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at the outcome is that it shows that the electoral system benefiting the reigning two-party system in England is no longer valid in the rest of the UK.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 http://theworldforgotten.com/showthread.php?t=4666

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?