Tomorrow’s British parliamentary election is particularly important. As Americans we to often are stuck in our own insular mindset and we need to be aware of political and electoral developments in other countries. This is especially true for the British election since Britain has been one of our oldest and most valued allies as well as being our mother country. For the past five years Britain has been governed by a coalition government between Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives and Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats.
This government has experienced some successes. The economy is doing reasonably well thanks to needed fiscal restraint from the excesses of thirteen years of Labor Party Government between 1997-2010. The crime rate has declined, some budget deficit reduction has occurred, and significant welfare reform has also taken place. Yet there are debits on this government’s ledger too. Defense spending has been sliced, military personnel have been reduced, and Cameron’s government refuses itself to committing itself to the NATO recommended 2% of GDP national defense spending. British armed forces are highly professional and skilled and have participated and sacrificed with us in so many major military conflicts. Unfortunately, these cutbacks are occurring at a time of rising Russian militancy and the ongoing threat posed to the West by ISIS and a potentially nuclear armed Iran.
A further problem is the government’s procrastinating about putting Britain’s continued European Union membership to a public ballot. The EU may have brought some economic benefits to the UK, but it has also reduced British sovereignty and political freedom. This is one reason why the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has made some electoral headway under its leader Nigel Farage with its anti-EU and anti-illegal immigrant advocacy.
The Cameron-Clegg government’s most serious failing, however, was allowing the legal approval of same sex marriage. This has already presented religious liberty problems for the UK and those favoring traditional sexual morality have found themselves subject to legal attack and sanction for refusing to genuflect to the extortion tactics of purveyors or sexual perversion. This decision will also have unpleasant public health and family structure side effects in the years to come which will hit British taxpayers hard. Although the Conservatives gained a plurality of the votes in the 2010 election, they still had to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats to gain a working parliamentary majority. The Conservatives last won an outright parliamentary majority in the 1992 elections. For parliamentary elections have occurred in the interim without producing a Conservative majority. Some Conservatives hope they’ll be able to squeeze out a majority like they did in 1992 when John Major snatched victory from Neil Kinnock, but hope is not a viable electoral strategy.
The alternative to the existing Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition is even worse. The Labor Party, headed by Ed Miliband, is rediscovering its leftist class warfare roots. After experiencing a modicum of pro-business sentiment during Tony Blair’s decade long premiership, Miliband is talking about increasing taxes and government social spending. What’s even scarier is that the rise of the separatist Scottish National Party (SNP) under its leader Nicola Sturgeon is creating the dangerously real possibility that Miliband may have to form a coalition with the SNP to achieve a majority of seats in Parliament with a party dedicated to an independent Scotland and the United Kingdom’s destruction. Talk about a deal with the devil, since the SNP is a bunch of whiny leftists. Nevertheless, the SNP Government of Scotland promoted an independence referendum for Scotland last year which only lost 55%-45%.
This rise in ethnic identity politics came about in 1997 when Tony Blair’s Labor Government authorized the creation of separate Welsh and Scottish national parliaments. Be aware of what happens when you unleash separatist forces within your country. If the UK were to separate it would have negative effects on that country’s economy, the European economy, European security, and even the U.S. relationship with Britain. It sadly looks like seven decades of welfare state policy, growing secularism, and the pernicious rise of identity politics are causing Britain to look inward at a time when it needs to be an engaged collaborator and participant in emerging international geopolitical developments which are adverse to the interests of freedom loving peoples.
Cameron is an avuncular guy in many ways, but he is to frequently squishy on ideological issues. He is a sad example of how far the British Conservative Party has fallen since the halcyon days and premiership of Margaret Thatcher. I like many of the things UKIP stands for. Unfortunately, the party still has to many undisciplined ranters in its ranks, its leader Nigel Farage has a beer glass umbilically tied to his hand, and UKIP has done a poor job of developing a coherent electoral strategy to appeal to individuals beyond those holding a “throw the bums out” mentality.
If there is no clear winner tomorrow, as polls seem to indicate, Americans who think there should be more than two political parties in the U.S. will get a rude awakening into the ugly maneuvering and factional rivalries characterizing multiparty democracies. Britain is likely to face another election in a few months if a viable majority or coalition government is not formed after this election. Having weak coalition or minority party governments will not help Britain be a relevant player on the international security stage or deal with growing domestic problems such as Islamist infiltration into British society, the continuing money pit of the National Health Service, the failure to discuss defense policy during this critical election, and other public policy issues.
As an anglophile, I find this very saddening to see a country I admire and have enjoyed visiting bring such troubles upon itself. We can only hope some sense of sobriety and long-term thinking will be in the minds of British voters as they make their decisions tomorrow.