The surprisingly good showing by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in last week’s election in the United Kingdom will likely not lead Latin American leftists to believe that a protectionist populist left-wing message is the way forward. The results in the UK speak more of the discontent at the incumbent government more than an intention by voters to embrace Corbyn’s message.
It is true that a win is a win. Even if handed power only because of a punishment vote against the ruling party, a party that attracts enough voters to form a government gets a chance to implement policies that, provided that they help put the country back on the right track, will produce electoral victories in the future.
The June 8 election was a setback for Theresa May and the Conservative Party. But it was not really a Labour victory. Theresa May will, at least for now, remain as prime minister. And even if she cannot hold onto power for much longer, a new Conservative prime minister is more likely than a Labour-led cabinet.
Of course, victories and defeats are both absolute and relative. The Conservative Party won more seats than Labour, but the opposition party increased its share of seats, going from 229 to 262 in the 650-seat House of Commons. Given that everyone expected a resounding Conservative victory just a few weeks ago, the results tasted like victory for Labour. Unsurprisingly there were more smiles in the Labour camp than among Conservative leaders on election night. Labour’s unexpectedly strong showing, only two months after Prime Minister May called a snap election, constituted a dramatic upsurge in support for their party — and a major setback for Conservatives.
Though May has been able to form a government coalition, it is fragile and there is strong pressure within the Conservative Party pushing for May’s resignation. The prime minister does not have a mandate to move forward with the Brexit negotiations with the European Union. Her position is weak and her coalition is fragile. Labour is in an expectant position, ready to try to form a government if the May-led Cabinet breaks out into infighting in the coming months between those committed to moving forward with Brexit and those who are having second thoughts.
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