Friday, 8 May 2015

Post mortem

Well, I stayed up all night watching the General Election results come in. I did get a bit tired by 6.00am, but I hung on to see all the main party leaders make a short speech on the outcome, and eventually went to bed at 8.30am, waking up two hours later, feeling fine. I had sustained myself with a good roast lamb meal the previous evening, then - at long intervals - chocolate biscuits, muesli, cheese and crackers, a bacon sandwich, porridge, and several cups of tea. It was a bit of a marathon, but how interesting! I was glad I'd seen the events of the night unfold.

Was it the result I wanted? Yes. I considered that good management of the economy was the most pressing issue, and I wanted that in the hands of the Conservatives. I got my wish. This didn't mean that I embraced everything else the Conservatives were probably going to deliver, but of all the parties they were the likeliest to do most for middle-class, comfortably-off, home-owning pensioners living on their own - people like me. Voting for them was therefore a sensible, even natural, thing to do.

But not necessarily the most socially responsible thing. I'd already been challenged on that. It was put to me: shouldn't I consider the needs of society as a whole, and not just my own particular needs? The unavoidable answer was yes, of course I should. Conservative policies had clearly not helped everyone. But then neither would Labour policies help everyone. And so on, with every other party. Each favoured a different section of society, to the detriment of other sections.

It all depended on your personal situation, your personality, and your beliefs. If like me you were an individualist without ideals, who liked to do their own thing, and to be independent of state assistance - or state intervention - then you wouldn't see yourself as part of a Big Family, or a Big Club, or possess a very strong sense of community. I would never disregard the value of collective effort, and collective solutions, but they were things I would usually rather opt out of. And so Labour's core appeal as the Safety Net for the nation's needy did not resonate with me. I preferred to rely on a general rise in prosperity, combined with free choice as to how I made the most of it.

I was glad too that David Cameron would now be able to form a government that wouldn't need to rely on compromising alliances, nor a formal coalition. At least not at first. In time the Conservative majority would erode, and eventually it would become very difficult to get any kind of controversial legislation passed. So in his shoes, I'd be pushing the important measures through straight away. Some commentators had detected a return of 'Compassionate Conservatism'. I hoped they were right. Government with efficiency and humanity would be very welcome.

I felt a great deal for the poor LibDems, who received a savage mauling in this election. It was as if the electorate wanted to punish them for joining the Coalition, even if it might have been (at the time) in the national interest. You can see it. They had apparently sold out in exchange for some power. They had been in cahoots with the Conservatives. Well, the LibDems were certainly a modifying force on the Conservatives, and they demonstrated that their best people were highly capable in office. But they fatally compromised their integrity as an independent party. It will take time to get it back. Last night's purge will help them make a fresh start. As for the distant future, I don't imagine that the LibDems - or any party - will now consider going into another coalition. Not if this will be the consequence.

I also felt sorry for Labour, who had been handicapped by not defining their position well enough, for taking too much for granted, and by having the wrong front man. Ed Miliband may be a nice chap in private, and I don't doubt that he is driven by noble ideals, but in this election he was not my idea of what a 'Labour Leader' should be like, at least not one who is supposed to be valiant for the welfare of 'working families' - an annoying phrase he repeated far too often. Dare I say that (to me - maybe not to you) he looked and spoke like a smooth and educated Conservative Man who had changed sides, and was now a fierce convert to Socialism, haranguing us all with desperately sincere zeal. That's how he came across to me. And I didn't find him any more appealing as a possible Prime Minister than David Cameron. That said, he took the disappointing election results squarely on the chin, and he must be admired for not clinging on, and - like Nick Clegg for the LibDems - promptly announcing his resignation.

So many household names now gone! Who would have thought it yesterday?

And lastly, what will David Cameron do about Scotland and Europe? Let's take Europe first.

So far as I can tell, Europe regards the UK as an indispensable trading partner, and vital for the economic health of the EU. The UK's tendency to want a non-standard deal is an annoyance to the rest of the EU, but at the end of the day I think Europe will grant the UK a special status within the EU, and we will secure several important freedoms to legislate as we wish. We will be the Hong Kong of Europe. That will avoid the dreaded in-out referendum, and our possible departure and isolation. And I'm pretty confident that David Cameron can get this kind of deal, and sell it well.

As for Scotland, it will now be quite impossible to carry on as before. The majority of people in Scotland decided that the Scottish National Party was likely to represent them best. No measures passed at Westminster that affect Scottish people will now be implemented in Scotland if the SNP disagrees with them. Scotland will be governable only if granted almost complete self-determination. The SNP actually aspires to total independence, but something short of that could be negotiated - something federal perhaps, that will preserve the convenience of cross-border organisations, easy passage for money (the same money as now), no border hindrances for goods and services, and the possibility of two-way 'federal funding' between Scotland and the other states in a new 'United Kingdom'.

'Other states' could of course mean more than just England, Wales and Northern Ireland as they presently exist. Why (for example) shouldn't London be a state in itself, separate and distinct from the rest of England? And couldn't England be split up into (say) the North, the Midlands, the South West, the South, and East Anglia - each with equal status? But all of it still within the new, federalised 'United Kingdom'?

We might be entering a completely new era.

3 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Another try...

    Doesn't London already think of itself as a separate state?

    I think Cameron's petulance when the Scots showed that they were not happy being told what to do by the distant southern city state. His declaration of independence from us overnight while the Scots have been trying to discus some sort of control over locally understood issues since before WW2 did not go down too well, nor did Labour siding with conservatives on the issue, because they like their seats at the big table in London, they vanished overnight in a country which I thought of as dominated by the left...

    I fell asleep at the first result and saved myself the midnight snacks.

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  3. I'm being internally torn apart as a floating voter here. There are so many ideological Conservative policies that I think will genuinely damage the country, yet the idea of the economy in the hands of Ed Balls wasn't exactly encouraging. I think the backbench "bastards" of the John Major era will blunt Cameron's sword somewhat.

    I think the Scottish reaction was as much a symptom of the London bias of the whole country as a specifically Scottish thing. I suspect if the rest of the country had been presented with a "divorce us from the London bubble" party they'd have voted for it too.

    That said I wouldn't support a regional fragmentation of England. We throw enough money at useless assemblies as it is :)

    ReplyDelete

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Lucy Melford