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UK Elections and Their Implications

Yesterday, parliamentary elections were held in the UK, and the new seats in the 650-member House of Commons were decided. The voter turnout was reported to be 60%. First and foremost, we can say that the elections were conducted calmly, maturely, and securely. People went to nearby polling stations throughout the day and cast their votes.

In the West, especially in Europe, the election atmosphere seen in Turkey is not observed. People conduct modest online campaigns. Candidates print brochures and distribute them to homes; public rallies are very limited or nonexistent. Candidates and politicians explain themselves in small meetings like coffee gatherings. Additionally, national debates between leaders occur in public.

However, unlike in Turkey, there are no flags, brochures, or large billboards causing environmental pollution; there is no noise pollution from loudspeakers. An outsider would not have noticed that there was an election in the UK yesterday because there was no unusual activity. People voted in pre-designated locations and learned the election results in the evening.

As expected, the UK’s elections resulted in the Labour Party gaining a significant number of votes and seats. The Conservative Party experienced a major, historic defeat, and its leader Rishi Sunak apologized and resigned from the party leadership. The Conservative Party, which has been in power for about 14 years, is the party that took the UK out of the European Union. Similar to Turkey’s Motherland Party, the Conservative Party leans conservative but advocates for a liberal economy, prioritizing big businesses.

In the 2019 elections, the Conservative Party managed to come to power alone. However, the negative effects of Brexit had not yet emerged. At the same time, the Labour Party ran an unsuccessful election campaign, allowing the Conservative Party to come to power without needing a coalition. After these elections, the former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn had to resign. Later, he was expelled from the party due to alleged anti-Semitic remarks and his anti-Israel stance.

Corbyn was a leader on the far left, advocating for exclusive tax increases on big companies, the complete elimination of fossil fuels, and the promise of free university education. His successor, Keir Starmer, shifted the Labour Party more towards the center and softened its rhetoric. However, the significant votes received were more a result of the Conservative Party’s poor governance than Starmer and his administration’s success.

The Conservative Party, in power during the Brexit referendum, was led by David Cameron, who opposed Brexit and thus did not find it ethical to remain as Prime Minister and resigned. Theresa May, who supported Brexit and was then the Home Secretary, succeeded him. May could not manage Brexit effectively during her three-year term, leading to Boris Johnson taking over. Johnson had to leave after three years due to criticism and scandals. Following Liz Truss’s very brief leadership, the young economist Rishi Sunak of Indian origin took over the Conservative Party’s leadership.

The primary reason for the change in power in the UK is the economic deterioration and the imbalance affecting the middle and lower income groups. After Brexit, the UK


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‘s economy experienced a significant contraction. Brexit did not invigorate the UK; instead, it became the source of many economic, political, and social problems. Since Brexit, the standard of living in the UK has been steadily declining, and the cost of living has been rising. The burden has fallen on those with low incomes, small business owners, and those dependent on social assistance.

The energy crisis that emerged after the Ukraine War saw energy prices skyrocket. Many small businesses went bankrupt because they could not afford energy costs. Households struggled to pay their electricity and gas bills as energy prices suddenly increased three to four times. While the global energy crisis caused by the Ukraine War was somewhat mitigated by alternative solutions, and global energy prices fell, large energy companies in the UK did not pass these savings on to the public or did so minimally.

The Conservative Party, adopting a capitalist approach, protected the large companies that were making astronomical profits rather than the public. Consequently, the public, burdened by high energy prices and living costs, directly blamed the government. Although recent measures by Rishi Sunak have led to positive developments in inflation and growth figures, these improvements have not been felt by the public. In this election, the public did not enthusiastically choose the new leader of the Labour Party but rather sought to punish the Conservative Party and its administration. The Conservative Party suffered a historic defeat, losing 250 seats.

While political tendencies in Europe and around the world are shifting towards the far right, the wear and tear of the ruling party in the UK has caused politics to shift towards the center-left. The Reform Party, representing the far right in the UK, also achieved success in the elections, with its leader Nigel Farage entering parliament. Farage was a key figure during the process leading to Brexit, influencing the public with the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and adopting an aggressive policy. Later, he renamed his party the Brexit Party. Sharing similarities with other far-right leaders in Europe, Nigel Farage entered parliament for the first time, and the Reform Party won four seats. Moving forward, Farage will be a prominent figure in parliament, representing the far right and advocating anti-immigrant policies. Farage’s platform includes a “zero immigrants” policy and promises to deport immigrants.

One significant outcome of these elections was the Scottish National Party (SNP), which advocates for Scottish independence and had declared these elections as a sort of referendum. The SNP lost 38 seats, reducing its representation from 46 to 8, indicating that the demands and policies for Scottish independence did not resonate with the public, including the Scots themselves. Another notable development was within the Liberal Democrat Party. Before the Conservative Party came to power alone in the 2019 elections, the Liberal Democrats were a coalition partner with the ruling party. They made a significant leap, increasing their seats from 8 to 71. Some votes dissatisfied with the Conservative Party shifted to the Liberal Democrats.

In the 650-seat House of Commons, the Labour Party increased its seats by 214 to a total of 412. In the UK, this is referred to as a “super majority,” allowing the Labour Party to implement any legislation without much difficulty. The Conservative Party, which had been in power for 14 years, faced a massive collapse, losing 251 seats and retaining only 121 seats in parliament.

A record was set for the number of female MPs, with women holding 242 of the 650 seats. Another important development was the prominence of independent candidates. A significant portion of the public and Muslim voters were dissatisfied with both major parties, leading to an increase in the number of independent candidates, many of whom were elected. Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was one of these independents.

What Lies Ahead for the UK?

The Liberal Party is expected to soften its anti-immigrant policies; while it may not fully open the doors, it will not continue the Conservative Party’s approach of sending immigrants to other countries. As a fundamentally left-leaning and social-democratic party, it will make regulations favoring workers, the working class, and small businesses. The party will aim to reduce the living costs that people most complain about and increase social assistance.

One of the Labour Party’s main focuses is education policies, with a commitment to hiring many teachers. Due to the increase in security issues, there may also be an increase in police numbers.

The new Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, initially thought Brexit should be re-voted on, but recently he seems to have accepted Brexit. Although there might not be a new vote, it is likely that the UK’s relationship with the European Union will be closer than it was under the Conservatives.

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Mahmut Akpinar
Mahmut Akpinar
Dr. Mahmut Akpinar is a political scientist focusing on international relations and Turkish politics.

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