UK Politics: Tories Risk Losing Public Confidence

The UK Conservative Party, which has an overall majority in the House of Commons at the moment, has recently lost the long-held seat of Chesham and Amersham to the Liberal Democrats in the by-election. This defeat to a non-majority party has been a wake-up call for the Tories, indicating changes taking place in the UK’s political landscape, and perhaps a long view of more losses to come in the next by-elections, or local and general elections.


The First UK Political Movements Emerged in the 17th Century

The history of political parties in the United Kingdom dates back to the 17th century. In January 1679, Charles II dissolved the Cavalier Parliament and summoned another parliament in May 1679. In the last year of the Cavalier Parliament, which had been in charge since 1661, a group of members known as the Country Party expressed their opposition to the Court’s influence, such as attempts to secure votes in Parliament through bribery.

The opponents of the Court’s corruption firmly opposed the Church’s persecution of Protestant Nonconformists. This group became known as the Whigs, and won three overwhelming victories in the three Exclusion Parliaments from 1679 to 1681. The Whigs were against absolute monarchy and supported a constitutional monarchy. In the meantime, a Tory ideology had developed against them by 1681, which supported both the Church and the Monarchy. The House of Commons introduced a bill in 1680 to ban the Duke of York from succeeding to the throne, but it was rejected by the Lords. In 1681, Parliament was dissolved just one week before a vote on the Bill.


Whigs and Tories, the 300-Year-Old Heirs of British Politics

Charles II did not call another Parliament and held a campaign against the Whigs in the years after 1681. Two members of the Whigs were executed, several went into exile, and many were removed from local government. This was a Tory reaction that could successfully ensure James II a smooth succession after Charles II died in February 1685. The Whigs and Tories were considered the primary political parties in the UK from 1679 to 1685.

The two underwent changes over time and the names Tory and Labour were later chosen for each one. The Tories and the Labour Party have always tried hard to dominate Parliament. The Liberal Democratic Party is a political party which emerged in politics in the 1970s, as a group which descended from the old Whigs. Also, the Scottish National Party (SNP) was founded in the 1930s.

The Green Party is another one originally founded in 1972 and called the People Party. It was renamed the Green Party in 1985. UKIP (UK Independence Party) was established in 1993 with the aim of staging a UK withdrawal from the European Union.


Conservative Party’s Defeat to the Liberal Democrats – a Sign of Political Change

The current ruling Conservative Party won 365 seats out of the 650 total seats at the Commons in the 2019 election. But the current loss of the Chesham and Amersham seat is a sign of the political realignment in the UK. The Conservative Party has been losing its support among many of the Brexit’s Remain voters in areas that were traditionally its stronghold in parts of London and the Southeast. This decline in votes for the Conservative Party has become more obvious since the last general election in 2019. In the 2019 election, many Conservative Party voters who had voted to Remain, voted for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party, because they could not tolerate Jeremy Corbyn (Labour Party leader at the time) as prime minister, and they wanted the UK government to finish Brexit, even though they had pro-EU feelings. Just as the Conservative Party has been in a sort of decline in some areas, the other main UK political party, Labour, has been losing the Brexit Leave votes for its core seats.


Polarised Politics Puts the Majority of Voters off the Main Parties

After a divisive referendum in 2016, the UK’s political landscape has been reshaped and people have switched political loyalties. Recently, the Conservative Party lost its Chesham seat and the same thing may also happen to its other seats. According to its lawmakers, the Conservative Party has been very much unaware of the probable losses of its strongholds in the south. The humiliating defeat in Chesham and Amersham during the by-election is also a reminder of tensions in the Conservative Party after Brexit. Since the Brexit referendum in 2016, the Conservative Party’s support began a downward trend in the southern and eastern regions, and the Liberal Democrats won some of the conservative Party’s votes in local elections in these regions. The decline of the two main UK parties, the Conservatives and Labour, began some years ago due to dissatisfaction over the government’s handling of Brexit. In fact, polarised politics in Britain have put the majority of voters off the two main parties.



The Conservative Party Ignorant of Probable Seat Losses in the South

An exclusive poll by the Independent had already shown that a majority of British people felt politically displaced and expressed a growing dissatisfaction with the established parties. The exclusive study by the Independent found that 53% of the public did not think the Conservative or Labour parties represented them. In the same year that the country was preparing for a general election, some members of the Conservative Party, and also the Labour Party, left them to establish breakaway parties to remain in the EU.

The Conservative Party, as well as the Labour Party, performed poorly in the 2019 European Parliament election, whereas the Brexit Party and Liberal Democrats gained the other two parties’ votes. The Brexit Party humiliated the Conservatives in both the rural heartlands and several cities, including Hillingdon, the home of the Conservative Leader Boris Johnson’s seat. Also, Liberal Democrats in the same European election took over the Conservative Party’s seat, the constituency of Theresa May, prime minister of the time. Some officials of the Conservative Party called the result an existential threat, and it has been repeated in the recent by-election in Chesham and Amersham.


The two main political parties that dominate UK politics at almost all levels have been encountering challenges from minor political parties, and also independent politicians. Small parties join at the ground level to fill a gap in politics which has been occurring since the major political parties have been failing to meet people’s demands, and consequently failing to represent the variety of opinions at local, regional, and certainly national levels. However, this alteration in politics has been a long-term feature of the political landscape at local, national, and transnational levels. After a divisive referendum in 2016, UK politics has been changing more visibly and the people have switched their political loyalties for the major parties. In a recent by-election, a Liberal Democrat candidate overtook a Conservative rival and won his seat.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the result disappointing, but the Lib Dems leader has said they can “topple the Conservatives’ blue wall in the South of England”. It comes after years of decline for the Conservative Party, which was already humiliated by smaller parties, losing some of its strongholds in certain regions, a challenge which may most probably be repeated in the future.

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