaos. British and American intelligence agencies also got into the act, spreading canards through the auspices of the media that Corbyn was an agent of the Kremlin. A British journalist listed at least 34 major media stories portraying Corbyn as a threat to the national security interests of the country.

To Corbyn’s credit, he has never hidden his political agenda or biases. He has been a consistent critic of militarism and neoliberalism. From the outset, he was a supporter of the Palestinians and their drive for statehood. His principled support for the Palestinian cause has seen him being dubbed an anti-Semite. The Tories even got Britain’s Chief Rabbi to issue a statement against the Labour Party leader and urged British Jews to vote against the main opposition party.

Boris Johnson went out of his way to canvass for Hindu votes, visiting Hindu temples and praising Narendra Modi. He promised to “partner” Modi in his quest to “build a new India”. Corbyn, on the other hand, has been critical of the Modi government’s handling of the Kashmir issue and his majoritarian agenda. Johnson after a temple visit had said that there can “be no place for racism or anti-India sentiment of any kind in this country”. The Overseas Friends of BJP (U.K.) had issued a statement calling on the 1.4 million Indians in the country to vote for Johnson. The Labour Party in a statement issued before the vote had warned that the Kashmir issue should not be allowed “to divide communities” in the U.K.

Johnson’s main campaign plank was “Get Brexit Done”. On the campaign trail he declined to go into details about how he planned to get Britain out of the E.U. despite claiming he could get the job done in a couple of months. Johnson is well aware that getting out of the E.U. is going to be a tortuous process involving months of negotiations. The E.U. has said that it will take at least another year for a negotiated Brexit.

Johnson himself was caught lying several times on the issue while campaigning. He said that under the Brexit deal he negotiated with the E.U., there would be no tariffs and checks on goods from Northern Ireland entering the U.K. His Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, quickly contradicted him. The Conservatives taking a page out of the election campaigns in countries like the U.S., India and Brazil, brazenly used social media to flood the electorate with lies and fabrications.

On November 27, Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign released a 451-page dossier revealing details of secret negotiations between the Tory government and Washington to privatise the NHS as part of the Brexit plans. Johnson has been insisting that there was no question of the NHS being privatised and that, in fact, the Tory government would funnel in more money into the health sector if elected again. The corporate media and Tory politicians were quick to claim that the documents were leaked by the Kremlin to help the Labour Party in its campaign.

The Labour Party’s campaign focus was to preserve and strengthen the NHS, an institution that is close to the hearts of most Britons. The voters are aware that the Tories are responsible for the mess the health services are in today. A few days before the December 12 election, when a reporter asked Johnson to comment on a picture of a young boy suffering from pneumonia lying on the floor of a government hospital covered only with a blanket, the Prime Minister refused to reply. The significant number of working-class people who voted for the Conservatives will be demanding that Johnson keeps his promises on the NHS and reviving Britain’s manufacturing economy.

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