8, June 2017
Millions of British people are preparing to cast their votes in Thursday’s general election, which has defied all initial projections and seems to be much closer than many, including Prime Minister Theresa May, had predicted.
In a time when Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU) is a certainty and a round of tough negotiations with the bloc is around the corner, the ruling Conservatives are set to go head to head with a Labour Party that has slowly but steadily become a worthy opponent under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
In mid-April, May called for a general election and overstepped earlier pledges of not doing so before 2020. Back then, the move was largely viewed as part of a cheap opportunistic strategy to win a more decisive majority in Parliament given Labour’s state of disarray.
However, Corbyn was able to turn the tide and reduce a 20-point gap with the Tories to well within the margin of error.
The vote owes its significance largely to Brexit. A historic EU referendum in June last year showed that some 52 percent of people in England were in favor of cutting the UK’s decades-long membership in the bloc
Both Corbyn and May, who was then Home Secretary, opposed the divorce but failed to sway voters.
Today, May is leading the country out of the EU and wants a stronger negotiating position after the vote while Corbyn leads a formidable opposition and, much to May’s annoyance, seeks a more active Brexit involvement for the Parliament.
May was off to a bad start by announcing that she would not be participating in any live debates with Corbyn or other party leaders, insisting that direct interaction with voters is more beneficial.
The decision prompted backlash among Tory and other voters alike, who wanted to see if May can handle the popular Labour leader.
The decision helped Corbyn, who took part in a much-anticipated BBC debate and bagged an easy win in a night that May had sent Home Secretary Amber Rudd to represent her.
Besides Corbyn, leaders of other parties have also deemed May’s decision as a sign of weakness and fear. The string of bad luck continued for May and her party as she was forced to reverse many of the unpopular pledges the Tories had made in their election manifesto, “Forward Together.”
Corbyn, on the other hand, scored big with voters by making popular pledges in his “For the Many not the Few” in terms of both domestic and foreign policy. The issue of security was a key debate point in the wake of the recent wave of terror attacks that rocked the UK.
This is arguably one of the most unpredictable UK elections in a long time. It has seen many traditional Tory and Labour supporters jump ship, with former Labour leader Toby Blair openly campaigning against his own party and in favor of the Liberal Democrats.
The fierce campaign has also drawn a clear line between the wealthy and the average class, with the former leaning towards May and her team.
Meanwhile, a surge in young voter registrations has tipped the scale in favor of Corbyn, who has attracted the most supporters in the 18-24 age bracket. The June 8 vote is certainly a milestone that sets the UK’s economic and political paths for the years coming.