We have a General Election here in the UK on 8th June & I am being asked many questions at the moment about our electoral system, the parties & what might happen, especially in relation to Brexit. So I am very pleased to share with you my interview with Elaine Bagshaw, a candidate for the Liberal Democrat (Lib Dem) party in Poplar & Limehouse, a constituency in East London, who is campaigning to win a seat in Parliament in this General Election. She shares her helpful & simple overview of the British political system & the key issues from her perspective.
Why is the UK having a General Election this year?
· Theresa May, Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party, has said that she called an election to give her a stronger mandate [=authorisation] to negotiate the terms of Brexit with the European Union. The opposition parties, including the Liberal Democrats, believe that this wasn’t an issue for the EU. We feel she has taken the opportunity to call an election because the Labour party is unpopular with the public.
Who are the main parties and what do they represent?
· Liberal Democrats, led by Tim Farron, are fighting for a society where everyone is able to succeed and achieve their potential, regardless of the situation people are born into. We believe education is key to this – throughout people’s lives, not just when they’re young children. The Liberal Democrats were part of the coalition Government with the Conservative party from 2010-2015, and are represented by the colour yellow.
· Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, is traditionally the party of the left. They have established a programme which wants to focus on stopping the system being “rigged against” [= fixed in opposition to] the many and to “build a country where we invest our wealth to give everyone the best chance”. The Labour party were last part of the Government from 1997-2010, and are represented by the colour red.
· Conservatives, led by Theresa May, is traditionally the party of the right. They are focussed on representing a “strong and stable leadership” to lead the UK to a hard Brexit position. The Conservative party have formed the Government since 2015, and are represented by the colour blue.
Who can vote in the UK?
· All UK and Commonwealth citizens over the age of 18 can vote in the General Election, unless you have lived abroad for more than 15 years. EU citizens are not able to vote in the General Election, but can vote in local elections.
How does the voting system work and who wins?
· We have a first-past-the-post system, which means in each constituency [=political region], the person that gets the most votes wins. This does mean that people can win with less than 50% of all the votes.
How is the new Prime Minister chosen?
· The party that forms the Government is decided by who wins over 326 seats in Parliament. There are 650 seats that are fought in each election. The leader of the winning party becomes the Prime Minister.
What is each party’s view on Brexit?
· Liberal Democrats are anti-Brexit. We think it has already done damage to the country and will continue to make us poorer. We want the UK to stay in the European Union to protect our liberal values and our economy. We have been working to protect the rights of EU nationals already living and working here to make sure they can stay living and working here after Brexit.
Labour and the Conservatives have similar views to each other on Brexit. Whilst some people in both of these parties were involved in the campaign to “Remain in the EU”, they think that the referendum should be binding [=compulsory to honour it] and Brexit cannot be reversed. You can read more about their plans on their websites – www.labour.org.uk and www.conservatives.com
If the Conservatives lose, does this mean there won’t be a hard Brexit?
· It depends. If Liberal Democrats win, we will take this as a mandate to stop the Brexit process. We’re not clear what Brexit will look like if Labour wins.
Is there any possibility that Brexit might not happen after all?
· As Lib Dems, we’re asking for a referendum on the deal we get at the end of the two-year negotiation process. One of the options in this would be to remain in the European Union. This is the best chance of it not happening.
Elaine Bagshaw, Liberal Democrat party candidate for Poplar & Limehouse