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On Independence Day, Britain Seeks Its Own Quiet Revolution

The UK goes the polls.

As America celebrates its independence from Britain with food, fireworks, and fun, the United Kingdom is undergoing its own form of release with ballot boxes and petrified politicians. Brits are heading to the voting stations to decide whether to end 14 years of Conservative Party rule and hand power to the nation’s left-leaning alternative, the Labour Party. That the Tories will lose the election is as certain an outcome as death and taxes. However, the real question that has dominated the media during the campaign is what sway Mr. Brexit, Nigel Farage, will have in the aftermath.

Mr. Farage has called for a “political revolt” against the “boring idiots” in Parliament. And while Labour is expected to win a huge majority of the 650 seats on offer, Farage’s nascent party, Reform UK, is hoping to gain a foothold and put him in a position to become the official opposition leader.

Predictable Outcome in Britain

There is an old saying in the UK that one welcomes the Labour Party to power with hope, and the Conservative Party with relief. The Conservatives have arguably been the most successful political party in history, from their founding in 1834 to the present day, they have remained the leading party in British politics in terms of time in office. But, according to a large chunk of their own previously loyal voters, the one thing they are no longer is actually conservative.

Overseeing record-breaking immigration, both legal and illegal, the highest tax rates of the last 70 years, and essentially following an internationalist agenda, the Conservatives under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have successfully alienated large swathes of their core voting bloc.

Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer is – according to all major polling – set to take between 35% and 40% of the total votes cast. Due to Britain operating under a first-past-the-post system, meaning whichever candidate gets the most votes, no matter how small that ultimate percentage is, wins the constituency. If there are several parties standing, it is possible to win a seat with even 20 or 30% of the total vote. This can translate into around 400 of the 650 parliamentary seats, leaving the Tories floundering for around 100 – the remaining seats being divided between the other smaller parties. And that leaves us with the question of Mr. Farage’s plans for gaining power in Parliament.

In the 2015 general election, Farage was leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP); he won an impressive 12.9% of the total votes (almost four million ballots), coming in third place behind the Conservatives and Labour. For his efforts, however, he was rewarded with just one parliamentary seat.

For comparison, the Liberal Democrats got less than two and a half million votes for eight seats, and the Scottish National Party won 56 seats on just one and a half million votes. This discrepancy is due to the nature of the voting system in which the concentration of votes wins the day. Farage’s Reform Party is currently polling around 16% compared with the Conservatives’ 21% – and although the Tories will take substantially more seats (Reform is predicted at best to gain seven), such a disparity puts Reform in a position to become the official opposition party before the next general election.

Revolution – Brit Style

Revolutions are not common in England’s (later the United Kingdom’s) history. They have certainly happened, but have largely been unsuccessful. There was a civil war that saw Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army oust King Charles I during the 1640s – but the whole thing was determined to be a poor decision and the status quo was returned with an invitation to Charles’ son to take the throne in 1660.

There was also the “Glorious Revolution,” so called because it was a relatively bloodless affair. And let’s not forget the Peasant’s Revolt and the Jacobite Revolt, which – like the Glorious Revolution and the Civil War – were largely failures.

In fact, if there is one hallmark of English history, it is that the status quo remains just that. Certainly, there are tweaks and pivots, but for the most part, things stay the same. Which brings us to the current contest.

For more than 100 years, the political interplay has been between Labour and Conservative, with each forming successive governments. If Nigel Farage can pull off a substantial victory today, it could well herald the breakdown of the two-party electoral system. Indeed, one could rightly describe it as a political revolution – albeit one in the English fashion.

Read More From Mark Angelides

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