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Choice in the UK: no safe bank


Never before has an electoral outcome in the UK been so difficult to predict: voters - and legislators - are switching between the parties. At the end of the Brexit should decide this time.

United Kingdom and Gibraltar European Union membership referendum

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In mid-December, the British will elect a new parliament. Again. Researchers speak of the most unpredictable election in the UK for decades - after nearly half of the voters have already moved between the parties in the three elections between 2010 and 2017.

Scientists have identified an unprecedented volatility trend in a large-scale study, the British Election Study (BES):

  • In the 2017 election, so many voters have switched between the conservative Tories and the Labor Party, as never before.
  • More than ten percent of voters who voted for one of the two major parties in the 2015 election voted for the other in 2017.

And not only the voters switch back and forth, also among the deputies, the loyalty to their own camp is dwindling: More than a tenth of the 650 deputies have left their party since the election in 2017 and are now considered independent, for another party or, after one of these stations, again as a member of their original party in the lower house. If not even the deputies commit themselves - how should voters do it?

Electoral migration between the parties in the 2015 and 2017 elections

Actually, everything was easy. For a long time, anyone who understood the "median voter" the best could score in the center of society. In the political economy, the median voter means the "voter of the middle," to whose sides a two-party system is divided into a right-wing camp and a left-wing one. The party that manages to get this median voter on their side has the majority.

Instead of two parties, there are now - at least - four parties

The Labor Party and the Tories succeeded in the same way in the past: The two major parties alternated with this tactic, the government in Westminster. Parties focused on fringe groups and special interests had no chance.

From the once clear two-party landscape, however, has now become a four-party landscape with rugged foothills:

  • Labor and Tories are now flanked by the pro-European Liberal Democrats and the Brexit Party. Although these have significantly lower approval ratings, the two major parties are driving ahead of the Brexit issue. In addition, the major parties must keep them warm for the post-election period as possible allies in Parliament.
  • In addition there are Scottish and Welsh nationalists, in Scotland the SNP is the strongest force with around 40 percent.
  • In Northern Ireland, the pro-British DUP and the Irish Republican Sinn Fein are almost in balance.

In addition: For a long time, the two major parties had their basis in different social classes - laboratory as a workers' party, the conservatives in the affluent. Above all, they distinguished themselves according to their left-wing and conservative to neoliberal economic policies.

Two new blocks - Brexit or Stay

For the first time in the recent history of the kingdom, however, voters now consider Europe and immigration issues to be just as important as the economic policies of the parties. On the one hand, Brexit, as an overarching issue, now blends the previously distinct camps - both Labor voters wanting Brexit and EU-friendly Tories. Above all, he creates two new blocks - Brexit or Stay. The consequence:

  • The Tories can now score with their hard Brexit course in rural areas, where classic Labor voters feel abandoned and overwhelmed by globalization.
  • Meanwhile, Labor's more moderate Brexit agenda also attracts young, cosmopolitan voters who have habituated more to the Conservatives, but who reject Prime Minister Boris Johnson's course for an unregulated exit from the EU. 31 percent of voters who voted for the conservatives in 2015 but voted against Brexit in 2016 did not re-elect the party in the 2017 election.

Where previously the entire electorate decided between leftist and conservative economic policies, now each of the two blocs - Brexit and Stay - has its own middle voter.

more on the subject

All the facts about British EU exitThe Brexikon

In total, the bigger block will win, and here again, it's time to win the median voter - nothing has changed. Boris Johnson drives this strategy with the Tories. He has clearly positioned them as an exit party and is fully committed to the Brexit block. There he must now win the middle voter against more radical competitors like the Brexit party and more moderate Brexit supporters from the Labor Party.

So it seems that the median voter has not disappeared, but got a twin. Which of the two median voters will ultimately be the deciding factor, in the Brexit or Stay Block, is not yet clear - after all, it's the least secure choice in decades.

Source: spiegel

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