The Mother of all Elections – UK 2017
The UK has seen some incredible developments over the past few years. No sooner had PM Cameron won the public vote in 2015 that he declared the date for the EU referendum. Otherwise known as Brexit. At that time, I had advised the politicians that for the UK, Brexit was the right choice and indeed in my view, the British electorate would choose that as their preferred option. On Thursday June 23, 2016, the British electorate did exactly as I had predicted and voted to leave the EU. This set into motion a series of events that have hitherto never happened before. Within hours PM Cameron stepped down as the Prime Minister. He really had no choice since he backed the ‘remain’ campaign which obviously failed.
Of course, this led immediately to the selection of the next Conservative Party leader and therefore the new PM of UK. And what a battle that turned out to be with the likes of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Theresa May all throwing their hats in the ring. The victor as we now know was PM T May.
The Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats also lost their leaders at the same time and we had several months when every major party in the UK was scrambling to select their new leader. In the end the Labour Party chose MP Jeremy Corbyn and the Liberal Democrats MP Tim Farron.
The stage was set to action Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The first step in the process of the UK leaving the EU. Months of turmoil with opposition politicians playing all the games they could, to if not halt the process, to slow it down to a crawl. In the end, PM May put the opposition to the sword in a parliamentary vote, and guess what, the Article 50 Bill passed in Parliament by a margin of 498 to 114. So much so for the defiant opposition that crumbled in the wake of ground reality, that being that the British public would not stand for any politician who stood in the way of the decision they had made.
Under normal circumstances one would have thought that the matter was settled and the British government should just get on with the task in hand. However, modern politics is no longer that straight forward. The opposition which has a majority in the upper house (House of Lords) declared that they would do everything to frustrate the process and by so doing, undermine the negotiating strength of the British Government for Brexit. The European bureaucrats in Brussels were loving this, knowing they also wanted to make life hard for Britain as well. As it turned out, most of the leading economic indicators continued to be favourable to the British economy. The doom merchants were being proven wrong as Britain continued to outshine most of its European partners.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) having already lost one referendum for independence wanted to instigate another one. The SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon saw an opportunity of the Brexit vote and used that to promote her favourite policy for independence. However, the continuous sniping by British opposition politicians finally pushed PM May to decide enough was enough. PM May out foxed not only the opposition, and the media, but also her own party members when she declared that she wanted a snap election to take place on 8th June 2017. In the UK, we have what is called a ‘Fixed Parliament Act’. In effect, it means an election take place every 5 years. If you want one earlier, then Parliament must vote by 2/3rd majority for it to take place. Generally speaking, this would mean getting the opposition to vote with the Government of the day. Of course, when PM May threw this gauntlet down she knew that the main opposition had no choice but to back her call for an early election. Namely, how on earth can any opposition run timid from an election? Even when it knows it’s in a bad way, political expediency means the Labour Party had no choice but to say yes.
The state of play for the main political parties is as follows:
UK GE17 – LATEST VOTING INTENTION
The above table indicates the current trend in voting intentions of the British electorate. It does not take a genius to conclude that short of a minor miracle, the Labour Party will be defeated with devastating ease. They say that on current polling the seat sharing might look like: Con=388, Lab=177, LDem=7 and UKIP=0. The SNP in Scotland = 56. In my view, there is much that can still happen. As they say a week in politics is a long time.
This is of course just an exercise in playing with numbers. My interpretation is kept simple. The Conservative Party will win with ease and have a significant majority to get most of its legislation through the next Parliament. They will have 5 years in which to cement in their advantage subject to their policies working out and the public don’t get tired of the leadership.
The Labour Party will be crippled to such a degree that either it will have to dump its current unpopular leader, Jeremy Corbyn and get in a centrist like David Miliband (yes you read that correctly) or the Party as it stands will have to split. One faction (supported by most of its MPs) will try to galvanise the centre ground in politics whilst the other faction will turn into a far-left party with its dedicated core voters synchronised with its far-left ideology. What we can say is that unless the Labour Party takes some very tough decisions, and quickly, it won’t get into power in Britain for a good decade and maybe even longer. Make no bones, this is now crunch time for the Labour Party, it’s very existence is now in question and if it fails then don’t be too surprised if a Centre Left Party emerges of a coalition of colours to challenge the incumbent Government.
What does all this mean for UK and India relations?
The answer in short, a huge opportunity to reset the relationship so it is fit for the 21st Century. Britain is no longer an imperial power with an Empire to govern. It is a small island, be it a very important and influential island, just off the coast of Europe. The fact that UK will be free of the EU means anything and everything is now on the table for discussions. The fact that India has emerged as an established 21st century powerhouse means it can demand, and it will get, what it needs. Be that from the UK or a host of other countries around the world lining up to cosy with the new India under the stewardship of its nationally popular leader, PM Modi.
Both these countries, linked by history of course, find themselves in very similar situations. Facing the 21st Century with new found freedom, new opportunities and renewed self-confidence. Deals are there to be made in the interest of both. India finds itself in a powerful position that it has not seen for thousands of years. I have no doubt that these two old partners will find a new working relationship based on respect and shared values.
Europe on the other hand is in dire straits. The free for all immigration policies of the past decade are now catching up with devastating consequences. The majority of European politicians live in their ivory towers. They hide behind politically correct rhetoric and platitudes ignoring the plight of their own people and the surge of negativity being unleased from the silent majority via the new social media networks. The establishment elite can no longer control information flow and the diet of misinformation it depended upon to hoodwink the electorate. The news media that has failed to properly scrutinise the so called politically correct rhetoric is also coming in for some legitimate roasting. When politicians fail their electorate, the media ignore the truth for want of being PC – then it’s only a matter of time before the inevitable happens. And this we have witnessed in France with the far-right leader Maria Le Pen being elevated to new heights of being able to challenge for the French presidency. Think about it, in a major European country like France there is a huge proportion of people so disenfranchised that they are willing to vote for the very extreme far-right group. That means at the very grass roots millions of citizens are shouting, enough is enough, ignore us at your peril.
Brexit does not make the British electorate racist. The French have not suddenly become racist. And we can say that for most European countries now. What we see and experience is a cry for help from a sizeable silent majority. Unfortunately, the downside being that many of us who are classified as immigrants end up getting the brunt of these failed political policies.
The challenge for the EU is to accept its mistakes and correct them urgently. In my view, they won’t do that with the resultant outcome, massive street wide public disturbances on a regular basis. In 2017/18, we will see the streets of Europe resemble war zone, and folks that is no exaggeration.
Back to the British election. The win for the Conservative Party is clear and so on 9th June a new era beacons and I for one would hope that for India and UK, it means a much more productive relationship that safe guards each country not only on the economic front, but also from the advances of extremism and terrorism.
The Labour Party in Britain has increasingly moved towards the Islamic community. In particular, towards the Pakistani community. It seems it is now very much reliant on the Pakistani community for votes en masse to ensure it secures some of their seats. This has created a situation whereby it is now seen by many as anti-Hindu and anti-Jew. Both of these communities are looking at the Conservative party as a natural home for them in the knowledge that at least there are some aspects of shared values and goals. The Labour Party born from the Unions is also seen to be edging ever closer to some militant unions and with that many of moderate voters feel left out. We see many of these voters begin to move away from the Labour Party in favour of the Conservatives. What is even more surprising is that the working-class roots of the Labour Party also feel that they have been abandoned by their own party. We have seen a sizeable proportion of this group voting for Brexit as well as UKIP (very much the right of right party in the UK). For India one could conclude easily that a defeat for the Labour Party is the best option. The Conservatives offer the best choice for the best partnerships now and for the future. I would not be too surprised if PM Modi builds on the excellent relations he forged with PM Cameron and can now enhance those with his interaction with PM May.
With Brexit on its way, and with the General Election on 8th June, I see my glass to be full. Half with new found freedom, half with new opportunities for the new millennial. This is a time to forge stronger bonds to protect the economy, but to stand firm against the disease of extremism and terrorism that affects both our countries.