London, England-In a referendum held last week, Britain decided to keep its traditional first past the post national electoral system, but local council elections held in tandem have exposed just how far the leftist creep of statism has imbedded itself and is well on the way to destroying the progress Thatcherism brought to the country.
The referendum on the electoral system was the price the country was forced to pay as part of the deal Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg struck up with the Conservatives to form a government. The country gave a definite ‘no’ to the complicated proposed system with a 70 per cent majority.
Under the Alternative Vote (AV) voters list their candidates in order of preferences and a candidate must receive at least 50 per cent of the votes to win. Any less and the one with the least amount of votes is eliminated and their second preferences are distributed among the rest. This goes on until one candidate has a clear majority. The effect is that a fringe or lukewarm vote rises to the top. Couple this with the fact that British politics ranges from centre, soft to hard left and you can see that an accelerated march to harder socialism would have been inevitable. But it would appear it already is inevitable.
On the face of it, the results looked pretty bright for the Conservatives. Right wingers were quick to pat Conservative PM David Cameron on the back for his valiant push in the ‘no ‘campaign as well as taking many councils in England where they expected to lose. Yet in the popular vote they stayed neck and neck with Labour and that’s one of the indicators that David Cameron’s flavour of conservatism isn’t working.
The real question is why did Cameron fail to win a majority in last years’ general election? Labour, after a 13 year welfare spending spree that even the IMF flagged as unsustainable and the wholesale deterioration of every great institution in this country, managed to hold 39.7 percent of the parliamentary seats all the while deftly pointing the finger of blame for their failings at the global economic crisis. They should have been consigned to a humiliating minority but weren’t because of Gordon Brown’s strategy of creating a client state of a welfare dependent electorate used to Soviet era levels of central spending.
The north of England is Labour’s heartland where they have stuck their hands in the pockets of southern taxpayers to supply the billions of pounds that entrench the very poverty it is supposed to eradicate in the north. According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, state spending is 57 per cent of economic output in the north-east and a staggering 63 per cent in the north-west. Under Labour a huge schism has been created that is dividing the country. Your average Yorkshireman has an economic output that is half of the average Londoner.
And in Scotland the situation is worse as voters fled from Labour to the Scottish National Party, whose leader Alex Salmond is already making noises about a referendum to dissolve the union between England and Scotland – its greatest test for 265 years. As far as a United Kingdom goes, there is just no leadership.
And before the Conservatives can congratulate themselves too much on the 79 extra English council seats they won, it would be wiser to look at the 692 seats their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, lost. It is telling that Labour took 790 more seats clearly indicating a lot of the Lib Dem ones were not interested in a change to Conservative and went the Labour route instead.
The reason for this punishment of the Lib Dems is the flip flopping of their leader, Nick Clegg, who famously was passionately in favour of abolishing university tuition fees, then u-turned to support the three fold increase. After trashing the periphery of parliament square a few months ago, the student demonstrators and rioters were on their way to Lib Dem headquarters to likely trash that before police stopped them – a portent of what was to come electorally.
What voters want are candidate’s principles to be clearly outlined and to be reliable. Nick Clegg and his party embraced the deficit reduction of the Tory party far more enthusiastically than their campaign stance would suggest. In fact, aside from the electoral system issue, the coalition seemed to be in lock-step on policy. In a moment together after a joint speech, not knowing he still had his microphone attached, Clegg told Cameron they should find some policy to disagree on so they could at least debate in the public forum. Now you can take this two ways – either Clegg has gone right or Cameron leans left. My money is that Cameron is more left than any self respecting small ‘c’ conservative is happy with. Perhaps because he knows many voters are welfare dependent and has to take a softly softly approach. One of the first cuts in the Tory austerity measures is in the funding of local councils. Jobs are going, pensions are under review, in short the money tap is being turned off and the folks don’t like it. While the Tories do still control the majority of English councils, the Lib Dem vote has abandoned the shaky principles of Clegg and not being completely convinced that the Tories have the answer, have gone back to big spending Labour.
We are at critical point. If a shamed Clegg, or his hopeful successor Chris Huhne snapping at his heels, now starts stamping his foot down on Tory policy, we reach stalemate and eventually a new election is called sooner rather than later. And seeing the lack of true shift to the Conservatives in these local elections, a Conservative majority is far from guaranteed.
What this all comes down to is principles and how effortlessly British politicians seem willing to abandon them. In the last general election, Cameron refused to take a tough stance on what really ails the nation - out of control immigration, bloated public services with an ever increasing lack of quality and an intrusive EU state that is chipping away at UK sovereignty. To be fair to Cameron, he ran a campaign on the necessity and pain of austerity measures, but this was a safe bet as we watched Greek rioters trashing their country in the face of the reality of cut backs needed all across the EU. Even Labour and the Lib Dems were on the same page. But mostly Cameron babbled on about family values, a cohesive nation under his vision of a Rosseveltian sounding ‘Big Society’, a concept that is opaque despite many explanations. And while this was all going on, all parties were embroiled in an MP’s expenses scandal. While Rome burned, demoralized voters were given nothing new to vote for except to try and hang on to their jobs in the public sector and benefits cheques. Certainly true conservatives had very little to cling to.
Clear common sense plans could well have given us a Conservative majority, but instead the sameness of all the parties gave us a messy and weak coalition despite the constant messaging that it’s all solid as a rock. We ended up with a coalition, like all coalitions, without the mandate to accomplish anything significant that is needed to heal the country while the infighting and posturing carries on. And in the absence of common sense values that are crying out to be applied in policy, the statism that Labour has carefully embedded into British society, coupled with weak and indecisive leadership, is set to grip the UK for some time to come.
Anna Grayson—Morley is a London based freelance journalist. Early career was as an Account Director with Grey Advertising in London and Brussels as well as contributing editorial services to Conde Nast Publications. She has written for the Montreal Gazette, The Toronto Star and The Canada Post.
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