The UK General Election and its Repercussions ieaTV
The slow erosion of European integration?

Following the Scottish independence referendum in which the Scots rejected the historic opportunity to split from the United Kingdom and create a newly independent sovereign state, the UK general election on May 7th gave the whole of the British people the chance to affirm which vision it believed should be taken for the future political direction of the UK. The outcome of the election has shocked the political establishment due to the delivery of a result that has been described in the foreign media as a ‘political earthquake’ and seismic shift’. With the dust settling on the 5 years of campaigning to oust the incumbent Conservative Government, the repercussions of their surprise win are only just becoming apparent for the British people and the wider European Union.

Vanquish or be vanquished

The election has totally transformed the UK’s political landscape,  causing the resignations of three party leaders, with Labour’s Ed Miliband, the Liberal Democrat Chief Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage of the UK Independence party all stepping down from the leader ship of their parties. The astounding level of losses that occurred within the opposition parties and the leader ship resignations has highlighted just how much things have changed in UK politics, though perhaps frustratingly for pro-European circles, the anti-EU politician, Nigel Farage of UKIP, has just been reinstated as the leader of UKIP following his party’s rejection of his resignation. Hopefully this isn't an omen for the political mindset of the British people.

Winning the battle doesn't mean winning the war

The Conservatives won 331 seats, giving them a majority of 12 — a far better result than senior Tories had imagined possible, making David Cameron the first Prime Minster since 1900 to have been in power for more than 18 months and to have increased his party's share of the vote. Labour saw their number of MPs sink to 232. This is even worse than its poor performance in the 2010 election, and is largely due to the huge losses in Scotland that more than wiped out the modest gains they made in London and elsewhere. The Liberal Democrats meanwhile saw their support completely collapse, winning only 8 seats out of the 57 that they had won in the 2010 election. In light of the other parties performance it is certainly a triumph for the Conservatives to win a majority in the House of Commons by completely bucking the poll predictions that they were tying with the Labour party. Though ultimately is this a real victory? It’s more like a limited success, as the total majority of 12 MPs in parliament gives them little power against rebel back bench MPs that don’t want to vote in line with government policy and this will put them at the whim of their more radical party members. This has left those that didn't vote for the Tories with a glimmer of hope. David Cameron will most likely try to cooperate with smaller parties to push through legislation, like the Democratic Unionist Party, which has 8 MPs, but their co-operation and loyalty has yet to be seen and it’s unclear whether the government will able to enact their manifesto in full without making large concessions to elements of their own party or opposition parties. It is worth remembering that when the Prime Minister was the leader of a coalition government he could command a majority of 76, now he has a majority of 12 every parliamentary vote could potentially turn into a rejection of Government policy and his leadership. As much as the Conservatives have lambasted their previous coalition partners they may well wish they had them on board again as the Liberal Democrats proved to be remarkably reliable coalition partners, voting through the vast majority of coalition policy even when it was not in their own party interest or ideology. David Cameron has a lot to worry about with this potentially mutinous crew that will be sailing under his command in the next Conservative Government ship that will be navigating the choppy seas of British politics for the next 5 years. Whatever the desires of this Government and it is clear from current policy aims that they are radical, this Government may have won the battle but they haven’t won the war. Arguably the real winners of this election are the Scottish National Party (SNP). Riding high on the overflow of national fervour left over from the independence vote, the SNP secured spectacular success by taking 56 out of the 59 seats in the Scottish electoral territories. What had been derided as a lacklustre and mediocre campaign by all parties involved, actually culminated in outcomes that have completely changed the balance of British political power.

But what does this mean for the UK and the EU?

The Conservative ship with David Cameron at helm as captain has consistently stated that it is going to sail on the winds of further cuts to the welfare system rather than the winds of change. The Conservatives categorically championed a continuation of their policy of a reduced welfare state, with strong austerity measures that are claimed by the Conservatives to be vital to reduction of the budget deficit. This is all very well if it were not for the fact that these poverty inducing measures are completely in line with the ideological make up of Conservative party. The party of free enterprise and no state intervention have always believed in no state involvement in public services and now they gleefully won’t miss the opportunity to privatise the education and health system on top of the horrendously high tuition fees that they brought in for English universities in the last coalition government. Yet another sign of the Conservatives further restricting the upward mobility of society’s less fortunate.

Those that disagree will always shout louder than those who agree

From the EU perspective, the Tory win is a particularly worrying and ominous event. David Cameron has essentially created a noose to hang himself by. Having pandered to the perceived anti-EU sentiment of the British public David Cameron made a pivotal pledge to conduct a referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU, even though he doesn't believe the UK should leave and there’s been no evidence that the UK’s EU membership has played any real role in the election. Having given a referendum to the Scottish, only to get a narrow win which has left the door open for the Scottish nationalists to win greater power and potentially enact another referendum that they are certain to win, Cameron thought it sensible to put up another referendum that will potentially disintegrate the entire EU. If British citizens are given a referendum on remaining within the EU it will be first time since 1973 that they have directly voiced their view on the UK’s EU membership. Given the growing Euro-sceptic and anti-immigration slogans used by parties like UKIP, the outlook for the UK’s future in the EU doesn't look good. Though the problem with using this rhetoric as a gauge of the national sentiment is that it’s difficult to get a true reflection of what people really think when it’s a minority party and the more vocal elements of the national press that are clamouring for the UK to leave the EU. What David Cameron forgets in his unwise referendum pledge is that people who are against something tend to shout louder than those that are for something. On the other hand what is easier to assess is the fact that the EU membership referendum will encourage the Scots to push Westminster for another independence referendum in Scotland. While David Cameron insists that another independence referendum is not under consideration.

"There isn't going to be another referendum. We had the referendum and the SNP aren't pushing for another referendum actually, Nicola Sturgeon said that vote in the general election was not about another referendum"

It would be naive to believe that a party that was founded on the principal of independence, and that has won such a unanimous mandate as the SNP has just received, won’t eventually push for another referendum. Nicola Sturgeon’s (SNP leader) recent claim that the Conservatives have no authority within Scottish decisions is probably fair and all future political decisions will probably be so far devolved to the Scottish lawmakers that they may as well be independent.

Are we the closest we've come to seeing the end of European Unity since WW2?

Apart from enshrining an EU referendum into their manifesto pledges, the Tories also intend to scrap the Human Rights Act which they accuse of ‘crumbling British sovereignty’. With radical actions to take place within the next 5 years it hasn't taken long for the first protests against the Tory government to break out, with 15 people being arrested on Saturday in the centre of London after clashing with police at an anti-government rally.

Having presided over a Conservative Government that almost saw the disintegration of the United Kingdom and now a referendum within two years that could spell the end of the UK participation in the EU, one would think that David Cameron thrives on instability. Whatever his motives, it’s unclear how this latest crisis in the EU will end. Whilst David Cameroon has clearly stated his aim to reform the EU and for the UK to stay in a reformed Europe it’s unclear how the other EU members will react to the bribery tactics he’s using. Ultimately it will come down to the level of reform being requested and how much the other major players in Europe will rely on the UK being a stabilising factor in the internal politics of the EU. It’s very possible that a face saving measure will come forward for David Cameroon that will allow him to claim that he stood by his pledge whilst keeping the UK in the EU. Whatever the outcome this is a very uncertain time for European unity and despite having won an electoral victory, its an uncertain time for the Conservatives and their next 5 years in power.