The 31st of January marks the end of two circles. One is obviously UK’s participation in the EU, in favour of which few seem to remember that Margaret Thatcher had ferociously campaigned. The second is the one initiated by David Cameron’s uniquely self-destructive decision to call a referendum he was naively certain he would easily win. Brexit will happen and it will happen on a resounding election victory for its supporters and Boris Johnson, a crushing defeat for Labour and total annihilation for those who broke ranks to support Remain. In hindsight, the political question of the December 12 general election, as the electoral body perceived it, was whether which divide had more prominence and importance for the future of the UK and its citizens: the EU/Brexit divide or the traditional Left/Right –Labour/Tory divide. Their answer was astoundingly clear, erasing long-standing electoral patterns that were until now deemed unassailable.
Despite its geographic breadth and the clear overall majority, Boris’ triumph leaves a country more bitterly divided than ever. For all practical purposes, Scotland is represented in the Commons solely by SNP. In the Scottish referendum of 2014, the main argument against independence was that a new country would not automatically belong to the EU. Now the Scots find themselves out of the Union, despite having voted twice, in both referendums, in favour of the stay choices. Northern Ireland awaits the implementation of an agreement that establishes a thinly veiled border in the Irish Sea. And the present strong majority in the House of Commons represents exclusively the will of England.
The recent elections were as much a yes or no vote for Brexit as it was for a Corbyn government. Labour is in total disarray. Yet when the next election comes, Brexit will be long forgotten if things go smoothly, or will come back to haunt its standard-bearers if bleak scenarios for the economy materialize.
In any case, for the Tories to retain their present political supremacy they will need to hold on to gains in Labour heartlands where a return to traditional voting habits is a distinct possibility, without the Brexit polarization and under any credible Labour leader (and certainly under Kier Starmer). Boris Johnson is the king of the day; but, with a return to political normality, his dominance might prove more vulnerable than it now seems.
This article was written exclusively for our blog by Foivos Karzis, journalist
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