United Kingdom Elections

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Boris Johnson (Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images): https://www.vox.com/2019/7/23/20707069/who-is-boris-johnson-uk-election-brexit Keir Starmer : Henry Nicholls/Reuters https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/may/09/keir-srarmer-act-urgently-rescue-labour-from-plight Nicola Sturgeon: Jeff J Mitchell https://www.politico.eu/article/nicola-sturgeon-scotland-independence-referendum-snp-election/ Mark Drakeford (cropped): GETTY IMAGES https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-politics-57037388

By Michael Ge

On May 6, voters in England, Scotland, and Wales headed to the polls. In England, voters voted for candidates for their respective local councils. In Scotland and Wales, voters voted in their respective regional parliaments. 

In the parliamentary constituency of Hartlepool, voters voted in a by-election after the previous Member of Parliament (MP) Mike Hill resigned over accusations of sexual harassment. In its modern incarnation, Hartlepool has never elected a member of the Conservative Party to Parliament. As part of the Labour Party stronghold known as the red wall, a Labour Party victory was virtually guaranteed in previous elections. But Hartlepool voted overwhelmingly for Brexit and has trended rightwards like other constituencies in the red wall. The Labour Party chose to nominate Paul Williams, a former MP known for his strong views against Brexit. The Conservative Party nominated Jill Mortimer, a Councillor for the Hambleton District Council. Both Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer and Prime Minister and Conservative Party Leader Boris Johnson campaigned heavily in Hartlepool. On election night, Jill Mortimer emerged victorious with a majority of 23.2% and became the first woman to ever be elected to Parliament from Hartlepool and dealt a crushing defeat to Labour.

The Conservatives also saw gains in English local elections. The Conservatives captured 36% of the vote, a swing in their favor of 8% from the 2019 council elections. They had a net gain of 235 councillors and ended with a total of 2,345 councillors. The Conservatives also gained control of 13 councils. Labour had a 29% of the vote which was an increase of 1% from 2019. Labour had a net loss of 327 councillors and lost control of 8 councils. The Liberal Democrats and Green Party also saw gains. The Liberal Democrats won 588 seats, a net gain of 8 along with gaining control of one council despite their vote share decreasing from 19% to 17%. The Green Party won a total of 151 council seats, a net gain of 88 seats. The Labour Party fared better in the London Mayoral election which was originally scheduled in 2020, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Incumbent mayor Sadiq Khan was re-elected with 40% of the vote in the first round and 55.2% of the vote in the second round.

In Scotland, the Scottish National Party, a center-left, pro-independence party, achieved another victory in the Scottish Parliament election. The SNP won the most votes and constituent seats ever in any Scottish Parliament election. Led by First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP won 64 out of 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament. Although the SNP was one seat short of a majority in the mixed member proportional system parliament, it was more than enough to continue to govern since the remaining seats are split among other parties with various ideological differences. The SNP campaigned on their achievements and pushed for a second independence referendum after the 2014 referendum failed. Together with the Green Party, there is a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament which consists of 72/129 seats which sent a strong message to London about the popular support for a second independence referendum.

In Wales, the Welsh Labour Party emerged victorious, led by First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford in the Welsh Parliament, or Senedd, election. Welsh Labour won 30 out of 60 seats which was one seat short of a majority, but like in Scotland, it would be enough to govern. Drakeford’s center-left policies have proven to be popular and he was rewarded with a gain of one seat and saw their share of both the regional and constituency vote increase as well.

The results of the English, Scottish, and Welsh elections showed that voters in their respective countries approved of their ruling party’s leadership. There is little doubt that Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon, and Mark Drakeford will feel that their policies have been vindicated and that they have a mandate for any future political goals. On the other hand, the Labour Party will have to examine what went wrong for them. Keir Starmer has already started to reshuffle his frontbench and has said he would take responsibility for Labour’s poor showing. Starmer doesn’t have the benefit of time, with the party’s left wing growing more and more irritated at his leadership and trends sweeping away historic Labour seats, the Labour Party might be swept into irrelevance after more than a decade of Conservative Party rule.

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