Labour Leader Ed Miliband Steps Down After Crushing UK Election Defeat, & 2 Other Party Leaders Do Likewise
After a crushing defeat in the UK general election, Labour Party leader Ed Miliband stepped down from his leadership role on Friday, BBC reports. Prime Minister David Cameron won a resounding victory in Thursday’s election, to take up a second five-years stint in office at the helm of the Conservative party. After the sensational Conservative turnout, Miliband admitted that Labour’s dismal showing had taken him by surprise. His notice of resignation was joined by that of fellow disappointed leaders, Nigel Farage of Ukip (UK Independence Party) and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats.
On Friday morning, out of 650 parliamentary seats declared, the Conservatives had taken 325 of them — surpassing the 323 Members of Parliament required for a party to form a majority government, according to The Guardian. Labour had only claimed 229 seats, while the separatist Scottish National Party (SNP) had, somewhat shockingly, 56 seats. The Liberal Democrats held only eight. As Cameron headed to Buckingham Palace to notify Queen Elizabeth that he would, once again, be PM — without even needing to negotiate a coalition — his defeated opponents threw in the metaphorical towel.
In a speech from London, where he was applauded by staff, Miliband said it was “time for someone else” to take over Labour’s leadership. He said deputy leader Harriet Harman would act as interim leader of the opposition party. Given his party’s defeat, Miliband’s resignation as leader was, to a certain extent, expected. In a statement on Twitter, Miliband claimed full responsibility for the party’s terrible turnout. “I am grateful to the people who worked on our campaign and for the campaign they ran,” he wrote. “The responsibility for the result is mine alone.”
Unfortunately, that may have a ring of truth to it. Having emerged as Labour leader in 2010, Miliband was a relatively fresh face in UK politics — a fact that unfortunately didn’t seem to work to his advantage. Polling in 2014 suggested that even some Labour voters though Miliband lacked authority and likability. Even former Labour leader Tony Blair was remarkably lukewarm in his praise of the young leader.
A follow-up Tweet from Miliband Friday attempted a slightly less dire tone: “Defeats are hard, but we’re a party that will never stop fighting for the working people of this country.” Labour’s current forecast, of eventually claiming 234 seats, is a step down from the 258 it won in 2010’s general election.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrat’s Clegg gave a speech stepping down from his post. “I always expected this election to be exceptionally difficult,” he said, “but clearly the results have been immeasurably more crushing and unkind than I could have feared.” Like Miliband, he expressed a desire to take responsibility for his party’s poor showing — thus offering his resignation. Clegg added that liberalism is floundering across Europe, outweighed by “the politics of fear.”
“This is a very dark hour for our party,” Clegg said, “but we cannot and will not allow decent liberal values to be extinguished overnight.” While Labour and the Lib Dems had made the likes of childcare, education, climate change, and public health their policy priorities, the Conservatives campaigned on a platform of economic growth, and have also pledged a referendum on EU membership.
Things in the far-right camp weren’t looking too fabulous either, post-election. Ukip, a rightwing populist party that aims to pull the UK from the European Union and has a firm anti-immigration stance, earned 4 million votes, but only secured a single seat in parliament. Ukip leader Farage didn’t manage to win over his own constituency and thus lost his seat. He, too, resigned in response to the results on Friday morning, The Guardian reported. Farage, however, has not ruled out another attempt at the leadership. “I intend to take the summer off, enjoy myself, not do very much at all and then there will be a leadership election for the next leader of Ukip in September and I will consider over the course of this summer whether to put my name forward and do that job again,” he said.
The biggest surprise of the election, apart from three party leaders resigning within hours of each other, might be the ascendance of Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, whose left-leaning, anti-austerity SNP roundly defeated Labour in the latter’s northern heartland. Unfortunately for Sturgeon, her party's poaching of Labour votes may have contributed to the fact that the UK is once again facing a Conservative government.
If you’re from the US, and all this discussion of parliamentary seats and anti-austerity parties seems a little cryptic, do take note. As CNN reports, the UK election results are of importance to America, no matter how obscure they might seem. The results that came in Friday morning have major implications: with the SNP’s success, another independence referendum in Scotland might occur in the not-far-distant future, potentially breaking the UK apart. Cameron has promised to renegotiate the UK’s involvement in the EU, and his solid win makes a “Brexit” (British exit from the EU) a slightly more real possibility.
“We could see over the next five years Scotland going for a referendum for independence again. We could see a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union, which might result in Britain leaving Europe,” Joe Twyman, head political and social research at YouGov, a British public opinion research firm, told CNN. Such events could have a massive impact on the global economy, thus affecting U.S. interests.
Huffington Post notes that issues taking precedence in the UK elections (the economy, healthcare, immigration, and education) are also of major concern to US voters. Thus, the UK election results could, HuffPo suggests, indicate how the 2016 US election might play out. Cameron’s overwhelming victory, and his draw as an authoritative, economy and security-focused leader, could hold some clues for the upcoming US presidential race.
For now, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Ukip face drawn-out leadership contests, as they struggle to replace their fallen leaders. Meanwhile, buoyed by success, Cameron made a victory speech Friday morning outside Number 10 Downing Street. “I truly believe we’re on the brink of something special in our country”, he said. He concluded with a promise to make “Great Britain greater still.”
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