Francesca Gains, Professor of Public Policy and Head of Politics at The University of Manchester gives her view on why the UK has a hung parliament and how this signals a return to two party politics.
The 2017 general election has astonished all, possibly even the courageous pollsters (Survation) who called it correctly yesterday.
The two main parties both increased their vote share and together captured 82.4% of the votes cast. The election result is being billed as a return to two party politics. But the changes in voting patterns which occurred in this election reflect several very diverse factors.
How can we sum up what has happened over the last two years (and especially the last two months) to have led to a hung Parliament, a deeply wounded Prime Minister and a rejuvenated opposition?
Two months ago, in a UK deeply divided by the decade’s long impact of neo liberalism topped with post 2008 austerity measures, and Brexit; and a Scotland also divided over Scottish independence, a Prime Minister with high approval ratings called a snap election.
The UK electorate don’t like snap elections. The Conservative campaign faltered and was almost kamikaze like in introducing proposals on social care which affected its key core support – older voters and especially women. And the Labour opposition (also divided initially) grew in strength and solidarity. With a leader who campaigned well and with deliberate intent to raise turnout especially among the young, with well targeted (but unfunded) promises on abolishing fees for students.
Yesterday voting patterns moved in various decisive and unexpected ways
Turnout was up all round and especially, magnificently, among young voters who always report as more likely to vote Labour (but previously hadn’t in sufficient numbers). Loss of confidence in the competence of the Prime Minister and the strong unapologetic message on redistributive policies from Labour meant voters who had signalled their discontent in 2015 by voting UKIP split between Labour and Conservative allowing Labour to retain vulnerable seats. And in Scotland the SNP gave away seats as voters signalled weariness with the independence agenda.
We political scientists will dust off our notes from 2015 on how hung Parliaments are constructed and in the long term the British Election Study will carry on its work to uncover the trends and explanations to make the astonishing explicable.
For more information on the British Election Study which is managed by a consortium of The University of Manchester, The University of Oxford and The University of Nottingham click here .