This “Dis-United” Kingdom General Election

Four months to go to the British General Election and the only certainty is the uncertainty.

The 2010 Election produced a strange result…a hung parliament. Arguably the worst possible result if you care about cohesion within the “United Kingdom”. If, on the other hand, you hate, loathe and despise everything about the “United Kingdom”, a hung parliament is at least possibly another good result.

The basic duty of a (global) republican is to undermine the “United Kingdom”.

The basic duty of an (Irish) nationalist is to undermine the ” United Kingdom”.

I have been a student of politics for nearly five decades. I actually formally began to study Politics…actually an A Level subject called “Economics and Political Studies” (EPS) in September 1968. So much different then of course. Pre-Troubles but we could see them evolve. Civil Rights activists had just begun to march the previous month and the big adventure for the two classes of EPS boys was taking part in our first Civil Rights March on 7th October 1968.

Yes …we thought it was an adventure…to be led by those QUB students, who we had only seen on the TV News.

Yes…Politics was “British Politics” which was a fairly static thing. Labour were in power in Britain. Tories in Opposition. And Liberals maybe had less than ten seats in the “UK Parliament”. Only a couple of nationalists in Scotland and Wales. And eleven of twelve Norn Iron seats held by Unionist Party who were an integral part of the British Conservative Party.

All very static because for fifty years, power had been in the hands of the Tory and Labour parties. Pre-Scottish and Welsh Devolution. Pre-Troubles. Pre-European Union. Pre-Multiculturalism. Pre-the collapse of Trade Unions. Pre-Internet. Pre-the End of Deference.

It is not for Nationalists and Republicans to have angst about “UK” having problems. I have been studying History for even longer than I have been studying Politics and as every schoolboy in an Irish Christian Brothers classroom knows…England’s Difficulty is Irelan  d’s Opportunity.

That is simply a fact of life. Spanish Armada 1588 to Malvinas 1982. And even to the fragmentation of Greater England thru Scottish and Welsh devolution or Europe or multiculturalism. Simply put Britain is no longer a homogenous country.

Yet in British politics, there is an ongoing narrative where the system becomes less based on a Parliamentary system and more a Presidential system. With an envious glance across the Atlantic Ocean, in 2010, Britain’s broadcasters, BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky persuaded the the leaders of the three main parties to agree to TV Debates, not unlike the traditional American model.

From the perspective of the British (unwritten) Constitution, this was a grave error. It set a precedent and it is reasonably expected that there should be a series of TV Debates. But who exactly should be taking part.

Well a look at the 2010 Election Results provides the first clue.

Conservative 306.  Labour 258. Liberal Democrat 57. Scottish Nationalist Party 6. Welsh Nationalists (PC) 3. Green 1.

Norn Iron’s 18 seats hard,y count. DUP 8. Independent Unionist 1. Alliance 1. SDLP 3. Sinn Féin (who dont go to Westminster) 5. While DUP and SDLP tend to vote with Conservatives and Labour respectively, they cannot be relied upon. The notion that the 2015 Election Results will give some leverage to Norn Iron parties is certainly possible but it seems a long shot because there has been a change in British politics.

The Liberal Democrats (57 seats in 2010) are believed to be in melt-down. Traditionally the third Party, they are suffering thru their decision to go into Coalition government with David Cameron’s Conservative Party. Their opinion poll numbers and performance in the European and Local Elections in 2013 look bad. Traditionally they attract tactical votes. Labour and Conservative voters in “unwinnable seats” often vote Lib Dem the lesser of two evils. They are also the traditional beneficiaries of “protest votes”.

The Green Party (just 1 seat…itself a breakthru) overtook the Lib Dems in the European Elections. And seem to have inherited the protest vote and seemingly …positioned to the left of Labour (always too cautious in elections), they can claim the mantle of the de-facto fourth Party …in England.

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is the third Party, according to opinion polls and European elections. They cant shake off the mantle of being Europhobes and  anti-migration but although they did not get a seat in 2010, they have gained two defectors from the Conservative Party (the unpleasant right-wing). They are not unlike the American Tea Party, predominantly white and out of step with the modern world.

Also easy to overlook the Respect Party (no seats in 2010 but a subsequent bye-election victory) which can take a lot of votes in Muslim areas of Britain. Probably at most one seat but certainly enough to influence results.

So what about the Debates? Well the suggested formula….one debate a head-to-head between Cameron and Ed Miliband as the only two people who can aspire to be British Prime Minister….a second Debate featuring the traditional three Parties, Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem (this seems to ignore the reality of Politics 2015).

The third Debate….Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and UKIP….has angered Conservatives because it does not include the Greens. David Cameron, who as Prime Minister has most to lose by participation, has threatened to boycott the Debates which means they either cannot proceed or go ahead without a Conservative.

But what about the Scottish Nationalist Party. Devolution and the 2014 Referendum has changed Scotland. The SNP only picked up 6 seats but expected to gain a lot in 2015. As the Party are …by definition “Scottish”, SNP will only be standing in 59 seats so obviously wont be competing to be part of the “UK” government.

But of course, Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem will be competing in Scottish constituencies.. The three pro-Union parties formed an unholy coalition to defeat Scottish Independence 55-45. The unionist tactics of Fear, Threats and Promises has left a bitter taste in Scottish mouths.

As I have often said, nationalism feeds off Resentment. And the bitterness from the Referendum in September 2014 will certainly last until May 2015. Labour are set to lose seats. The only question is how  many.

So should the SNP get a place in the Debates. They of course say that they should. They have more seats than (say) UKIP and will likely have more than UKIP, Greens and even the Lib Dems. Although they wont be part of the “UK ” Government, their numbers should ensure a solid voting block which would caucus (at a price) with Labour. These Debates will be shown inScotland…and a Debate featiring Cameron, Miliband and Clegg and not showing Salmond (SNP Leader) would be grossly unfair to the Scottish electorate.

Of course British TV channels are…British. BBC, ITN, Sky and Channel 4 were not exactly even-handed during the Referendum Campaign. The British Media is pro-union. It is an article of faith with the London metropolitan elite that the “union” is a good thing.

The Controversy about Debates is just one more example of the self-inflicted chaos within British politics.

Dontcha just love it?






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17 Responses to This “Dis-United” Kingdom General Election

  1. Political Tourist says:

    What became of Peoples Democracy?
    I notice one chap in PD, Bruce Anderson, became a rabid Tory who thought torture was a good idea.
    How much of a cross section was the Civil Rights Movement.
    Notice that Gerry Adams when asked about the “Long March to Derry” said “I was working and couldn’t get time off”

    • They were a few years older than me.
      I had no older siblings but as I recall, my classmates had olders brothers/sisters who had connexions to PD.
      As you know, when you are 16, a person of 20 or 21 seems very mature.
      We tend to think of PD as one integrated thing but the student leaders at QUB were actually a “mixed bunch” of liberals, republicans and socialists. For rxample Nick Ross of BBC Crimewatch was involved.
      In 2008…there was an event at QUB to mark the 40th Anniversary of QUBs involvement in the Civil Rights movement. Funny how History gets re-written. My recollection is that QUB kept well out of that.
      The event was attended by among others Michael Farrell (now in Dublin I think), Kevin Boyle (now dead he was an academic) And I think FEamonn McCann (now a pain in the arse) were all there.
      In the audience Alban Magennis, Erskine Holmes (who was in NI Labour in 1970s) and Paul Bew (who has made the journeyto being “Lord” Bew in House of Lords…he is a member of the neo con Henry Jackson Society and advised Trimble).
      I suppose Peoples Democracy was the “bed and breakfast” party of the day. People stayed a night or two they moved on with their lives.
      I daresay one or two were Intelligence “moles” and are maybe working full time in that capacity.
      About six weeks ago, I was in Newry and saw Rory McShane, now a solicitor. He was a prominent student back in the day.

  2. One would imagine that the only logical way to regulate this would be for any party that stands “nationally” across the “UK” and has one or more MPs in Westminster to get a seat in any national leaders’ debate. However if you include “Northern Ireland” as part of the UK that would exclude British Labour and the Lib Dems, neither of whom stand in the north-east of this island nation. The British Green Party has an MP but the Irish Green Party (northern branch) runs things here so the England&Wales Greens would be out of the debate to. That only leaves the Tories and UKIP (I think!) to field David and Nigel for a studio get together.

    That whole “United Kingdom” thing is more delusion than reality when you come down to it.

  3. Political Tourist says:

    I remember in the early 1980s PD had a couple of councillors in Belfast.
    Think one ending up joining the provos.
    The Civil Rights leaders must all be of free bus pass age by now.
    Was there any demands the CR movement failed to get?

    • I dont think there was any direct connexion between Peoples Democracy 1968 and 1982. As I reca,ll one of the councillors was called McAAreavey. I think the first election after H Block Deaths was a case of SFflyingvarious flags of convenience.
      The Civil Rights movement was only really active for a very short period. In retrospect it became more about PROTEST than actual DEMANDS.
      Unionists claim that Protestants left it as Republicans took over.
      But probably as much to do with Protestants leaving first and Republicans taking over.

  4. benmadigan says:

    here’s a link to a recent interview with Michael Farrell of PD fame . I found it interesting and it may clear up some of the issues people are debating here!rii=9%3A20678110%3A15946%3A09%2D11%2D2014%3A
    Apart from blasts from the past – i agree a lot with FJH on his predictions for the 2015 general election. See what i wrote here

  5. Cheers.
    Very good analysis on that Blog.
    There is only about 110 days left to the Election. And there will be some twists and turns between now and Election Day.

  6. Political Tourist says:

    Unless he or she is a catholic……

  7. Political Tourist says:

    Couple of points regarding the SNP.
    Opinion polls since the referendum have shown them anywhere between 38% and 52%.
    The SNPs best ever vote at a Westminster election was in October 1974 with 32% and 11 MPs.
    I expect their percentage vote to go down because of lack of air time.
    British TV will blank them basically.
    The SNPs 100,000 members will be needed at that point to keep them visible.
    Should also point out a lot of Scottish Labour MPs have massive majorities.
    It’s a case of 20,000 for Labour with the SNP a distant second with 5000.
    I’d regard anything above the 11 seats the SNP got in 1974 as a victory.
    Helps also if the unionist vote in Scotland goes three or four ways.

    • I think there will be a fall in the percentage for SNP from the highest opinion poll levels but I think SNP will get their best ever result. Certainly some Labour majorities are massive but the old two Party system has collapsed and effectively Scotland has its own Government now and SNP can certainly deprive Labour of a majority and more so use leverage to get concessions.
      The Scottish Electorate will know this.

  8. Political Tourist says:

    Another interesting point that i noticed on Jim Kelly’s excellent Scottish Politics blog “Scot goes Pop” is that the swing towards the SNP in the safest Glasgow and Lanarkshire Labour seats is through the roof.
    Hard to believe anybody could lose a 20,000+ majority.
    Fingers and toes crossed.

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