Economic Liberty and the 2017 UK General Election
By Greg Scorzo –
On June 8th, UK Prime Minister Theresa May held a general election. This was an election that happened at a unique point in UK history. The UK was about to start its infamous Brexit negotiations, and May campaigned on the promise of “strong, stable, government,” which would be needed to take Britain through the complexities of an agreement for leaving the EU. “Strong, stable, government” became a phrase May repeated robotically in what was a surprisingly incompetent and disastrous campaign. She introduced a manifesto that lacked a comprehensive set of budget costings.1 It also contained policies she did surprising U-turns on, shortly after announcing them (“The Dementia Tax”).2 Worse yet, she failed to turn up to important televised debates.
Her main opponent, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, campaigned surprisingly well, given what were very low expectations. Corbyn was somehow able to rescue his fledgling reputation, after starting out at a 21 point disadvantage when May first called the election on April 18th.3
Up until a few weeks ago, Labour had been reported in mainstream media as something of a joke. Corbyn was spoken about derisively, and portrayed as everything from a terrorist sympathizer to something far worse; a politician who wished to take the country back to the 70s. Because of his unabashed defense of increased social spending, Corbyn might as well have been Steely Dan. The association of Corbyn with widespread black outs, uncontrollable union strikes, and lazy artists getting free money to paint mandalas, was enough to make the public tolerate something else it didn’t particularly like: Tory Austerity. In 2016, shortly after the Brexit referendum, many Labour party members tried to oust Corbyn in a no-confidence vote.4 Even celebrated Labour strategist Owen Jones was writing editorials about how Corbyn was making Labour unelectable.5
Many lefties agreed with Jones, thinking it more important to bring Labour to power than stay true to some principled welfarist vision. Political principles were less important than putting a monkey wrench in the Tory Austerity machine. Since 2010, Conservative and LibDem governments had decelerated certain forms of social spending as a way of lowering Britain’s debt.6 This Austerity was sold to the public as a prudent, non-ideological response to the 2008 economic crash. By 2017, Britain had endured cuts to the NHS, the police, the military, and other public services, while simultaneously presiding over an economy where young people had been hit by a greater drop in incomes than their older counterparts.7
This, in turn, made it more difficult for young people to gain financial independence. The generational disparity here affected the middle aged as much as the young, as 40 and 50 somethings were forced to live with their grown children for longer periods of time.8 The economic disadvantages facing young adults had consequences which were arguably more cruel to Mum and Dad.
Yet the public still seemed to believe that it was more important to lower the national debt than spend money on public services. The public may not have liked Austerity, but it looked as though it accepted the logic of Austerity.
They accepted this logic, even though Austerity didn’t stop a rise in the national debt, or expensive forms of social spending that were more conservative than left-wing. The public was basically asked to accept spending for things like the Queen’s Jubilee and Syrian Airstrikes, while cuts to disability benefits were being proposed in Parliament.9 And it seemed like the public would reluctantly tolerate all of this, if it was the price paid for keeping a spend-happy loon like Corbyn from getting into 10 Downing Street. Even though Corbyn’s manifesto had costings and May’s manifesto did not, there was a sense that Corbyn’s costings just had to be wrong. They had to be wrong, even if prominent economists endorsed them.10
For these reasons, Theresa May should have had this election in the bag. Even if Corbyn wound up galvanizing a youth vote, the expectation was it would happen in places that voted Labour anyway.11 Despite May’s surprisingly lackluster campaign, there was a poll the night before the election, predicting a massive landslide victory for her.12 In some ways, this poll seemed to mirror the 2015 general election, where the Conservatives won an easy victory in what appeared to be a close battle between Labour and the Tories. After that election, there was a sense that Labour campaigns, no matter how passionate, were full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Not even a last minute endorsement by Russell Brand could stop a Tory majority. Young lefties might yell and scream about Austerity in demos and tacky Vlogs, but grown ups would make sure it kept going after election day.
June 8th 2017 gave us a rebuke to this conventional wisdom. It gave us a rebuke, even though Labour didn’t actually win. The youth vote did come out to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.13 Voter turnout, in general, was quite high.14 It was so high that it delivered a hung parliament, forcing Theresa May into an “arrangement” (not a coalition) with the controversial, socially conservative DUP of Ireland.15 May’s decision to hold a “once in a generation” election, in the hopes it would create a large Tory majority, backfired spectacularly. It backfired even though the Tories won the most seats, and the Tory party exceeded the vote count that Tony Blair achieved during his 1997 Labour landslide.16 It was no longer clear that people cared so much about a ‘hard’ Brexit, despite May’s attempts to rally public support on this basis. Brexit was now sharing space with a variety of domestic and international issues the public found equally important. Adopting a tough stance by threatening to leave the single market, regardless of a deal, was suddenly not enough to decisively swing people to the Tories. Labour’s Brexit policy was ironically quite similiar to the Tories, the main difference being Labour wouldn’t leave the single market without such a deal.
Election night itself was a bit like the first boxing match between Rocky Balboa and world champion Apollo Creed. In that fictional brawl, Rocky loses a 15 round decision. But Apollo is still humiliated because the fight was supposed to be an easy victory for him. That is, Creed should have escaped the ring without breaking a sweat, easily dropping the challenger within three rounds. But that’s not what happened. Instead, Creed underestimated Rocky, and wound up struggling to win a split decision where an amateur unexpectedly beat the shit out of him for 15 rounds. Because of the damage this fight did to Creed’s reputation, his own victory was a kind of defeat.
Like this boxing match, the night of June 8th felt like a dramatic war of attrition, a war between two combatants fighting for something important. May supporters fought to create national stability, while doing a hard Brexit that would maximize the UK’s sovereignty, and stand up to the EU. Corbyn’s supporters framed it as a fight against Austerity, a battle against the neo-liberal ideology that, in the name of economic pragmatism, privileged the few at the expense of the many. I think both of these explanations are misleading. This election is best understood as a battle reflecting Britain’s ambivalent attitude towards economic liberty.
“Economic Liberty” VS “Get Off Your Ass!”
Both Tory and Labour parties have assaulted civil liberty throughout the last 30 years, whether in the form of press regulations, food consumption incentives, child rearing laws, lifestyle policing, or anti-social behavior orders. As long as these assaults on civil liberty are seen as sufficiently mundane, they normally don’t generate much political backlash. And the sense that they are normally mundane is understandable, given that Britain is, on balance, one of the freest countries in the world. Hence, the public can indeed be complacent when civil liberties are assaulted, particularly when the assaults use the protection of minorities, women, or children, as a justification.
Economic liberty is something different altogether. The public is more divided about economic liberty, and so even small changes in economic liberty wind up being hotbeds of national contestation.
The reason for this ambivalence is the contrasting attitudes the British public has regarding the two following claims:
- If you don’t work for your money and receive money from the state, you are stealing money from the tax payer.
- You should only have money which is either in proportion to what you have sold in the market place, or what you have inherited.
Hardcore lefties tend to disagree with both 1 and 2. Hardcore righties tend to agree with both 1 and 2. But the public seems mostly in the middle, agreeing with 1 and disagreeing with 2. This ambivalence is expressed in a British Welfare State which is weirdly designed to encourage people not to use its out of work benefits system.
Not only is signing up for these benefits an often laborious and humiliating process, but being off benefits is seen as a sign of responsibility and maturity. Paradoxically, this benefits system exists because the public recognizes that the market doesn’t distribute money fairly; that is, the hard working are often unemployed through no fault of their own, qualified workers don’t always get the best jobs for them, good products often don’t immediately make profits, and decent jobs frequently don’t pay enough to support a family. Worse yet, the bosses of such jobs can exploit and degrade their grateful employees. They can also exploit the public purse, by employing people on low wages in part-time zero hour contract jobs, as well as relying on the fact that the state will subsidise their workers with working tax-credits. The share-holders can then reap the financial rewards. All of this is part of public discourse.
But there is still a tension here. If we design a Welfare State because we take seriously the unfairness of the market, it doesn’t seem like we have any reason to think making profits in the marketplace is a sign of responsibility. You can’t be responsible for succeeding in a rigged game, especially if it’s a rigged game that can’t guarantee you rewards for your hard work or creativity. But on the other hand, if it turns out that the dynamism, efficiency, and prosperity of this economy is worth the inherent unfairness, there’s no point in having a Welfare State at all.
Hence, if you want to be consistent, you have to be a lefty or a righty. You can’t be in the middle. So the inconsistent middle ground the British public occupies is a strange one.
On Being Sick While British
While the public reluctantly tolerates the benefits system, its much more passionate regarding state spending on other public services. This is particularly true of health care. Brits like healthcare related economic liberty, and its important to look at why. State funded free healthcare generates economic liberty by removing the financial threats that come with being sick, and not having the money to pay for medical treatment. With universal healthcare, you can get sick with no risk of poverty, homelessness, or unmanageable debts.
This removes many of the incentives not to seek medical attention when sick. It also gives you more options about how to spend the money you keep, when you do get ill. You can make financial plans in a way where medical bills are not a deep constraint on how you can spend your money.
The NHS thus doesn’t merely guarantee you treatment for life threatening medical conditions or injuries. It also enables growth in other sectors of the economy. What is not spent on medical bills can be spent on other things. The NHS thus feeds into the economy by increasing consumer choices, in addition to getting rid of the financial burdens of being ill and having to pay for costly treatments.
But here is what’s interesting about it. Even though it removes various financial threats from citizens, there are still three other prices a society must pay in order to have an NHS. The first is that universal healthcare has to be paid with taxes taken out of the public’s earnings. This is a restriction on economic liberty, even though it’s a relatively miniscule restriction, compared to the liberty gained because of the NHS. The second price to pay is the possibility that the NHS could wind up being less efficient than parallel forms of private healthcare. The third and most troublesome price to pay for an NHS, is you are creating a society where people feel entitled to healthcare.
In that society, you can feel entitled to get an illness without having to work to pay for its medical treatments. That means there’s a sense in which you can be lazy about such an illness. You don’t have to worry about refusing a donut, thinking to yourself, “Well…I’m not sure I can afford to get diabetes this year.” You don’t have to earn your insomnia pills, statins, insulin, or even CBT. You can get all of that stuff sitting on your ass, doing nothing more than dialling a phone number. And in being legally entitled to all of this, you will become accustomed to it. And in being so accustomed, you may demand it, kicking and screaming at the prospect of it getting taken away from you. You may kick and scream, even though you do very little to avoid being unhealthy. With an NHS, there is more freedom to aggressively mistreat yourself. More oppurtunities to take less responsibiltiy for your own worst habits. So in order to effectively run the NHS, the state winds up taking a more paternalistic attitude towards its citizens. The state becomes more like a parent, because it worries freedom will make citizens more like children.
Scroungers and Alienation
Along with universal health care, there are other public services the British population feels entitled to; children’s education, public libraries, the police, the military, community resources, arts funding, and social infrastructure. But where the entitlement largely stops is with wages. Regardless of the burdens that would lift if you had a free basic income from the state, the public thinks you should try to amass those wages on your own. Getting free wages from the tax payer is supposedly stealing. Getting free healthcare, public education, and policing is not. Because of this dichotomy, the message given to people on out of work benefits winds up being especially confusing:
“Yes, you are stealing from us and you should be ashamed of yourself for that. But on the other hand, we recognize you might temporarily have to steal from us. So as long we know you’re sufficiently ashamed and trying your hardest not to steal, we’ll let you steal from us for a limited period of time.”
The reason this is confusing is if somebody has to steal, they obviously shouldn’t be blamed for stealing. What’s more important (ethically) is that society create circumstances where they no longer have to steal. Its only in the latter circumstances, that they should be ashamed of themselves for stealing. If a homeless person steals a blanket from my car in freezing temperatures, it would be extraordinarily callous of me to say:
“Yes, you are stealing my blanket and you should be ashamed of yourself for that. But on the other hand, I recognize you might temporarily have to steal blankets from somebody, in order not to die. It is freezing tonight, after all. So I guess as long you’re sufficiently ashamed and trying your hardest to make money, you can use my blanket. If next winter I notice you are still homeless, you’ll just have to freeze to death. And if you take my blanket then, I’ll call the police.”
If somebody presses me about my decision, I might say I don’t want this homeless person to develop a sense of entitlement, regarding blankets he or she can’t afford. I might say I’d rather the homeless experience the burdens of dying in the snow than feel they deserve blankets they did not earn with hard work. Here, what I’d really be saying is, I want the homeless person to have less economic liberty than I do. I want the homeless person to experience the severe threats that come with being homeless, rather than have to give up anything I’ve earned in the marketplace. Even if its just a blanket.
All of this makes sense if we look at another insecurity of British culture: the fear of an alienating society, a society where people are disconnected from each other.
The reason why out of work benefits are psychologically unnerving to the British population is a world where people have free money is a world where people are far less beholden to one another. One of the reasons why marketplace work is considered so important in British society is it keeps us having duties to each other. That’s why working, rather than being on benefits, is associated with deserving money.
When you are at work, you are threatened with financial ruin, if you renege on your duties to either your employers, or your customers. There are consequences of financial ruin. A young waitress will mimic an amicable, part time food servant, because in exchange for that mimicry, she won’t have to fuck her boyfriend in mum’s basement.
If she doesn’t get her waitressing money, she’ll have to live with her annoying and conservative parents. She’s thus threatened by the possibility that she could get sacked, losing the money that facilitates her sexual freedom. This threat gives her the perfect incentive to behave impeccably, to address you in the politest language possible, regardless of which vulgar expressions she’d prefer to use. Your tips wind up earning her momentary subservience, a subservience that makes her feel not just happy with the financial rewards, but also like she’s a responsible, hard working grownup.
In being responsible, the waitress is willing to commit herself to a job that could be boring, unpleasant, or frustrating, a job which ignores her best talents, or forces her to work alongside unpleasant assholes who are constantly making sarcastic jokes about her. In theory, it could be a job that is precarious, pays her very little, where manipulative employers lie to get her to work more than her job description officially implies. It could be a job that makes her depressed, feeling like a cog in a giant machine that squashes her individuality, a job where the threat of money loss is used as an incentive to push her into small, daily acts of degradation and debasement.
So why is this equated with being responsible?
Here, there are (at least) two reasons. The first is that earning money gives people a sense of achievement. People who have the time and resources to start successful careers often feel proud that they have created those careers, ignorant of the extent to which luck, circumstances, and resources provided the conditions necessary for them to excel. Whether its starting a thriving business, getting a number 1 in the charts, or publishing a new theory of dark matter, your financial success is contingent on circumstances, as much as it is your will power. You’re lucky if you meet interested parties who can pay you for what you do well. There’s plenty of hard working geniuses who never get to express it in a career facilitated by an adoring audience willing to drop dosh for their marvelous talents.
Another reason the public is uncomfortable with people getting ‘free money’ from the state is a large amount of people who hate their jobs feel like better people, in sticking with them. They feel not just more responsible, but more dutiful, and more hard working, than people who have the temerity to stay up late, watch TV in the morning, or raise children in the afternoon. And they also feel like the work they do for money, no matter how unpleasant, is the only genuine work.
For example, John may have the potential to be a great violinist, but he feels like a good person because he works thirteen hours a day, taking phone surveys in a drab, poorly ventilated call center. Because he does this to survive, he feels like a better person than Jacob, a superb violinist who lives off benefits and then launches a successful career, dazzling the world with Paganini Caprices.
What’s interesting is John’s extremely communitarian view of Jacob’s work. For John, Jacob is hard working if he practices 12 hours a day to prepare for a concert at the 02 Arena. But if he lives on benefits, practicing 12 hours a day so that he may one day get hired to perform at the 02 Arena, he’s a lazy son of a bitch. John thinks it would be preferable for Jacob to be in the same call center as John, sitting at a crowded office desk, sipping a warm diet coke while wearing a headset, calming down screaming voices who don’t want to take surveys about paint. For John, this is much better than Jacob using public money to do something that would contribute greatly to the world, and (in the long run) put more money into the economy.
For John, work is only really work, if somebody else wants to pay you for it. And the less money people are wiling to pay for your work, the less value it has. It’s better to sell millions of cigarettes than a few cheap copies of a groundbreaking novel. If you need to be on benefits to learn ballet, its still better to sell blow jobs, if that’s what gets you off (housing benefit, that is).
John’s view is often portrayed by lefties as the apotheosis of dog-eat-dog individualism. It’s actually the complete opposite of this. It’s a view which demands that people not live how they’d like to live, unless they are subservient to others they are financially beholden to. It’s the individualist who would say you aren’t a better person because you are forced to do things you hate, in exchange for wages. It’s the individualist, rather than the communitarian, who would notice that if financial subservience was what made you a better person, people who worked in Chinese sweatshops would be superior to all the great craftsmen, scientists, inventors, artists and writers who once lived on benefits, so they could eventually do what they love and make money.
Jeremy Corbyn: Selfish Individualist
If we’re honest, it’s the selfish person who would say that societal contributions can rarely be measured in money. It’s the selfish person who would say that the economic liberty to do what you love is worth the state alleviating various financial burdens. Such a person would say feeling entitled to the absence of these burdens is no different to feeling entitled to universal healthcare, housing, irrigated water, or a working police force. Its the selfish person who wants to live with more comfort and freedom. They want this comfort and freedom, without being obligated to earn it, by working for others in a market economy. This obligation, after all, is what limits their comfort and freedom.
And this is also why Jeremy Corbyn, ironically, is not a voice of altruism and compassion. Corbyn is instead a voice for the individual, even though he couches his individualism in the emotive language of collectivism, pontificating in rather dated sermons on equality. But Corbyn’s Labour manifesto is not one that generates equality. It’s a manifesto that creates universal access to different public services, creating large amounts of economic liberty through public spending. Corbyn may claim to resent the top 1% of income earners, but his goal isn’t to make everyone have equal amounts of money. His goal is to improve the well being of the less off, using tax money from those who can afford to pay taxes. By improving the well being of the poor, he still isn’t making them equal to the rich. He’s making them more free than they might otherwise be.
With this economic liberty comes a huge risk. When you have free money from the state, you are less beholden to others, less incentivized to be responsible, and less communitarian. You have more freedom to dislike people you might otherwise be forced to get on with. You have more freedom to demand accommodations in ways that are selfish, petty, and narcissistic. You can more easily be the sort of person that would never help a stranger. Or the sort of person who never mixes with anyone remotely different to the people who share your values. You can be the sort of person who gives speeches instead of having conversations, a person as inconsiderate, as greedy, and as reckless as the most cartoonish stereotypes of rich kid bankers. And as the years go by, this could also make you the sort of person who is deeply lonely and regretful, someone who wishes they put other people above their own selfish interests.
There is, of course, another irony here. These risks are not only the risks that come with having either free wages, or public services paid for by the state. These are the risks that come with living in the modern West. These are the risks that come with being free.
In other words, these are risks worth taking.
- See http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/election-2017-tory-manifesto-uncosted-deficit-dodgy-dossier-campaign-strategy-a7765236.html Also see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-39973399 Also See http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2017/05/18/the-tory-manifesto-is-an-uncosted-shambles
- See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/22/theresa-may-expected-announce-dementia-tax-u-turn/ Also see https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/22/theresa-may-u-turn-on-dementia-tax-cap-social-care-conservative-manifesto Also see http://uk.businessinsider.com/tories-u-turn-on-dementia-tax-general-election-2017-5
- See http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/tories-21-points-labour-poll-10234731 Also see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/17/conservatives-open-biggest-lead-labour-nine-years-new-poll-shows/
- See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36647458 Also see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-loses-no-confidence-vote-among-labour-mps-by-176-to-40-a7107826.html Also see http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2016/06/labour-mps-pass-vote-no-confidence-jeremy-corbyn-what-happens-now
- See http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/owen-jones-jeremy-corbyn-brink-disaster_uk_579e6b4ae4b0f42daa4a6944 Also see https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/01/corbyn-staying-not-good-enough Also see https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/02/owen-jones-id-find-hard-vote-corbyn/
- See https://www.ft.com/content/53fe06e2-dc98-11df-84f5-00144feabdc0 Also see https://www.theguardian.com/business/ng-interactive/2015/apr/29/the-austerity-delusion Also see http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/this-is-not-austerity/16164#.WURRjzOZMyk
- See https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/19/tories-targeted-young-ballot-box-vote Also see https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/12/tory-policy-young-people-britain-wellbeing Also see https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/12/tories-brunt-austerity-policies Also see http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/they-cut-our-police-and-military-then.html Also see http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/tories-left-britain-defenceless-huge-10376621 Also see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-40165048 Also see https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/15/cuts-could-leave-trident-nuclear-base-at-risk-of-attack-says-police-boss Also see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/nhs-plans-cuts-across-england-funding-shortfall-austerity-stp-a7210671.html Also see https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/06/magic-money-tree-theresa-may-banks-nurses Also see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/nhs-cost-cutting-plans-conservatives-leaked-campaigners-election-2017-a7775571.html
- See https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/oct/08/george-osborne-young-people-home-work Also see http://www.irishnews.com/lifestyle/2016/11/29/news/what-to-charge-at-hotel-mum-and-dad-806635/ Also see http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/uyNaH6yWupFwTvi42SBw/full Also see http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/bev-james/marketing-to-a-millennial_b_8781346.html Also see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/shouldnt-have-give-fun-entirely-just-leave-home/
- See https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/06/magic-money-tree-theresa-may-banks-nurses
- See https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/aug/22/jeremy-corbyn-economists-backing-anti-austerity-policies-corbynomics Also see http://news.sky.com/story/corbyn-wins-backing-from-over-40-economists-10348576 Also see https://www.poundsterlinglive.com/economics/6795-capital-economics-labour-manifesto Also see http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ioan-marc-jones/jeremy-corbyn_b_16991136.html
- See https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/03/could-youth-vote-win-jeremy-corbyn-election-poll-leftwing-surge Also see https://www.buzzfeed.com/tomphillips/club-18-to-24?utm_term=.nq0nbAP1N#.mkqdPx7jK
- See http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/general-election-polls-2017-tories-13153632 Also see http://www.independent.co.uk/News/uk/politics/election-poll-latest-tory-win-results-corbyn-theresa-may-a7777781.html
- See http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/election-2017-labour-youth-vote-under-40s-jeremy-corbyn-yougov-poll-a7789151.html Also see https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3799140/youth-turnout-surged-at-election-almost-carrying-jeremy-corbyn-to-power-first-poll-confirms/
- See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/09/general-election-sees-highest-turnout-25-years-nearly-70-britons/ Also see http://www.ukpolitical.info/Turnout45.htm Also see http://www.itv.com/news/2017-06-09/vote-turnout-highest-since-1992/
- See https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/10/theresa-may-dup-deal-snag-tory-rebellion See https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3807872/dup-tories-confidence-and-supply-deal-government-good-friday-agreement/ Also see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-40255958 Also see https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/16/dup-promises-to-use-pact-with-conservatives-to-tone-down-austerity
- See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-40237833 Also see http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/815256/Election-2017-Theresa-May-no-overall-majority-statistics-show-increase-Tory-vote Also see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_general_election,_1997 Also see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_general_election,_2017
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