The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Labour wins...Kensington?

A few minutes ago, the Central London constituency of Kensington was declared for Labour candidate Emma Dent Coad, who defeated incumbent MP Lady Victoria Borwick by 20 votes.

Imagine Bernie Sanders winning Kenilworth, Ill., or Beverly Hills, Calif., and you have a good idea how weird this is. Citylab explains:

[T]he richest cluster of neighborhoods in Europe has just for the first time in its history voted in an MP from the center-left Labour Party.

It may be understandably hard for an American reader to understand how seismic this shift is. The U.K.’s Labour Party, which first rose to prominence as an explicitly socialist party in the 1920s, has never had much of a foothold with the old guard that Kensington is associated with. It’s historically been to the left of U.S. Democrats, a position it has returned to under current leader Jeremy Corbyn, who's stood on a platform of nationalizing railways and postal services and abolishing university fees. This isn’t like citizens of the Upper East Side or Bel Air cheerleading for Hillary. It’s like raising the red flag over Downton Abbey.

That’s because, despite its wealth, Kensington is one of the most drastically unequal areas in all of Britain.

The residents behind the doors of Kensington’s rows of lavish Victorians may not have voted Conservative because they are not eligible to vote in Britain or are too disconnected from British politics by wealth and habit to care overly about who represents a place they merely breeze through. That means that Kensington’s electoral decisions are increasingly being made by those who remain in the district full-time, who might as well be living on a completely different planet.

In the area’s northern reaches, it’s a different story. A place where pretty Victorian streets give way densely populated public housing (including Brutalist icon the Trellick Tower) this area doesn’t look at all bad, and is even somewhat chi-chi in patches. Much of it is still populated by an ethnically diverse range of residents who, in austerity-hit Britain, are having a very tough time indeed. Their homes may be located within 15 minutes walk of some of the world’s wealthiest citizens, but poorer residents’ access to good jobs and (beyond public housing tenancies guarded like Fabergé eggs) affordable housing is limited and getting worse.

The political storm that flipped Kensington is happening on a wider scale across the U.K.

Last night was such an embarrassment for Teresa May it's just hard to wrap my head around it. She's made a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party to form a coalition, so she'll hang on to her job. But the DUP's 10 seats plus the Tories' 318 give her a two-vote majority in the 650-seat House of Commons—not exactly a mandate. So when's the next election? On an over-under, I'd bet on before the end of 2018.

Mrs May's own goal

Well. What a difference a few weeks can make. Last night, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who called a snap election in April to shore up her majority in Parliament, discovered that she no longer had a majority in Parliament:

 

We are heading for a hung parliament. The UK’s first-past-the-post electoral system means hung parliaments rarely happen in Britain, but it was the case following the 1974 election and most recently in 2010.

In the case of a hung parliament, the leader of the party with the most seats is given the opportunity to try to form a government. This can take two forms: one option is a formal coalition with other parties, in which the coalition partners share ministerial jobs and push through a shared agenda.

The other possibility is a more informal arrangement, known as “confidence and supply”, in which the smaller parties agree to support the main legislation, such as a budget and Queen’s speech put forward by the largest party but do formally take part in government.

May or her successor as Conservative leader will have the chance to try to form a government. She could attempt to scramble together a formal coalition of other parties, possibly including the DUP, that would take her over the threshold needed to obtain a House of Commons majority. Alternatively she may try to lead a minority government if she can convince other parties to back her in a vote of confidence.

If the Tories fail to form an alliance, Jeremy Corbyn could attempt to strike a deal with the SNP, the Lib Dems, the nationalist parties from Northern Ireland and the Greens. But this is an unlikely scenario.

Other reactions to the UK's election surprise:

And one other item of interest, especially as I'm visiting the Ancestral Homeland in August: Sterling dropped 2% against the dollar overnight, and is now, at $1.27 to the pound, near it's 10-year low of $1.20.

Canada shifts left

Last night, Canada tossed out its anti-climate, pro-business-owner Conservative party and elected the Liberals in a landslide. The Liberal party won an outright majority of 184 seats to the Conservatives' 99 (out of 338). Stephen Harper is stepping down, which Canada's system requires in order for Justin Trudeau to be elected Prime Minister by the next Parliament, which should resume November 9th.

The left-leaning Toronto Star is overjoyed:

Cheers broke out across the land as Canadian voters chased Stephen Harper’s arrogant Conservatives from office on Monday night, in a richly deserved rebuke after years of corrosive misgovernance.

Thus ends a dismal, divisive era in our political history.

Trudeau’s compelling vision of a Canada that is “open and confident and hopeful” caught the spirit of voters who believe this country can be more generous, more ambitious and more successful. Millions were repelled by Conservative efforts to scare people into voting for the status quo. And Trudeau’s call to “come together as a country” proved to be a stronger motivator than the Tories’ divisive tactics.

The largest newspaper chain in Canada, Postmedia, naturally endorsed Harper, and has had little to say about the election results. Most papers in the chain have published a glowing review of his administration that leaves out the bits about Rob Ford and climate-change denialism. (Harper is, after all, from Calgary.)

Of note, too, is the New Republic's view from before the election that U.S. Republicans should take note of their Canadian counterparts' mishandling of immigration:

[T]he Harper government has endangered its success in minority outreach by openly running a xenophobic campaign, making a special effort to stir up anxiety about Muslim immigrants. Along with the separatist Bloc Quebecois, the CPC has made an issue of the niqab, the face-covering clothing worn by some Muslim women. Going against court rulings on religious freedom, Harper has insisted that women take off the niqab during citizenship oaths. His party has also floated the idea that the niqab not be allowed in the civil service. On the issue of Syrian refugees, Harper has played up fears that some might be terrorists and used his powers as PM to admit Christian refugees while blocking Muslim ones. Finally, Harper promised to create a “barbaric cultural practices hotline” where Canadians could inform on neighbors adhering to supposedly uncivilized cultural traditions.

In truth, both Harper and Ford show the limits of conservative outreach to immigrant groups and people of color. While it’s true that the two politicians have been more successful in minority outreach than the Republican Party has been, this outreach has been built on fostering other lines of social division, whether against Muslim-Canadians or LGBT communities. Getting some immigrants and non-whites to vote for you by choosing a new scapegoat hardly seems like a promising basis for politics.

The longer term danger for the CPC is that the Canadian-born children of immigrants tend to be much less socially conservative, which means the basis for the outreach could have a one-generation shelf-life. In fact, the success of this Islamophobia-plus-homophobia strategy might even expire on Monday....

Yes, it might.

Congratulations to the Liberal Party, and to Justin Trudeau.