The 2019 general election was a huge moment for the United Kingdom – one that proved to be vital in our exit from the European Union.
But if you wanted to find an example for the term ‘double-edged sword’, this was exactly what the last election was. Whilst it finally gave the country a clear direction after two frustrating years of continuous blockages, the 2019 vote was on the single issue of Brexit.
To have an election on one problem can be very damaging for the future of a country. Typically, same government stays in place to implement the result of a referendum – although David Cameron had other ideas after the 2016 vote to leave. However, an election means a different government is installed for the next five years to not only deliver on that one issue but to also take tackle the other challenges facing us nationally and around the globe.
That was the one tragedy of that election for me, not the fact we would go on to leave the EU, because I bet most voters on both sides of the Brexit argument didn’t even bother to read the manifesto of the party they already knew they were voting for.
This makes 2024 all the more important, because the coronavirus pandemic should be over at that point and Brexit is done. Unless any other major event of a similar magnitude pops up in the next three years, this will be a general election where all the issues will be discussed – the first time this has happened since 2015 in all honesty. Even the May vs Corbyn battle in 2017 was heavily Brexit-based.
Our departure from the EU in itself will also make 2024 vital as several powers from within the bloc, including immigration, were transferred from Brussels to London at the start of this year. And with that, different parties will have different policies on Europe in our first post-Brexit election – something that has never happened in previous elections. We have either been fully invested in the EU as a leading member, though some would argue our position in the union had been unstable since the eurozone crisis over a decade ago, or in the process of trying to get out. That has all changed.
The Tories will be keen to prove they have made a success of Brexit and will look to continue with this current relationship, the Reform Party take an even harsher view towards the EU, whilst the Lib Dems may end up moving to a re-join policy between now and 2024 despite early indications from Ed Davey they will not. What Labour’s policy will be is also currently unclear – but all this just goes to show how seismic future elections will be. The European Union has been one constant that has remained at the core of UK politics for numerous decades, ensuring some form of continuity even in the event of a change in government. That has now gone.
Not only will there be big decisions to make on Europe but also on social issues and climate change. The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement has been the catalyst for more intense discussions on other issues including homophobia and gender discrimination, especially on transgender rights. The latter’s complications with women’s rights will need to be handled with care but the government needs to do everything it can in the next few years to provide social justice to those who have been discriminated against, just because of who they are. People will continue to suffer without social reforms, it’s as simple as that.
Whilst the government has been behind the curve in many aspects in this pandemic, they need to be ahead of the curve of many of our neighbours in providing social justice. Is that something the Conservative Party have been notorious for? Perhaps not. But like David Cameron did with gay marriage in 2013, Johnson and his cabinet need to put the nation ahead of his party’s interests.
Some will also argue countries around the world, despite global enthusiasm for and commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, have not done enough on climate change in recent years. In fact, administrations in the past have over-promised and under-delivered – the Green Party have a great chance to cash in on this massive challenge facing us as we look to save the planet from the point of no return. Could they be the party to break the two-party system that has been at the heart of British politics for many years?
In the 2005 election, it looked as though the Liberal Democrats would be that third party under the late Charles Kennedy who stood out against Tony Blair and Michael Howard, despite not gaining the amount of seats the Scotsman would have ideally wanted. After the Con-Lib coalition, their support disintegrated in 2015 and in the two following elections they have been unable to gain enough seats to effectively hold the government to account. But if the Lib Dems do eventually decide to adopt a re-join policy and Keir Starmer opts against that, they have a real opportunity to punish Labour in their strong remain areas.
The Labour Party are in a perilous position themselves, a party currently at war as the two sides of the movement tussle in establishing their identity. Not only did they receive a shellacking in the north for their second referendum policy, but people may indeed vote for the Liberal Democrats and destroy their new London remain base in 2024 if Starmer proposes to continue a similar relationship to the EU created by Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.
Can it only be a lose-lose situation for Labour? Only time will tell but they simply must do better next time. They will have been out of power for 14 years by the time the next election comes around – that’s not good enough.
Another Tory majority would keep Labour out of power for a longer period of time than the 18 years they spent in the political abyss as Margaret Thatcher and John Major formed multiple ministries between 1979 and 1997 before Tony Blair came to power.
One more party to keep an eye out for is Reform UK (formerly the Brexit Party), and Nigel Farage in particular. His European success has not been matched domestically, failing to make any real impact in the House of Commons with both UKIP and the Brexit Party. If I’m right in saying, Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless were the only UKIP MPs to ever sit in parliament, with Farage failing on multiple attempts to gain a seat in Westminster.
Another failure to make inroads in the next UK election could see the former MEP bow out of politics, although this will probably depend on what Donald Trump’s plans are across the pond. Farage’s YouTube channel also seems to be doing well but nevertheless, I welcome their proposal to reform the House of Lords – they will help to provide a different voice regardless of whether people agree with their policies or not.
However, if we are to engage people who have previously not shown any real interest in politics, we must cut out the misinformation that was on show in the last election. The Conservative’s antics on ‘fact-checking’ during the Johnson vs Corbyn debate on ITV left a lot to be desired – and the Lib Dems’ dodgy leafleting was also unacceptable.
In all fairness though, the reason why some people have shown little interest in politics in the past is because they feel their vote doesn’t really make a difference in the current first-past-the-post system. But who knows, perhaps their vote could help to elect a government who will put measures in place to change this electoral system? Their vote matters and if our democracy is to fully function, we need turnout to be as high as possible.
There is one thing left to be said.
Boris Johnson has no deadlocked parliament to blame for the state of the country, nor can he blame the European Union anymore. The next vote will be the public’s verdict on his leadership and his government’s record. So far, it has been a disaster for him – but Labour infighting, an FPTP system and the next few years where he can get things done with a large parliamentary majority may just save his bacon as the nation makes their way to the ballot box once again.
Whatever happens, 2024 will be a vital indicator of where we want to go as a country. Even a hung parliament would be a rejection of the Tories now with their current majority.