Editor’s Note: This article is somewhat longer than we normally publish, but as an external view from an independent political analyst, we felt it worthy of publication. Readers may disagree with some of the assertions in it (notably those in the last 3 paragraphs), so we hope it spawns a vigorous debate in the comments section.
The General Election in Britain scheduled for May 7th is widely considered to be the most important faced by the country in a generation.
But during the ongoing campaign, many of the most politically volatile subjects of the day have scarcely warranted a mention, by either of the leaders vying to be the United Kingdom’s next Prime Minister.
With both main parties running neck-and-neck in the polls, the unprecedented prospect of another coalition or even a minority government, which brings with it the slim chance of a second General Election this year, seem the most likely outcomes of the upcoming vote.
Under both these scenarios resulting from a hung parliament, the candidates elected for the country’s lesser parties would allow either the Labour party headed by Ed Miliband, or the Conservatives of the incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron, to take the country forward as the major partner in any future administration.
The UK’s plurality electoral system known as First Past the Post (FPTP), traditionally produces outcomes in which minor parties rarely manage to translate their share of the vote on polling day, into a sizeable representation in terms of MPs.
As a result, single party governments which do not enjoy an overwhelming majority have been historically rare in Britain, but as in 2010 this is now the prospect faced by the country, if the current polling is accurate.
Two-party politics in Britain is usually very adversarial in nature as a consequence of FPTP, with each party assiduously scrutinizing the clear failings of their opponents during General Elections in order to swing public opinion in their favour.
But this is no longer true, for reasons rooted in a desire by both the main parties, to narrow the discussion of issues down to those they would prefer the electorate to be interested in.
This refusal by either the Conservatives or Labour to truly come to grips with the other’s record, means the likely composition of the government which will draft Britain’s next legislative programme, on May 27th, is destined to be determined by the respective fortunes of parties on the political periphery instead.
State of the “Peripheral” Parties
The first of these, are the Conservatives’ present coalition partners the Liberal Democrats, led by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who stands a good chance of losing his seat in the Commons at the upcoming vote, given that his party has rarely performed so poorly.
The second is the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), headed by Nigel Farage, who despite winning the European elections of a year ago, now leads a party languishing in the polls. (Editor: There are many in UKIP who would challenge the validity of what the polls are saying)
The third is the separatist Scottish National Party (SNP), led by Nicola Sturgeon, who as a member of Scotland’s own devolved parliament serves as its First Minister. Sturgeon has become a defining presence in the campaign despite the fact that she is not even standing for election to Westminster.
Markedly more Socialist in character than Labour, with the Conservatives’ trailing 2 percentage points behind their opponents, the prospect of a minority party defining the country’s direction after the election, in a Labour-SNP pact, has led to Sturgeon being described as “the most dangerous woman in Britain,” in the country’s conservative-leaning press.
Most of the UK’s media has dutifully refused to stray either from such personality-driven politics, or the preferred narrow attack-lines of both Labour and the Conservatives, over the country’s National Health Service and its economy.
The result has been a surreal campaign in which almost by mutual consent, issues that over the last parliament have been the subject of national outrage, or have since resulted in seismic geopolitical consequences, are scarcely forming any part of the public debate in the race to determine the composition of the next.
The Mediterranean Crisis
At the weekend, at least 900 immigrants drowned in the Mediterranean after travelling from the Libyan coast with the aim of gaining illegal entry into Europe. Last year 170,000 succeeded in making the crossing to Italy by boat, and at the current rate up to 30,000 are likely to die in the attempt this year. With the humanitarian disaster directly attributable to the fact that Libya is now a borderline failed state, whose coastline can no longer be policed.
The international crisis, now the subject of an emergency European Union summit, followed the joint decision by both Prime Minister Cameron, and the then President of France Nicolas Sarkozy, to intervene in the country by extending air-support to Libya’s rebels in 2011, when neither had the means nor appetite to determine what would come next.
Both premiers travelled to Tripoli for a victory rally on September 15th that year, but within a few months of the stage-managed press event, the direction the country was taking was already becoming clear, as competing foreign-backed militias tore a de-stabilized Libya apart.
So, why has the Prime Minister not faced serious questions over his conspicuous role in creating an unfolding tragedy, with no signs of abating, from an opposition purportedly seeking to replace his party in government?
The answer lies in the deep wounds that still exist within the Labour party over Tony Blair’s decision to enter into the 2003 war against Iraq. A country which has also descended into Islamist barbarism thanks to ISIS. As Britain’s recent actions on the international stage reflect equally badly on both main parties, the subject is largely a non-issue in the election campaign.
The “Rotherham” Problem
Much the same tendency is also evident on the domestic front. As shown by the refusal of the Conservatives to take their own opponents to task, over the child-rape for profit epidemic that continues to rock Britain, in which successive gangs of Muslim males nationwide are finally being subjected to belated prosecution.
The population transformation of Britain which has allowed the rape of non-Muslims to be exported to the UK, a practise endemic in countries like Pakistan from where most of the perpetrators trace their origins, was largely “deliberately engineered” by successive Labour governments between 1997 and 2010.
A succession of reports have now been issued into the phenomenon since August 2014, and one such publication by Louise Casey into abuse in Rotherham, where 1,400 young girls were raped in the small northern English town between 1997 and 2013, has directly pinpointed the complicity of municipal government in covering up the scale of the problem.
Most of the affected communities nationwide, have been located in areas under Labour control, where child protection services equally fell under the remit of local authorities, seemingly desperate not to antagonize the most rapidly growing voter demographic in their areas.
There are concerted efforts to resist further reports on how extensively Muslim men have been raping English girls in such Labour-run councils, even though a statutory requirement exists to publish them.
Nevertheless, the Conservative party has not only keenly avoided such an open goal against their main opponents, they have also done a conspicuous amount to play down the national relevance of the white child sex slavery that runs rife across the country.
Any public inquiry into the UK’s Muslim rape epidemic, has in fact been downgraded by the present government into a lesser component of another investigation, into decades-old sexual abuse by politicians, which itself has been kicked into the long grass.
The reason behind this perhaps lies in Mr Cameron’s very personal response, to the protest phenomenon which sprang into life as a result of the refusal of authorities to tackle the rape gangs, the English Defence League (EDL).
Widely dismissed as a protest movement only motivated by bigotry and racism, instead of a symptom of the scale of official inaction over the rape of non-Muslim children in the country, the Prime Minister, undoubtedly mirroring the grave concerns of community leaders deeply distressed at the EDL’s growth, rose in the House of Commons on August 11th, 2011, to declare that there were “none sicker” in Britain than those who supported it.
Given subsequent events however, and the admission by the local MP for Rotherham that as many as a million girls could have subjected to such so-called Child Sexual Exploitation in the UK, it defies credulity that central government was not largely aware of what had led to the protest movement’s rise in the first place.
Indeed the conspicuous refusal of parliamentarians to confront the roots of such abuse, has been a tragic omission in a country where only MPs are immune from prosecution for candidly discussing them.
And it is in the reluctance of Britain’s two main parties to face up to the issue of mass immigration and the social consequences that have accompanied it, where this consensus of avoidance has been most marked.
The Conservatives have now abandoned their 2010 promise to bring net migration down to “tens of thousands” a year. In the year ending September 2014, 624,000 immigrated to the UK. While Labour have no real plans whatsoever to address and issue, that successive gauges of opinion declare the most important to the public.
UKIP and SNP Factors
This begs the question of why UKIP, whose touchstone concern is Britain’s open borders contingent on its EU membership, are doing so badly in the polls. The party is now flat-lining around 12 percent, having dropped progressively from a high of 25 percent in October.
UKIP’s supporters pin the decline on poll weighting schemes they characterize as unfair, and the vituperative rhetoric Nigel Farage has been subjected to in both the press and by other politicians during past months.
Why would voters, they ask, be giving telephone pollsters an accurate account of their support for a party leader, constantly charged with divisive and bigoted “scaremongering”? For raising issues like the level of sympathy for Islamic extremism in Britain, or the strain to which foreign nationals are placing its housing and health service.
The accusation is one which has continually plagued UKIP, perpetually accused of securing support by whipping up fears over immigrants or the role of the EU among “Little Englanders”. A derisory term used for English people unwilling to accept the political realities of the present day.
Conversely, UKIP’s critics argue that the Conservatives’ strategy of eroding the UKIP vote by offering a referendum on EU membership in 2017, and raising the spectre of a joint Labour-SNP pact, is paying dividends.
In reality, as the veteran US pollster Nate Silver has recently declared, the likelihood of the Conservatives’ securing a majority without partners themselves is slim. A scenario that makes a referendum promise as uncertain as the one abandoned when the party last had to form a coalition.
Furthermore, the concerted focus of David Cameron’s party on the likelihood of the SNP determining Britain’s spending priorities, has amounted to a tacit recognition that his ambition of achieving an overall majority has effectively been abandoned.
As a result, his party has been forced to resort in the campaign’s final weeks, to precisely the play-book UKIP is constantly charged with following, magnifying the insecurities of English voters over the prospect of “foreign” interference.
UKIP’s decline is more credibly the result of its own conduct, as if the current campaign was comparable to the ones it is more used to fighting. By concentrating on policies the party could only credibly achieve if it came first, as it did in last year’s European elections on May 22nd.
In contrast, conscious of the almost certain prospect of a hung parliament, the SNP has approached the electorate with maturity. Clearly signalling to their voters the conditions under which their own MPs would support a likely future government, while riding high in the polls in Scotland.
UKIP have conspicuously failed to do likewise. The extent to which a party which to some is best understood as itself a medium for English nationalism, can recoup its losses since 2014, will be measured by how successfully UKIP’s dissipated leadership manages to grasp this particular nettle, in the days to come.