Volatility, Realignment and Electoral Shocks: Brexit and the UK General Election of 2019
15 Pages Posted: 15 Jan 2021
Date Written: January 12, 2021
There has been some debate as to whether the 2019 General Election was a Brexit election – even a critical election – or the continuation of long-term realignments in British Politics. In this article we argue that, while the process of realignment has its roots long-before the referendum of 2016, to properly understand the 2019 election we must recognise the interplay of long-term secular trends and the electoral shock of Brexit. We demonstrate how Brexit continued to structure electoral choices in 2019 as manifested in a crystallization of shifting electoral cleavages around social class, geography, education and age; the persistence of alternative political identities; and a reversal in electoral volatility. While these developments are consistent with the early stages of a realignment catalysed by the EU referendum in 2016, it is still too early to determine whether they should be considered a long-term critical realignment, or a temporary but very substantial interruption to politics as usual.
Keywords: realignment, Brexit, volatility, 2019 General Election, electoral shocks
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