To Brexit or not to Brexit, that is the question in UK poll
Former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair asking voters to vote against their own party candidates is one of several incongruities thrown up by the election that will determine the shape and form of Brexit by the deadline of January 31, if at all it happens.Updated: Dec 10, 2019 17:21 IST
The United Kingdom goes to the polls for the third time in four years on Thursday in a febrile atmosphere marked by allegations of lies, blurred party loyalties and deep anxieties about the future spawned by the 2016 vote to leave the European Union.
Former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair asking voters to vote against their own party candidates is one of several incongruities thrown up by the election that will determine the shape and form of Brexit by the deadline of January 31, if at all it happens.
The basic fault-line between the two main contenders, Conservative and Labour, is this: the former wants a majority to be able to deliver Brexit by the deadline on the basis of an agreement reached, while the latter wants to re-negotiate it and hold another referendum.
Thursday’s poll marked by concerted efforts at tactical voting will test the charisma-driven popularity of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the ideological appeal of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn; an unlikely duo at the top of a country deeply divided over Brexit.
While Johnson has harped on Brexit during the campaign, Corbyn has exerted to widen the challenge beyond Brexit, to the future of the National Health Service, poverty and inequality, education and nationalising essential services such as railways.
Corbyn has effectively put Johnson and the Conservative party on the defensive by claiming, with some evidence, that another Conservative government will allow American private companies into the state-run NHS, insisting that ‘Our NHS is not for sale’.
Johnson, on the other hand, has put Corbyn on the back-foot by repeatedly cornering him for not declaring whether he would vote to remain in the EU or not in a future referendum. Keen to retain the support of both camps, Corbyn has indulged in what is called ‘creative ambiguity’.
Fact-checkers have never been so busy in British elections, with each and every public engagement of leading lights scrutinised amid swirling allegations of lies and a public weary of unending debate about Brexit and paralysis in parliament to pass legislation.
Says Blair: “The truth is: the public aren’t convinced either main Party deserve to win this Election outright. They’re peddling two sets of fantasies; and both, as majority Governments, pose a risk it would be unwise for the country to take.”
Refusing to unequivocally back his party candidates, Major adds: “I am a Conservative, but there have always been policies of other parties with which I agreed…Tribal loyalty has its place…But sometimes you need to vote with your head as well as your heart. To vote for your country and your future. This is such a time”.
An India angle has marked the election as never before, with Labour bearing the brunt of anger in sections of the community for its stand on Kashmir and not nominating an Indian-origin candidate in its stronghold of Leicester East, held for 32 years by Keith Vaz, who stepped down.
Labour continues to enjoy much support in the 1.5-million strong community but has been haemorrhaging support in recent elections from young, aspirational third generation members, who have increasingly moved to the Conservative party.