The people have spoken, well, some of them have

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?

#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.

Representative democracy?

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.

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Time to shout a little louder

You have to hand it to the SNP, not so long ago they were seen as nothing more than a bunch of nationalist nutters, popular with some, but ultimately on the fringes of UK politics. Fast forward to 2015 and they are now a real force in Scotland and may well have a massive impact on the coming General Election. 

The SNP were very clever in the way they made the referendum on Scottish independence an issue of Westminster or us. People weren’t just rallied to the call of an independent Scotland they became supporters of an SNP that they saw as anti UK, and most importantly anti establishment. This is important. In England those who have become disenchanted with the ‘Big Three’ have been offered an alternative in the shape of UKIP, and people who wouldn’t have voted for them have, just to stick two fingers up to the establishment. Where the SNP has Scottish independence, UKIP has Europe, both these issues might not be at the forefront of everyones minds, but they have been effectively used to galvanise support for the respective parties. 

One of the over spills from the Scottish referendum was the issue of Devolution within England. The trouble is there are many different views of what a devolved England looks like. Some would have an English Parliament, some propose City regions, personally I think we need to be more radical and have regional governments, that support a much wider level of devolution so that people have more of a say in the decisions that actually effects their lives. I think the UK needs it. I don’t agree with the SNP’s calls for independence, I think we are genuinely better together, but if central government ignores the issue and continues to fob the regions of the UK off with second, third and fourth rate devolution then it will begin to fracture and split. 

At this moment in time the SNP is forcing its agenda upon Westminster because it is shouting loudly and voters in Scotland are listening. Wouldn’t it be great if Yorkshire had a strong voice like this that could really challenge the powers in London and deliver much more for the county? Well it does, by voting for Yorkshire First you would be sending a message to Labour, the Tories and everyone else that it’s about time the interests of Yorkshire were taken as seriously as other parts of England. 

The alternative to the alternative

Clearly people are sick of the main political parties in the UK, UKIP made huge strides in the European elections, and have recently done what many people said they’d never do. The peoples of Clacton, Rochester and Strood have elected to parliament two former Tories who now stand for UKIP.

UKIP are a party of againstists, they’re against the EU, they’re against a public NHS, they’re against gay marriage, but it’s very hard to see what they are for. This is depressing. In an age when millionaire politicians are forever telling us what benefits and public services they are cutting, because as a nation we are too poor, surely we need to look to a more positive answer to our problems. The turnout for the European elections was really poor, it was around 35%, and the recent by-elections weren’t much better at about 43% with UKIP gaining about 60% and 38% respectively. Is this proof of the publics disgust at the political status quo? Yes, is it an endorsement of UKIP? No. Nigel Farage claimed that the  European election wins were proof that people were sick of the established parties, and they wanted a change, a UKIP led change, but the fact is that only about 10% of eligible voters actually voted for his party, more just didn’t vote at all, apathy was the winner, not UKIP.
As you may be aware, this summer saw a Scottish independence referendum, which the no campaign won, just. In the end it was a really close call, much closer than most people expected, indeed in the last few weeks of the contest Scottish independence looked like a real possibility. I believe the reason for this lies with the way in which both campaigns were viewed. The yes campaign was seen as positive, offering voters a vision of how they could change the system and be better off, whereas the no campaign was seen as negative with scaremongering, and playing on voters fears about the pound and oil. Many of the people who were asked why they shifted from a no to a yes claimed that the negativity of the no campaign was a strong factor.  In stark contrast to recent elections in England, the referendum in Scotland had an incredible turn out too of around 85%, are the Scots politics mad people who love voting? Of course not, the difference here was that the people of Scotland had a real decision to make where the opportunity for change was real.
So what happens if UKIP get 10-15 MP’s at the general election? Will we see dramatic change? No. We’ll still have a Westminster government dictating to the rest of the UK, the only difference will be that with UKIP possibly holding the balance of power there will be a shift to the right. The thing is it’s not the the colour of the tie that needs changing, it’s the whole way in witch the political system works for people. The UK is one of the most centralised countries in Europe, perhaps that should read England, for if you live in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales there is at least some degree of devolved decision making, England, however, is ruled by the iron fist of London. The regions of england have to go cap in hand to Westminster every time they want anything, and since regional development bodies like Yorkshire Forward were scrapped, it’s become even more like begging. It’s no coincidence that 9 of the 10 poorest areas in the whole of northern Europe are in the UK, whilst the richest is Inner London. Power, money, the media, almost everything is concentrated in the capital and I think it’s about time that changed.
We need to devolve power within England. An English parliament, favoured by the Tories and UKIP, isn’t the answer, all you do is replace the words UK parliament with English parliament, essentially it’s still the same thing, a South East dominated body detached from the other regions in the country. What we need is regional devolution, but not watered down devolution being offered by Labour. LEP’s, city regions, or what ever you want to call them, are both unelected and ineffective, nobody asked for them and nobody really knows what they do, and in my opinion if you base decision making around a single city, all you’ll do is drag the money to that city. Leeds for example is the centre of the Leeds City Region, which is designed to benefit the whole of West Yorkshire, but as the most dominant part of this partnership there is surely the danger of Leeds coming first, ahead of Wakefield, Calderdale, Bradford etc.. The other problem for me is what if you don’t live in a city? What city region does the Yorkshire Dales or the Lake District fit into? Surely it would be better to have a democratically elected body that can represent all the different parts of a region, fairly.

Yorkshire has an economy and a population easily big enough to warrant its own assembly, indeed it’s population is similar to that of Scotland and it economy is larger than that of Wales. This is a positive solution, giving power to people over the region they know best will make a real difference. By standing for this, Yorkshire First has given the people of Yorkshire an option, if you’re sick and tired of Westminster, if you want a change, and you don’t want to vote for negative parties that don’t have the interests of the region at heart, then vote for Yorkshire First. I would urge everybody who wants change for Yorkshire to sign the Yorkshire Pledge,  www.yorkshirepledge.org.uk, and if you have the opportunity to, vote for Yorkshire First. A few UKIP MP’s here or there won’t make a difference, but one Yorkshire First MP would send a real message to those in charge that it is time for Yorkshire.

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