The 2019 General Election build-up has just begun and already there’s controversy, not just about who can vote, but regarding the parties you can vote for.
One of the main staples of election build-up is a leadership debate. It’s an opportunity for leaders of each of the main parties to persuade the people that their party is the one to vote for. The debate is a key factor in whether a campaign is successful or not.
It is also something political parties dislike to a large extent because, such is the nature of social media, any slip- up will be turned into a short clip and go viral. If a politician aces a debate then their campaign gets a massive boost – for instance, Nick Clegg in 2010. On the other hand, if they falter, or as in the case of Theresa May in 2017 refuse to turn up, then the results can be disastrous.
So, as we enter the election campaign the questions of Who, What, Where and When are already being raised, and so far, we already know who won’t be be taking part.
This election will not just be a tussle between the two main parties, Labour and Conservatives. The smaller parties such as the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru, Greens and the Brexit Party each have a crucial part to play. Yet they are being left out. In a recent article in The Guardian, Corbyn’s spokesman is noted to have said: ‘There are only two possible people who can be prime minister at the end of this election campaign’.
Similarly, Boris Johnson quipped that, ‘the people of this country want their promises kept’, in reference to a 2010 election pledge by Nick Clegg that tuition fees would not rise — something that clearly didn’t happen. This quip is rich coming from a Prime Minster who promised we would leave the EU on October 31st — another thing that clearly didn’t happen.
This binary dialogue is being reflected in negotiations with TV stations such as the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, all of whom are angling towards a two-party debate between seasoned campaigners Corbyn and Johnson. This is all down to the Conservatives’ preference towards a two-party debate and TV stations wanting the biggest fish to guarantee high viewership figures.
This is a shame because the smaller parties have been and will be crucial to the result of the first December election since 1923. Since June 2016 they have played an instrumental role in the frustration, prevention and delay of Brexit. Six of the ten MPs who set up the People’s Vote campaign in April 2018 were from the smaller parties. Of the four remaining two, Chukka Umunna and Anna Soubry have left Labour and Conservatives respectively.
But what impact will they have? Let’s go over what they stand for and the likely result:
The biggest of the ‘small parties’ they are pro-EU, pro-People’s Vote. They are the antithesis of the Brexit Party in terms of stance on Europe. But there are some issues.
Jo Swinson has ruled out a tactical voting alliance with Labour and clashed with the likes of Anna Soubry in Parliament on when to have a People’s Vote. These two factors have created an unnecessary divide in the pro-EU camp.
They are likely to gain seats in this election but are reliant on people forgiving them for the tuition fees scandal — something that continues to haunt them nearly ten years on.
The Democratic Unionist Party is pro-Brexit, founded in 1971 by Ian Paisley. They are pro-Union too and were the reason why Theresa May was able to form a majority coalition-government, albeit a small one, in the aftermath of the 2017 Election.
Recently however they have been frustrating Boris Johnson by voting against his Brexit deal. They are unlikely to engage in tactical voting with the Conservatives.
The Brexit Party
Do what they say on the tin really. They want to see Brexit enacted. Like the DUP they have frustrated Boris Johnson by voting against his deal as they believe it does not mean Brexit. They are the party most likely to engage in a tactical voting pact with the Conservatives. Indeed, Nigel Farage has even given Boris a deadline to accept. If this isn’t accepted, they will, in all likelihood, take votes off the Conservatives thereby increasing the probability of a hung Parliament.
Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP)
They hold the majority of the seats in Scotland and are pro-Remain. Should there be a Conservative majority it will strengthen their resolve for a second independence referendum in Scotland which, if successful, could possibly lead to a second EU vote.
These are the smallest out of the small parties in terms of their likely impact. The Greens and Plaid Cymru are both pro-Remain and hold just four constituencies between them. If the final result is as tight as it is expected to be, then those seats could be crucial.
Each of the above parties then are key come election day on December 12th. In my view, there should be a debate, even if not between them Labour and the Conservatives, then at least among themselves. In the end, the seats that these parties win or lose will be the fulcrum on which the election result rests.