Result summary: Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party stormed to a decisive win in last night’s general election, securing a strong
79 seat majority on a 43.6% vote share. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced he would resign following his
party’s disastrous result of 203 seats (down 59 from 2017), with swathes of the northern Labour heartland
falling to the Conservatives. It was also a bad night for the Liberal Democrats and leader Jo Swinson, who
resigned after losing her seat in Scotland and securing a disappointing 11.5% vote share. The only party other
than the Conservatives celebrating this morning are the Scottish Nationalists, who took 48 of the country’s 59
seats at Westminster.
Here are the top implications of last night’s vote:
Is this a permanent realignment, or a one-time lending of votes? Brexit has split the country in two and this
was reflected in last night’s vote, which went 52% remain and 48% leave. The difference was that Boris
Johnson was able to consolidate the leave vote under his banner to secure his majority while the remain vote
was shared between Labour, the Scottish Nationalists, and Liberal Democrats. How will the losing (and single issue)
parties plot their rebirths with proportional representation a complete non-starter for the next five years of Johnsonian majority government?
How will Boris Johnson govern? Boris Johnson played the hard man (removing the whip from 21 Tory rebels
and proroguing Parliament) to convince Brexiteers he was the real deal while at the same time selling himself
as a ‘One Nation Conservative’ who will be accommodating on hot-button cultural issues like immigration. Will
Johnson be able to keep his hard-core Brexiteers and new northern Labour converts on board as he embarks
on the next stage of Brexit, or will he revert to the more socially liberal nature he displayed as London Mayor?
Johnson did take great pains in his acceptance speech to acknowledge the unique circumstances of his victory
and pledged to govern for all. The Prime Minister will likely press ahead with a whirlwind of action on items
like northern infrastructure (including HS2) to consolidate his victory and convince his new supporters their
vote has mattered.
A strong hand for Brexit negotiations. After three and a half years of uncertainty there is now no doubt that
Brexit will happen at the end of January 2020. More importantly, the size of Johnson’s victory means he cannot
be held hostage by the ‘spartans’ in the ERG wing of his party. That said, the exit agreement was, in theory, the
easy bit of Brexit. There will only be 11 months to secure a future arrangement with the European Union, with
the hard end-of-2020 deadline putting pressure on the U.K. to sort out its offer very quickly.
A real challenge for the union. What happens now to Scotland and Northern Ireland? Lost to the buzz of last
night’s stonking results was the significant defeat of the DUP in Northern Ireland. Boris Johnson will
unquestionably have a battle on his hands to keep a second Scottish referendum off the table in the face of
the SNP’s Scottish sweep, but he will have an equally big challenge keeping Northern Ireland on board as he
pursues his exit agreement. How will the Prime Minister live up to the ‘unionist’ label in his party’s title?
Where do Labour go? The Corbynite project might lie in ruin after last night’s decisive defeat but its grip on
the Labour Party machinery remains strong. Will the Labour membership chose Corbyn 2.0 in the form of an
Angela Rayner or Rebecca Long-Bailey, or will the out-of-favour Blairite wing be able to advance a candidate
capable of winning over the left-leaning activists who currently run the party? Whatever the case, the next
Labour leader is facing an existential crisis, and must decide whether Labour will try to recapture its former
identity as the party of the working class,or pursue its future as a party of the urban elite.
The Liberal Democrats didn’t learn the lesson of Theresa May. Promising the extreme position of ‘revoke’ on
Brexit was a mistake, surely, but so was planning an entire election strategy around a leader with little public
profile and virtually no personality. The simple fact is the more the voters saw of Jo Swinson the less they liked
her. High-profile candidates like Chuka Umunna, Sam Gyimah, and Luciana Berger were equally unable to
punch through. Will the Liberal Democrats now return to a full-throated Charles Kennedy-type liberalism and
focus on policy, or will they try to capture another shooting star?
This brief was brought to you by Trafalgar Strategy.