Sloan: What’s next for Britain?

By Kelly Sloan | Columnist, Rocky Mountain Voice

Well, if anything, that was maybe even a bit worse than expected. There is no sugar-coating it, the Conservatives in Great Britain absorbed a catastrophic defeat last week in that country’s national elections. 

It was a defeat of literally historic proportions – the worst showing for the British Conservative party in its history. The Tories lost 234 seats, coming away with a mere 131 in the 650-seat Parliament. As electoral rebukes go, that was a pretty clear one. 

But the question lingers as to how much the results indicate a sea-change in British political alignment. Britian’s parliamentary, first-past-the-post system assigns winners, but it also does a remarkable job at concealing underlying trends. 

An analytical look at the numbers suggests strongly that the election revealed not so much any particular enthusiasm for the new Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer and his Labour Party, but rather an exasperation with the ruling Tories. Labour, after all, gained its 64% majority in parliament with only 33% of the votes

Here is one interesting figure. Baron Charles Moore, columnist and former editor of The Daily Telegraph, began his column this week posing a question: “When, in this century, did Labour get the largest number of votes in a general election?” The answer is, “Not this week, and not under Tony Blair. It was in 2017, when Labour was led by Jeremy Corbyn. It won 12,877,918 votes, but only 262 seats, losing to the Conservatives.”

In contrast, this time Labour received a mere 9,698,409 votes, which nonetheless translated into 412 seats and the right to form a new government. Moore points out that it was, in fact, the second-worst showing for the winner of a general election, from either party, in the post-World War II era in Great Britain. 

If ever it can be said that one party lost an election, as opposed to the other party winning it, it can be said in regards to this election. In their last 14 years of holding power in the UK, the Tories were rudderless, exhibiting none of the staunch principle that guided Margaret Thatcher in the 1980’s. They were at times free-marketers (like Liz Truss) but more often appeared to be seduced by the allure of statism (like Theresa May). Some of their number were in favour of Brexit, Britain’s noble withdrawal from the European Union and reaffirmation of its sovereignty; and yet some of its leaders (like David Cameron) were also leaders of the “remain” faction.

The party ultimately embraced the economic insanity of “Net-Zero”, and did nothing to reverse many of the left wing excesses of the previous Labour government. Under the Tories, taxes went up, the state grew, some of the most outlandish precept’s of “woke” culture took root, and – perhaps most damning for the ruling party – immigration went largely unchecked, contributing to what is quickly amounting to an existential problem for the island nation. The best that can be said for them is that they probably held some of the worst at bay.

Into that environ emerged the right-wing protest Reform party under Nigel Farage, which ate well into the Conservative vote. Reform won only 5 seats – 1% – but received a full 14% of the vote. Another interesting datum: Reform’s 14% and the Conservatives 19% add up to – that’s right, 33%, the same as Labour. It’s difficult to look at those figures and say that the British populace is swerving harshly to the left. 

None of this is to diminish Sir Keir’s political skill. The new PM revitalized the Labour Party – which had been left a smoldering ruin by the unrepentantly leftist Jeremy Corbyn – rooted out the far-leftists, and made it respectable to vote Labour. It should also be noted that Sir Keir led an extraordinarily vague campaign. 

What will this mean for Great Britain? One of the consequences of that opacity is that it is difficult to say. Starmer’s main strength was to project an image of stability and competence, after years of rootless drama. Conventional wisdom suggests that one consequence of electing a Labour government by such a large margin is the advent of a manifestly disadvantageous economic and cultural landscape. And certainly the PM will have the far-left – including the newly Independent Corbyn and a handful of Independent pro-Palestine MP’s – nipping at his heels. But he is not a stupid man, and knows he needs to actually govern the country, only a third of whose voters supported him. 

As for Britain’s conservatives, the next few years are crucial. Reform made a grand showing, but it is far more broad than deep, and has not the makings of a national party. Farage has an important role to play in pulling the Tories back onto their moorings, but it will be a longer, deeper, more careful process than that. Moore addressed this in his column rather eruditely, writing “One of the things about being “conservative enough” (or even “Conservative enough”) is to recognise that conservatism is not a mere set of propositions with tick-boxes. It is something subtler – a mixture of beliefs and temperament, an understanding of human nature, a balance between personal liberty and social cohesion, tradition and innovation.”

Just so. The sooner Britain’s Conservatives understand that and unite (preferably before 2029) the better. There is a piquant lesson in there for America’s conservatives too.   

Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in commentary pieces are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the management of the Rocky Mountain Voice, but even so we support the constitutional right of the author to express those opinions.