Trying to follow the news is a good way to work on your English – the only problem is that British politics seems to be so confusing at the moment!
So, we thought we’d put together this quick summary of what’s going on to help
Okay – so the UK is having another General Election– this will be the fourth national vote in 5 years and is pretty unusual in a country such as ours which is generally considered to have a very stable form of government. What’s the reason for all this voting? Well, in part, it’s because of Brexit. In 2015 we had, as planned, a General Election, where the Conservative Party won the majority. The Prime Minister at the time (David Cameron) had promised that if his party won the election he would hold a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.
This referendum in 2016 resulted in the decision to leave the EU, but, this in turn, meant that the Prime Minister (who had supported staying in the UK) decided to step down. Teresa May took over as Prime Minister but in 2017 -less than a year after she became Prime Minister – she decided to shore up her position by trying to win what she expected to be a landslide majority. This wasn’t the case and the election resulted in a hung parliament. She made an agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) from Northern Ireland to help her govern.
The next two years were spent trying to make a deal with the EU that represented what the British people who had voted for Brexit wanted. Once May had made a deal, she presented it to the House of Commonsto vote on it. Parliament voted against it 3 times. Teresa May finally resigned in June 2019. This was followed by a leadership battle within the Conservative party which Boris Johnson won and as a result became Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson took power promising that he would get Brexit sorted by 31st October and he tried to re-negotiate Teresa May’s deal with the EU re-opening the question of the backstop. His resolution of this issue led to the DUP announcing that they would not support his deal and leaving him with a minority government. The backstop is a very controversial part of the deal and Parliament wanted more time to discuss the deal. This led to Boris Johnson being forced to ask the European Union for an extension. As he wasn’t able to fulfil his promise of taking the UK out of the EU by Halloween he pushed for another General Election. The opposition parties agreed to this and the process of campaigning for the election started.
So, what happens next? Well it’s a good question. The polls seem to indicate that Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party will win the election but it’s not altogether clear. It’s likely that the question of Brexit will be the biggest one for many voters and the deciding factor.
Voters can choose between the Brexit Party run by Nigel Farage who want to leave the EU too and some Brexiteers will probably vote for them instead of the Conservatives. On the other side Labour – the biggest opposition party – has offered to renegotiate the Brexit deal and then put this to another referendum. The Liberal Democrats – who are one of the smaller parties at the moment – have said that if they win they will cancel Brexit….
This will be an interesting election to follow and hopefully this blog has helped make it easier to understand!
General Election: When the whole country votes to decide the government
Conservative Party: Also known as ‘The Tory’ Party, the main right-wing party who are currently in power
a referendum: Vote on a particular issue e.g. should the UK remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
landslide majority: a huge majority when one party wins most of the seats available
a hung parliament: where no party has the majority of seats in the parliament
House of Commons: One of the two chambers ofParliament where elected Members of Parliament sit. There is also the House of Lords where nominated and hereditary representatives sit
get Brexit sorted: to get something sorted means to solve a problem or manage a situation successfully
the backstop: way to manage the question of a border in Ireland between the North which is part of the UK, and the South which is an independent country and part of the EU.
minority government: a government where the governing party has the most seats but still fewer than half the total
opposition parties: the biggest of these parties is Labour which is a left-wing party, also the Scottish Nationalist Party and the Liberal Democrats – both of which are pro-remaining in the EU.
The polls: Meaning ‘Opinion polls’ – when various members of the public are asked in advance of voting which party they plan to vote for.
Brexiteers: used to describe people who want to leave the EU on the other side are the Remainers – people who want to stay in the EU
Useful phrasal verbs:
to work on: to improve something by investing time and effort
to put together: create something from different pieces (of information in this case)
what’s going on: what’s happening
to step down: resign from an important position in a company, organisation, government etc
took over (to take over): to get control (of something)
to shore up (something): make stronger, more secure