Friday, 9 June 2017

Shock Election Result: 'Another fine mess!'

Reflecting of today’s shock election result - and most of us really didn’t see it coming - the words of Laurel and Hardy come to mind when thinking about how the Conservatives - and perhaps the country as a whole - must be feeling about Theresa May: ‘Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into!’ 

Prime Minister Theresa May announces she is
forming a minority government.
What I think we’ve learnt in these fractious days that we seem to be living through is that there is no point in making predictions any more (though to be fair to pollsters YouGov their final poll was more or less spot on). If we’ve learnt anything from the past few years of going to the polls it’s simply that we should expect the unexpected. While the ‘Yes’ campaign lost the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, no-one starting that campaign would have guessed that it would have been that close. A year later, in 2015, everyone thought we were heading for another hung parliament but David Cameron defied expectations and won a small majority. Then in 2016, while it was going to be close, no-one actually thought that ‘Leave’ would win the EU Referendum, and across the Atlantic who would have guessed that Donald Trump would beat Hillary Clinton in the race to the White House. So, going into this year’s snap General Election, we really ought to have read the runes and worked out that there was no way Theresa May would ever get a thumping majority. Incidentally, perhaps May should have read her history books more carefully - Edward Heath called a snap election in February 1974 thinking he would increase his majority but ended up with a hung parliament.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn
dramatically cut May's majority
It seems sacrilege to say it but I’ve had enough of going to the polls. Three major polls in three two years (four in three years if you’re Scottish) does seem be overdoing it slightly. And before anyone starts bellowing ‘…but people died so you could vote’, after another election that appears to have created more problems than it solves, I’m not sure frequency in polling is actually a good thing (though I will say that a large youth turnout amid a high turnout in general is something we should celebrate this year). Unfortunately, what I've noticed is that each of the recent polls in 2014, 2015, 2016, and perhaps now in 2017, has in turn created a new problem that has then led to a new poll: the 2014 Referendum is still being played out in every poll Scots have had since, the 2015 Election meant that Cameron had to go through with his manifesto promise to hold the 2016 Referendum, which in turn has caused May to seek her own mandate for Brexit in this election - and we are arguably in a worse state as a nation because of it. 

Now don’t get me wrong. Being a healthy democracy is a good thing. The people should choose those that govern them. However, a democracy is not something that should be held in too high esteem. After all, democracy is imperfect and is a reflection of the people who cast their ballots. What our elections have shown us is that instead of a unified nation with a common purpose and identity I see a nation that is ill at ease with itself. We are a nation that seems fragmented and rudderless. Our recent multiple elections haven’t solved anything and have simply highlighted the deep division we have in the United Kingdom. By going to the polls again and again and again (and I’m hoping we don’t get another election in the autumn when or if Theresa May’s minority government falls apart) all we are doing is getting the results that a divided nation will get - yet more division. The problem with democracy is that it often covers difficult truths about ourselves as a nation and how we relate to the ‘Other’ - whoever the ‘Other’ is to you. We are a nation that is desperately in need of healing.

So despite what the Tories in Scotland or Labour in England might say, there really are no winners in this election. As the legendary psephologist, Professor John Curtice has said

‘Almost everybody lost. This is a result that brought disappointment to all parties:

The Conservatives lost their majority.
Labour suffered its third defeat in a row.
The Liberal Democrats found themselves treading water.
The SNP’s independence bandwagon came to a juddering halt.
And UKIP imploded.

It is not only the Conservatives who will be asking why Mrs May changed her mind about holding a snap election.
The only winners are perhaps the DUP - to whom she seems to have awarded the role of kingmakers.’

So what would I like to see next? Constitutionally, it's the right of the largest party to attempt to govern and it looks like this is what is happening - though there is no way that Theresa May can pretend that nothing’s happened and she needs to listen to what the result is saying. However, I would also want all parties to try and work together in the national interest. In leaving the EU, the British people are facing an almighty challenge that is unprecedented and has the potential to harm us all. We are where we are in terms of the election result so I would hope that all parties - especially the two larger ones - would put aside petty party politics, attempt to act like grown-ups for a change and work together - yes, together - in the national interest. Governments of national unity happened in the early twentieth century and the Conservatives and Labour worked together to govern during the Second World War, so why can’t May, Corbyn and the rest of them start behaving like responsible adults and work together for the common good as we enter Brexit talks?

I know it probably won’t happen because the parties - and too often their supporters too - loath and despise the other. But surely that would be the best way forward for the country?

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