Tag Archives: General Election 2015

The Madness of British Unionism

The current general election is proving to be one of the most interesting and entertaining elections in a long time. Certainly the most entertaining as the assorted Unionist parties try to outdo each other in incompetence and nastiness. The target of their increasingly venomous insults is the SNP in general and Nicola Sturgeon in particular. At least they now know who the leader of the SNP is! However their hatred of the SNP is at bottom, a barely disguised antithapy to any Scottish influence at Westminster.

The seemingly unstoppable rise of the SNP is generating an equally unstoppable descent into madness on the part of most Unionists. It is not just the gratuitous insults and caricatures. The real sign of madness is that the whole line of attack from both the Tories and Labour is counter productive in terms of defending their precious Union.

It is one of the delicious ironies of the election that it is the SNP which has moved on from the referendum and is campaigning on a platform of reforming the UK and anti-austerity. While the Unionists are still stuck in the past, refighting old battles. Neither independence nor another referendum are on the agenda for the next Parliament. The SNP has repeatedly made this clear. Yet all the Unionist parties want to talk about apparently is independence or another referendum.

One can see why this suits the Tories, at least in the short term. They have only one MP in Scotland, and face little real prospect of improving on this. The Tories can afford in electoral terms to write off Scotland.  Furthermore, the last thing they want is any discussion about the deliberate mess they have made of the economy in the name of austerity. Nor are they keen on discussing ways to reform the way the UK works. More democracy, an end to patronage, real decentralisation etc are pretty much anathema to the Tories, the real party of privilege. Their demonisation of Scots may, just, work in terms of increasing their vote in England, but only at the cost of enormous damage to the Union. Many non SNP supporters will rightly be appalled and insulted by the Tories vicious attacks on Nicola. Worse, the almost out of hand rejection of any Scottish influence at Westminster, calls into question just what is the role of Scottish MPs to be in the Tory view of the UK?

Labour of course are in the opposite situation. They have always relied on a large contingent of MPs from Scotland to make up the lobby fodder for the party in Westminster. Scottish Labour MPs can always be relied upon to put the interests of Labour at Westminster before the interests of their constituents in Scotland. Alas for Labour, they face the prospect of losing much, if not most, of this contingent on 7th May. Their rather pathetic attempts to stave this off, are proving just as off-putting to most Scots as the Tory party’s.

Labour has indulged in its own spot of trying to demonise Nicola and the SNP. But as can be seen from both parties’ manifestos, there is much in common between Labour and the SNP on the economy, NHS and reforming the UK. Yet Labour cannot on any account admit this. Hence their repeated lie about how it is the largest party that gets to form the government. Denigrate your opponents and tell lies, this seems to be the core of Labour’s campaign in Scotland. No wonder it is not working. Everyone knows that Ed Milliband needs the support of 323 MPs to become Prime Minister. And it matters not one whit where these 323 MPs come from.

The real difficulty for all Unionist parties is that the only way to secure the Union in a stable way is to reform the UK into a federal state with a proper Parliament for England. But how many people in England really want this?

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TV Broadcasters fail the UK yet again

The main London based TV broadcasters have recently published their joint proposals for a series of leaders’ debates during the 2015 general election campaign. For details see here. In doing so they have once again demonstrated just how London centred they remain. The Greens have one MP, elected in 2010, and a respectable voting record in European elections, yet remain almost invisible to the mainstream media. Until last week UKIP had no MP at Westminster, and their current one is a defector from the Tory party. Yet UKIP and Nigel Farage in particular have become the darlings of the London media, including the broadcasters. Presumably because their reactionary anti immigrant, anti EU message suits the media barons more than the progressive polices of the Greens. The proposals for TV debates also demonstrate just how out of touch the broadcasters are with what is happening across the UK. For their focus is not reflective in any way with what is happening in many parts of England, never mind Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Yet we are supposed to be a United Kingdom. This is a funny way of showing how we are all better together. If we are to have TV debates featuring the leaders of political parties, and it looks like we will, there needs to be a sound basis for deciding who gets to appear in these debates. We should most definitely not leave this key decision to the broadcasters alone.

A Prime Ministerial debate?

There is some, though a very limited, rational for holding a debate among the candidates who could become Prime Minister, without relying on the support of other parties. Though of course this would only involve David Cameron and Ed Milliband. Everyone recognises that only Labour or the Tories can win an outright majority of seats on their own. However this is an increasingly unlikely outcome. It did not happen in 2010 and just about all polls indicate the most likely outcome in May 2015 is another “hung” parliament, with no overall majority for either party. So though in theory this option has some basis to it, the reality is that most people would rightly reject it. The UK is sufficiently beyond two party politics for broadcasters to impose a return to those bygone days on the rest of us.

Debates involving the leaders of all political parties?

This is the one option that has so far never been considered by our broadcasters. No doubt difficult to organise and to work out a format that allows all the participants to respond to questions. Yet this is the only option that does justice to all parties and most important of all, the only option which serves the purpose of informing the electorate, which should be the key, indeed sole purpose of any debate.

The justification for involving all parties is that any party, however small, may have an important, possibly decisive, role to play in who does become Prime Minister. As the most likely outcome of the May 2015 election is that no party has an overall majority of MPs, then all kinds of coalitions, formal or informal may become possible. To take just one example, that of Plaid Cymru. Though there is no way that Plaid Cymru can become the party of government at Westminster, the votes of their MPs could in some circumstances be decisive in building a stable coalition or in supporting a minority government. It is therefore important that the voters in the rest of the country know not just what Plaid Cymru stand for, but how the other parties, in particular Labour and the Tories, would respond to any overtures from Plaid. This can only be done through some kind of open and public engagement among the parties.

Spare a thought for the broadcasters

There is it seems to me no simple way to accommodate needs and demands of all the various interested parties, from the broadcasters themselves, the political parties to the most important of all, the poor bloody voter. The reason for this is quite simple – the increasing fragmentation of politics in the UK. This can be seen firstly in the slow, but seemingly irreversible decline of both Labour and the Tory party. In counter part to this decline there is the rise of national parties in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Combined, these trends may mean there is no longer in any UK wide politics in any meaningful sense. In England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland the key issues are often different and the political parties are often different. Just glad I am not a broadcaster, though they need to come up with something much much better than their current proposals.

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