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Labour heartlands lend their vote to Boris Johnson in order to ‘Get Brexit Done’

The Conservatives pick up Brexit-voting seats in a devastating night for Labour

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Image Credit: BBC

Thursday’s general election saw a decisive win for the Conservative Party who managed to secure 365 seats, compared to Labour’s 202. With such a clear victory for Boris Johnson, it is now almost certain that Brexit will be set to get ahead by the end of January 2020.

Despite Labour increasing their majorities in some seats which won for the first time in 2017 such as Portsmouth South and Canterbury, major losses in traditional Labour voting areas such as the north east and north Wales led to a devastating night for the Labour Party.

The Conservatives picked up multiple Brexit-voting seats, including Tony Blair’s former consistency of Sedgefield in Country Durham which had been Labour since 1931. In Bolsover, former coal miner Dennis Skinner who had been an MP since 1970 also lost his seat. The shock results now paint a picture of a ‘blue wall’ of Conservative seats, instead of the sea of traditionally red seats which have existed for decades.

However, the Conservatives now have a real challenge in order to appeal to both their traditional wealthy voters in rural areas, as well as their new supporters in poorer, more post-industrialised areas. It is clear that Boris Johnson will have to deliver more than just Brexit in order to hold on to these new voters.

Labour struggled to balance the demands of remain voters in London and the south east with their more traditional Brexit-leaning voters in Wales and the north-east of England. While Boris Johnson may be jubilant about his gains in traditional Labour territory, it is seen by many voters who backed his party for the first time that their support in future elections is not guaranteed.

Critics suggest the Labour leadership and confused Brexit policy as the main reasons for their defeat. While Labour policies on railway nationalisation and around NHS investment have consistently polled well amongst the British public, the sheer volume of promises did not have the same cut through as the Conservative’s who although arguably light on detail, were able to concentrate on key pledges regarding delivering Brexit and increasing funding in the NHS.

Despite very limited detail, Johnson’s message of ‘Get Brexit Done’ clearly cut through to voters who wanted to avoid a second referendum across leave-voting towns across Greater Manchester and Country Durham.

While also standing on a clear leave platform after their success in the 2019 European Elections, Nigel Farage's Brexit Party failed to capitalise on leave voters and did not win any seats. Instead, the clear bulk of support went towards the Conservatives.

Labour’s only gain of the night was remain-voting Putney in south west London. This result took place against a backdrop of Conservative candidates reluctant to talk about support for Boris Johnson’s deal, which Labour was able to capitalise on.

Although much talked about, the success of tactical voting seems to have been very limited across the country. Multiple seats in remain areas were split between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, allowing the Tory candidate to win on very small margins. This was especially true in Kensington and in Wimbledon where the Conservative candidates won by just a few hundred votes, in the face of a divided remain vote.

The Liberal Democrats’ commitment to stopping Brexit also did not cut through to voters – with many citing their position of revoking Article 50 as extreme. In a surprise defeat, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson even lost her East Dunbartonshire seat to the SNP. Nationally, the pro-remain party was only able to pick up 11 seats – one less than in the 2017 general election.

Across the UK, it was a good night for the Scottish National Party who won 47 out of a possible 59 MPs. Within hours, leader Nicola Sturgeon was calling for Boris Johnson to allow another Scottish independence referendum, citing the overwhelming wishes of Scottish people wanting to remain in the European Union. Northern Ireland saw a good night for pro-European parties, with Alliance, the SDLP and Sinn Fein all benefitting from the collapse of the DUP.

An electoral pact between the nationalist parties – who favour Irish reunification – has resulted in more MPs from nationalist parties, rather than unionist ones being elected for the first time ever in Northern Ireland. The DUP’s Westminster Leader Nigel Dodds lost his North Belfast seat to Sinn Fein, in a city which voted strongly to remain.

With such a decisive victory for the Conservatives, supporters of Boris Johnson now say he has a clear mandate to take the whole of the UK out of the European Union. However, this will happen with much opposition from regional parties in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Although it now seems unlikely that there will be a further referendum on EU membership, it would be wrong to rule out the possibility of potential independence referenda in Scotland, and even in Northern Ireland.

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