Last night was an extraordinary night in British politics. Of the three main parties, two have now lost their leaders – Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Among the minority parties, UKIP has also lost its leader. Other major figures have lost their seats in Parliament, including Jim Murphy, Ed Balls and four fifths of the Parliamentary Liberal Democrat party. The Scottish Nationalists won a sweep across Scotland. And at the most disreputable end of modern politics, the great apologist for most dictators, George Galloway, has lost his seat to his old party. But it may be easy in the picking over of all this debris to miss the two huge questions which now confront British politics.
The first is the issue of Britain’s relationship with the EU. The Conservative party’s leader has promised an In/Out referendum on the EU in 2017. The party has now achieved victory which means they will have to put this promise into action. This means that for at least the next two years this crucial lingering question of British politics will not just remain, but grow. The next two years are going to have to involve a serious debate ready to confront this issue.
The second major issue of course is the United Kingdom itself. The Scottish Nationalists lost their referendum last year – and by a good enough margin to mean that another vote (a ‘neverendum’) would have been hard to argue for for some years. But they immediately rebuilt themselves, channelled the disappointments of the campaign and last night built themselves an undeniable power-base.
Their victory in Scotland changes British politics. It means that the majority representation in the UK Parliament for the first time comes from a party which wants to separate from the UK. This is going to have huge and unsettling results for the next five years and beyond.
These two questions – Britain’s role in Europe and Britain’s make-up and integrity as a country – are vast – vaster by far than any of the issues which came up in this campaign. Britain has decided what government it wants. Now it must begin to address its role in the world.
FROM THE DIRECTOR’S DESK
And so, the nation has spoken. And how. After weeks of speculation, and seemingly in the face of all odds, the Conservative Party has been restored to government without even needing the figleaf of shared rule in a coalition. This is quite a stunning achievement in anyone’s book, particularly when you consider it is the first time since 1983 a ruling party has increased its seat tally.
No less extraordinary is the Scottish situation, where the Scottish National Party sits completely dominant over the entire landscape. Labour heartland after Labour heartland has been put to the sword in a development unparalleled in British constitutional history since the rise of the Irish nationalists when that country was part of the Union.
So what does all this mean for The Henry Jackson Society? As a cross-party organisation, we make no comment about the result other than noting its exceptionalism. We have friends in all parties, and we will continue to do so, even if some of our old ones have now left the House of Commons, to be replaced by others. There will be no change in our commitment to our values or our focus in seeing them applied in UK political decision-making.
However, it is probably the first election when a think tank featured prominently in two electoral situations in the country. George Galloway – now resoundingly defeated in his seat of Bradford West – frequently took to the airwaves attacking our organisation. And Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy was hounded by far leftist twitter trolls questioning his support for us.
As ever, we wear our critics’ admonitions as a badge of pride given who they are. We will work with all those in the new Parliament who seek to advance the causes of liberty, democracy and real human rights, as well as continuing our vigilant watch on the security challenges facing the Western world. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
P.S. For those interested in my own result, although I did not win, I did nearly double the Conservative vote in Brent Central and achieved the 5th largest percentage increase in share of the vote of any Conservative candidate in the country (out of 650).
Dr. Alan Mendoza is Executive Director of The Henry Jackson Society
Follow Alan on Twitter: @AlanMendoza.
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