Election Results: Winners and Losers
The Tories have won the General Elections 2015, held on May 7th in the United Kingdom. This outcome surprised almost every critic: these elections have been considered for months the most uncertain ever.
Instead, it turned out that the polls were wrong: a seemingly recurrent feature of modern politics, where traditional polling systems actually no longer reflect people’s feelings about their vote.
Indeed, Cameron won this election gaining 326 seats in the House of Commons, enough to receive a mandate to form a government even without counting on a partner for a coalition. It is the clearest victory in 30 years.
Labour, which was very close to the adversaries during these months, according to the polls, conquered just 232 seats, 26 less than last elections. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, resigned this morning, thanking the voters and his staff.
So did Nick Clegg, LibDem leader and important member of the coalition that governed the United Kingdom until yesterday. His party took eight seats, 47 less than last term. Last, but not least, the head of UKIP, Nigel Farage, had to resign as well, after not being elected in his electoral college; the party as a whole did not do well, too: just a seat for them.
SNP, though, surprised everyone; it was clear their importance in Scotland, but still astonishing the result: 56 seats out of 59, in Scotland, all of them taken away from Labour.
Cameron delivered a speech, today 8th of May, thanking his constituency and claiming that he is ready to form the government and to get started soon, reaffirming his electoral promises.
Among those, there is the referendum on the European Union.
Should the UK Quit the EU?
The so-called Brexit has been discussed in the public debate during his campaign and even before. Cameron, indeed, promised to hold a referendum on such a matter if he was re-elected. This referendum will probably take place in 2017.
What is at stake then? Within the UK, there has always been some scepticism towards European integration. People did not support it, and governments either. However, the benefits of the free market induced London to join such a space.
The Tories felt the threat deriving from UKIP, which tailored its identity on the total independence of the UK from Europe, and they promised this consultation to regain the favour of the most conservative constituency. Anyhow, this matter is thorny and Cameron will have to be very cautious. On the one side, the UK invests a lot in the EU (fourth contributor, after Germany, France and Italy) and it is the favourite destination of many migrants across Europe; however, on the other side it also allocates 50% of its export in the EU Single Market. In other words, the Prime Minister will have to face at same time the traditional scepticism of voters and the pressure of Brussels that will use such a leverage during the debate that leads to the referendum. At this point, the City might fear for its revenues and lobby Downing Street not to quit.
One may draw a parallel with the referendum recently held in Scotland. To answer Scottish claims for more autonomy, Cameron was smart and determined: he basically told the Scottish people that they had to choose between going or staying. This trade-off made the Scots revalue the benefits of integration against the ones related to total independence. The most favourable solution would have been to “renegotiate the membership”, but this was not possible with a referendum, when voters can only say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
However, this renegotiation is very similar to what Cameron is asking to Brussels, surely without aiming to actually leave the Single Market: the EU might play the same tactic. Another possible scenario, though, is that the rest of Europe decides to exploit this situation and move forward, with those who want to. The promise of having a referendum brought some of their traditional allies, among these Poland, to step back from supporting London. This caused the embarrassing minority vote in the European Council, when everyone voted in favour of Juncker as European Commission President, aside from Cameron and Orban, the much-discussed Hungarian Premier. Traditionally, such vote has always been taken unanimously.
Therefore, the Euro Zone, which is now the most integrated zone in the EU, might push for granting more autonomy to Cameron, in order to trigger the integration process further without his veto. At that point, the UK might find the EU project fascinating again, as it did when the sceptics were first persuaded to join the Community, when it already represented a fundamental economic space heading forward without London.