The return of the Tories

In a surprise election outcome, the Conservative Party led by >David Cameron has been elected to govern the United Kingdom for the next five years, and this time on its own majority. The results of the fiercely fought May 7 elections belied pre-poll predictions of a tie between the Labour and Conservative parties and a hung Parliament in which the support of smaller parties would be key to crafting a coalition arrangement. The final outcome — predicted accurately only by the single exit poll published at 10 p.m. after polling ended — has the Conservatives comfortably past the midway 326-mark in the 650-seat House of Commons. The Labour Party, whose leader Ed Miliband ran a bold and earnest campaign that focussed on a new and fairer deal for the working people, has come a far second. The party’s traditional stronghold of Scotland has been lost to the Scottish National Party (SNP), which has swept up all but three of the 59 Scottish parliamentary seats. The Labour Party has also lost out to the Conservatives in England and Wales. The Liberal Democratic Party — perceived as untrustworthy for having reneged on its electoral promises while in coalition — was decimated, its numbers down from 57 in the last Parliament to just eight, and with several of its prominent leaders, including Vincent Cable, the Secretary of State for Business who had a prominent role in promoting trade with India, defeated. The right-wing anti-immigration, Eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party has got only one seat; its leader, Nigel Farage, failed to win one.

The Conservative Party takes credit for steering the country into economic recovery and creating two million new jobs. Its five-year mandate comes at a time when a million Britons depend on food banks for their survival, and where the numbers of people in poverty, according to a report from the New Policy Institute, have increased in the last two years by 800,000, from 13.2 million to 14 million. The numbers in “deep poverty” have increased from 8.9 million to 9.6 million, the same report states. The Conservative manifesto commits the party to welfare budget cuts of £12 billion to reduce the deficit. This comes over and above austerity measures that have already been undertaken. With Britain’s National Health Service in a financial and staffing crisis, higher education costs skyrocketing, a serious housing shortage on the cards, and utility costs soaring , the new government would appear to have its tasks cut out. Addressing these issues through the austerity route will rapidly abort Mr. Cameron’s promise of building “an even greater Britain”. Moreover, the uncertainty created by the in-out EU referendum pledged before 2017 by the Conservatives is likely to present a challenge for its international relations, even beyond EU.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 6:44:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/uk-elections-the-return-of-the-tories/article7185608.ece

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