I stayed up last night watching the results of the election coming in (with the advantage of the time zone difference between the UK and Mexico). I hadn’t thought I cared enough, but there is something moving about people casting their ballots, especially when one knows something about the circumstances they live in and the positions advocated by the mainstream political parties. Memories from my five years in London were revived.
In the UK political system the country (how many nations?) is divided up in small constituencies. Political parties field candidates, of who the first one in votes in each constituency becomes a member of parliament. He or she has responsibility to represent the constituency, but at the same time is responsible for the more general political issues. There is a tendency that the latter decisions are mostly determined by partizan lines, the former responsibility, however, helps the members of parliament to be held accountable locally.
On this occasion, the system enabled the Conservative party, also known as the Tories, to win an absolute majority in the Parliament with just over one third of the popular vote. The moment may prove of historical significance, given the position of this party to severe the links of Britain with the European Union. Other unsettling policies include tougher immigration rules and cuts to the public sector services, including in the national health service and the education sector, both former prides of the UK but under threat of further privatization (restruction).
There are however a number of further noticeable events to account for in yesterday’s election. What occurred to the Liberal Democrats may be instructive to those who allegedly represent liberal, democratic, labour-friendly or socialist views. No one wishes to be lied to in the face or on their backs and gaining public trust is a very important element in politics. Principled, left-wing members of parliament from the Labour party easily convinced their constituencies. If their voices were stronger, the opposition party would have done better. This argument is further supported by the 1 million votes gained by the Green party, whose rhetoric was marketdly progressive and from the anti-austerity strategy adopted by the Scottish National Party.
It is immediately evident that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland maintain different traditions, ideologies, culture and politics. One interesting aspect of what is to follow, is how the Tories plan to balance a xenophobic agenda with clear intent to break away from the European Union with their wish to hold on to the peoples of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – for many considered the single nation of Great Britain. The other interesting aspect is to observe how the almost absolute divide (half-half of the vote) on ideological terms when it comes to issues like the public services, worker rights, education etc. will play out in conditions where one ideology will almost fully prevail the government structures. Precisely because the right-wing ideology is so well represented, opposition would be wise to expel it from its own ranks.
The fact that UKIP received almost 4 million votes makes it easier for the Tories to promote a political agenda that advantages only the elite of the country. Overall, I predict the result will lead to a sharp decline in the quality of life for a very large (over 80%) part of the population in the next five years, but with longer-term consequences (the chaos in Universities is linked by many to Thatcher’s legacy). Yet, it is commendable that all three leaders of the major opposition parties who lost took responsibility. It is going to be very difficult to build effective opposition without a clear change in the political thinking without a radical shift from being servile to the powerful monetary interests to represent people’s genuine interests and helping towards their unity, their education and health, their fair treatment at work. This is no time to put down the arms for social justice – quite the contrary. Good luck.