UK 2017

(Tempted to make that subject “UK 2017a”)

Yes, there should have been an open thread earlier. This comes late, but at least it’s here.

Quite an election surprise!

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21 thoughts on “UK 2017

  1. Clearly Britain, just like the Netherlands and France, is just another step in the invincible onward march of alt-right populism!

    • [Go on, someone has to say it]
      “They told me if I voted yes to Alternative Vote in the 2011 referendum, Britain would be plagued by hung parliaments and minority governments. I did, and now it is…”
      Any Tories out there who prefer to be negotiating coalitions with the SNP than with Nick Clegg’s LibDems? Hello? Anyone?

      • So many seats were won by pluralities, very few were won by absolute majorities. Would the Tories had a majority with the Alternative Vote system that they were oppose to?

  2. Perhaps the easiest solution would be for May to pull a Christy Clark and simply dare Commons to vote her out.

    But I think an(other) early election is in the cards, delayed only perhaps by a Conservative leadership spill. (What is the right word for the UK system?) I can’t see May really navigating this Parliament with her own party calling for her head and I can’t see Corbyn forging a workable minority.

    But what do I know?

    • An early election requires repeal of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, passage of a vote of no confidence in terms of that act or a 2/3 vote.

      • Or the PM saying that there should be an election and a sane Leader of the Opposition agreeing not to block it. Theres May has rendered the FTPA utterly meaningless–what Oppositoon worth its salt wouldn’t agree to an early election?

      • What purpose would another early election serve? I’d think an opposition leader worth their salt might perhaps ask how many early elections the prime minister could possibly need.

      • I don’t see Labour going for an early election when they just did far better than any realistic expectation. They have a long way to go before they could be a serious governing party, despite the improvement. I have to think their best course is to just hang in there as an opposition, not to sign on to an early election again.

      • I don’t see the Conservatives going for an early election. I cannot imagine what advantage of them could see in it except for the incumbent prime minister. May may see it as a way of extending a tenure of office that looks strictly limited at the moment.

      • The Conservatives certainly won’t go to another election before the new 600-seat electoral map is in place, which should take another 2 years, at least.

  3. Looking at the popular vote percentages, its the first election since 1970 where both of the two largest parties got over 40% of the vote. Minor and regional parties made a big breakthrough in 1974.

    It appears to be the second best Labour popular vote percentage since 1970, after 1997, and the fourth best Tory popular vote percentage. Its also the worst Liberal popular vote percentage since 1959, and they weren’t contesting all the British seats in the 1950s.

    Its also the second best Westminster Scottish Nationalist result in the party’s history, though you will probably only hear about their losses (coming after their best result), and the best Plaid Cymru Westminster results in hits history.

    All Northern Irish constituencies but one, and that one is a consistent outlier in NI politics, voted either DUP or Sinn Fein, the first time that has happened.

    The Liberal Democrats lost five of the eight seats they managed to hang onto in 2015, their popular vote percentage dropped, and they still somehow to wind up with more seats than they started the night with. This is mainly a consequence of betting the farm or rallying “remain in the EU”voters to their side, it meant writing off completely the portion of the country that was for or willing to accept the referendum result, so all but one of their MPs comes from Scotland or affluent, educated areas in the South and East.

    The sentiment for leaving the EU is much stronger than the 2015 (or 1975, but its forty years plus since and a very different organization) indicate. Out of the 48% remain vote, about half consistently state that they accept the result and want the government to get on with the departure. I think frankly that many people voted “remain” because that is what the media and government were telling them to do, and switched their opinion to a more organic stance once the results gave them permission too. I think political scientists consistently underestimate the extent to which voters are motivated by conformity.

    Labour is led by a politician who has consistently opposed the EU or its predecessors throughout his career, only backtracking or flip flopping once he became party leader, and who whipped his MPs to vote for Article 50. Until this election, Labour was the only major party to put leaving the EEC/ EU in its manifesto. So Labour was positioned to pick up UKIP votes, something commentators and the Prime Minister seem to have missed. Still, the Tories took five Labour seats in heavily leave voting constituencies, despite something like a 4% nationwide swing from Labour to the Tories.

    Also, recently there has been a pattern by commentators, who obviously really want a presidential system, of calling for Prime Ministers to obtain the office mid-Parliament to call an early election and get a mandate, benefiting from their honeymoon. This happened with both Paul Martin and Gordon Brown. Finally one did exactly that and showed exactly why an incoming Prime Minister should ignore these commentators. I think there is actually a bloc of voters who are willing to vote for the opposition to punish a Prime Minister who opportunistically calls an unneeded early election.

  4. Further attempts to reform the United Kingdom electoral system will be sabotaged by the traditionalism of England-ouside-London, which also makes a mess of local government. The best you might be able to get is a messy semi-proportional system, with London, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales treated differently than the shires.

    • What on earth is this comment supposed to mean? Neither Labour nor the Tories campaigned on changing the Westminster electoral system.

      The more interesting thing is that thanks to EVEL, these new Scottish Tory MPs won’t be able to vote on English-only laws (neither will the DUP MPs). The Tories will have to cut deals with the Lib Dems or Labour in order to get English-only legislation through Parliament. The irony.

      • Jim, that is a massive overstatement of the version of ‘EVEL’ they actually passed into law. Non-English MPs are only excluded from consideration of England-only bills in ONE stage of the consideration of a bill, something which has also been called the ‘English grand committee’. In other words, a majority of English MPs can veto an England-only bill, but that is all they can do – such bills still require the backing of a majority of the entire (present and voting) House of Commons.

        Either way, the Conservatives retain a comfortable majority of English seats – at time of writing, they are on 297 (out of 533).

  5. Odd to have a hung parliament where the two largest parties have more than 40% of the popular vote. How could this happen in a FPTP jurisdiction where the electoral results are fairly proportionate? Labor won in 2005 a majority with 35%, but the Tories are short by a few seats with 43% of the popular vote. One would think with a strong plurality, that the Tories would have a 15% to 20% seat bonus, and have a big majority. Maybe UKIP hurted Labor more than the Tories, and Labor is the beneficiary of those released votes.

    • I think this last bit is exactly right. UKIP took votes primarily from Labour in 2015 (Miliband was a posh lefty whereas Corbyn is a scruffy lefty) and when UKIP collapsed, Labour benefited more than the Tories. I haven’t looked at the data in detail (yet), but I bet many of the Tory-to-Labour seat swings this time were in districts in which the UKIP vote shrank the most – that is, in seats that the Tories had no business winning in 2015. So if that’s right, 2017 is more like 2010, and 2015 is the anomaly. Remember that the betting in 2015 was another hung parliament, and the Tory majority was a surprise.

      Scotland is a different story. The SNP’s losses were pretty clearly reversion to the mean after the 2015 windfall, but it’s very interesting that the Tories reaped more benefits than Labour. Maybe they’re finally over Thatcher?

      • The Scottish Conservatives and Unionists have a very good party leader, that ignored the Conventional wisdom.

  6. This opinion piece on the 2017 election, in something called “The Conversation”, is the best short analysis I’ve seen on what happened:

    https://theconversation.com/corbyns-brexit-strategy-may-have-paid-off-after-all-in-2017-election-80024

    And it uses data! Not as common in political analysis in journals as it should be.

    There is an interesting point at the end that Corbyn’s strategy on Europe, basically to support Britain leaving the EU just enough not to alienate the median voter, but not so much as to lose Labour remain supporters, is strikingly similar to the approach Blair took to other economic issues in the run-up to 1997.

    It does make an error when referencing Labour’s “traditional”support of the EU and its predecessor. Actually the traditional Labour position was to oppose British participation in the EU. Labour was the more euro-sceptic of the two major parties down at least to Thatcher’s Bruges speech.

  7. I also took a look at the 2010 and 2017 elections to see where seats changed hands, and how much the 2015 elections were a blip.

    Between 2010 and 2017, the Conservatives (+4%) and Labour (+12%) gained, mostly at the expense of the Lib Dems. My suspicion is that much of the post 1960s Liberal, Alliance, and Lib Dem vote was a protest vote that was lost when the Lib Dems entered government, and which they won’t be getting back for awhile. Much of it parked with UKIP in 2015, despite the parties being polar opposites in policy, a point not often realized.

    The interesting thing is that between 2010 and 2017, the Conservative seat total barely changed. It went up of course to 330 in 2015 and then fell again. The Lib Dem total fell by about 40 seats, and the SNP gained 29 seats, even allowing for their 2015 losses, though of course the Lib Dems only lost about half a dozen seats to the SNP (losing all but one in 2015 and then regaining three in 2017). Labour wound up about a dozen seats ahead overall from its 2010 total.

    In terms of regional differences, Scotland of course is a huge outlier and is now pretty detached from English political patterns. Some 44 seats changed hands between 2010 and 2017, out of 59, and this doesn’t count the 15 seats lost by Labour and the Lib Dems to the SNP in 2015 and then regained in 2017. The SNP has 29 more seats than they did in 2017, and the Tories have 12 more, with Labour losing 35 and the Lib Dems 6.

    The second regional outlier is the Southwest region, which had the biggest Lib Dem collapse, and this was mainly to the Tories benefit. The Lib Dems lost 12 seats between 2010 and 2017, with the Tories picking up 9 and Labour gaining 3, all the gains coming in 2017 for Labour.

    Between Scotland and the Southwest, the Tories wound up ahead 21 seats from their 2010 total, which is worth keeping in mind because their UK totals in 2010 and 2017 are separated by only 2 seats. That means they lost 19 seats in the rest of the UK.

    The third outlier is London, where the Tories lost 8 seats between 2010 and 2017, losing seats in both elections. They lost only 11 net in the rest of England and Wales. Labour gained 12, which is important because their gains in the rest of England and Wales and their losses in Scotland otherwise nearly cancelled out.

    In the rest of England and Wales it was a general pattern of Labour picking up handfuls of seats here are there from the Tories and sometimes the Lib Dems, outnumbering instances where the Tories either picked up Labour seats in 2015 and kept them, or piked up Labour seats in 2017.

    I’m not sure what to make of this, since the profile of where the Tories are strong and weak seems to have changed somewhat, and of course the Lib Dems are different, but with Labour the pattern is just a general advance (or recovery from 2010) outside of Scotland. By the way, their popular vote did not increase much in Scotland in 2015-7, they gained seats mainly because the SNP vote went down.

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