Bozen / London – So? What now? The pollsters got it terribly wrong and Cameron has been returned for another five year term as UK Prime Minister, his Conservative party enjoying a most surprising overall majority. Predictions had been for a hung parliament and the likelihood of a coalition of sorts, or even a return to the polls for a revote in a very short time. The past is well and truly past but what are the ramifications of this famously ‘sweet’ victory for Cameron himself, his party, the United Kingdom at large, not to mention Italy, Europe and the rest of the world?
Certain changes and indeed non-changes took place with the speed of a leopard. As a previous British Prime Minister once said ‘a week in politics is a long time’. It seemed on Friday morning last that just an hour in this vocation was a long time, for three party leaders took the jump and tendered their resignation. It was reminiscent of Jack and Jill going up to fetch a pail of water, for as the rhyme goes ‘Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after’. And indeed in this instance all the pretenders to power tumbled down and fell on their sword.
Perhaps most dramatic of all was the case of Nick Clegg, number one in the Liberal party and who to all effects and purposes had been Deputy Prime Minister in the previous government. So much for the coalition government forged with the Conservatives, as from a relative position of relative strength and having 57 seats in parliament they were blown to smithereens and now have only eight representatives in Parliament. The British not used to coalitions and perhaps not great believers in such, brought up as they are on the ‘first past the post system’, decided to make their vote count in more telling terms.
As for Ed Milliband the story was not much brighter. He might have woken up on Friday morning as anointed Labour Prime Minister but instead he had a gruelling night listening to the Conservative gains. A surprise choice as Leader a few years ago, his brother David having been the supposed heir to the Labour front, he is now likely to disappear in to the backbenchers group never to emerge again.
Nigel Farage of UKIP caused quite a stir, and despite his right wing party now being the third party in terms of total votes the electoral system did him few favours, just one seat going to the party, and he himself finishing a rather weak second in his constituency. The removal of all three means that there will be many new faces in the Opposition leadership pews and a lot of jockeying to regain the confidence of the population at large. The carnage was not limited to Party Leaders for acting Liberal members of the Cabinet actually lost their constituency seats.
An overview of the election outcome cannot complete without a look up north, to Scotland to be precise, where the SNP scored a famous victory. Already in the referendum for Scottish independence in 2014 the writing was on the wall in that the political parties south of the border had to bend over backwards and make a series of concessions and promises so that the ‘Yes’ vote did not result in immediate independence for Scotland. With a strong hand to play and led vibrantly by Nicola Sturgeon the ‘take all before us’ party won 56 seats out of a possible 59. So impressive was the female warrior – recollections of Queen Boadicea on her chariot run through the mind - that even English voters in England were asking how they could vote for ‘NC’, as she was popularly referred to. And whilst we celebrate females it should be mentioned that there was an increase from 143 to 191 female members of the Lower House.
As for the UK playing field there are a number of considerations immediately apparent. Many members of the Cameron Cabinet have been confirmed and become more powerful in their influence and are likely to have a ten year tenure in power, and there are a number of new cabinet positions available as there is no longer the obligation to satisfy Liberal support as in the previous coalition government. More importantly is that perhaps Cameron does not have the free hand one might imagine him to have. Certainly he will have to deal with the Scottish, and the Welsh and the Irish, as they speed up their claims for devolution. Could it be that the winner of the 2015 election will be presiding over the last years of the UK as we know it? And also of constitutional concern is that there is the promise of a referendum on membership of the EU in 2017 – and as this was a fundamental election pledge there can be no going back on that. Without tempting fate a little gazing into the Crystal Ball might see the Conservative leader welcoming a new king to the throne within the next 5 years. Momentous moments may lie ahead and this is only on the local patch so to speak, for there are repercussions of this victory over the seas from the fair islands as well.
Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi has already taken strength from the Conservatives success, seeing it as a win for the right wing and an olive branch which he can cling onto in trying to re-launch his own movement. A calculator is hardly required to work out that Cameron will still be in power when the next Italian elections take place, even if that be at the end of the present Government’s term in 2017. A crystal ball is in fact perhaps needed to know what alliances will be in place come two years time.
Another matter of likely concern, heated discussion, and wheeling and dealing will be the UK’s permanence in the European Union. It is not to be taken for granted that the ‘Yes, we stay in the EU’ choice will win the day in the 2017 referendum and certainly the resolve of European leaders and the diplomacy of Cameron will be tested.
Cameron will also be at the helm when the next American president is sworn in and the special relationship between the UK and America is always a pivotal one for world affairs. Will it be Clinton and Cameron leading the world against all evil? Will Putin and Merkel still be around in five years time or will it be the Conservative leader who takes on the mantel of senior European statesman as the powers of Iran, China, and North Korea continue to make their presence felt. Add to this that the current Pope has declared that his papacy will not be an over-long one and you have the ingredients for a wholesale change on the global scene. The ‘lot’ of a leader at the forefront of international affairs is not always plain sailing in calm waters.
Politics is a complicated business at the best of times and in this world of threats and counter-threats, of immigration and emigration, of democracy and dictatorship the path to steer is not a straightforward one and often the joy of victory can turn sour pretty quickly. For the good of Queen and country, of the wider European family, and of the world we live in let us pray that Cameron is ever so special and is up to the job he has been elected for – and a few other ones besides.
hung parliament: Parlament ohne klare Mehrheitsverhältnisse
forged: geschmiedet, gefälscht
smithereens: Splitter, Fetzen
brought up as they are on: an etwas gewöhnt
first past the post system: Mehrheitswahlrecht
to cause a stir: für Aufregung sorgen
pews: Bankreihen, Gestühl
to bend over backwords: sich ein Bein ausreißen
Boudicea: Boudicca war eine britannische Königin und Heerführerin
devolution: Befugnisübergabe, Dezentralisierung
patch: Revier, Fleck
to cling: sich klammern
at the helm: am Ruder
to be sworn in: Amtseid ablegen