Imagine if 2020 was a choice between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, with neither of them fully tested on how firmly they would hold to their policy statements. This is what the UK is seeing in their election today.
Widely viewed as a referendum on Brexit, the options offered to them are Boris Johnson, who has in his short time as Prime Minister demonstrated himself to be untrustworthy, contemptuous of the law, and authoritarian; and Jeremy Corbyn, who in his time as leader of Labour has been accused of covering up anti-Semitism, has called for socialist “reform” including mandatory four-day workweeks, widespread nationalization of industry and heightened taxation, and also has embraced authoritarian tactics.
The options to these two have been broadly shunted aside, even as many of their pledged voters admit they actively dislike and distrust their chosen candidate. The other party candidates, while strongly preferred, are seen as having little to no chance to win. People are afraid that small parties will bargain with whoever the eventual winner is, so they want to ensure that their chosen side wins. It’s “binary choice”, UK style.
Of the two biggest British “alternate” parties, Brexit, the alternative to the Tories/Conservatives (Boris Johnson’s party) has fared worse. In most polling, they now command less than 10% of the vote after peaking at around 25% over the summer. The Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, have dropped only about 5% from their peak at just over 20% of the polled vote.
Either Johnson or Corbyn will become Prime Minister, and because Johnson recently purged his party of all who would not follow his lead on Brexit, if he gains enough support (through a combination of his party and smaller groups) there will be no Tory pro-EU wing to stop Brexit from being pushed through. A fairly quick Brexit, complete with a bad border deal for Ireland, is virtually assured.
If Corbyn wins, there will likely be a second referendum on Brexit. As Brexit won by a slim margin prior to the revelation of Russian interference and as facts have become known about the projected costs of the effort, it is exceedingly unlikely that Brexit will pass a new vote. That said, a very large minority of the country – estimated to still be over 40% – would correctly feel disenfranchised, having voted for something momentous only to have their opposition employ multiple delaying tactics until their legal vote could be reversed.
Businesses are caught between two unpleasant options – the expected economic destruction which will be wrought by Brexit and the expected economic destruction which will be wrought by Corbyn’s policies. Generally, business groups in Britain are gambling that they will be able to influence, if not Corbyn, enough of his secretaries to keep Corbyn from enacting his socialist plans. For this reason, they have been pushing back against Johnson in recent weeks, urging for Labour votes.
Johnson, for his part, has attempted to put some distance between himself and U.S. President Donald Trump, a man who is disliked throughout most of the UK. His request, leaked to the public, for no coordinated events during the NATO summit and the video clip of him participating in mockery of Trump have kept his poll numbers from tanking in recent days, although his seemingly uncaring response over the weekend to a boy sleeping on a pile of coats instead of a bed in a poorly funded UK hospital have hurt.
One way or another, the results of the election – and the likely final fate of Brexit and possible socialization of the UK government – will be known as early as the end of tomorrow.