Wednesday, 14 June 2017

My Thoughts on the General Election

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or aren’t British), you’ll probably be aware that the UK had a general election last week. On June 8, 650 constituencies voted for their new MPs, who would represent them in the new Parliament formed (after the state opening by the Queen on 19 June 2017, although I think that has been delayed – so much for strength and stability, eh).
The fact that there was an election this year at all is a point of controversy, due to the fact that Theresa May herself had promised that an emergency election would not be called earlier this year, and the fact that it violates the Fixed Term Parliament Act passed in 2011, which set out 5 year terms for every Parliament, so that PMs (i.e. Tony Blair, Thatcher, all those lads) could not call an election when they were doing well in opinion polls so as to get a further majority and gain more control over Parliament as a whole because of that.

During this election, however, it has brought to my attention how much the political education in this country is lacking, through no fault of anyones but the education system (I will be continuing this point in a later post on why political education in schools is so necessary). So here’s a quick run-down on the system:

  • There are 650 constituencies in the UK, each of which is represented by an elected MP in the House of Commons

  • MPs are elected through a system called First Past the Post (again, which I’ll be talking about in more depth in a later post), which simply requires the most votes to win (so the winning candidate doesn’t need at least half the votes to win. In theory, this could mean the winning candidate only has 1 vote more than the candidate who was second to them).

  • For a government to be formed, the winning party needs a majority of the seats in the House of Commons (at the moment, this means at least 326 seats).

  • A majority is needed in order for the government to get their laws passed by the Commons easily and to be productive and powerful.

  • If no party has a majority (known as a hung parliament), then the largest party can form a minority government, although they are normally propped up by a smaller party through a Supply and Confidence Agreement, or can form a formal coalition with another party (as was seen in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition of 2010-2015).

So that’s the basics, so anyone who may have been a bit confused before. If you’re not too sure on what the different UK parties stand for, then check out Charlotte’s post, where she does a quick summary of each party as well as a recap on some of the stuff I’ve already mentioned.

Now onto what happened on the 8th June.

Having returned home from my final AS Government & Politics exam (love how it was on that day, can I just say), I got into my pajamas and brought my duvet to my sofa where I settled down for the night. Staying up to watch the election is a tradition that my parents have had since I can remember, and this year was the first time I did the same (although, my mum did go to bed at her normal time as well as my dad going to bed a few hours later, so I effectively watched it alone (with my cat) for a lot of time). I loved watching the votes come in and I hope that I can now make this my own tradition.

(I’ll let you know now that the party I support are the Greens, they are all that I stand for in this world, but to my dismay, they don’t get enough support or recognition as they should (again, this is the subject of another blog post I have planned). However, as they don’t win seats in anywhere except Brighton Pavilion, so my alternative

At 10pm the exit poll was announced on the BBC. The poll that made the country collectively gasp and stay up longer than they had planned. I, personally, had planned on going to bed straight away if the polls had predicted a Tory landslide, but to my delight, they predicted a hung parliament, with the Tories predicted 314 seats, compared to their previous 330. This poll ended up being pretty accurate, with a hung parliament being the final outcome: the Conservatives had 318 seats and Labour had 266 seats, despite there being a 1.5% difference in their proportions of the popular vote.

Whilst I am glad that the Conservatives didn’t get a returned or heightened majority, I do think that a hung parliament is the opposite of what we need right now heading into Brexit negotiations, and as much as I would have wanted a left-led Brexit, there’s no doubt at the moment that that’s probably not going to happen (as much as many Labour members and politicians like to say they are preparing for time in government or could form a minority government, any government they would form at the moment would need the backing of practically every party that isn’t Conservative to stay afloat, so is pretty unlikely).

So, how are the Conservatives going to pass their legislation through the Commons if they don’t have a majority? I hear you ask. Well, the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party), who have been described as the Tories’ ‘soulmates’ in Parliament, gained 10 seats in Northern Ireland (with their Republican rivals Sinn Fein winning all other available Northern Irish seats, and consequently obliterating all third parties in NI), more than enough Theresa May needs to have a slim majority. Obviously, this is a chance she could not miss. I don’t think they are entering into an official coalition, but the DUP have agreed to give their support to Theresa May and her party (or ‘Team’ as she liked to say during her election campaign), although the terms of this haven’t been properly laid out yet, at least not to the public.

Who are the DUP? I know that many people have the that exact question since the election, and what their gaining more power could do to impact us as a country. Well, they are an extreme unionist party in Northern Ireland, the opposite of Sinn Fein whose end goal is a united Ireland. And just like Sinn Fein, they have their own terrorist links, but instead of the IRA, they are closely linked to many unionist paramilitary groups, including the Ulster Resistance – something I find quite amusing at the irony of a large part of the Conservatives’ attack on Jeremy Corbyn for being a ‘terrorist sympathiser’. Some of the DUP’s beliefs include that of complete anti-abortion (demonstrated by the restrictive laws surrounding abortion in Northern Ireland) anti-LGBT+ and climate change deniers (*shudders*), which I will leave you to make of as you will, but they have the potential to cause harmful damage to ideals and tolerance in the UK. I know that many members of the Tory party, including senior members like Ruth Davidson, have spoken out against their regressive beliefs and to persist on the importance of maintaining and improving LGBT and women’s rights in our country, and to spread the message globally, although to me that is not enough until those at the very top stand up to their allies in a strong and stable manner.

Parliament is in chaos at the moment, and you could be feeling a bit helpless. Here are some things you could do:

1. Email your MP – honestly, if my MP doesn’t start addressing me by my first name soon I’ll be surprised – call them out on any issue, on everything they do that you don’t agree with, let them know what you want, they’re there to represent you after all.

You can find contact details for MPs on this google doc.

2. Sign petitions, protest, join a group that will stand up to them (e.g. Amnesty Int. etc., there are loads out there)

3. Educate others so they can make more informed choices later on.


If you liked this post you might like: Trump and the Global Gag

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