General Election 2015: De-United Kingdom

  • An unpredictable result

The people of Britain have decided. They had the choice between a fairer, altruist society that gives a chance to everyone or one that allows the richest to become richer and condemn the poorest to become poorer. Surprisingly, Britain’s electorate has been wooed by David Cameron’s empty promises, vaguely expressed but legitimised by the long-term economic plan rhetoric – an idea suggested by his campaign strategist Lynton Crosby.

Not only did the most unpredictable election in the history of the United Kingdom lived up to its expectation, but it also shocked the country – and choked – the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats, digging Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband’s grave.

  •  Scotland says no to Westminster

What is interesting, looking at the outcome is that it shows that the electoral system benefiting the reigning two-party system in England is no longer valid in the rest of the UK. Scotland, previously heart of the Labour party, being submerged by a separatist wave of yellow is the evidence that Scots are no longer interested in a typical Labour/Tory fight. The Westminster system has always overlooked Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

At the north of Hadrian’s wall, Nicola Sturgeon is dancing to a sweet tune as she celebrates her party defeating Labour and winning 56 of the 58 seats. Scottish Labour party leader Jim Murphy and election strategist Douglas Alexander – the latter being toppled by politically inexperienced 20 year-old student Mhairi Black (pictured below) – are casualties of Scotland’s decision to break up its love affair with the Labour party and Westminster’s system.

Mhairi Black Douglas Alexander

Surely David Cameron will realise he will have to please the freshly elected 56 SNP MPs by devolving more power to Scotland or giving them a second referendum – which probably won’t happen in the next five years.

  •  UKIP and The Greens rise, Lib Dems fall

UKIP and the Greens have solicited together 16.4% of votes (more than 5 million voters), and only secured one seat each. Somehow, figures do not seem to represent the reality of an election, as suggested by Nigel Farage, where the SNP secured 56 seats with only 4.5% of votes (1.5 million voters).

However, if there is something this election has shown, it certainly is that the British political system is not fit for more than two parties and needs to change. Tories and Labours do not make the unanimity anymore. People have voiced their concern at a weak Labour party and the Tories’ decision to go down the austerity road, and turned towards smaller parties.

  •  De-uniting the kingdom

However, that rise translated into something morbid: the involvement towards UKIP massively increased – and made it arrive second in numerous seats – whereas the Lib Dems have fallen to their lowest ever score. it shows that this election was also one of fear, rejection, and selfishness, where foreigners and Europe are as much to blame as the government.

Nigel Farage

This shows that the campaign of both Nigel Farage and David Cameron based on defiance towards Europe and the free circulation of people, has seduced a fearful electorate eager to find a scapegoat.

Not only has this election shown the scission between Scotland and Westminster, but it also shows the rejection of Europe by the British people; it also shows that the south does not seem to be suffering from austerity and the increasing cost of living (Labour-voting London is the surrounded by an ocean of blue) as much as the north – which seem like a world apart.

Finally, this election has shown that a five-year Conservative government has made those that suffer turn towards alternative, radical solutions and the far end of the political spectrum. What will the next five years bring? If the boost of the economy was just a brief illusion, it might be scary to think of where the UK will be in five years time. One thing is sure though, people have had enough and want change! Not sure that is going to happen with a £12bn cut in public services programmed by the Tories…

The Dehumanisation of Politics

General election 2015 Candidates
Image taken from

Increase NHS spending by £8bn; build 200,000 homes; increase public spending by 0.5% a year. All these campaign promises are strikingly similar and typical of this election. They are just numbers. Worse, they illustrate a sad reality: politics is all about numbers. Hence, campaigns need to be built up around them.

After all, it makes sense. During the first half of the twentieth century, people were fighting for their rights –vote for women; strikes. During the second half they fought for social change – education. Today, they fight about economics. The twenty-first century will be the kingdom of numbers.

Politics has become a message that needs to be decrypted by economists. Yes, of course it’s important to base strategies around numbers, but these are dangerous because they can say many things. Or, to phrase it more accurately, anyone can make them tell anything. Numbers have changed their status. They use to attest of governmental success (or failure). They now serve demagogy.

The reality is that numbers have drained the life out of politics. Look at the political debates we’ve had to cope with over the past month; David Cameron justifies cuts in the public service (refusing to tell exactly where) by his long term economic plan; Miliband just wants to balance the books (that doesn’t tell us where the country will be in 5 years time); Farage proposes to cut the foreign aid budget (Migrants dying in the Mediterranean and people of Greece living in poverty are not his problem). Candidates for 10 Downing Street talk about these as though they did not mean anything. These are just dehumanised numbers that are just brought up to legitimate hard decisions that need to be made.

However, there is a danger in doing so. Similarly to the gap between the richest and the poorest in the UK, the gap between politicians and the people is broadening (and the fact that Miliband and Cameron acknowledge that they wouldn’t be able to live on a zero hour contract is symptomatic of that ordeal). If there had been a winner in the past debates, it probably would have been the audience, whom did not hesitate to challenge candidates upfront.

A decade after the first suffragettes, young women do not seem interested in politics anymore (39 percent of 18 – 24’s have voted during the past election). Numbers for young men aren’t much better (50 percent). Perhaps this reflects the fracture and the lack of trust that has occurred between politicians and voters. As a foreigner, I can’t help but wonder if all the relevant questions have been raised over this campaign. Europe isn’t talked about for the correct reasons. The debate on education is roughed up to tuition fees. Housing and health are just numbers.

However, we now live in a world were economy justifies everything (austerity and public services cuts). Maybe it is time for UK politicians to ask themselves if they are asking the right questions. Shouldn’t we talk about what the UK could bring to the EU? Isn’t education about making good citizens? Does the economy legitimise everything?

Maybe one day they will realise their speeches don’t affect the youth and they will decide to change things and make them more human. But, how do you make numbers human?

David Cameron Does Not Know What Being European Means

David Cameron

Thursday 23 April, the European summit on the question of refugees gathered leaders David Cameron, Angela Merkel and François Hollande in Brussels. A decision was made by leaders on what to do with the 3 million Syrians fleeing their country, victims of the civil war – ISIS and Assad’s regime tyranny. Whereas France agreed shyly to welcome 500 to 700 of them, Germany has already opened its doors to more than 70,000 Syrians. Although France’s contribution can be deemed modest if not hypocritical, Britain did not do much better. As a matter of fact David Cameron did worst, declaring he was not ready to welcome any of them. It is as though he forgot Britain signed the Geneva Conventions in 1949, and the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, engaging each signatory to consider asylum demands from war refugees.

This, however, is nothing new. Some might say Great Britain’s Prime Minister – or Tory candidate for the general election next week – is panicking at the idea that he might be thrown out of 10 Downing Street by the “not-so-prime-ministerial” Ed Miliband. Essentially, he wants to scrape votes from Eurosceptics within Conservative voters and UKIP sympathisers. Yes, that may well be so. It is even more likely given the fact that he has pledged to introduce a referendum bill within 100 days was he to be re-elected.

Or, it may well be that David Cameron has no idea what being European means. If Europe is one of the issues in this election and 70 per cent of Britons want a referendum, it is not for good reasons. Britain feels like it is investing too much in the EU, and is not getting enough out of it. Yet, the problem is that the UK has never really shown enthusiasm at being a member of the EU. All it wants is to benefit from it. Just look at the whereabouts – or the where-he-should-have-been-about of the PM. Where was Mr Cameron when Merkel, Hollande and Poroshenko were negotiating with Vladimir Putin on the ceasefire in Ukraine? Where was he when France and Germany decided to massively fund Greece so that it could repay its debts? Where was he when the rest of Europe was pledging to participate to Triton’s rescue mission?

The answer is: nowhere to be seen. Because David Cameron wants to be re-elected PM and he would rather spend time saving his own skin than Europe’s. Peace in Ukraine, people dying in the Mediterranean whilst seeking a better life, asylum seekers; all that doesn’t appeal to him because it does not serve Britain’s best interests. To him, Britain’s best interest would be to increase exchanges with the USA, without the constraints imposed by the EU. The sad reality is that Cameron does not get what it means to be European, because he is British and liberalist first. In France, we have a saying that applies particularly well here: “He wants the butter and the money of the butter with it.”

Yes, Europe is not at its best at the moment and it is in dire need of help, but it needs Britain to be saved. However, it does not seem likely to happen if its PM hides whenever he is needed. What if the question of this election was not what can Europe do for Britain, but what can Britain do for Europe? It certainly would not hurt to care a bit more…