John Derbyshire Sees Some Faint Shafts Of Light In The U.K. Elections
May 08, 2015, 08:50 PM
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_81998165_81998164[1]For a traditionalist-conservative observer, there was at first glance not much to like in this week’s U.K. election result. (Note on reading the election results: Some of the election-results websites compare the numbers for each party as elected this week with the numbers as elected at the last general election in 2010: Tories, for example, show as 330 today versus 306 then. My numbers are for elected-this-week vs. seating at the last parliamentary session in March. For Tories that’s 330 vs. 302 because seats changed hands in special elections 2010-2015.)

On closer examination, some faint shafts of light break through.

Brightest of those shafts: the Tories’ clear majority.

It is true that there is nothing much conservative about Britain’s Conservative Party, nothing in the way of ancient liberties, traditional social arrangements, governmental restraint, or demographic stability that the party leadership is keen to conserve. Cameron forced same-sex marriage through parliament in 2013, for example; and he is one of the founding signatories of the crazy-Left street-fighting anarchist group United Against Fascism.

This is, however the Tories’ first parliamentary majority for 18 years. They have been governing since 2010 in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, a genteel-“progressive” party holding 56 seats before this week’s election.

(The LibDems emerged from a 1980s alliance between the Social Democrats, a breakaway Labour group, and the ancient Liberal Party. That Social-Democratic-Party-and-Liberal alliance was known for a short time by my all-time favorite political acronym: SODPAL.)

The LibDems were crushed on Thursday, their seats in Parliament reduced from 56 to eight. This means that they can no longer act as a sheet anchor on any rightward movement by Cameron’s government.

True, Cameron has shown precious little desire to move rightward on anything. His parliamentary party, though, includes some genuinely conservative members. There was nothing they could do to influence policy while Cameron had to keep the LibDems on-side. Now, with no coalition partners keeping him left but only a slim overall majority in the Commons, Cameron has to keep a wary eye on these potential rebels.

The striking victory of the SNP in Scotland also has a positive aspect: It marks a major split in the Leftist vote. SNP took 40 of the Labour Party’s 41 Scottish seats. Labour is correspondingly weakened.

This, with no significant loss to the Tories. Scotland has been trending Left for decades: in 1997 the Scots returned no Tories to Parliament for the first time ever.

The nature of Scottish Leftism has also changed from the older, austere oats-kirk-and-labor union model, of which Britain’s last Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown can be taken as the expiring gasp, to the more up-to-date CultMarx style personified by SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, one of those grim radical harpies Britain’s Celtic fringe produces in such abundance.

Whether the SNP triumph will improve the prospects for a withdrawal of Scotland from the U.K. is much debated.

In last September’s referendum Scottish voters rejected independence by 55 to 45 percent. But it’s interesting to note that Thursday’s actual popular-vote figure for the SNP was just 50 percent. So possibly the balance has tipped towards independence this last eight months less than is generally assumed.

In any case, if the SNP pushes successfully for a new referendum, we may see what I suppose, in the jargon of our time, will be called a Scexit.

It has been suggested that the Scots could seek a truly federal solution within the U.K. on the Quebec model. VDARE.com Editor Peter Brimelow, who has written a book about Canadian federalism, pooh-poohs this. Brits, says Peter, have no historical experience with true federalism, and don’t understand it.

In any case, if it’s a federal relationship the Scots seek, they might think they can find it within the European Union (EU), which the SNP now keenly supports.

The Tory Party’s election manifesto actually promised Britons an in-or-out referendum on the EU before 2017. This was done merely to draw support from UKIP. Cameron is at this moment plotting a way to renege on that promise.

But if the Euroskeptics in his party can hold him to it, and the SNP can get another referendum on Scottish independence, the consequences of the dueling referendums could be very interesting indeed: Scotland within the EU, the rest of the U.K. outside it.

Nor is the news from UKIP altogether bad. In spite of losing one of their two seats, and the failure of UKIP leader Nigel Farage to win a seat, the party’s popular vote surged from less than a million in 2010 to almost four million this week.

UKIP has now displaced the LibDems as Britain’s third-largest party in popular votes, the choice of one in eight voters on Thursday. Significantly, UKIP got 2.7 times as many votes as the triumphant SNP.

All this in spite of relentless efforts by Britain’s Main Stream Media to mock and delegitimize UKIP, and apparently some attempts to suppress their vote.

Unfortunately for UKIP, its vote is smeared across most of Britain, while the SNP’s is concentrated in Scotland. This is the problem with first-past-the-post voting.

Under the proportional representation system favored by most parliamentary democracies, UKIP would have done much better. On the simplest PR model—there are variant flavors—UKIP would have won 83 seats in Parliament on Thursday.

Inevitably UKIP and other small parties are grumbling about the unfairness of first-past-the-post.

There are downsides to PR, though. You could ask Benjamin Netanyahu about that. On Wednesday this week the Prime Minister of Israel finally announced the formation of a five-party coalition government, seven weeks after the March election. And seven weeks is by no means a record for coalition-haggling. Belgium had an election in June of 2010 and finally got a coalition worked out in December the following year after 589 days with no government.

Agitation for scrapping first-past-the-post is nothing new in Britain. The Liberal Democrats pushed this cause after entering into coalition with the Tories after the 2010 election. They actually managed to force a referendum on the topic: voters rejected the proposed changes.

Brits have a fondness for what an earlier Prime Minister called “the smack of firm government.”

Lesser nationalist parties fielded handfuls of candidates on Thursday but recorded few votes. The British National Party (BNP) did best, with 1,667 votes in eight constituencies.

Paul “I am a racist” Weston’s party, Liberty GB, which I advertised on VDARE.com a few weeks ago, fielded 3 candidates but scored a total of less than 900 votes. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, Paul.

These are all my first impressions from Thursday’s result. I hope to be doing some more analysis of the election returns, including on topics like the Muslim vote and the impact of events in the Mediterranean, as more data comes in from the vote analysts.

John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. His most recent book, published by VDARE.com com is FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle).His writings are archived at JohnDerbyshire.com.

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