Tag Archives: Liberal Democrats

AFTER THE VOTE

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The pollsters, the pundits and the commentators all got it wrong!

The British election was not a close call.

All the experts predicted the need for a coalition government, that neither the Conservatives nor Labour would get enough seats in parliament to form a government without the help of at least one other party.   There were warnings of a “hung parliament” and a “constitutional crisis.”   Even the Queen left town, advised that her services would not be needed for a few days, that nobody would be ready to accept her appointment as prime minister.

But the Conservatives easily won.

Consequently, three rival party leaders all resigned within the same hour, an historic first.

While David Cameron is pleased with the result, Nicola Sturgeon is likely more pleased.   Her Scottish National Party won 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats.   Independence for Scotland is back on the table.   56 out of 59 does not mean that the majority of Scots want independence.   What it means is that the SNP candidate in each constituency got more votes than anybody else.   This will not, however, deter the SNP from taking the opportunity to bolt as soon as it presents itself.

Labour was the big loser, losing big in Scotland, where it previously held most seats.   Ed Miliband, Labour leader, said his party faced “a surge of nationalism.”

One newspaper described it as “an electoral tsunami” (Independent).   Of note, Mhairi Black defeated a Labour heavyweight and became, at age 20, the youngest Member of Parliament since 1667.

In fact, the single most significant development in the election was Scottish nationalism.

English nationalism was also evident.   Although the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) only won one seat in the new parliament, they received 13% of the popular vote.   That means that more than one in eight voters wants the UK to leave the European Union.   That’s not all – the Conservatives are promising a referendum on the issue.   Many of their supporters also want to exit the Union.

Nick Clegg, outgoing leader of the Liberal Democrats, summed up this rising tide of nationalism by saying, “Fear and grievance have won.”

The Stock Market soared at the news that the Conservatives are back in power and, this time, without the need of support from the Liberal Democrats.   The Conservative – Lib Dem Coalition of the last five years took a near bankrupt economy, turned it around and made it the fastest growing major western economy.   The surge in support for David Cameron’s Conservative Party likely came from voters who didn’t want to risk a return to the economic disaster of the post-2008 crash.

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UK ELECTION – SECOND TV DEBATE

Grimsby Dock Tower, Lincolnshire
     Grimsby Dock Tower, Lincs – Grimsby fishing port at the height of its glory

I first saw BBC World in Uganda back in 1993.   I remember then expressing the hope that we would soon have it in Michigan.   I did not expect it to take 22 years, but we do finally have it, thanks to AT&T.   However, I’m not sure it’s worth over $100 per month.   This includes a zillion other channels I have no desire to watch.   CNN International is also good and comes with the package.

However, thanks to BBC World I’ve been able to keep up on the British election, which takes place on May 7th.

The first live televised debate was between seven leaders of seven political parties, including Prime Minister David Cameron and his coalition partner, Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats.   The debate was very interesting.

It was followed by a second debate last week, this time without the prime minister and his coalition ally.

Again, I found it very interesting but, at the same time, quite disturbing.

Each party leader was making promises.   The four left-of-center party leaders were all promising more and more, competing with each other on how they would improve this or that service, spending more millions (or was it billions?) on this, that or the other.   Only the leader of UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) seemed to have any sense of the need to balance the nation’s accounts.

The Coalition has been trying to do that since austerity measures were introduced almost five years ago.   Their policies stabilized the country while some continental nations were in a rapid downward spiral.   Now, the other leaders feel it’s time to ditch austerity and throw a big, no-expense-spared party!

Two members of my family in England sent me a rather long article in the London Review of Books about the election in my hometown of Grimsby, on the east coast of England.   Once the world’s premiere fishing port, the town fell on hard times after the country joined the European Common Market (now the EU).   It’s revived somewhat, but is still way behind when it comes to economic development.   It has been a Labour Party stronghold since 1945. There is a connection!   No matter who wins, the next representative for Grimsby will be the first woman, as both leading candidates are women.

The Conservatives never stood a chance of winning the seat for parliament.   David Cameron’s posh accent did him in!   But a new party may actually take the electoral cup from Labour.   That party is UKIP.

Resentment against the EU is so great that working class voters seem just as inclined to vote UKIP as they are to vote Labour.

It’s not just the EU, which is the problem.   Immigration is another concern – and the perception that, in an area of 10% unemployment, jobs are being lost to immigrants, both legal and illegal.   UKIP is promising to pull Britain out of the EU and to do something about immigration.

Unlike the other left-of-center parties, UKIP does not look upon the English tax-payer as a cash cow, or a bottomless pit, whichever metaphor you prefer.   I think you get the picture.

The leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, makes Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, seem positively restrained, in her enthusiasm for spending other peoples’ money.   In her case, although she would never use the terms, all the money she is demanding for Scotland and Scottish development would come from the English taxpayer.   None of the others participating in the debate commented on this, perhaps because they all (except for UKIP) were looking to get more from the English taxpayer themselves.

The British (read, the English) are upset because they subsidize much of Europe through the EU.   How long is it going to be before there is a tax-payers revolt against all the subsidies to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, none of which pay their own way?

Ms. Sturgeon is also enthusiastic in her desire to see Britain scrap its nuclear weapons in order to partially pay for all this largesse.

Of greater concern is her insistence that, if David Cameron’s Conservative coalition is returned to power, and the promised referendum on EU membership is held, Scotland must have the right to remain in the EU, if England votes to depart.   This would automatically give Scotland independence, even though voters rejected independence in a referendum last September. Independence is what she and her party are committed to.

But how would they pay for it?   Scotland depends for roughly 10% of its expenditure on the English taxpayer.   This will only increase if the SNP joins the Labour Party in a left-wing coalition.

If Scotland remains within the EU and England withdraws, Scotland will need all the help it can get . . . from Germany, Europe’s other cash cow!

PS:  I thought you would all appreciate the following letter which appeared in the conservative Daily Telegraph of London. It’s a very astute observation on the British election campaign:

British election question

UK TV ELECTION DEBATE

British election candidates

In case you haven’t noticed, the United Kingdom is in the middle of a general election campaign.   The election itself takes place on May 7th, which does not leave much time for campaigning.

On Thursday, the seven leaders of the seven major parties held a televised debate on national television.   The debate was two hours long.   I watched it on “BBC World News” where it was shown live. There was only one brief commercial break in the middle.

The parties clearly divide into right and left.   The three parties that are supportive of austerity are the ruling Conservatives led by David Cameron, the Liberal Democrats led by Nick Clegg, and UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) whose leader is Nigel Farage.   The Liberals are more in the center, but when it comes to spending, they believe in a balanced budget.

The ruling coalition since the last election in 2010 imposed austerity measures on the country, but has found it difficult not to overspend.

The other four parties represented are all to the left of the political spectrum.   All leaders were in favor of more spending on this or that and seemed to have no concept that all government spending is dependent on the success of the private sector, which they are inclined to want to clobber with more and more punitive taxes.   A favorite in the debate was a “mansion tax” on homes worth over two million British pounds ($3 million).   They do not realize that wealthy people have the option of moving to other EU member countries and can take their money with them.   They would also enjoy a better climate!

The four leftist parties are the Labour Party, led by Ed Miliband. To his left are Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru (the Party of Wales) and Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party.   All four kept demanding more money for their pet projects.   Apart from the suggestion of a tax on mansions, the three ladies also insisted on defense cuts, notably that Britain not modernize Trident, its nuclear weapons system.

No commentator pointed out that the ladies’ demands would cost the English taxpayer more money.   Already, the English bankroll the Scots and the Welsh – and, together with Germany, the EU.   As Mr. Farage pointed out, the subsidy to the EU amounts to ten billion pounds per day ($15 bn).

This is one reason why Nigel Farage wants Britain to pull out of the EU.   He constantly focused on this one issue when answering questions.   The EU does not allow Britain to govern itself.   On immigration, for example, a major issue in the UK, London cannot do anything because of treaty obligations with the rest of Europe, which allow for the free movement of people.   The Germans are insistent that this remains the case, even though it costs the UK tax-payer a great deal of money.   Immigrants from the rest of the EU can claim British welfare benefits upon arrival in the country and can use the free health service.   They can even claim family allowances (a weekly child benefit) for children they left behind.

When Mr. Farage pointed out that last year 7,000 people were diagnosed as HIV positive and that 60% of these are foreigners, he added that each one will cost the taxpayer 25,000 pounds a year ($37,500).   Nicola Sturgeon came right back accusing him of being “heartless,” saying that his comment was “shameful.”   For this she received loud applause.   Yet the liberal “Independent” newspaper reveals in a poll that half the British people support him on this issue.

Ms. Sturgeon seems adept at spending other peoples’ money.   She reminded me of Margaret Thatcher’s famous dictum:  “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples’ money.”   If any of these three ladies has a major role in the next coalition government, the country could follow Greece toward financial ruin.

Polls after the debate said that Nicola Sturgeon did best.   If her party wins a lot of parliamentary seats in Scotland, they could enter a coalition with Labour and spend to their heart’s content – or, at least, until they run out of other people’s money!

It’s difficult to imagine a right of center coalition that includes the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and UKIP.   It may happen.   But if David Cameron needs UKIP to get the 318 seats necessary to form a government, he will have to give Nigel Farage what he wants, which is a referendum on EU membership by the end of the year.

Everything is up for grabs – anything could happen at this point in time.   But the most likely outcome will be a return of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, which has ruled the country for the last five years.   Noticeable during the debate is that the two leaders of these parties did not seriously attack each other, allowing for a continued marriage of convenience after the election.

With this election, it can truly be said that Britain is at a crossroads.   Everything achieved over the last few years of austerity could easily be lost, throwing the economy into a downward spiral; relations with Europe are also at stake at a time when the continental nations that comprise the EU are drawing closer together, with Germany very much in the driving seat.