Saturday 9 May 2015

The UK General Elections

Elections concluded. Results out. Fallout very apparent.

Although I don't vote, the result of the election has left me feeling bruised as I have some sympathies for the Labour party.

My life as a politically conscious adult coincided with the Margaret Thatcher years. As I was raised by a single mother, the fact that a lady won the election for the position of Prime Minister resonated with me. Her election heralded a golden age of what women could accomplish. Although to be fair this cynical grown up me now thinks that Thatcher's accomplishment as a female Prime Minister was been oversold. For God's sake Indira Gandhi was a Prime Minister of India in 1966 a full 13 years before Thatcher.

Jeffery Archer's book "First Amongst Equal" developed my interest in UK parliamentary politics while The Blair years further endeared me and many others the world over to life in the UK. There were lots of positives about the UK during the Blair years - economy was 'booming' and it was to all intents and purposes, a very open and tolerant society. There was nothing not to like about the UK and the party in power.

It all started to unravel for Labour as it usually does for any party that stays long enough in power. The turning point appears to be the Iraq War. The  unprecedented immigration and the muzzling of debate over this issue and the effects of the global financial crisis appear to be final nails in Labour's political coffin. I think they are still suffering the after effect even till today.

At the 2010 General Election, Gordon Brown suffered the backlash of these 'crimes'. Some might say the pummelling Labour received for supposedly 'emptying' the country's coffers was well deserved as he was the Chancellor of the Exchequer throughout the Blair years and was largely responsible for that government's economic policies including its regulation of financial services industry. In addition to this deficiency, Gordon Brown suffered from the fact that he wasn't easy on the eye and his opponent had more charisma. This is something Ed Miliband has also suffered from. An unfortunate  sad reflection of today's society - 'packaging is more important than substance'.

I remember reading some informed commentary following the start of David Cameron's Prime Ministership. The writer forecasted that the party in government after 2010 will lose the next election as that government will have to supervise the belt tightening to follow. The writer was drawing from history which suggests that the parties that win election after very tough economic upheavals rarely win the next elections due to voters anger and backlash.

David Cameron's election win in the 2015 elections has come to me as something of a surprise. People have ignored the belt tightening, the suicides by people disadvantaged by the bedroom tax, the questionable moral and economic choices that appears to have been made.  It would appear that the  Liberal Democrats rather than the Conservatives have carried the can for the last 5 years. I struggle to understand why. Apart from the increase in university tuition fees, I don't see what the Lib Dems have done wrong.

Could it be that Liberal Democrat voters now feel that their are no ideological differences between their party and the Conservatives?  Could it be that voters only wanted to vote for a party that could form a government and genuinely wanted nothing to do with a coalition government? I don't have the answers but from a personal angle, I think this is proper karma for Nick Clegg. From all I have read, he 'dicked' Gordon Brown and Labour about in 2010 and was seduced by the allure of power and is deservedly paying the price. Decisions & responsibilities - c'est la vie

I don't have answers for Labour's poor performance either.  But if you review this page on the BBC website you will see that the Labour party had a net loss of 26 seats. Minus the 40 seats loss to the SNP, Labour had a net gain of 14 seats. If you strip out Scotland, Ed Miliband performed better than Gordon Brown. If you add the 40 seats lost in Scotland, Labour would still have 59 seats less than the Conservatives and would have been the 2nd largest party in Westminster. For me the failure of Labour as some have identified is the inability to persuade non core Labour voters, floating voters, wavering Conservative voters and disillusioned Liberal Democrats voters to choose the Labour Party at the polls.

Also, I do not think the 331 seats won by the Conservative is a ringing endorsement from the electorate either. Their election strategy has left the SNP spoiling for a fight that might eventually lead to the breakup of the United Kingdom. They have created a generation of Liberal Democrats that are forever unlikely to do the Conservatives any favour and they will be facing a Labour party that potentially couldn't fall any further if it tried.

In addition to these political party issues, I am of the opinion that the Conservatives face many challenging policy issues of their own making. One of these is Europe and the promised referendum. The decision to promise a referendum appears deeply cynical and was done only to win votes.  As the election approached, I understand that businesses and the City did not panic because they believed there will be a hung parliament and the government will be formed by a coalition of parties and this will make a referendum on Europe unlikely. With a Conservative Majority, David Cameron cannot duck out of a referendum. Any attempt to water down the referendum or avoid it a second time will make his position untenable and if he goes ahead, the uncertainty is likely to severely impact his government as Corporate UK considers the threat of this country's exit from Europe as the biggest risk they face.

Another one the challenging policy issue is the promised £12b cut in the welfare budget. If the evidence of the past 5 years is to be believed, the effect of the cut will be felt more by the vulnerable. A few lies have been peddled regarding the welfare budget. Some of these will become evident in the next 5 years. If you want to learn more about welfare spending yourself, please find the time to read this report . Some of these lies soon become apparent and as a result,  I struggle with the Conservative Party approach that they will rather balance the country's finances on the back of poor and vulnerable people because these ones don't vote for them. The issue of reforming welfare IS NOT about economics or competent financial management. This is about a deeply revolting philosophy. Over 50% of the welfare budget is spent on pensions, the next biggest chunk is spent on people in work, the percentage of the welfare budget that is supposedly abused by the work - shy and benefit fraudsters is minuscule.

The elections are over. The outcome is unprecedented in the sense that 3 party leaders resigned in the aftermath of the elections. The people have had their say. Democracy has won but please don't moan about your choices in the next 5 years. I do not see it ending well. I do not agree with the lies that have been told that there is only one way to competently manage the economy. I do not agree with the demonising of the poor and the demonising of the compassionate. I do not share the people's support for leaders who have contempt for the poor and vulnerable.

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