Growing up, I always knew exactly when World War 2 ended. It ended on my mother’s birthday, the 8th May. On that day in 1945, she turned 19. She was 13 when the war in Europe began. Her teenage years were lost to war!
If she had not said anything, I would still have a rough idea of when the war was fought and when it ended. During my childhood, I played with friends on bomb- sites. It took England some years to rebuild.
World War 2 wasn’t the only conflict I heard about. My grandfather (my father’s stepfather) had been wounded in World War I and would show us the bullet wounds in his lower arm and wrist.
At least we knew that England had won both wars and that we were now safe from the threat of German conquest.
Friday marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe. It ended with Germany’s surrender.
Seventy years later, Britain’s relationship with Europe is once again center stage in the UK General Election taking place today, May 7th.
There is more choice in this election than there has ever been. There is also more uncertainty – nobody is willing to stick their neck out and predict the outcome.
What is clear is that there will have to be another coalition government, as neither of the two main parties will have enough seats in parliament to form a government. The two main party leaders will spend Friday and maybe a few more days (or even weeks) haggling, while trying to put together a majority to form the next government. (British politicians take note – it’s just taken seven weeks for Benyamin Netanyahu to put together a coalition government!)
The uncertainty of a hung parliament is one problem with this election. There are two others that have graver implications.
One is that the unity of the kingdom is at stake. Although the majority of Scots rejected independence in a referendum just a few months ago, the pro-independence Scottish National Party may hold the balance of power in a coalition government, thereby boosting their cause.
The other monumental matter is a possible referendum on leaving the European Union. The Conservatives have promised this for 2017, but UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) wants it sooner. If they enter a coalition with David Cameron’s Conservatives, the price they will demand will be a referendum by the end of the year. This will make a “No” vote more likely as hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Eastern Europe keep arriving and every one of them can vote. By 2017 their votes would likely result in “yes.”
If England votes to leave the EU and the majority of Scots don’t, there will be a major constitutional crisis. It’s likely such a scenario will cause the United Kingdom to fall apart. The end result would be an independent England surrounded by not-so-friendly powers, all a part of a German dominated European superpower. How ironic just seventy years after Great Britain and its allies defeated the Third Reich!
So, it’s an above average interest election this year, with repercussions beyond the UK’s borders.