Well, I Guess That’s Over…

…And after all the speculation from betting shops, opinion polls, and even Twitter, it turns out we’re still stuck with the Tories. Disappointing? You bet. At least now I know what that ominous building dread I’ve been feeling over the past week was for.

With very few seats left to announce, it’s already certain that the next five years will see Britain under the rule of the Etonites once more – 5 more years of hacking away at public services, 5 more years of NHS privatisation, and 5 more years of David Cameron’s insufferably shiny forehead glaring down at us through the TV. But why did they win? Was it the intense campaign of negativity they’ve been hauling around the country? Their assertions that Labour would ‘destroy’ all the ‘progress’ they’ve made since 2010? Perhaps it was the fact that Rupert Murdoch, notorious Tory lapdog and owner of a 5th of all news media broadcast in the UK, has been doing little more than belittling the Labour Party since the campaigning really started, or a combination of some of these factors. Whatever the reason, the case remains that policies of austerity which are designed to crippled the disadvantaged while David Cameron, George Osborne and all their banker friends get on with hiding their money in tax-havens, and securing the hold that big business interests have over UK politics will be what we’re facing for the foreseeable future. Yay. Let’s just hope that the alleged proposal to raise tuition fees again won’t come in until after I’m at uni.

I suppose some of the blame can be attributed to Nicola Sturgeon – I expect David Cameron will be sending her flowers to thank her for killing Labour support in Scotland, without which, Ed Miliband’s party had pretty much zero chance of success. Even though I’m feeling a little bitter towards them right now (“vote SNP to keep out the Tories” wasn’t such a great strategy, was it, Nicola?) it will be interesting to see what the strong presence of the SNP will mean for the future of the UK, though – as much as Sturgeon insists that she has little intention of holding another in/out referendum, it seems there are only few who believe her. Cameron once again has a shot at being the Prime Minister to preside over the breakup of the union, something I’m sure he’s thrilled about.

Actually, I’m sure he is thrilled, regardless of the big yellow question mark over Scotland’s future in the UK. Every sign indicates that Ed Miliband, the most leftist Labour leader we’ve seen in decades, is giving up the leadership, pretty much guaranteeing that whoever his successor will be is going to resemble no-one so much as Blair. Wonderful that we’re moving the centre-ground of politics to the right again. God forbid we ever try to do something that might benefit someone other than the elite, right?

(The one good thing that’s come out of this election – Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, didn’t win his seat in South Thanet. It’s a small mercy, but I have to admit, the schadenfreude is strong with this one.)

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics

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The Rise of the Right – Are We Repeating the Past?

After the Wall Street Crash in 1929, economies across the world collapsed, and a disturbing pattern emerged across the political scenes of Europe, which eventually culminated in the ascension of the National Socialist Party in Germany, headed, of course, by Adolf Hitler. I am talking about the Rise of the Right, a movement which afflicted the majority of Europe in response to the Great Depression. Nazism is the most obvious and the most extreme version of the right succeeding to power after the economic crisis, but it is not the only evidence that we have which tells us that economic hardship leads to fascist parties making greater gains amongst the electorate. In Europe in the years after the New York Stock Exchange collapsed, Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, The Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Sweden and Switzerland all like Germany saw the proportion of votes going to far-right political parties rise, and therefore more right-wing candidates being elected. This phenomenon is something which observers have seen occurring once more in the face of the 2008 financial crisis – since this recession began, they’ve noted, a disturbingly similar inclination towards the political right can once again be observed in Europe, with more anti-immigration, anti-EU, nationalistic parties emerging as far apart as France and Finland. This predilection can be seen in the xenophobic outlash of the media and, consequently, the public towards immigrants – particularly those who arrive from countries whose economy is weaker than others.

In the UK, we have Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party whose main policy is the removal of the UK from the European Union in order to protect Britain from what he perceives as the negative impact of an ‘open-door’ immigration policy. Farage has been known to blame everything from the housing crisis to traffic on the M4 on immigration, and argues for a ‘points-based’ system as used in Australia to allow only ‘skilled’ immigrant labour to enter into the country.  Perhaps this is not an unreasonable stance – the UK is, after all, a fairly small island with limited resources – but Farage’s highly emotive method of attempting to sway voters to his side has removed almost any chance of rational, objective discussion of the issues he claims he wants to discuss the most – the European Union and immigration.

The rise of UKIP has seen the central ground of UK politics, as far as immigration is concerned, dragged kicking and screaming to the right – the Conservatives have promised an in/out referendum on EU membership if they form the next government, and funding for search and rescue operations for immigrants crossing the Mediterranean has been slashed by the coalition – a move that was, in fact, suggested by Nick Griffin of the BNP forty years ago, and was condemned as blatant, heartless racism. UKIP, in the last election to the European Parliament, beat every other party in terms of how many seats it won, with 164 candidates elected and sent to Europe, presumably to disrupt reasonable debate with their party’s xenophobic rhetoric – or perhaps not to attend at all, and simply claim their salary for loafing about, “taking down the EU from the inside” by their utter lack of contribution. Successfully reinforcing the age-old stereotype that immigrants are a drain on British society, that they never contribute to the welfare system they’re happy to take advantage of, and that they are only here to ‘steal’ our jobs, UKIP have hoodwinked a lamentably large proportion of the population into supporting them. It does not help things that their main opposition on the EU question is the Liberal Democrat party, who, due to their new perception as power-grabbing liars (Clegg’s backtrack on tuition fees will make a difference to how people vote this year, that seems certain), are not favourites of the public at the moment. Regardless of studies showing that the UK loses far more money through the rich avoiding paying tax, UKIP have pinned the blame on everyone’s favourite scapegoat, immigrants.

Unfortunately, they are not alone in Europe. In France, the Front National has been a steadily-growing influence on the political scene, and in Hungary, Bulgaria and Greece, things are even worse, with Jobbik, Ataka and the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn making waves. As with most far-right parties springing up on the continent, these parties have all at various times been accused of racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism, not to mention violence.

All in all, this adds up to a fairly troubling picture – if the EU really has as much of an influence on UK policy as some politicians claim, the presence of these various far-right bodies (some of which masquerade as centre-right to seem more palatable) does not fill me with confidence. Though the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D, for short) is presently the second biggest alliance within the EU, the more conservative branches are a discomforting presence. And while it seems doubtful that we are on the brink of a Third World War in Europe, I don’t think it would do us any harm to be a little wary of the direction our politics are leaning; after all, these things are always more insidious than people think – before Hitler showed his true colours, there was no shortage of people who thought he was on the right track.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics.

The Final Countdown – Scotland’s Big Decision

As anyone who has ever met me will know, I am far from a staunch, patriotic Unionist. I am, however, extremely concerned about the very real possibility that by this time next week, Scotland will no longer be able to call itself part of the UK.

As the referendum – lovingly dubbed #IndyRef on twitter – has drawn closer, we’ve all watched the campaigning on both sides heat up, with Westminster’s major party leaders (and the slightly less important Nigel Farage) rushing northwards in panic to plead with the Scottish people on the UK’s behalf. Everything from scare tactics about the economy to Gordon Brown’s DevoMax compromise to outright begging has been deployed from the ‘No’ campaign in the run up to tomorrow’s big vote, and yet, we won’t know if any of it has been to any effect until the votes have been cast and counted.

This is probably the biggest challenge to the constitution the UK has ever seen, so no wonder everyone’s talking about it – my question, though, is how many people really understand the impact a ‘Yes’ result will have.

One of the biggest weapons in the ‘No’ campaign’s arsenal is the uncertain future of Scotland’s economy in the event of independence. There’s been a lot of talk about whether an independent Scotland will be allowed to use the pound sterling as their national currency, and some, too, about large employers like Lloyds Banking Group, RBS, BP and Standard Life relocating their business to London if Scotland decides to call it quits with the UK. Now, as unemployment is already a problem in Scotland – though, granted, less of a problem than elsewhere in the UK –  one would assume that the people voting tomorrow wouldn’t want to risk losing the few jobs they have by making some of their largest employers relocate. If the Bank of England decides to stop Scotland from using the pound, as they’ve hinted they will, the fate of Scotland’s economy looks very bleak indeed, especially as Spain and Belgium – facing similar mutinies from within their own borders – will surely try to block any appeal from the Scots to join the Eurozone.

And that’s not all. An independent Scotland would not receive any tax income from Westminster – how, then, I wonder, will they possibly be able to continue to allow students free tuition? How will they afford to subsidise free prescriptions, and on that note, how will the NHS survive at all? It seems that Alex Salmond and his ilk are playing a very risky game with their country’s – and, of course, their party’s – future.

I understand that a lot of Scottish citizens keenly feel that there is a democratic deficit in the UK today, and I’m inclined to agree with them – I was too young to vote in 2011, but I certainly wouldn’t have voted for the Tory/Lib Dem coalition we’re stuck with now – but even so, the underdog spirit which is driving people to vote ‘Yes’ will not a country make.

Like the rest of the UK, I can only sit and wait in anticipation for tomorrow’s result to be announced, but I hope – for the sake of Scotland as much as for the sake of preserving a historic union between nations – that voters will think very carefully before they cast their votes tomorrow. After all, there will be no coming back from a ‘Yes’ result, and gambling the future of a nation on the slimy promises of the SNP seems a dangerous risk to take.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics