It’s Saturday 17th June 2017 and the dust has started to settle after one of the most extraordinary General Election campaigns and polls in the UK for a generation. Certainly I can’t remember this much political interest, intrigue and shock since I engaged with politics in my teens.
I have always been interested in politics and so have followed this election, like others before, as closely as I can. This time, following events closely was somewhat hampered by the fact that I am now, of course, living in Denmark, but I was able to follow daily updates on the pressing issues from the UK papers online and the BBC’s international site.
Anyone who has read the blog before may recall my thoughts on ‘Brexit’ or the UK leaving the European Union. In that post, I stated that I had voted to remain in the EU but would not go in to details as to why. In this post, similarly, I will try to remain politically neutral by not divulging my voting choice or reasons behind it.
Voting Abroad in a General Election
Let’s begin with the basics; as a British citizen, I have some rights to voting even after having left the UK. On balance, I should say that I have no say in any ballot held here in Denmark.
The government website’s information for voting abroad states:
You can register as an overseas voter for up to 15 years after leaving the UK, as long as: you’re a British citizen. you were registered to vote in the UK within the previous 15 years (or, in some cases, if you were too young to have registered when you left the UK)
So, as a British citizen, I can continue to vote and there are two ways to do this, one is by postal vote (which is what I did); the ballot paper is sent to you, you mark your cross and send it back. The other option is to vote by proxy, i.e. send someone trustworthy to vote on your behalf.
Interestingly, when you move abroad, you continue to vote for the candidates in the constiuency you were last registered to vote in. My vote, for example, was for the Telford seat as that is where we were living prior to relocation.
The Result and Me
Throughout the general election campaigns, and in the polling prior to the election being called, the Conservative Party (often called Tories) were far ahead in both their overall rating and their leader’s (Teresa May) approval rating compared to Labour and Jeremy Corbyn.
The general election result, however, told a different tale – the exit poll, released as the polls closed at 10pm, revealed that there was a closer race and that the Conservatives, whilst gaining the most parliamentary seats, would not win a majority outright and certainly would not achieve the landslide that they may have expected at the outset of the election.
The results, broadly, were as the exit poll suggested – Labour gained seats, the
Conservatives lost seats (and their majority). The Liberal Democrats gained seats whilst the SNP lost a good number of seats across Scotland. The result, overall, was that no party had a majority and therefore we have a hung parliament.
What does this mean for me?
Well, in the grand scheme of things, not a lot. The Conservatives have seemingly reached a deal with the 10 DUP MPs that were returned from Northern Ireland (The DUP, or Democratic Unionist Party, are a right-leaning party in Northern Ireland). The deal is reportedly a supply and demand deal meaning that the DUP will support the Conservatives in key areas.
The Queen’s Speech, or State Opening of Parliament, where the Queen lays out what her government will expect to achieve over the term of the parliament has been delayed. This is, I believe, mainly to do with the fact that this deal has yet to be finalised. The start of the Brexit talks may also be delayed.
For me, the main concern is of course Brexit. There has been much talk since the
referendum took place about ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ Brexit. Essentially this boils down to how the UK breaks away and how we form the relationship with the EU as an outsider going forward. In a nutshell, a ‘soft brexit’ would mean retaining links such as the customs union and possibly even free-movement whereas a ‘hard brexit’ would be a total withdrawal of all deals/relationship, including the threat from the previous government prior to the General Election that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.
For me, as a Brit living within Europe, it is clear that the ‘soft brexit’ is, for me, a preferable option, if only because of the rights to free movement. If the government pursues a hard brexit, there will have to be negotiations as to the rights of those Europeans living in Britain currently and also the rights to Brits living within Europe. There is, of course, no guarantee how these would turn out and so we continue to live in somewhat of an unknown.
There is a consensus among political pundits now, however, that due to the deal with the DUP and the Tory party’s bad performance in the general election, that the brexit strategy may well have to change…
I should state here that whilst I voted to remain, as I have said before, I do believe that the result of the referendum should be honoured as the democratic outcome so reversing this and staying in the EU is both incredibly unlikely and, in my view, not the right thing to do in terms of the democratic will of the people.
We wait to see how the relationship between the UK and the EU will pan out… We will also wait to see how the ongoing relationship between the Tories and the DUP pans out and how long Teresa May will last as the leader of her party and as Prime Minister.
As a final note; interestingly UKIP, or the UK Independence Party, returned no MPs at this election. It would seem that after having secured the referendum for leaving the EU, their influence has faded.