General Election result: Conservative landslide victory raises fresh concerns for green economy
The results are in and Boris Johnson's Conservative Party has won the 2019 General Election with an historic landslide majority, prompting fresh concerns about the strength of environmental regulations in the UK post-Brexit.
The Conservative's landslide victory in the 2019 General Election saw the Party surge pass the 326 seats required to form a majority Parliament in the early hour. This gives returning Prime Minister Johnson an even stronger footing to deliver his Brexit deal than he had before, casting some extra uncertainty over green policy post-Brexit.
The night also saw Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announce that he will step down from his role, Lib Dems leader Jo Swinson lose her seat, and prominent campaigner Zac Goldsmith and the Environment Audit Committee's (EAC) chair Mary Creagh lose their seats.
How it happened
The exit poll, which gave the first indication of the result at 10pm last night, suggested that the Tories were on course for a majority of 86, leading that poll by 368 to Labour’s 191.
As the results then poured in, the Tories indeed made unprecedented strides, gaining seats in Labour's traditional strongholds – including in Great Grimsby, Sedgefield, Warrington, Stoke-on-Trent Central and Blyth Valley, as well as gaining a major result in a marginal seat in Kensington. The Tories are on course for a majority of more than 80, making this Labour's worst performances since the 1930s.
Commenting on his Party's victory, Prime Minister Johnson said: "It does look as though this One Nation Conservative Government has been given a powerful new mandate to get Brexit done...I think has turned out to be a historic election that gives us, in this new government, the chance to respect the democratic will of the British people to change for the better and to unleash the potential of the entire people of this country."
Climate change has been a key priority of the election campaign alongside the NHS and the ever-looming presence of Brexit. All party manifestos pointed to mandates on net-zero emissions, with the Tories sticking with the 2050 timeframe recommended by the Committee on Climate Change.
While Brexit will of course be Johnson’s top priority, there is a raft of green policy plans and bills that have been lost amongst the election shuffle – namely the Agriculture Bill, Fisheries Bill, Environment Bill and a revamped decarbonisation plan for the transport sector – all of which need to be resurfaced, and fast.
Seat changes and reshuffles
Boris Johnson held his own Uxbridge seat by a majority of more than 7,000 over Labour's Ali Milani, gaining 25,351 votes in total. Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, has claimed he will stand down from a leadership role, despite holding his Islington seat, but will stay on while discussions takes place within the Party to decide on a new leadership regime.
Laura Piddock, viewed by many as a potential successor to Corbyn, also lost her seat. Another big result that was announced over the course of the night was that Lib Dems leader Jo Swinson lost her seat in East Dunbartonshire to the SNP. The Lib Dems have appointed the Party's Deputy Leader Sir Ed Davey and President Baroness Sal Brinton as joint leaders.
Elsewhere, Zac Goldsmith lost his seat to the Lib Dems and the EAC chair Mary Creagh lost the Wakefield seat to Conservative candidate Imran Ahmad-Khan. Defra's Theresa Villiers' held her seat by just 212 votes in Chipping Barnet, having held a slim 300 majority going into the vote.
Honour to have represented my community for 9 yrs- & will always be grateful to have been given a platform to champion the environment. Not a surprise result, but I am over the moon with the national result.— Zac Goldsmith (@ZacGoldsmith) December 13, 2019
Boris has saved this is country from a terrible threat. It is a triumph
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Andrea Leadsom gained a 4.3% increase in votes on an already strong majority in Northampton South. Former leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas kept her Brighton seat, increasing her majority.
If this exit poll is right, it’s a devastating blow for our climate, for future generations and for our democracy.— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) December 12, 2019
It’s not just our relationship with the EU that will dominate the next few months, it will be our relationship with Scotland too
Johnson had already given an indication of what his first few months with a majority on his side will look like, having already outlined the first 100 days of a Conservative Party majority during the General Election cycle. There would be “future schemes for agriculture, fishing and the environment” post-Brexit, including the Environment Bill, which had been previously presented to Parliament in the previous session.
In the immediate days after the General Election, a raft of post-Brexit Environment legislation will look to be signed off under a Johnson-led Tory majority Government. Plans include an immediate fresh Queen’s Speech as soon as 19 December – followed by passing legislation on the EU Withdrawal Act before Christmas, including a raft of changes that would alter 40 years of EU environmental regulations.
Part of the Withdrawal Agreement on the departure from the EU customs union and the laws that it enforces is a new regulatory system that the UK will need to stick to as part of any future trade deals with EU nations. This has been called a “level playing field”.
This would require the UK to conform to EU standards on environmental policies and others as part of a trade deal, but the UK has no legal obligation to maintain current standards if no trade deal is agreed, this has already sparked concern that the UK could renegade on environmental standards in pursuit of other trade deals, notably with the US.
In the long-term, the Conservative Party manifesto features some standout commitments, notably:
- Plant 11 million trees to maximise wildlife benefit
- Invest £800m to build the first fully deployed carbon capture storage cluster by the mid-2020s
- Ban the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries
- Lower energy bills by investing £9.2bn in the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals
- Net-zero emissions by 2050, which is already enshrined into law.
The Conservatives have also claimed they will use the UN Climate Change Summit in Glasgow in 2020 to ask global partners to match climate ambitions and push the globe towards net-zero and the highest ambition of the Paris Agreement. However, it is worth noting that all parties have been accused of lying in their manifestos and during campaigning.