Fresh elections in the UK: Holiday gift or lump of coal?

Fresh elections in the UK: Holiday gift or lump of coal?

In a breakthrough that will give the British people one more chance to weigh in on the tortured question of Brexit, the UK Parliament – after a series of baroque machinations – agreed late yesterday to hold a general election on December 12.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pushed for this vote (four times now!) because he's gambling that his Conservative Party can win the majority he needs to push through his Brexit deal before the newly-extended deadline to leave the EU hits on January 31. Although his party leads in the polls (some even show the Conservatives up by double digits), there is no shortage of risks for him—the polls could just be wrong (as they were when his predecessor Theresa May tried to cushion her own parliamentary majority by calling a snap election in 2017, only to actually lose seats), or voters could hold Johnson, and his entire Conservative party by extension, responsible for the endless anguish of Brexit. Some Britons will even treat this as a de facto second Brexit referendum instead of a national election since there are no guarantees they will have another chance to make their voices heard.


That's exactly what certain parties are counting on. The Liberal Democrats, for their part, will campaign for votes among those who favor remaining in the EU, as will the Scottish National Party, while the upstart far-right Brexit Party will try to poach Brexit supporters who think Johnson hasn't been hardline enough.

One of the big questions is how the opposition Labour Party will fare. Labour, which held out until the last moment on supporting a fresh election, is badly divided over whether to leave the EU or not. They will campaign on renegotiating the Brexit agreement and then putting their new deal to a vote to the British people. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is a better campaigner than he is an opposition leader, but asking Brexit-fatigued folks to extend the political chaos so Labour can have a turn negotiating with Brussels is a tough message to win an election on.

What's certain is that this will be the most bitter and tumultuous British election campaign in recent memory. What is not as certain is whether it will in fact yield a clear majority for any of these parties. If not, the hell of Brexit will roll right through snowball season…

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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