NEW DELHI: On Thursday, the United Kingdom will vote in a general election—the third in less than five years—that has been dubbed as one that will impact a ‘generation’ or more. The snap poll was called by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to break the logjam over Brexit after the 2016 referendum that narrowly backed the UK exiting the European Union.
A thumping mandate for the Tories would somewhat flatten the bumpy road Johnson has travelled since July when he replaced Theresa May for the country’s top political job.
Johnson is eyeing a majority in the 650-member lower house—The House of Commons—to see his Brexit deal through. His predecessor May quit the party leadership after her ‘Leave’ deal was rejected thrice in Parliament. Johnson has promised to deliver Brexit by January-end based on the latest withdrawal deal agreed with the European Union. He has been reminding voters to not make the same mistake as they did in 2017 when the election results led to a hung Parliament.
Brexit has dominated the political campaign of all parties, followed by health and social care, law and order, economy and the environment.
Johnson’s main challenger—Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party—says if voted to power he will renegotiate the deal with EU and hold another referendum on a renewed agreement within six months.
Both the parties also seem to believe the road to popular vote leads through public health, having pledged to increase spending and shore up the National Health Service (NHS) at a time hospital wait times are at their worst recorded levels.
With the third quarter recording the slowest growth in nearly a decade, the campaign has seen economic pledges abound. Johnson has promised status quo in rates of income tax and value added tax (VAT) and national insurance contributions. The Labour Party wants to nationalize parts of the utility and transport sectors, hike taxes for corporations and impose higher income tax for the uber-rich.
The campaign has been both fierce and brutal. And then there’s another thing doing the rounds—tactical voting—by those opposed to the idea of Brexit. It essentially means voting for either Labour or the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats, depending on who is better placed to beat the Conservative candidate in a particular constituency. Boris Johnson remains the favourite of pollsters; his lead over Corbyn has narrowed in the past few weeks though. But opinion polls may not be the exact barometer of voters’ choice, as they have gone horribly wrong in the recent past.
On Thursday as voters get to polling booths, they will have political uncertainty on their minds and a powerful storm on the horizon, accompanied by a mix of rain and snow in the higher reaches, as is the weather forecast. It’s also the first general election the UK will have in December, in close to 100 years. Well, that may just be another reason to call it the vote of a ‘generation’.