U.K. election upset complicates Brexit
British Prime Minister Theresa May was battling to hold on to power this week after her ruling Conservative Party suffered a shock collapse in the U.K. election, hobbling her leadership just days before crucial Brexit negotiations with the European Union were set to start. May called the election three years early in the hope of bolstering her small parliamentary majority ahead of the talks. But Conservatives ended up losing 13 seats and their parliamentary majority in last week’s election, following a turbulent campaign in which young voters flocked to the hard-left leader of the opposition Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn. Labor defied expectations to gain 30 seats—but the Conservatives remained the largest party in the House of Commons. They were expected to form a government with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. Facing down rumored leadership challenges from Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and other Conservatives, an embattled May told her party, “I got us into this mess, and I’ll get us out of it.”
Corbyn called on May to step down, saying she had lost her authority to negotiate a deal with the EU. “She wanted a mandate,” he said. “The mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats [and] lost confidence.”
What the columnists said
An aloof, robotic shoo-in who threw away a 20-point lead against a supposedly disastrous opponent. “Sound familiar?” asked Mary Ann Sieghart in Politico.eu. “Theresa May was the Hillary Clinton of this election.” Now the prime minister’s plan for a “hard Brexit” that pulls Britain from the European single market is in chaos. If Democrats in the U.S. take anything from May’s humiliating defeat, said John Judis in NewRepublic.com, it’s that “Millennials are moving left.” Under-35s backed Corbyn by a whopping 40-point margin. Fed up with the shortage of wellpaid jobs and affordable housing, young-people across the West are embracing the kind of anticapitalist, anti-austerity politics of Corbyn, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and other true progressives.
Corbyn bought off the young, David Cowan in TheAmerican Conservative.com. He promised them an unaffordable list of giveaways—Free college! Canceled student debt!—that would be funded by tax hikes and borrowing. The Labor leader’s rise should trouble the West, said Michael Totten in TheAtlantic.com. Corbyn isn’t some “anodyne Danish-style socialist.” He’s a Hezbollah-hugging, IRA-sympathizing fellow traveler “so far to the left that he makes Sanders look like Dick Cheney.”
Brexit, Trump, Corbyn—there’s a common thread to these upsets, said Michael Brendan Dougherty in NationalReview.com: “People want to do what they are told they cannot do.” The establishment warned them Brexit would be a disaster. They voted for it anyway. They were told to avoid Trump and Corbyn. Their approval ratings surged. Voters are bored, hopeless, and will now back anything that looks like a real choice— “and the only real choices are the ones that earn the sniffing disapproval of the establishment.” ■