In early May, the United Kingdom held the largest regional election in more than half a century. "Super Thursday" was a crucial day for the election of the mayor of London and the mayors of about 12 major cities in the country, numerous local authorities, the Parliament of Scotland and Wales.

These elections were supposed to take place last year, but given the pandemic and the significant deterioration of the epidemic situation in May 2020, the authorities decided to postpone them for a year.

Politicians at all levels are expected to pay the most attention to overcoming the effects of the pandemic, as well as life after Brexit.

And most importantly, the by-elections were to show how the ratings of the leading political forces had changed. And accordingly, what to expect in the next parliamentary elections.


Not just Scotland

The most sensitive political issue, of course, was the election in Scotland. Their outcome determined whether the nationalists, who wanted to hold a referendum on Scottish independence again, could strengthen their positions.

According to preliminary estimates, the Scottish National Party won again, winning 64 seats out of 129 in parliament. It lacked only one place to form a mono-majority.

The Conservatives came in second with 31 seats. Thus, the leader of the pro-government party, Nicola Sturgeon, will strengthen her position and try to implement the political promises to hold a referendum on the eve of the election.

For Johnson's government, this will be a major challenge in the short term.

The situation is slightly different in Wales. Since Westminster gave more autonomy to Wales in 1999, Labor has been in power there.

These elections are no exception. The Labor Party, having won a new victory, will form a government headed by their leader Mark Drakeford.

The re-elected prime minister has said he is ready to work with other parties, as he is convinced that no political force should have a monopoly on good ideas for overcoming the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic.

However, the current election brought another surprise.

Traditionally, by-elections have served as a tool for the British to express their dissatisfaction with a political force that has been in power for a long time.

However, this time such a pattern did not work. Despite serious failures by Boris Johnson's government to respond quickly to the spread of COVID-19, as well as allegations of corruption, conservatives still managed to get a total of more seats in local government than Labor.

This means that the Labor Party will have to work hard on miscalculations, because without a proper assessment of the current situation and the party's reset, it will be even harder for the Tories to fight for victory in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

A chance for the opposition

It is no secret that Labor is trying to overcome the internal crisis caused by ideological divisions within the party between the left and the centrists, the electoral changes taking place in modern Britain, and the lack of a charismatic leader capable of resisting the odious Boris Johnson.

Part of its old right wing, the Dobler Social Conservatives, who still hold about a sixth of the seats, are seeking a return to the policies of the past, which have been characterized by tight immigration controls, broader police powers and tougher foreign policies.

Blairists dream of returning to the "golden age" of Tony Blair. And quite a number of supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, who resigned after the defeat in 2019, want a repeat of Corbinism.

Given such serious rifts, it is difficult for incumbent Labor leader Cyrus Starmer to mobilize the electorate against the Conservatives.

The most painful is the loss of power in those industrial regions where workers and the less affluent strata of British society traditionally live.

Fifteen thousand voters in Hartlepool, a working-class town whose more than 70 percent of residents supported Brexit in 2016, voted for a Conservative candidate who has absolutely nothing to do with the community.

Such electoral changes are explained primarily by the fact that the political choice of employees is currently determined mainly by their identity, rather than economic interests. For them, migrants are primarily a threat of job loss, not the need to live in a multicultural environment.

According to the well-known British journalist Paul Mason, elderly white people, having their roof over their heads, are not ready to worry too much about the struggle for social justice for young cosmopolitans, who with current housing prices can only dream of their own apartment.

Thus, for Labor, megalopolises, campuses and regions with diverse ethnic minorities are gradually becoming reference electoral centers.

No wonder the people of London once again gave the greatest credit of confidence to the current mayor of Pakistani origin Sadiq Khan, who was nominated by the Labor Party. Another surprise of this election was the election of Joanna Anderson, the first black woman, to be mayor of Liverpool.

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Another winner of this election is the British Greens. They managed to get good results in the election.

And although the results of the Greens will not allow them to control local councils, by increasing their number in the newly formed coalitions, they will have more influence on the decision-making process.

What conclusions can be drawn from this election?

The by-elections should show potential schedules in the parliamentary elections.

In particular, they showed that Labor still retains the theoretical possibility of defeating Johnson. To do this, they need to join forces with the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.

According to various estimates, if we extrapolate the results of the regional elections to the level of electoral support, such a coalition can claim a total of 47% of seats in parliament against 36% of conservatives.

However, this is only a theoretical possibility. Given the realities of British political cuisine, it will be extremely difficult to implement such a strategy.


Author: Bogdan Ferens,

Candidate of Political Science, Institute for Democracy and Social Progress

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Posted in Politics