The 2015 General Election was meant to be the most unpredictable and tightly fought contests in British political history. Neither Labour or the Conservatives were going to get a majority, we were told, and there was going to be weeks and weeks of negotiating over deals and coalitions with all the smaller parties fighting to secure some kind or influence, including UKIP, who were going to make a breakthrough and win seats. What happened was not this. As we know the Conservatives won a majority, UKIP lost a seat, and the Lib Dems were all but wiped out, in an election that surprised many and disheartened many more. There was one electric shock to the system however, Scotland turned yellow. The SNP managed to win nearly all the seats north of the boarder, sending Labour in particular back to England with their tail tucked firmly between their legs. This result has thrown up some serious questions about our political system, questions that the new Government will need to address.
A Tory majority?
The way our parliament works, and the fact that the Conservatives have a majority of seats, means effectively they can do what they want for the next five years. Fair enough I hear you say, they got a majority you say, well not exactly. In large parts of the country they didn’t get anything like a majority. Scotland is almost a Tory free zone, as are large parts of the north of England, so effectively they have the power to do what they want, even in areas that overwhelmingly voted for something else. This is a problem. It means that whole regions of the UK have zero representation when it comes to decisions that are made that effect their daily lives. If there were more powers at a local level this wouldn’t matter as much, because areas where certain parties are stronger would be able to elect the people they wanted to make more decisions that matter to their lives. This is the case in Scotland where they have a parliament of their own that can counter the fact there is a government in Westminster they don’t like or want, why not give other areas in the UK this opportunity? Many people in England are now starting to ask this question.
#takeuswithyouscotland has been very interesting, for two reasons, firstly that large numbers of northern English twitter users would seemingly identify themselves with the Scottish more than they do with the south of England and secondly that lots of Scottish tweeters are very sympathetic, some even encouraging the idea. I don’t want the north of England to join Scotland, I don’t in any way feel Scottish, however I definitely feel closer in many ways to those north of the border than I do with many of my supposed countrymen in the south of England, I think the same could be said for Wales, but I also feel English in many ways too. The thing is my Englishness is secondary to my Yorkshireness and I don’t feel like the London based parties understand this. I want my county to have a voice that is listened to, like Scotland, and I think many other regions of the UK agree.
I’m no supporter of UKIP, in fact I’m almost the total opposite, but you can’t deny they got over three million votes in this election, and that equalled only one seat, on the opposite of this, the SNP needed less than two million to secure their 56 seats. This isn’t democracy. Some form of PR is needed in the UK to solve this problem and give the people the representation that they voted for. Arguments against PR are mostly rubbish, like the argument that PR gives you weak government, look at the Scottish parliament, a strong system that uses PR. I agree, however, that there is a question around providing local MP’s and the way that is not compatible with straight forward PR, but we are a very clever bunch, the human race, we’ve sent people to the moon, I’m sure we can find a workable system of governance that represents better the votes that people cast.
The system as it is, is broken, we have entire regions of the UK that are under the rule of a government they didn’t ask for, and literally millions of people who voted for parties that have no representation in our parliament, or have no way to influence it at all. In my opinion by giving regions more power over the decisions they make, and making those power making organs democratic and accountable, you give people a reason to vote, their vote would matter, and their regional voice would be better heard. We also need a more representative system of national government. Lots of people vote tactically for people they don’t want to, or don’t vote at all, simply because the system doesn’t work. Of course, we have a majority government in power, so I won’t hold my breath.