LONDON – The leaders of the UK’s political parties have now entered campaign mode – they’re trying to win over as many voters as they can for next month’s general election.
But December’s election is not a regular election. It takes place earlier than scheduled – a little over two years since the last one.
This one was called by Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a bid to wiggle out of the parliamentary deadlock, brought about by the thorny topic of the country’s withdrawal from the European Union – a process known as Brexit.
It is little wonder, then, that the Brexit issue remains at the top of voters’ minds, according to new data released Thursday by YouGov.
According to the findings, with five weeks to go until polling day, 68 percent of Britons rank Brexit in their top three concerns – up four percentage points on the 2017 election (a poll that was called by the Conservative PM at the time, Theresa May, whose career at No. 10 Downing Street was plagued by the issue).
Healthcare was the second priority of the UK electorate (40 percent ranking it a top three issue), according to YouGov data. The economy took third spot, with 34 percent of respondents placing it in their top three.
On Wednesday, Johnson visited Queen Elizabeth II to ask her to dissolve Parliament – a procedure that paves the way for parties to campaign in the weeks leading up to the public vote.
Speaking outside Downing Street, his official residence, Johnson said he didn’t want an early election in December, “but we have got to the stage where we have no choice,” before going on to describe Parliament as “paralyzed.”
He has launched the Tory campaign under the slogan “Get Brexit Done” – a clear indicator that the election, for him, is all about convincing voters that this is what they want.
But at what cost? Johnson was only able to move ahead with his plans to hold an election after receiving the backing of opposition lawmakers once a no-deal Brexit scenario was taken off the table.
That means that UK couldn’t crash out of the bloc without a deal on the terms of its exit.
The Conservatives say they want to complete Brexit so they can move on and invest in other sectors, among them the National Health Service, schools, policing and the economy.
So while the Conservatives promise to “Get Brexit Done,” the opposition Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn meanwhile says it will “sort” Brexit by giving the people “the final say.”
Corbyn, who took his electoral push to the northern English city of Liverpool on Thursday, has gone into his campaign with the message that the poll is a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to ring in change.
Labour is also promising investment in the NHS, education and policing, as well as policies and action to protect the environment.
The UK general election will take place on 12 December, more than three years after the electorate narrowly voted in favor of leaving the EU back in June 2016.