Ted James looks at what a new parliament and government could look like after a General Election.

First published in August 2019.

With Boris Johnson's tenure in power looking more fragile by the day with a small majority and a lack of support from his own MPs, an election looks more likely than ever before. However, due to the very unpredictable and changing nature of British politics, it is far harder to predict how exactly a new parliament and government would look after an election.

With issues like Brexit, immigration and the NHS all dominant in current political discourse many different outcomes are possible. Turnout would also be a key factor, would the young turn out like in 2017, and would their turnout increase?

With this in mind, there is a list of five outcomes that could happen.

Boris Johnson wins a majority

One outcome could be that Boris Johnson gains a boost in the polls and secures a majority for the first time since May lost the majority she had inherited by Cameron in 2017. For Boris and the Tory membership, this would be a massive victory for a Hard No-Deal Brexit and for Boris Johnson’s leadership. This is a possibility with Johnson’s charism and charm appealing to many, and his promise to leave the EU on 31 October deal or no deal appealing to many voters in Brexit heartlands that voted to leave back in 2016. And despite Johnson being prone to gaffs on numerous occasions, he has managed to often ride the wave keep his popularity up within his own party and across the country.

However, it won’t be that easy for the Conservatives to achieve this due to a couple of reasons. One major reason is a terrible record on domestic issues in government since 2010. After the 2008 financial crash, the Labour Party were heavily blamed and in the following election, in 2010, lost to a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government. This government then proceeded to implement a very damaging policy of cuts to public spending called austerity, at the same time that bankers were taking ever-larger bonuses tax-free. This policy has been incredibly damaging to the social fabric of the UK and left many families struggling. A UN report in 2018 said that Tory austerity was “entrenching high levels of poverty and inflicting unnecessary misery in one of the richest countries in the world” and the UK government was in a “state of denial” over the issue.

Austerity since 2010 has led to £30 billion in cuts to welfare payments, housing subsidies, and social services. These cuts have led to 600,000 children being forced into ‘relative poverty’ since 2012, and of this 600,000, 1/3 of their parents were in work. In other words, people are working day in day out for their poverty. Another massive effect has been the loss of 20,000 police officers that has led to a rise in crime across the country. This is a key factor that could damage the Conservative’s chances of a majority win, and history suggests that after about 10 years in power a party is seen as old and tired and often voted out (Labour 1997–2010, Conservatives 1979–1997).

Another major factor that could hurt their chances is the rise of Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party which would split the vote amongst hardcore Brexit voters. Furthermore, threats from anti-no-deal MP’s from within his own party (like the former chancellor Phillip Hammond) could make any majority redundant.

So whilst a Conservative majority could feasibly happen, a strong anti-austerity Labour campaign like in 2017 and internal threats could easily derail this possibility. Possibility: 2/5

A Conservative minority government

Another possibility is a Conservative minority government, a position whereby the Tories would fail to gain the 326 needed to form a majority government. With the current political climate being so divided this is a very real possibility. One scenario would be that Boris Johnson would try and lead a minority government, however without the support of his MPs this would be a very risky and unlikely strategy to play. The more likely way Boris would play it is by forming a coalition or a pact of some kind with the Brexit Party and govern with the aim of committing to a Hard Brexit, massive cuts in public spending and a massive crackdown on immigration. However, due to splits in the Tory party over no-deal and the fact that many MPs would not like making a pact with an ‘extreme’ party led by the Nigel Farage, the poster boy of the far-right, this would be very difficult. The factor that could stop this from happening would be a surge in support for the Labour Party and very pro-Remain parties like the Liberal Democrats that could lead to a 4 four-way power bloc in Parliament. Failing to win a majority in Parliament would be very difficult for Johnson who does not have the full support of his own MPs and is despised by almost every other party on the opposite benches. This may mean that pushing through a no-deal may be more difficult as even with a majority there is too much opposition from big beasts within the party.

This, due to the fractured nature of British politics, is one of the more likely possibilities and would continue the unfortunate instability that has plagued British politics in recent years. Possibility: 3/5

A Labour majority government

Another outcome could be a Labour majority government. However, this would be a very unlikely scenario considering the current state of the two main parties. One issue that haunts Labour is the anti-Semitism row that is still ongoing, with a BBC Panorama in June 2019 shedding a light onto the issue within the party. The party has been seen to be weak in dealing with the issue, especially when they readmitted Chris Williamson MP who said that Labour had been too ‘apologetic’ over antisemitism. This saga was particularly damaging in the summer of 2018 when the Labour Party should have been attacking the Conservatives on their failing Brexit negotiations but instead, the leaderships were attacked from all over, even within their own party. On top of this, the divisions in the party over Brexit can be seen right at the leadership level with shadow ministers often contradicting each other. This has led to a power struggle in the leadership between Remainers who want a second vote to campaign for Remain, these include figures like the Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry and the Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer. They argue that Labour should work in the interest of members who are on the whole in favour of EU membership. The other group are the Lexiteers, members of Corbyn's inner circle who think it would be a betrayal of much of Labours core vote to reject the outcome of the 2016 referendum and fight to remain. These include members of the Shadow Cabinet like Ian Lavery, as well as Seamus Milne who is Corbyn’s chief advisor.

So due to the deep divisions and scandals within the Labour Party currently over Brexit and antisemitism, it is unlikely that in an election the Labour Party with its current leadership will gain enough concentrated support to get a majority in Parliament. However, with the unpredictable nature of British politics, anything is possible. Possibility: 2/5

A Labour minority government

A further outcome which is more likely in the case of Labour is for the Labour party to gain the most seats, but falls short of a majority. In this case, just like Johnson Corbyn is unlikely to try and lead a minority government, especially like Johnson, due to the divisions within his own party over Brexit. He will more likely be forced into trying to make coalitions or pacts with other parties, however, this will be difficult due to criticism from smaller pro-EU parties over his apparent failure to tackle the Brexit issue and hold the government to account. Jo Swinson the leader of the Liberal Democrats has ruled out helping what she described as a Corbyn led ‘caretaker’ government and Nicola Sturgeon leader of the SNP said that Corbyn would be equally responsible for a no-deal as Johnson and May. This would make any kind of coalition very difficult and would force Corbyn top do something he has avoided for the last three years, take a clear stand on Brexit. To have a chance of any coalition he will need to commit to a referendum and commit to making Labour the party of Remain. This will undoubtedly create unrest in his own party and could lead to a host of defections and deselections within the party.

If Corbyn’s ever going to be Prime Minister this is probably the route he’ll have to gain power by. Whatever it does to the foundations of the Labour Party, this is one of the more predictable outcomes of a General Election at the minute. Due to the fractured nature of British politics, it would be difficult for any party to gain a majority. Possibility: 4/5

The Remain Alliance scenario

One last scenario to explore is the unlikely possibility that the country is led by a Remain Alliance. This would include the Scottish National Party (SNP), Liberal Democrats, Green and Change UK, all pro-Remain parties. Whether the Labour Party would join is a question that is difficult to answer due to the reasons that have been stated previously. For this to happen it would mean that neither of the major parties would be able to command a majority due to the result of a lack of unity amongst their MPs. Under the constitution, any party or group of parties that can command a majority can form a government, and their unity around Brexit could help them achieve this.

However, this would be a massive challenge due to the First Past the Post voting system that requires concentrated support. Apart from the SNP who currently hold 35 seats due to their concentrated support in Scotland, few of these parties can ever really gain enough seats to gain considerable influence. The Liberal Democrats only have 12 seats, Change UK has been plagued by defections and the Greens have just 1. Also, many Remainers will vote Labour with the hope of swinging the party to Remain and these Remain parties will fail to gain enough votes in heavily Leave areas.

Showing why out of all the outcomes, this is probably the least likely. Possibility: 1/5

Whatever happens in the coming months, the instability that will be caused by Boris premiership is very clear to see. Also, there is no evidence that a General Election will solve the Brexit crisis anytime soon. However, this current instability brings the prospect of an election ever closer.🔷

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[This piece was originally published on the PMP Blog! and re-published in PMP Magazine on 12 August 2019. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Pixabay.)