Thursday’s UK general election delivered a shocking result of a hung parliament. Six weeks ago, when Prime Minister Theresa May called for the snap election, this result was incredibly unlikely, but the British electorate once again confounded the expectations of pollsters and experts and now here we are.
For our American readers unfamiliar with how parliamentary governments work, here’s a quick rundown. A hung parliament is when no party has an outright majority of the seats (third-parties play more of a role in parliamentary governments so this happens more than in the American system). In order to “form a government,” you need an outright majority, so without that, a party would need to find a partner to form a “coalition government” and govern together.
A snap election is when the party in power calls for an election ahead of the usual election schedule. This can be a powerful tool for the party in power since they can pick an advantageous time to hold an election. Theresa May thought she had that advantage for her Conservative Party because the main opposition party, the Labour Party, was seemingly in disarray. That ended up not happening.
Here’s the thing, this was very much an election about Brexit. And the British people seemingly delivered a repudiation of Brexit and the party most associated with its handling, the Conservative Party.
So now what? May has said that she plans on sticking as PM and will attempt to form a government. It seems she may have found a willing coalition in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), a Northern Ireland based party whose main issue is keeping Northern Ireland a part of the UK. However, their stated position on Brexit is, while in favor, they’d like a “soft Brexit.” What does “soft Brexit” mean? Nobody really knows. If you do, let us know on Twitter, we’d love to break that story.
That seems likely to happen, and May will remain at 10 Downing Street. But if it doesn’t, it’s kind of like Family Feud in that if May cannot form a government, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will get a shot to “steal” and attempt to form a government, with Labour and a willing coalition partner, perhaps the Liberal Democrats (LibDems) or the Scottish National Party (SNP), both of whom lost seats in this past election, but are both larger and more influential than the DUP.
When it comes to Brexit, anti-Brexit voters shouldn’t get their hopes up too much. A Conservative-led government is still likely to prevail and Brexit is likely to go on under May. Even in a Labour-led government, it’s uncertain whether Corbyn would or could reverse Brexit. However, we may yet see a slowdown or a changing of the terms of Brexit, towards the UK attempting to be more conciliatory to the EU and the single market. That also depends on EU negotiators and what they’re thinking. Either way, the outcome of this election weakens May’s Brexit mandate and the UK’s position with EU negotiations.
Now here’s the part you probably care about: how does this affect the music industry? In the short term, it’s not looking good. Once again, a consequential election in the UK has delivered an unexpected result and has destabilized markets again. The fall of the pound and the short-term economic downturn is not good for the health of music venues. As the uncertainty clears up though and the new reality becomes clearer, it could be a good thing. I outlined previously the effects that Brexit would have on the music industry. They were not generally positive effects. Whatever a “soft Brexit” means, it could mitigate some of the negative consequences of Brexit for the music industry. So long term we could see some benefits!
But I do think the UK should lay off the elections for a bit. A giant election every single year for the past four years seems excessive. Even US politics aren’t that crazy. Right? Right…?
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