Electionwatch 2015

Huw Clarke

It’s less than five months until the general election and the result is close to impossible to call. Opinion polls are in constant flux and there is a strong likelihood that no party will be able to achieve a majority. This is all symptomatic of the severe problems pushing the British political system close to breaking point. The lucrative centre-ground of politics created by Tony Blair has been lost as the electorate drifts further to extremes.

> The prediction by many commentators in 2010 that coalition governments in Britain are here to stay will probably be proven to be correct. The Tories are unlikely to gain any more seats than last time, especially when considering the threat of UKIP, and Labour will be punished in Scotland for its part in the ‘Better Together’ campaign. Touted as most likely to form a government are either a coalition of the Conservatives and UKIP or Labour and the SNP (plus potentially a few Greens or Welsh/Northern Irish parties). A Tory/UKIP government would kill any hopes of Britain remaining in Europe, and therefore is popular with backbenchers but less so with pragmatic senior cabinet members. The Conservatives have moved further to the right in recent months as shown by their benefits ban for EU immigrants as well as the relegation of pro-EU MPs like Ken Clarke. However they are stuck in an impossible position where they cannot be as extreme as the populist UKIP insurgents. On the other side, a Labour coalition with the SNP could not materialize due to the Scottish party’s efforts to distance themselves from the Westminster establishment. A Labour minority government supported on a vote-by-vote basis by the SNP is the result currently favored by pollsters. Either way Nicola Sturgeon is now one of the most powerful people in British politics, which is a great victory for Scotland and also for all too sparse female politicians. Any agreement by the SNP is probably going to be on a set of strict terms: for example ensuring devolution max is fully implemented and potentially even the removal of Trident submarines from Scottish waters.

Scottish independence referendum

> It took less than 24 hours post-referendum for the debate about Britain’s future to become entirely about England. The talk of Scottish nationalism has caused stirrings in English politics in recent years and whilst UKIP only represents a slim section of English society, it has further opened the debate. Depressingly whilst England is the wealthiest, most liberal and diverse nation in the United Kingdom, it’s politics have generally revolved around petty xenophobia and racism. Famously no one really knows what it means to be English, and a new system of government could help develop a new identity for the UKs largest constituent part. Unfortunately no major party suggests anything inspiring. The Tories talk of rewarding themselves with even more power in Westminster under ‘English votes for English laws’. Labour suggests devolving more power to regional cities and this is an increasingly popular policy (see: the creation of an elected mayor for Greater Manchester). However this system would ignore the poor and isolated areas of rural England. An English commission, as suggested by the Lib Dems, would ironically give England the sort of weak government Scotland had before the creation of its parliament in 1999. There is as yet no perfect solution but the slow break-up of the United Kingdom will be an issue for decades to come.

> Ed Miliband is in a strange position where the majority of the buzz concerning the future of the Labour party is not about him but rising star Chuka Umunna. The current MP for Streatham is likable, relatable and unlike many senior politicians he understands the problems affecting modern Britain. In opposition to much of the Labour leadership he has been unafraid to call out the blatant racism of UKIP. Definitely one to watch and heralds a brighter future for a party currently stuck in the doldrums.

Chuka Umunna, Labour's rising star
Chuka Umunna, Labour’s rising star

It’s a while off, but the race for the 2016 American Presidential election has already begun to heat up. Up until now much of the discussion has been about Hillary Clinton, as many interpreted her book Hard Choices as signifying her intention to stand and she has garnered much support. However another female Democrat has been recently gaining attention; Elizabeth Warren’s blazing speech criticising the American government’s chummy links with Citibank has become somewhat of an internet phenomenon. More left wing than Clinton, she is an answer to many Americans disenchanted with rampant free market capitalism. On the Republican side Jeb Bush is ‘actively exploring’ the run for presidency. The Bushes are a political dynasty to rival the Kennedys, but his success probably depends on the American electorate’s endurance of recessions and Gulf Wars. Ultimately it is difficult to imagine any politician being able to resolve the current impasse in Congress.

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