Boris' Gamble Paid Off
San Francisco / December 12, 2019
The BBC projects that the Conservative Party will win about 363 seats in the House of Commons. This will create a 74-seat majority. This result is a resounding victory for Boris Johnson. He presided over a minority government and Parliament that was deeply divided. He gambled that a general election would create the numbers to strengthen his hand in negotiations with European Union. Boris was right.
This result means the United Kingdom will leave the EU on 31 January. Mr. Johnson had a clear goal when he became the Prime Minister. He developed the pieces and executed.
This result should make curious minds revisit the 2016 referendum. After the referendum, there was significant disagreement among elites on who should follow David Cameron. Many elites dismissed Johnson as too controversial and lacking the strategic talents to professionally remove the UK from the EU. Johnson just executed on the strategy that Theresa May attempted in 2017. The degree of difficulty for Johnson was higher, because he had to deal with the mess that May created. Johnson just re-aligned British politics. The Tories now hold far more seats in the North, the Midlands, and Wales. The priorities of the Conservative Party will evolve to deliver for those regions.
Today's result should change the narratives surrounding the 2016 referendum. Soon after that referendum, many elites complained that the process was illegitimate. A radical band of Tory activists pressured Cameron into triggering a referendum. The schemers inside Vote Leave hacked their way to victory by misleading the broader population. We must reject this narrative. The stakes in today's general election were in full view. A clear majority of the population in the United Kingdom does not support remaining in the European Union. Today's result also reflects positively on Cameron's decision to trigger the referendum -- Tyler Cowen made this point earlier (link).
After the exit poll, the British pound hit multi-year highs against peer currencies and rose in relation to the euro (link). Financial markets welcome the clarity this election has brought to British politics.
Looking forward, Johnson faces significant challenges. His bargaining position vis-a-vis the EU is better, but there will be significant complications to finalize the terms of the departure. Johnson must also deal with a nationalist surge in Scotland that could easily herald an independence referendum. It's not a foregone conclusion that Scotland will leave the United Kingdom. The Tories must do their utmost to keep Scotland in the country.
Boris is a gambler. His latest gamble paid off in spades.