Which big moments in British politics defined the year?
1. Article 50
The triggering of Article 50 at the end of March was perhaps the most significant event of 2017. Almost a year after the UK voted to leave the European Union, Theresa May took the steps to begin the Brexit negotiations process. The event had was significant for two major reasons. Firstly, it made it almost certain that the UK would leave the EU. Secondly, the triggering of Article 50 marks the start of a new chapter of Britain’s relationship with the rest of the world.
2. The Copeland by-election
Held in 2017, this by-election likely shaped the UK’s future in some very complex ways. Governments are supposed to lose by-elections and they are never suppose to win them from opposition parties. In February, the Conservatives’ Trudy Harrison did the impossible and won a seat from Labour. This was a major win for the Conservatives and likely factored into Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election later that year.
3. Theresa May’s election
Two months later, May did just that. The election surprised much of the British commentariat and was called with the intention of boosting May’s majority to strengthen her hand in key Brexit negotiations. The election itself, which resulted in the government losing its majority has characterised 2017’s political landscape and will undoubtedly shape Brexit negotiations as well as the next decade of British politics.
4. The Corbyn Surge
One crucial event during the election was the Corbyn surge. After months of struggling poll numbers, Labour and Corbyn did the impossible. They did not quite win the election, but the party gained almost ten points at the ballot box, putting Labour on track to win the next election. Labour’s performance – against all the odds – has changed the dynamics of British politics.
For worse or for better? That’s up to you.
5. Scotland’s revival
Unsurprisingly, the SNP won the most seats north of the border, but the story of the night was the success of unionist parties. The Liberal Democrats gained three seats, Labour six and the Conservatives 12. Overall, the SNP won just 38% of the vote, their lowest share in a Scottish-wide election for years.
The most significance set of results north of the border was probably the Conservative wins, without which Theresa May would have struggled to form a government.
6. Government resignations
Within the space of little over a week in November, two senior cabinet members resigned - Michael Fallon and Priti Patel. In a surprise move, Fallon was replaced by the Chief Whip Gavin Williamson while Patel was replaced by Penny Mordaunt.
7. Brexit “breakthrough”
At the start of December, the UK and EU made major progress in the Brexit negotiations. While there is a long way to go, the agreement on many areas of the first stage of talks ensure that discussions enter the next phase.