Post Election Reaction #GE2017

It is the first time for a while that an election result hasn’t left me despairing so that’s nice!  This blog meanders through some of the reasons why.

I’m happy it is not a Tory landslide but I recognise there are difficult times ahead.  The result will create uncertainty and have politicians dividing their attention between the serious issues and commitments facing the country and the opportunities and threats to their own political careers.

Of course, we are still committed to investing time and energy leaving the safe haven of a large economic union to flounder in the high seas of a volatile world, having to accept help from whatever brigand and pirate stops to offer it.  That’s not good.  Whatever the rights and wrongs of whether we would be better off in or out of the EU, the process of leaving is going to eat up the money, parliamentary time and energy of politicians and civil servants alike.  That reduces the chances perhaps to zero that other problems in our society will be tackled and improvements made be.  Is it really going to be so much better outside the EU that we will make up for that lost progress?

Also, the British system is incapable of dealing with the plurality of mind.  The first-past-the-post clear majority focuses solely on the winning ideology.  Rather than dealing with the plurality of thought, this system ignores it between elections, while it has no power.  The anger and frustration of the other points of view build up and build up until, well, until a night such as this.  So, yes, the system doesn’t work to reflect the real feelings of the country and to weave our different threads into a harmonious tapestry.  But it feels like it is working to those in power who see no dissent.  Until they get laughed at – judge us on our record, said Amber Rudd – and the people did!

If Theresa gives enough to the Democratic Unionist Party she has a working majority – just – but it is a long way from the extra authority she thought she was going to get.  Meanwhile, the knives are out for her in her own party.  Just how much is everyone looking forward to another Conservative leadership contest followed by ANOTHER general election in the Autumn, which is what some people are predicting?  The trouble with politicians they never seem to consider the possibility of defeat and the catastrophe for themselves and for the rest of us if they do.

On the plus side for Jeremy, (the unelectable, they said), not enough people voted for him to have to meet his pledges.  He’s played a blinder: turned the tide of a labour decline (which commentators predicted was so bad that Labour might become a minor party) while not having to form a government or govern.  Yet.  The question is can he create a meaningful Progressive Opposition to the Conservative and Unionist government, and do so in a way that shores up his image and builds more support in case of that possible Autumn poll?  Since the Northern Ireland parties are suddenly so important, is he even the man to persuade the Sinn Fein MPs to take their seats?

Which brings to mind another sober thought.  The results of this election, added to the potential consequences of Brexit, could spell trouble on the island of Ireland.

In Scotland, well, there’s a couple of years until the next Scottish Government elections so time for the SNP to rebuild but also time for Ruth Davidson to consolidate the Scottish Conservatives’ and her own position.  Can the Conservatives even get her into a Westminster seat and closer to the leadership of the party?  For the lost Nationalists, Alec Salmond was yesterday’s man to a certain extent but Angus Robertson is a great loss to Parliament.  Will the SNP focus on getting him back in?

And, thinking of someone coming back: Nigel Farage, anyone?

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Two Thirds Majority Needed, eh? #ge2017

In the event, the vote (in the UK House of Commons to call an election) passed like a damp squib.  I supposed politicians can’t resist the chance to go out and campaign on doorsteps, rallies and debates.  However, when the Prime Minister first mentioned it on Tuesday 18 March, the irony of the need for a two-thirds majority made me smile, ruefully.

The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 was introduced to the House by Nick Clegg, when he was Deputy Prime Minister in the Liberal Democrat – Conservative coalition and was hailed as a remarkable modernisation brought about by that coalition and by the Liberal Democrat influence on policy.  It took away the ability of a Prime Minister of the day to call an election whenever he or she wanted, taking advantage of a fair wind for the government’s Party.  It was expected to make it easier to govern when the biggest party doesn’t have a huge majority.  It reduced the ways that parliament could be dissolved and created a new normality that governments should last the full five-year term for which they had been elected.

Reinforcing the principle that this should be not easily overridden, the Act contained only two exceptions to the full term, both involving votes in the House of Commons.  In the first, the House must pass a vote of no-confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.  The second is what has happened today, 19 March 2017: the House has passed a motion that there should be an early parliamentary election.

Neither exception is a simple first-past-the-post, one-off vote.  If the House passes a vote of No-Confidence in HM Government, MPs then have 14 days to think a bit more about it and pass a vote of Confidence in HM Government.  Only if that fails is parliament dissolved.  And, for the motion for an early parliamentary election to pass the House it must have the support of “two-thirds of its total membership”, not of those voting but of the total membership.

So, when it comes to having a regular election, which can be repeated again if the right terms are met and, in any case, in five years’ time, there are special rules and higher than usual bars to clear.  But, for a one-off referendum that would radically change the direction of the UK and the individual rights of its citizens, a simple majority of those voting was considered appropriate.  Fiddle-di-dee!

“The country is coming together..”? Pull the other one, Prime Minister! #ge2017

Oh, Mrs May, I know you have developed the politicians’ habit of saying something with feigned conviction in the apparent belief that saying it will make it so, but I’m not too keen on a leader who lives in fantasy land.

The country is divided.  The referendum demonstrated that half the people think one thing and half the people another.  Nothing has happened since to change that.

The referendum also uncovered an underground reservoir of bile and hatred that has since inundated the landscape of political discourse and not yet receded.  It showed that none of us has the resources to debate the differences between us and to forge solutions around which we can unite.

This General Election campaign seems like to make that worse not better.  Even in announcing the decision to call an election, Mrs May demonstrated that.  Instead of acknowledging that members of parliament, Commons and Lords alike, have a constitutional job to challenge the activity of the government to improve the quality of legislation and decision making, she cited the actions of the other political parties and of the lawful upper chamber as examples of their failing to come together and, thereby, of their doing the wrong thing.  Who’s playing the game of politics now, Prime Minister?

Shame on you, Mrs May.  You set the scene for the Daily Mail’s use of the word “saboteurs” on their front page on Wednesday.  I applaud that, when asked on BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme about the tone of that, you said you “absolutely” did not agree with it and are quoted as saying: “Absolutely not, politics and democracy are about, of course, people having different opinions, different views.”  But we, the people of the United Kingdom, need you to do more than protest after the event.  We need you to lead.  We need you to demonstrate that you truly believe what you say.

We need you, and everyone else in public life, to stand against the flood and to debate the substance of what people are saying rather than attacking their right to say it.