As I pen this, the sun is shining on a chilly but bright Sunday in May. The media (print, TV, radio and social) is awash with the impact, fall-out, personal narrative, consequences and views following the cataclysmic events of the UK General Election just a few days ago on Thursday 7th May 2015.
I sit here, watching a glorious cock pheasant walking down the lawn with his squeeze alongside, and I am pulling together some considered reflections on a major shift on the UK political scene that should interest us all since it will affect the lives of each and every one of us over the next few years, and especially those of our children’s generation.
1. Turn-out stayed (indeed improved a little on five years ago) at just above a pathetically low 60%. Turn-out of the Under-25’s was stuck at some 9%. If we want more people (and especially the young) to become more democratically engaged with a developed feeling of having a stake in Society, then the answer is not in wooing that narcissistic, muddle-headed disgrace Russell Brand and his disciples, but in creating the fact as well as perception that each individual’s vote counts. A first-past-the-post electoral system that returns 56 Scottish Nationalist MPs having received around 5% of the UK-wide popular vote yet gives UKIP only one seat having received 12.5% of the popular vote in the Country is, to put it mildly, disgraceful. More people voted UKIP than voted for the Greens, the SNP, the LibDems and Plaid Cymru put together. That grouping has 68 seats in the House of Commons and UKIP has just one! Where is the democracy in that?? Moreover when, in safe Tory or Labour seats, the victory for the incumbent is assured disproportionately, when the other parties may as well not bother to vote because their cross-in-a-box frankly counts for zilch, nothing, nada…….the result will be even more disaffection and a feeling of a lack of relevance, especially amongst the young. (Memo to Ms Sturgeon: if you think permanent, decades-long one-party government is good for you or the Country you affect to care for, just look what happened to Labour in Scotland!)
2. You will never win a General Election in the UK from the Left. Fighting on a traditional Interventionist, Trade Unionist, anti-business, Socialist ticket will get, as Tony Blair famously said, a traditional response at the ballot box …….. A Tory Victory. The Great British Public (well, the Great English Public anyway!) are conservative with a small ‘c’; the average worker on the line at JLR appreciates full-well why he (and thankfully increasingly she) is in a well-paid, secure job and it isn’t because of Mr Miliband’s recipe for the Country. The Labour Party is about to embark on months of inter-necine bloodletting over its soul; everyone will be blamed for this enormous defeat, from the ETP (“Evil Tory Press”) to the fear of a left-wing Miliband/Sturgeon coalition (…..er………yes!) and that old political mantra will be paraded in every Trade Union meeting or at every one of Harriet Harman’s tofu-knitting classes for the champagne socialists of Islington that “we weren’t left-wing enough”! (Memo to Harperson et al :- the only leader of your party who delivered three victories at General Elections in a row, all with stonking majorities was the guy you loathe, who fought for his majority in middle-England, not the Left)
3. Good luck (not!) Ms Sturgeon as you try to explain what being in Opposition in a first-past-the-post system means, to all those people from Edinburgh to Aberdeen who believed the SNP would shake up Westminster and that it wouldn’t be UK Government business as usual. After you personally have dealt with an increasingly frustrated and isolated Alex Salmond (who actually fought a won the right to be at Westminster Nicola, which is more than you did!) you will have to explain why, faced with a Government with an absolute majority, you make not one jot of difference at all. You can huff, puff and whinny to your little Scottish heart’s content …….and have no influence whatsoever. That is what being a member of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition means Nicola!
4. Beware, Mr Salmond, what you wish for because you might just get it! The PM will be inclined to offer Scotland full fiscal autonomy as part of the promised Devolution Settlement. Now that means (actually, factually, means Alex…not what you would like it to mean) that you can spend how much you like on whatever you want to, but you have to raise the money only from taxing Scotland to pay for it. For the first time Nicola you will understand that with fiscal power comes fiscal responsibility; there will be no English subsidy (the Barnett Formula) to bridge the gap. Still want it do you Scotland….with oil at only $60 a barrel?!
5. For the good of all those millions of people in our Country who help create the wealth which the Public Sector spends, for the good of those good, hard-working people who work in our Public Services who are paid by that wealth …..and for the good of the next generation who will be saddled with less of the debt that our sins have racked up in the past………all hail the Great British Voter …You got the answer right when asked. Thank you.
Mr and Mrs Pheasant have now made their way across our lawn and will be home in time for tea……I’ll think I’ll put the kettle on; on this May Sunday afternoon, my worried gloom of the Election Campaign has totally lifted.