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UK’s landmark postwar elections: When Boris Johnson sought and got a mandate to ‘Get Brexit Done’

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LONDON (AP) — Britain’s upcoming general election is widely expected to lead to a change of government for the first time in 14 years. Many analysts believe it will be one of the country’s most consequential elections since the end of World War II.

Ahead of the July 4 vote, The Associated Press takes a look back at other landmark U.K. elections since the war.

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When former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called an election in December 2019, it was essentially about one issue: Brexit.

General elections in the U.K. are typically held in the spring or early summer. But in the fall of 2019, the recently-appointed Johnson gambled on holding one on December 12, when most people just want to get ready for Christmas and would rather think of anything but politics.

For Johnson, desperate times called for desperate measures. The June 23, 2016 Brexit referendum, won narrowly by those backing an exit from the European Union, triggered a chaotic period in politics.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron, who had campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU, had resigned immediately after his side lost the referendum.

His successor, Theresa May, tried but failed to find a Brexit formula that a majority in Parliament would back. Everyone seemingly had a different idea as to what post-Brexit deal the U.K. should have with the EU, and the original day of departure — March 2019 — was delayed.

Parliament was in chaos, and Johnson, who succeeded May, pledged that he would get “Get Brexit Done.”

With Labour’s Brexit policy unclear and its left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn deeply unpopular, Johnson’s Conservatives won their biggest majority since 1987 under Margaret Thatcher. Labour suffered its worst election result in terms of seats since the 1930s.

Johnson prevailed largely because his message was clear, especially in parts of the country that voted Brexit but had for decades voted Labour. The U.K. left the European Union on Jan. 31, 2020.

Any celebrations were short-lived, however, with a deadly coronavirus pandemic soon spreading around the world.

Johnson was forced to resign in the summer of 2022 after he was found to have lied to Parliament over lockdown-breaching parties at his offices in Downing Street. The 49-day tenure of his successor, Liz Truss, was even more chaotic after she unveiled unfunded tax cuts that roiled financial markets and sent borrowing costs for homeowners surging.

It’s a dual legacy that their successor Rishi Sunak has had to contend with ahead of Thursday’s election.

By PAN PYLAS
Associated Press

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