WAKE UP BRITAIN! SHAKE UP BRITAIN!
Prophetic doom and gloom has apparently descended on Britain this morning.
Nobody knows quite what has happened, or what will happen. The country that waged two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in order to “bring democracy” appears to have disenfranchised thousands of her own voters, in embarrassing queues that made headlines on France 24 and Al Jazeera in the early hours of the morning. Investors are looking sharply for an exit from the country, lest we head the way of European compatriots in Athens. And Gordon Brown, having once made a fatal decision to stay on as Prime Minister without an electoral mandate when Blair dodged the incoming bullets of recession, looks set to be on the cusp of making the same mistake twice. Realistically, Britain faces a structurally impossible government coalition between Lib-Dems and a Tory party whose gaping holes have been papered over with a Botox stretch-job by Cameron and Osborne. Meanwhile, the media’s role in pulling down Brown, beefing up Cameron to the “Yes We Cam” stakes and holding up Clegg like the new dress on a Barbie doll now deserves to fall under critical public scrutiny.
No, No, No! (To Griffin’s merry men)
But, there is reason for optimism amongst all this gloom. The BNP has been systematically disowned by the British public. For all the talk of immigration at the very top of voting concerns, a hysteria that has frequently crossed the boundaries of xenophobia over the last month, Britain has shouted loudly that she does not want a National Front. Britons do not want to be associated with the racism that underscores every aspect of Nick Griffin’s merry band of henchmen. The BNP website has been down for a couple of days. A temporary website has been installed in its place which liberlaly uses the scaremongering language of the country being “flooded” with foreigners. For all the military talk, trying to associate the best of British with the blatant language of racism, Nick Griffin was roundly defeated, gathering just 6620 out of a potential 45,343 votes in his very own constituency of Barking & Dagenham The significance of this trouncing has barely yet been recognised, but this remarkable victory for decency and humanity surely leaves the BNP without any platform to continue with their repellent policies.
The wasted opportunity
The great pity of the night, of course, is that the Liberal Democrats have come away with so little recognition of their potential to have transformed the country’s politics, including future immigration policies, and their commitment to a human rights and equality agenda. The Labour government has grinded away at our civil liberties over the past thirteen years and most citizens have barely registered this yet, notwithstanding the new Equality Act which was passed at the absolute eleventh hour. Maybe the Liberal-Democrats did not trumpet their ideas loudly enough, although this might have been because this election campaign constituted the cult of personality rather than politics. Maybe Britons just wanted to play safe and, when faced with the ballot box, preferred the safety of the known world.
Are we heading for an exclusive, or inclusive Britain?
That is a shame, because a Lib-Lab coalition government could have redressed some of the glaring omissions and spin of Labour’s past 13 years in power, whilst focusing both on the economy and social and political reform. It might still happen, but that might is very optimistic indeed. At 1pm on Friday 7th May, a Conservative minority government is looking more and more likely. And – both on economic and social grounds – that is likely to leave us with an exclusive, rather than an inclusive Britain. Sadly, we Britons didn’t quite have the courage to shake up our thoughts, systems and ideas over the last 24 hours. But a hung parliament – if it hangs in the real sense of the word – may teach our politicians that they cannot take our votes for granted, and that a meaningful consensus has to be sought and achieved. The public has sent a clear message to our politicians that we expect them to wake up. One has to hope we are not heading simultaneously for a nasty break-up.
7th May 2010, London