As a new year at university begins, it is my duty to welcome you to the quagmire that is British Politics by recapping a turbulent few months. Since the events of June 23rd, British politics has been turned completely upside down.
Firstly the Conservative Party, who are still in power, have a new Leader. Theresa May becomes the second female Prime Minister, and entered Downing Street proclaiming the Tories’ pro-unionist message and a desire to stay together, while also claiming that Brexit means Brexit and a desire to fight social injustice. But what does all this mean for them going forward? Well, it is an awkward position. May has previously been critical of Gordon Brown not having a mandate from voters, yet is now in the same boat herself with rivals calling for a General Election. However, the party is currently unified and has no real right-wing rivals, so don’t expect the Tories to go away any time soon. In the meanwhile, May has the result of the EU referendum to contend with and when to invoke Article 50, while also wanting to make her own mark as PM.
Labour has not coped well since Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn’s lacklustre campaigning before the EU referendum has brought him under intense scrutiny, and has caused a huge wave of resignations in the shadow cabinet. Many loyal MPs in the makeshift shadow cabinet now hold multiple roles in a party that has over 100 MPs. These resignations, coupled with a vote of no confidence in Corbyn, have sparked an ongoing leadership race between Corbyn and Owen Smith. Yet the Labour ruling committee has controversially decreed that newer party members could not vote in the contest, many of whom are believed to favour Corbyn. The future looks bleak for Labour. Under Corbyn the party could split, making it impossible to win a General Election. Conversely, a Smith win could see the Labour Party electable but considerably out of touch with its grass roots, making it a difficult balancing act between Westminster and the rest of the party.
The Liberal Democrats have enjoyed a relatively good summer. They have won more seats in local council elections than any other party, and their membership is reaching pre-coalition levels which suggests a party resurgence. But like their colleagues, they have not escaped the Brexit blues. Two frontbench peers have resigned over the party’s decision to remain pro-EU and be the voice of the 48% by blocking Brexit if elected. This looks like a clever political move by appealing to a potentially large electorate, but so far that has not translated into any movement in the polls still sitting at 8-10%. However, the future can still be very bright, as they have been very loud on issues that Labour’s infighting has prevented them from doing. Furthermore, they can provide a national alternative to Labour and the Tories, as aren’t location based like the SNP.
UKIP’s recent fortunes have been mixed. They achieved their primary goal of a Brexit result, the materialisation of over 20 years of protest against the European Union. However, Nigel Farage has now left, this time permanently, and the favourite to succeed him, Steven Woolfe, failed to even make the leadership ballot. UKIP are consequently left with unknown leadership contenders and infighting in every corner of their party. UKIP are now undoubtedly a party on decline, albeit in the aftermath of their highly significant victory for UK independence.