Understanding the politics of compromise

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Birmingham

“Recent events have not helped Mrs. May. The terrorist attacks have brought the spotlight to her record as Home Secretary and the cuts in police expenditure under her stewardship. Voter perceptions are what wins elections and this has oddly seen a socialist leader with a pacifist ideology at least make a credible claim towards defending the country better.”

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This ’snap election’ was called with the hope that Mrs May would consolidate her power. Taking advantage of what was seen as an opposition in disarray with an apparently unelectable leader in Mr. Corbyn, it was meant to ensure that there was no effective opposition, giving the Prime Minister a free hand, which, it was argued would get a better Brexit deal for the British people. 

There is an apparently appealing logic to this;we have seen how divided government has led to gridlock in many countries, including the US and has constrained international negotiations. Yet, we also know that without an effective opposition, there is little to stop government overreach.

However, the path to Mrs. May’s victory march did not prove to be quite so smooth. Fuelled by voter discontent in the political class, the so-called extreme and allegedly unelectable Mr. Corbyn ran a spirited campaign. His positions may have been to the left of the median voter but as recent research shows, during a period of political pessimism, voters are more likely to be attracted to leaders who are somewhat ideologically extreme. 

While this has recently favoured right-of-centre candidates in the main, there is no reason why left of centre candidates may not benefit from this political pessimism. The recent events have not helped Mrs. May. The terrorist attacks have brought the spotlight to her record as Home Secretary and the cuts in police expenditure under her stewardship. There is some controversy on the police crime link and in particular, how it may have contributed to prevention efforts. 

Whether police budgets cuts have left the country less safe is debatable. But voter perceptions are what wins elections and this has oddly seen a socialist leader with a pacifist ideology at least make a credible claim towards defending the country better. Far from the mandate she was hoping to claim, the results indicate a fractured electorate. Whoever ends up leading the country will need to understand the politics of compromise while looking ahead to the prospect of another election in the near future.

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