The UK General Election 2017


What is it?

The UK had a General Election on Thursday 8th June 2017. This is when we elect a representative, in our constituency area, for Parliament. It is supposed to happen once every 5 years but we have had three elections in 7 years now (2010, 2015 and 2017). The Prime Minister Theresa May called the Election when she was significantly ahead in the polls from her nearest rival, the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. Theresa May called the Election purely on political grounds for her party. She expected and wanted to win an increased majority to give her a mandate in the upcoming Brexit negotiations as the UK leaves the European Union(‘EU’). She also did not have a personal mandate as she became leader of the Conservative party after David Cameron resigned following the UK Referendum on whether the UK should leave the EU. As she was now leader she automatically became Prime Minister (‘PM’) but had not been elected by the UK electorate. 

What happened?

What actually happened was that Labour gained 30 seats and the Conservatives lost 13 seats. She made the campaign about “strong and stable” leadership. As a consequence this is a huge failure for her; the gamble did not pay off. 

Minority Government 

Theresa May now has to form a government with the support of the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (‘DUP’). This is hardly strong and stable – more like a weak and wobbly coalition. We shall see how the coalition pans out and what concessions have been made to the DUP to elicit their support.

The key moment will be the vote on the Queen’s speech. If Theresa May fails to get that passed in parliament then Jeremy Corbyn will be asked by the Queen to form a minority government. It could result in another general election before the year is out so that one party can take control.

It’s not a new thing though, the Scottish National Party ran a minority government in Scotland about 10 years ago and John Major survived without a majority in the dying days of his administration in the mid-1990s. Harold Wilson and James Callaghan governed with minorities for most of the 1970s (and probably the most memorable Labour administrations that everyone remembers for all the wrong reasons).

The Democratic Unionist Party, Northern Ireland’s largest unionist party, have 10 MPs and if they vote with the Conservatives, the government will be able to get its business through Parliament. The easiest way for the government to ensure regular DUP support in Parliament would be to agree a “confidence and supply” arrangement. The DUP would promise to back the government in votes of no confidence and budget (supply) issues. In return, the government would support or fund some of the DUP’s policies. 

Facts and figures

Women 

There are now 208 women in the Commons, up from 191 in 2015. This takes female representation in the Commons to a new high of 32% of MPs. There are significant variations between parties:  Labour 45% of their MPs are women and 21% for the Conservatives. 

Lost deposits

To stand as a candidate in the General Election, you have to submit an application to your local returning officer with a £500 deposit.When a party gets less than 5% of the vote in a constituency, it loses the £500 deposit each candidate needs to put down to stand. 

The Prime Minister’s constiuency always attracts a large number of candidates due to the guaranteed publicity on election night. The media always report live the outcome of the PM’s constituency as well as the leader of the opposition (as well as numerous other key or important, newsworthy constituencies). Now the majority of those standing in the PM’s constituency only got a few votes each, meaning that they lost their deposits. They included the Green Party, UKIP, Animal Welfare Party, Lord Buckethead (yes, really), the Monster Raving Looney Party (‘Howling Laud Hope’), Christian Peoples Alliance, the Just Political Party and three brave Independents. Lord Buckethead has now developed a following on social media as a consequence of his appearance in the election.

The Lib Dems lost deposits in 375 seats(£187,500), UKIP lost 337 deposits (£168,500). The Green Party lost the most deposits with 455; That’s a whopping £227,500 down the drain.

Other facts

Jeremy Corbyn increased Labour’s share of the vote more than any other leader since Clement Attlee (who had a 10.4% swing in 1945). Nine Conservative ministers lost their seats including Ben Gummer who co-authored the Conservative manifesto. Rosie Duffield won Canterbury defeating former defence minister Sir Julian Brazier and taking the constituency Labour for the first time since its inception in 1918. The Conservatives secured 13 seats in Scotland, making it their best performance since 1983. Nick Clegg, the former Deputy Prime Minister in the coalitions government, lost his Sheffield Hallam seat to Labour. A final punishment for his reversal on tuition fees and joining the Tories in coalition. 

The electorate was 46,843,896 and the turnout was 68.7% meaning that nearly a third of the electorate did not vote. There were 3,303 candidates contesting a total of 650 seats. This is down from the 3,971 candidates who stood in the 2015 General Election which in turn was 162 lower than the all-time high of 4,133 in 2010. 

The DUP

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is the largest unionist political party in Northern Irelandand is far right on the political spectrum. It was founded by the late Rev Ian Paisley in 1971 (at the height of the troubles), breaking away from the Ulster Unionist Party (the ruling party in the country since its formation in 1922). Unionism in Ireland is a political ideology that favours the continuation of some form of political union between the islands of Ireland and Great Britain. Since the partition of Ireland, unionism in Ireland has focused on maintaining and preserving the place of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. 

The Rev Ian Paisley led the party for 38 years. The current leader is Arlene Foster. It is the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the fifth-largest party in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. 

What next?

Theresa May will be forming her cabinet and changes will be necessary as she lost some ministers in the election. Jeremy Corbyn too will be forming a shadow cabinet. Then there is the Queen’s speech and the subsequent parliamentary vote, which will be the first test of the new coalition government. Theresa May is going to have to compromise on policy and legislation and carefully select that which she really want to get through Parliament as upsetting a few back benchers will mean a defeat. Watch out for MPs hanging aimlessly around parliament late at night waiting for a vote, as every vote really does count. It has been known in the past for MPs to be wheeled in from hospital to vote on crucial matters. 

Whatever happens it will certainly be interesting. Perhaps another General Election before the end of the year, who knows!

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The Assassination of Jo Cox MP

“We suffered a tragedy not one of us could have thought would happen in our country. And we picked ourselves up and sorted ourselves out as all good British people do, and I thought, let us stand together for we are British! They were trying to destroy the fundamental freedom that is the birth-right of every British citizen, freedom, justice and democracy.” Margaret Thatcher, 20th October 1984 – speech to Finchley Conservatives after the Brighton Bombing

I am thoroughly shocked and appalled that a serving lady MP was assassinated on the streets of the U.K. – in a northern diverse town such as Birstall. That’s exactly what a terrorist attack is – to terrify people in to believing that nowhere is safe and to make people fear. To call it anything else is downgrading the atrocity of what happened. It is despicable.

Jo Cox MP was younger than me – she was 41 years old – and has been killed in her prime. I did not know her but the shock of such an assassination has reverberated with me here in Bangalore, India. It is truly a devastatingly sad day for  her family and  friends and also for her constituents that knew her. The grief being suffered must feel unbearable. Brendan Cox (her husband) is now a widower single dad with two children to raise whilst suffering unimaginable grief. My heart breaks. It is hard to imagine how he will be able to take the next breath after such an unjustified attack on a defenceless woman, his wife.

The Assassination 

On 16 June 2016, Jo Cox was assassinated by being shot and stabbed multiple times. She is the first ever sitting lady MP to be assassinated.  Jo Cox was in Birstall where she had been holding a surgery with her constituents. She died from her injuries approximately an hour after the attack. A 52-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the muder and assassination and the police are not looking for anyone else. 

Who was Jo Cox MP?

Helen Joanne “Jo” Cox (22 June 1974 – 16 June 2016) was a British UK Labour Party politician. She was the Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency of Batley and Spen from her election in May 2015 until her murder 13 months later in June 2016, having retained the seat with an increased majority for Labour in the 2015 general election. She was Chair of the National Labour Women’s Network amongst other things and was renowned for her campaigns for Syrian refugees amongst other humanitarian issues working for both Oxfam and then the anti slavery charity the Freedom Fund.

Personal Life

Jo Cox MP was a wife and mother to two small children. She lived on a houseboat on the Thames and was part of the small community there.

List of serving MPs who have been assassinated 

It is very rare for a serving MP to be assassinated. There have only ever been 8 ever. Jo Cox is the first serving lady MP to be assassinated. Serving MPs assassinated are listed below.

11 May 1812 Spencer Perceval (MP for Northampton) by John Bellingham regarding personal debt. The only British prime minister to be assassinated, shot dead in the lobby of the House of Commons.

6 May 1882 Lord Frederick Cavendish (MP for Northern West Riding of Yorkshire)  by James Carey and others (members of the Irish National Invincibles) regarding Irish republicanism. The serving Chief Secretary for Ireland; died in the Phoenix Park Murders in Dublin.

22 June 1922 Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, Bt (MP for North Down) by Reginald Dunne and Joseph O’Sullivan (members of the Irish Republican Army) regarding Irish republicanism. Killed outside his home in Eaton Square, London.

30 March 1979 Airey Neave (MP for Abingdon) by members of the Irish National Liberation Army regarding Irish republicanism. Killed in a car bombing outside the Palace of Westminster.

14 November 1981 Rev. Robert Bradford (MP for Belfast South) by members of the Provisional IRA regarding Irish republicanism. Murdered during a speech at Finaghy in Belfast.

12 October 1984 Sir Anthony Berry (MP for Enfield Southgate) by members of the Provisional IRA regarding Irish republicanism. Killed in the Brighton hotel bombing.

30 July 1990 Ian Gow (MP for Eastbourne) by members of the Provisional IRA regarding Irish republicanism. Killed by a car bomb near his home in East Sussex.

16 June 2016 Jo Cox (MP for Batley and Spen) by suspect Thomas Mair (charged with murder on 18th June 2016) regarding the EU Referendum campaign* (under investigation). Died of injuries from being shot twice at close range and being stabbed in the street after a constituents’ surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire. First serving lady MP to be assassinated.

What now?

A grieving father has to find the strength to smother his children with love, protect them from the media gaze and try to explain in the future what a wonderful wife and mother Jo Cox MP was to them. I can’t imagine any explanation sufficient for her horrific terrorist assassination. I hope in the coming days, months and years the family is surrounded by love and support from all those who know them.

There will be questions about security of MPs and no doubt all security will be reviewed. That will never stop a terrorist who is determined to murder but enhancing security will lessen their opportunities to do so. 

There will be much soul searching as people look at the media, the recent referendum campaign and the way it has been portrayed and divided a Nation. Pumping fear into people’s lives on a daily basis (from both sides of the campaign) will result in some of it starting to stick and become reality. It is no good the educated elite stating “it was only a campaign” or something similar – vulnerable people, people with mental health issues and extremists will hold onto every word and some may act upon it. There has to be change. The electorate are fed up of being lied to and not being given facts. It simply has to stop.

What is important that intolerance is removed from our society in future – we must pull together and love each other more. We must love each other for our differences as well as our similarities. It is what makes Britain great. We are a great democratic nation and we must tolerate differences of opinion  but we must not tolerate poisonous hatred and violence in any way, shape or form. That would be a disservice to the memory of Jo Cox MP. Evil should never be allowed to triumph over good. Ever.

#RIP Jo Cox MP
* Thomas Mair gave his name as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain” when he appeared in Westminster Magistrates Court on 18th June 2016

Update 23rd November 2016

Thomas Mair was jailed for a whole life term after being found guilty of the murder of Jo Cox. The motive was found to be to advance a political cause of white supremacism, associated with Nazism. The judge concluded that the offence was so exceptional that it had to be marked with a whole life sentence. Thomas Mair can only be released by the Home Secretary. He is likely to die in jail.