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Britain’s Deepening Confusion

This month's general election superimposed on the political divide over Brexit a more traditional left-right split, with a resurgent Labour Party capitalizing on voter discontent with Conservative budget cuts. The only certainty is that the next government will abandon austerity and insist on controlling immigration.

LONDON – “Enough is enough,” proclaimed British Prime Minister Theresa May after the terrorist attack on London Bridge. Now, it is clear, almost half of those who voted in the United Kingdom’s general election on June 8 have had enough of May, whose Conservative majority was wiped out at the polls, producing a hung parliament (with no majority for any party). Whether it is “enough immigrants” or “enough austerity,” Britain’s voters certainly have had enough of a lot.

But the election has left Britain confusingly split. Last year’s Brexit referendum on European Union membership suggested a Leave-Remain divide, with the Brexiteers narrowly ahead. This year’s general election superimposed on this a more traditional left-right split, with a resurgent Labour Party capitalizing on voter discontent with Conservative budget cuts.

To see the resulting political terrain, imagine a two-by-two table, with the four quadrants occupied by Remainers and Budget Cutters; Remainers and Economic Expansionists; Brexiteers and Budget Cutters; and Brexiteers and Economic Expansionists. The four quadrants don’t add up to coherent halves, so it’s not possible to make out what voters thought they were voting for.

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