Britain heads for election upheaval

Traditionally placid Britain heads into a general election on May 7 that may produce its most dramatic political upheaval in 36 years. Prime Minister David Cameron appears headed for defeat despite a responsible and generally successful stewardship over the past five years. In his place the country faces a splintered political future such it has never before known.

David Cameron (Wikipedia)
David Cameron (Wikipedia)

Personally, I hope Cameron will win. I don’t think anyone could have provided a more sure hand at the tiller. But the dynamics of change in British politics suggest that Labour leader Ed Miliband, despite his less than inspiring record and campaign, will benefit from profound resentments in British society that will eviscerate Cameron’s ruling Conservatives, to produce Britain’s most radical left-wing government since the Socialist landslide that swept out Winston Churchill in 1945 and then liquidated the British Empire in India and South Asia.

Cameron’s record as an economic manager was at the least steady, and, given the uncertainties that rocked the world following the global economic crisis of 2008-9, surprisingly impressive. But he has received no credit for this among the electorate.

Part of the reason is that the economic recovery and cutting of government costs and services under Cameron did not generate significant numbers of new jobs or any truly significant industrial revival.

Also, Cameron find himself and his party on the receiving end of a growing barrage of popular resentments against the very nature of the modern free-trade, open borders, liberal state.

Ed Miliband (Wikipedia)
Ed Miliband (Wikipedia)

Britain is no longer a homogenous society. Resentment is especially widespread at the loss of national sovereignty and effective power to the supranational European Commission in Brussels. Within the EC, Britain has almost no executive authority to cut down on the continuing enormous inflow of the Third World immigrants, and the growing fears that these immigrants, especially from Pakistan, will seriously add to the jihadist terror threat in coming years.

The United Kingdom Independence Party lead by Nigel Farage looks set to benefit from these frustrations and fears. It also looks to be the beneficiary of anger among traditional Conservative supporters over the radical concessions Cameron gave to the Scottish regional parliament in Edinburgh to stave off a full independence vote in the national referendum in September 2014.

That means the UKIP under Farage may play the same roll in defeating Cameron that Marine Le Pen’s National Front Party in France played in defeating incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 and replacing him with Socialist President Francois Hollande. Like Hollande, Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, despite a plodding style, a striking lack of charisma and  mediocre previous record in government, may be able to sneak in as the conservative-nationalist vote splinters. For the UKIP will mainly take votes from the Conservatives. It is a powerful bullet aimed at their heart.

Nick Clegg (Wikipedia)
Nick Clegg (Wikipedia)

By contrast the Scottish National Party looks set to supplant Labour in Scotland. It currently holds only 10 seats in the House of Commons. But opinion polls now indicate the SNP will sweep an unprecedented 50 out of 59 seats, annihilating Labour in s traditional stronghold north of the border. However, the SNP will take no votes from Labour in England. That makes them natural coalition allies for Miliband.

Labour in England will strongly benefit from a return of voters from the Liberal Democrats who are bitter their party was so passive during its five year coalition with Cameron. The LibDems are expected to be massacred and lose up to two-thirds of their seats. The traumatized survivors in the House of Commons will certainly prefer to support Labour rather than maintain the alliance with the Tories that led them to ruin.

All this means the Tories will be the only pro-Europe party left after the elections. Current Mayor of London Boris Johnson will fight to keep them that way if he succeeds a defeated Cameron, as is widely expected. But he will face a massive challenge from anti-Europe Know-Nothings in the Conservative Party. They may elect an anti-Europe leader of their own in a revolt by Backbench Members of Parliament. Previous Tory backbench revolts pulled the Tory party of its collation with Liberal leader David Lloyd George in 1922, politically humiliated Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and forced him to resign in 1940, and made Margaret Thatcher the first female leader of a major British political party in 1974. A fourth revolt toppled Thatcher as party leader in 1990.

Milibrand could therefore come to power at the head of a coalition between Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats. If so, he may prove to be the most anti-American leader Britain has had since Neville Chamberlain. But that is another story.

In any case, after May 7, the Brits look fated to live in Interesting Times.