Congratulations must go to the Conservatives for their unexpected win at the general elections. The victory is all the more amazing given their pledge to drive through a £30 billion austerity package, including £12 bn in unspecified welfare cuts. Compared with Labour, it seemed much more professionally, ruthless and strategically planned with the vital help of the majority of the press.
The Conservative Party’s overall majority was unbelievably achieved with only a 0.8 per cent rise in their support from 2010 and also after seeing off more than 3m UKIP voters spread across the country. In contrast, the Liberal Democrats paid a heavy price for being part of the Coalition and were virtually wiped out having their share of the vote cut by 15.2 per cent to just 7.9 per cent. The Conservatives share of votes was just 36.9 per cent – only one in four eligible voters [24%] voted for the Tories.
For many, it has been described as a very diverse election, no more so in Scotland where there was a landslide victory of extraordinary proportions with the nationalist Scottish National Party (SNP) winning 56 of the 59 seats, an increase of more than 50 seats. Interestingly, apart from the Greens whose vote went up fourfold to more than one million but won just one seat, they were the only party standing on an anti-austerity ticket.
There are different views as to why Labour lost with some suggesting it had lurched too much to the left to recoup aspiring voters, while others blamed the Party for being too similar to the Tories and being afraid of its own shadow. In some ways Ed Miliband was reminiscent of Neil Kinnock when he surprisingly lost in 1992 with both leaders being products of their Party’s spin machine.
However, the fear factor masterminded by spin doctor guru, Lynton Crosby, played a very important role in people either voting for the Tories or not voting for Labour at all. The threat that a Labour government would be propped up by the SNP frightened many voters. The other strategy was to tarnish the image of Ed Miliband. Both were used by the mostly Tory press to attack the Labour Party and leadership.
A breakdown of the figures showed that Labour increased their share of the vote by 1.5 per cent, nearly twice the amount of the Tories, yet lost 26 seats and ended up 99 behind their main rivals, 50 more than in 2010. Labour’s share of votes was just 30.4 percent. Such are the quirks of the country’s election system.
The results show that an overhaul of the voting system is desperately needed in the UK. Without being more representative, it is dividing the country into huge blue, red and now nationalist colours.
Prime Minister, David Cameron, has found himself leading a Tory majority for the first time in more than 20 years. He is freed from any restrictive shackles placed upon him by the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition.
With a majority, Cameron is much freer to do as he pleases, including bringing in more austerity measures despite their devastating effect on poorer sections of society while doing little to address the UK’s huge debts. Fears have already been expressed about the cuts not just falling on the more vulnerable elements but on all public services including the police, education and prisons not to mention the sacrosanct NHS.
While many of the new cabinet have turned out to be just reappointments, one of the main worries has been the threat to scrap the country’s Human Rights Act under the newly promoted Michael Gove as Justice Secretary to push forward the manifesto pledge. As Education Secretary, he used a hammer to destroy examples of successful inner city schools in Birmingham with high number of Muslim pupils under the so called Trojan Horse conspiracy.
During the elections, it is important to note that the Prime Minister largely ignored Muslim voters, not even bothering to visit a mosque during the weeks of campaigning. However, he courted Hindu and Sikh voters.
He visited Sikh and Hindu temples. Instead with the support of Home Secretary, Theresa May, he promised to bring in more terrorism legislations, which he did last week. The news legislation will redefine extremism and extend to include non-violent extremism.
The legislation is intending to be so broad that it will encroach into the civil liberties of Muslims, including children in schools. However, in an interview with The Muslim News, he denied he saw Muslims through the prism of extremism.
There are many other challenges that will face Britons including divisions of the UK into Scotland and England, referendum on the EU membership in the next two years. The ruling party will need to ensure that One Nation Toryism is not mere words.