The morning of Thursday 12th December saw Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party steam to victory over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, gaining a substantial majority of eighty lawmakers. Speaking in his maiden address of this parliament he promised to work ‘round the clock’ to repay his voters, calling for ‘[Brexit] healing to begin’. He hinted at many other policies in the pipeline, keen to leave Brexit to one side until the end of January, although many political commentators were quick to comment on his vague manner. The former Mayor of London’s enhanced majority means he has time to focus on the issues that matter to his voters, working with Parliament to deliver major changes; how he uses this advantage is yet to be seen.
One thorn in the side of the new government is the SNP’s desire for Indyref2, a second Scottish independence referendum. Controlling the third largest party in the House of Commons, Ms Sturgeon has a fair amount of political significance, and arguably a mandate from the Scottish people to propose the question of independence. The Tory Party policy on this issue is clear: the 2014 referendum was a ‘once in a generation’ event and the SNP are not entitled to another vote. The potential ramifications of this position include a monumental legal challenge or the Scottish Parliament legislating for a referendum itself. Constitutional experts have indicated that there is no legal shortcut to the SNP’s political puzzle, however, so the more likely course of action is the SNP using a future win in the 2021 Holyrood Elections to strongarm Westminster into giving in to her demands. Uncertainty around Scotland’s position in the union is likely to have effects similar to those from uncertainty around Brexit – stifled investment and lower confidence in the economy. Whether the current government will choose to maintain its current policy over time is yet to be seen; might it be easier for Johnson to take the Cameron approach and hope that allowing a referendum will settle the issue once and for all?
Perhaps one of the most interesting political issues of the modern age is climate change and its associated effects. Tories tried to sell themselves as a green party during the election and will look to live up to this across the next Parliament, in the hope of attracting younger voters from Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The Chancellor’s Spring Budget is forecasted to contain tax breaks for green schemes and set aside money to be funnelled into electric vehicle infrastructure, all in an attempt to meet the UK’s commitment to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This drive towards protecting the environment may bring long-term economic stability based on increased investor confidence. A drive towards sustainable and ethical investment may solidify London’s financial sector dominance if the UK can establish itself as a leader in the move towards more eco-friendly business. Quite how far this government will go is yet to be seen, it is unlikely that they will succumb to the wishes of the more radical Extinction Rebellion or adopt the policies of the Green Party, and therefore employment is likely to be a higher priority than the environment. There is optimism: a figure of two million new jobs to come in green industries suggests that although some short-term frictional unemployment may arise, a spike is very unlikely.
Linked to the need to sustain current levels of employment heading into the next few decades is the ongoing Northern Powerhouse project. George Osborne’s vision for the ‘left behind’ region of the country has now merged into a politically vital promise to the people. Johnson won the election through making huge gains in traditionally Labour-voting constituencies such as Burnley and Redcar. Therefore, he will look to make good on his promise to ‘level up’ the parts of the UK that have seen their levels of funding lag behind for many years. An increase in investment in the North could see a reduction in income inequality across the country, rising general incomes and greater total levels of investment. Through ‘prime pumping’ private investment can be expected to follow if all goes to plan, creating a more balanced economy. This, of course, is reliant on the government honouring its manifesto commitments and the Northern Powerhouse strategy being effective. The Tories have been famously sceptical about HS2 in the past, a key part of the project – opposition to this could lead to even greater disparities between the North and South in the future.
Central to the success of the policies laid out by the next government is their ability to stay committed to their past promises and the amount of political goodwill injected into each policy. Any attempt to take shortcuts on bold flagship policies could see failures on a historic scale, such as with the widely criticised Universal Credit pushed through by Iain Duncan Smith. With such a large majority, the world is Boris’ oyster. Whether his ambitious policies will end up a success or will flop is yet to be seen.
By Thomas Theo
Sector Leader: Maro Sohn