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Friday, April 30, 2010

Looking at the British Elections: What it says about their brand of politics

It may not be quite a surprise in general that the three parties competing for a hold of power by securing as much as possible majority seats in the British Parliament are almost at par in terms of their policies and promises for the future UK. Recent happenings involving the country’s biggest parties, the Labour Party led by the economic-crisis saviour Gordon Brown and the Conservative and Unionist Party led by the ever-ardent oppositor of the majority government David Cameron, have created both advantages (to boost the Party’s popular support at the expense of the other’s downfall) and disadvantages (which impaired them in some way) both to the image of the party leader and the credibility of the Party as a whole.
And on May 6th, the standards the parties set for themselves to portray a “who’s the better party towards a better UK” semblance will speak for themselves. But what really is new in this election? Will the candidates make a game-changer?
Contrary to what Simon Schama said, a notable professor from Columbia University, in an interview in a CNN program Amanpour., this years election and the end result will be a different direction at the very least and the campaign trail itself is one of a kind. But to give credit to what Schama contends, British politics may be indeed all as it may have been, if one could talk about how Labour and Conservative always beat each other (sometimes with utmost lack of decency and civility), trying to tone down, nay, cause the fall of the other entirely. Well, as a matter of how I see it, this makes British politics strong and governance a clear competition with clear check and balance. A party’s intense political will to, atop its priorities, gain majority rule by criticizing the other ruthlessly amongst its tools has begun to permeate almost everything a Party may or may not have any business about. This means that as long as party competition is a serious business; expect that both sides of the Parliament will better the nation as a whole, or not at all.
This is not basically new in British politics. Despite Labour’s young origins contrary to the Tories’ centuries-old presence, power-play has been tough. Now this makes a clear ground for real competition in British elections. But what becomes of the present situation compared to the past British governments is that the element of surprise has been deadlier and more cunning for the Parties themselves. For example, if you talk about the Labour-Conservative relationship, despite their most recent bashings, bickering and face-slaps, there is no clear cause to believe that one is inevitably winning. Former British Ambassador to the United States Sir Christopher Meyer on Amanpour. said that this has always been the case. How I see it is that the unpredictability comes before and after. I would say that nobody knows who will win and nobody knows what will happen after a party wins. By going back a little, this trend of unpredictability has haunted British politics for a long time. Churchill’s Conservative leadership brought a major lead and support for the party. The Conservative’s unprecedented political success was amplified by Churchill’s victory during the Second World War (a boost for morale) together with the Allied Forces, seemingly making Churchill the Conservative’s most influential leader and UK’s prime minister with boundless popularity, both local and overseas. In spite of the Conservative win during this time, the parties hold on power and the British’s support waned down in just a matter of few years. Labour and other parties broke the British power dominance of the Conservative. This short-live rule of a party or it’s popularity begotten by its successful marches to make the public believe that what they do is for the nation’s welfare may even presently be there. This is true as I see it in the case of the Labour.
Thatcher’s rule also led a Conservative swipe in the British politics, almost the same as Churchill’s. But the Iron Lady’s role in keeping in competition with Labour and contributing to the empowerment of her party led to some unexpected downturn. Her resignation as Prime Minister reflected a loophole in party discipline. It seemed that the Conservatives have been turning against each other, making a shaky party less competitive against the Labour. With this, Labour took advantage (which is the trend in the present British election). Tony Blair’s New Labour Party was a game-changer in the political battle mainly fought by the two. Blair’s New Labour created a new standard for the old Labour, signalling a political change and ideology for the Labour Party founded in the 1900s, only that this reinvention of the party strengthened a new politics that the people wants at the very demise of the Conservatives.
The element of change (due to discontent of the previous governments) has always been a fact of politics, nay, a political leverage at that. Why a leverage? Talk about 21st century and everybody will talk about political shift. This has been the very trend of politics across countries. In the US, the Democrats showed that a Republican government has been a failure – this took an extreme advantage for Obama to win, exploiting the weakness showed by Bush and the unpopular support to the Iraq War and the other in Afghanistan which the Republicans strongly fought for. Across Europe, the rise of countless parties never heard of before calls for social and political change, challenging the age-old parties that have been failing. Reformist and moderate parties are gaining support and power as opposition against fundamentalist governments across Asia. Even US’s Tea Party Movement calls for it. And this demand is CHANGE. Change breeds tough opposition. Like what the Tories experienced during years after Churchill and during Thatcher, Labour spells the same fate. The advent of Blair’s government as a particular case was as I’ve said a major change in British politics. But one mistake said it all. Like the intense outcry against the war in Iraq, Blair’s support for the war damaged the party, so as the interest of the British people, leaving a chance for the Conservatives (Tories) to exploit it. This is however was not done so to their advantage. It may have been that either or both Tony Blair and the Labour as a whole was damaged by their stand on the war, the party’s win ‘again’ under a new government led by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer during Blair, was an unprecedented turn of events. Did the Conservatives fail to do about the Labour’s disastrous decisions? Did the Conservative fail to exploit the mounting unpopular support for Blair’s New Labour? This happening is indeed a history maker if ever things have gone differently, and this deserves some attention.
You see, the reinvention of the Labour Party turning into the New Labour supposedly spelled a much better party to compete against the Tory. The mere changing of the party itself posed one thing and one thing only: that the British people had enough already of the countless mistakes of the previous governments including the Tory for a certain amount of time, thus, a new party innovation will change the British politics to its core as what people so desperately demands now and urgent. I might say that this was indeed a very powerful strategy for the Labour to do. If Labour did not make a new game plan, would the Conservatives have done it? I couldn’t say for certain what could have happened but the interesting issues could have been different if the New Labour was short lived. But Brown’s majority government proved a much tougher enemy for the Conservatives to deal with. Their failure to exploit Blair’s mistake led to the Labour’s persistence. Also, this I think had a blow against the Tories themselves. By not finishing off a dying enemy, it will certainly create a backlash whether a party is strong to take over. And the Labour’s role in the recent economic crisis under their man himself Gordon Brown showed a party in momentum for winning another election. But then again, the Opposition has been also strong and has been tougher (but not enough yet) under Cameron’s leadership, balancing the power-politics presently ruled by Brown.
Now this I say levelled a fair and square competition between the two major parties. What is interesting again is that the unexpected appearance of the Liberal Democrat Party may hold a twist in the political arena. At this point perhaps one could contend and concede that the Tory and the Labour would be competing primarily against each other. However, the game-changer may be the ‘other’ party. Polls show that despite Cameron’s party’s lead, seconded (surprisingly) by the Liberal Democrats’ candidate Nick Clegg and Brown being the third, the Conservatives may not secure a majority win. If neither the Conservative nor the Labour wins a majority with the LD’s breaking role, this could lead to a hung parliament. Brown for one sees (in the final prime ministerial debate) that the LD and the Conservative will make a coalition. But will Clegg or Cameron be unto this? I doubt that Cameron will agree on a power-sharing deal with the LD. But acting out of desperation to once again hold the government, possibility may be spelled out. But still we can doubt whether LD or Nick Clegg will agree. Certainly these parties do not agree on issues at hand, but looking at the debates, the three candidate’s policies are neither different nor the same. Now, if Clegg becomes the majority breaker, he could assume to take a coalition with the party his policies are closest to. However, the LD may even have the chance to win the elections, which is a serious problem for the Conservative who fought long hard to gain the support, but less for the Labour. It will surely be a slap on the face to Cameron if they lose. But who knows? The complexity of the political situation now is different and a case to with most surprises. Think of it, Labour had been popular for quite sometime, but the Conservatives hadn’t waged war enough with them, only at the floors of the Parliament most of the time (didn’t exploit intensively the Iraq war, the misconduct of some Labour government officials, Gordon’s gaffe, Clegg’s experience). Cameron’s leadership is not enough to counter the Labour, even the newbie Clegg who seems to be a rising star, bur Brown is still not out of the picture. Indeed, the 6th of May could be a rethinking of how the British politics plays.