December 16, 2019

UK Election

“Prime Minister Boris Johnson won a resounding election victory on Friday that will allow him to end three years of political paralysis and take Britain out of the European Union by Jan. 31.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left points out that many challenges await Johnson regarding Brexit, and cautions against comparisons to US politics.

“Every year since the referendum, the average company in Ireland — which trades heavily with Britain — has seen its growth in investment reduced by 4.2 percent, and hiring is 15 percent less than it otherwise would have been because of uncertainty, [a new paper] concludes. Yet even across the Atlantic, the average American company has seen investment growth limited by 0.5 percent a year and hiring slowed by 1.7 percent… If Brexit uncertainty has been damaging, what replaces it is the near certainty of weaker economic growth and diminished living standards.”
Peter S. Goodman, New York Times

“It's important to remember that a lot of the challenges for the UK have yet to come… Johnson is hoping to secure a new trade agreement with the EU by the end of 2020, before the end of the so-called transition period -- during which the UK will be formally out of the bloc, but still subject to all its rules and regulations. That's a quick turnaround, especially if he seeks to diverge significantly from EU rules, as he has indicated…

“And the second phase of Brexit negotiations is set to be more trying than the last. For months we have watched Westminster for make or break votes, but the ratification process will turn our collective attention to parliaments all across the European Union -- every member state will get a vote and veto on the framework of the UK's future relationship.”
Eliza Mackintosh, CNN

“The voters who gave Mr. Johnson the largest Conservative majority since Margaret Thatcher share few of the free-trade or deregulatory instincts of the Brexiteers who masterminded Mr. Johnson’s campaign or filled his last cabinet. These voters want safe jobs, protection from imports and the restoration of a Britain that vanished in the contrails of the global economy. That is worlds away from the agile, economically open, lightly regulated Britain that Mr. Johnson’s Downing Street brain trust envisions — Singapore-on-Thames, to use their preferred marketing slogan. Reconciling those two models will be difficult, if not impossible, even for an ideologically flexible prime minister.”
Mark Landler, New York Times

“This election could also signal the end of the United Kingdom as a political entity. Scottish nationalists gained 13 constituencies… and now occupy 48 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats. The Scottish National Party’s leader, Nicola Sturgeon, will redouble her efforts to hold a new referendum on independence. Northern Irish nationalists, too, earned significant victories, while unionists continue to denounce Johnson’s Brexit deal, which erects a customs wall with Great Britain… Brexit was never a project of the whole country, and only England and Wales endorsed it. Its dependence on nostalgia, anti-immigrant sentiment and the language of global buccaneering and domestic control profoundly alienates other parts of the U.K.”
Jonathan Lis, Washington Post

Some, however, contend that Johnson “is quietly forging a new conservatism — appealing to the working poor and aspiring middle classes, tough on immigration and crime, but much more generous in spending on hospitals and schools and science…

“[Johnson] has done what no other conservative leader in the West has done: He has co-opted and thereby neutered the far right. The reactionary Brexit Party has all but collapsed since Boris took over. Anti-immigration fervor has calmed. The Tories have also moved back to the economic and social center… [They] now favor tax cuts for the poor, have a strong program for climate change, and have proposed an Australian-style immigration policy to defuse native panic… the Johnson strategy is one every other major democracy should examine.”
Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine

“American pundits with [only a] cursory understanding of British politics are making simplistic comparisons, suggesting that Corbyn’s landslide loss dooms Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The reality is that we don’t know if it means anything at all. What we can say is that Corbyn’s train-wreck candidacy confirms that it’s not a good idea to nominate someone who is liked by only 23 percent of voters (who knew?) and that there are electoral risks to far-left candidates. (It’s worth noting that Corbyn is much further left than Warren or Sanders.)”
Brian Klaas, Washington Post

From the Right

The right sees the vote as a rejection of Labour’s embrace of far-left policies and affirmation of Brexit, and argues that Democrats will face a similar fate in 2020 if they fail to nominate a moderate.

The right sees the vote as a rejection of Labour’s embrace of far-left policies and affirmation of Brexit, and argues that Democrats will face a similar fate in 2020 if they fail to nominate a moderate.

“For many, [this election] represented a second referendum on Brexit — a chance to say, ‘we really meant it the first time.’ For others, many of whom were not enthusiastic about Brexit in 2016, last night represented a chance to move on. One does not have to have been an ardent Leaver to have been appalled at the way in which the will of the people has been thwarted. Boris Johnson’s promise to ‘get Brexit done’ resonated… Then there was Corbyn himself. It should have come as no surprise that Corbyn was most unpopular with Britons who remember the dark days of the 1970s. Britain has tried Corbyn’s ideas before, and they resulted in disastrous inflation, economic stagnation, high unemployment, routine power-cuts, industrial strife, a reduction in national prestige, and a penchant for nationalization that led to scarcity, abysmal customer service, and a virtual end to innovation.”
The Editors, National Review

“Brexit was the main question in this election, and it will be the main question for a while during the aftermath. Once it is resolved — and with this majority, it will be — it will disappear fairly quickly. When it does, the big question for the Conservatives will be: ‘Now what?’ Hoping to avoid the fate of his predecessor, Boris Johnson ran a distinctly unconservative campaign, promising to spend lavishly on the National Health Service, to keep taxes at their present level and to increase funding across the board. Compared to Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson looks like Margaret Thatcher. But compared to Margaret Thatcher, Johnson looks like a centrist without too many big ideas. How — and if — he will keep the Labour voters who defected over Brexit remains to be seen.”
Charles C.W. Cooke, New York Post

“Naturally, there were instinctive reactions from the left to blame it on racism and xenophobia, but statistics prove otherwise. There was one particular interview on BBC, where three Labour voters from the heart of England who never voted Conservative in their entire lives talked about how surreal it was to not vote Labour… The nationalism in question here isn’t one based on race or ethnicity. Every BBC interview was showing British people of Nigerian, Indian, Hong-Kong Chinese, and even European heritage, saying why they voted Conservative… There will be swings in the future, and some of those seats will go back to Labour again, but a healthy, civic nationalism is a vote winner.”
Sumantra Maitra, The Federalist

“There are obvious lessons here for American politics. As working-class voters migrate to the Republican column, the GOP will probably have to do more to represent blue-collar concerns in its policy platform…  A radical swing to the left — especially on cultural issues — could pose a danger to Democrats in 2020. Many suburban voters are suspicious of Trump, but they are also repelled by plans to abolish private health insurance and impose radical ‘wokeness’ upon the nation as a whole… In this time of political realignment, center-right political parties can wrack up major wins by taking populist concerns seriously while also offering an inclusive message. One of the great challenges facing the center-right in the years ahead might, then, be how to balance market principles and worker priorities.”
Fred Bauer, National Review

“Left-leaning liberals such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders would be wise to pay attention. Corbyn has spent much of the past four years as the party leader pushing Labour further and further to the left, advocating for the ‘un-privatization’ of municipal energy companies and railways, among other things. Corbyn wanted nothing short of a complete economic transformation. He even referred to his own platform as ‘radical.’ And his party's unexpected albeit modest gains in the 2017 British election suggested that he might just achieve it…

“Like Corbyn, Warren, and Sanders have built their presidential campaigns on bold promises of radical change: heavy taxes on the rich, extensive government-subsidized programs, such as ‘Medicare for all,’ and a sweeping crackdown on private corporations… Labour’s big loss has given moderate Democrats, such as former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, one more reason to argue that their colleagues’ policies could backfire next year.”
Kaylee McGhee, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

Some argue against Brexit on the grounds that “Voters were misled and confused, and we have an obligation to find out whether voters changed their minds before we do something irrevocable… [but] since [2016], voters have had two chances to chuck the Tories out of office — as they presumably would have, if they were really secretly keen to undo Brexit

“While elections can’t render the popular will with perfect accuracy, they deliver something even more vital: democratic legitimacy. And whatever catastrophe you think the voters have chosen cannot be nearly as disastrous as the long-run effects of telling those voters that elections only have consequences when your side wins. This election has given Boris Johnson not only the right, and the power, but also the obligation to do as he promised voters and ‘Get on with it.’”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

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