The last ten years have been a period of austerity in Government...
It was a surprising result. The polls have been telling us for months that the Conservatives and Labour were running neck and neck. It is interesting that pollsters using telephone polling were closer to the outcome than those polling online. Was it the ‘don’t knows’ or the ‘won’t tell’ who they missed?
It will have been a challenging result for the party leaders. Ed Miliband had to consider his position given that his party lost all but one of its seats in Scotland as well as senior colleagues Ed Balls, Douglas Alexander and Jim Murphy. Nick Clegg faced a similar challenge having seen his 57 MPs reduced to eight. Partisanship apart one has to feel some sympathy for him. In leading his party into the Coalition in 2010 he gave us a sustainable Government, whatever you think of it, and now the party has been punished for doing what he believed to be in the national interest.
It could even be a challenging result for David Cameron. Governing with a small majority brings its own troubles, as John Major discovered. Once the euphoria of winning evaporates, he is likely to find his backbenchers, especially those on the right wing, expecting to be consulted more than in the last Parliament. Some were willing to abstain or vote against the Government then and have the added muscle now without the Liberal Democrats to neutralise their impact.
It was also a disappointing result in that a third of the electors failed to vote. Was that because they could not be bothered or because they see nothing and no-one in any of the parties worth supporting? Voting is a basic civic duty and an essential component of a democratic society. If they are totally alienated from the status quo they have the option of marking their ballot papers with “none of the above”. Would non-voters prefer to live in a dictatorship?
It is a controversial result because it highlights the way the ‘first past the post’ electoral system discriminates against the smaller parties. The winners with 329 seats were elected by 36.8% of the electorate. 12.6% voted for UKIP who won just one seat. You don’t have to be a UKIP supporter to think that unfair.
Personally I found the result sad and frustrating. Sad, because some able Christians such as Steve Webb, Simon Hughes, Duncan Hames and Douglas Alexander lost their seats and will be sorely missed in the House. That’s democracy but still sad. My deeper frustration concerns the consumerist nature of the election. The parties listened to their focus groups and promised things they may not be able to deliver and in some cases probably should not. None of them gave us a coherent vision for the nation rooted in the values that would shape public policy. Ideally, from a Christian perspective, those values would focus on the pursuit of the common good rather than sectional interests, to hold the UK together, strengthen family and community life, care for the vulnerable, manage the economy for the good of all and work with others for universal peace and responsible management of the planet’s resources. “Where there is no vision the people perish”.
Is that our future?