Brexit is a vote against the future generation

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Flickr /Tuncay

Today the news broke that Britain has voted to leave the European Union, and I’m not ashamed to admit that this news made upset me. Actually, I experienced a range of emotions: anger, devastation, fury, sadness, desolation. Surely it is an odd thing that this would have had such a personal impact on me? I’m not an EU immigrant and my status in this country is not immediately under threat, so why do I feel as if my world is crumbling down around me?

Let me tell you why. For me, this is personal. It is about the future of the United Kingdom, but it is also about me. One person among the multitudes. Brexit hurt me because well, my entire life has been a struggle. I have had the garden variety problems which face young adults: bullying, parental separation, mental health issues and more family problems than one person should ever have to deal with. Despite this fractured upbringing, I went to a Top Ten University (Lancaster) for my undergraduate degree and I achieved a First in History. I have now gone on to study for my Masters at the University of Durham – a decision which has been incredibly hard and, at times, not worth the money and energy I have put into it.

But what does this have to do with the European Union? They could not prevent my family issues, and they sure as hell wouldn’t be able to fix the administration at Durham, so why am I so upset?

It’s quite simple actually. The European Union offered me a future. It offered me a way out. The recent governments of this country have targeted Higher Education and turned it into a scheme to make money. If you can’t make a profit out of it, it’s not worth keeping. I truly believe, rightly or wrongly, that this idea underpins the educational reforms of the Conservative governments. They don’t care that I will never be able to pay back my student loans, and it baffles me that they think education is something which should have to be paid for. Despite what rhetoric they use, it feels as if they are attempting to price-out low income families such as mine to prevent them from gaining an education.

They didn’t. I beat the odds and I am about to gain my MA qualification, which I think most people would agree is quite an achievement. But again, what does this have to do with the EU? Well, that has to do with my career choice. I want to be a lecturer in Modern History. To do this, I need a PhD in either History or a related subject. A PhD costs money. The tuition fees vary from different institutions (roughly starting from around £4,000 per year), and those plus the cost of living would be the biggest drain on my personal finances. It is not a financially viable plan for me in my current situation.

The EU could have helped me out. They have various means of funding PhDs across the UK and the rest of Europe. I could have studied in Germany, Paris, Amsterdam or Vienna. I could have participated in funding projects and schemes that would have allowed me to gain my PhD either at home or abroad.

But, we have left the EU. That funding no longer exists. As hard as it was to start with, as in gaining a funded PhD from a reputable institution with supervisors who could help me attempt my PhD thesis, the Brexit vote has just made it so much harder for me. I am a woman from a low-income family. I already feel as though the deck is stacked against me, as I see wealthy people able to go on to MA or PhD with their parents support. And before someone points out the obvious, I do have a job; part-time to allow me to carry out the research necessary for my MA dissertation. Attempting to take on a full-time PhD and a full-time job would be both unreasonable and impossible. My choices are therefore limited.

If I face facts, leaving the EU could just be another hurdle for me to overcome. And maybe I will. But the main reason that I am so upset about leaving is because I’m tired. I’m tired of living in a country who thinks that anyone under 25 is a second class citizen.

This government has brought in discriminative legislation based on age which boils down to the fact that they think that we are worth less than those over 25. Due to the cuts to housing benefit, and the housing crisis, I have to accept the fact that I will never be able to own my own house because we will either be in a post-Brexit recession or because of cuts to Higher Education, I will never get my dream job to pay for a house.

I have always wanted to be an intellectual. I love to learn. I love progressive values, tolerance and peace. But I wake up today in a country that, I feel, has discarded those values in exchange for xenophobia, islander mentality and an inability to see the consequences of Brexit for my generation.

Recent polling suggests that around 75% of people aged 18-24 wanted to remain in the EU. The older generations didn’t listen, and now my future, our future is uncertain.

Democracy has had the last word

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Flickr/Fe Ilya

On June 24 the World was awaiting the results of the nail-biting EU Referendum Election. The previous day, 72.2% of the British public voted on whether to leave or remain in the European Union.

I watched with bated breath as David Dimbleby announced the earth shattering result, 51.9% of our nation had voted to leave the EU. Time stopped. It wasn’t soon after, that the financial markets were torpedoed by the ‘Leave’ victory, consequentially the value of the British pound plummeted, the lowest it has been since 1985.

Inevitably democracy has spoken, but the question on everyone’s lips is ‘what now?’. For those 48.1% of us who voted to remain, we have a lot more to fear from the unknown. It is justifiable to say that the Referendum has marked a watershed moment in our history.

There has been a seismic shift in British politics, with the majority of London voting to remain in, compared to the rest of the country (excluding Scotland and Northern Ireland). It is with despair that I say that we are now a country with ever gaping cracks.

London is now seen with even more suspicion as it voted with a majority, for economic stability. We can no longer disengage from the fact that there is a concerning disconnect between the South, namely London and the rest of the country. There are those who criticise, that those living and working in the Capital, know nothing of the hardships of austerity, especially when compared to their working class counterparts in the North. Yet it is also true to say that London has been a City which has accepted the influx of immigrants and enjoyed all its boons.

Not soon after the results were declared Nigel Farage declared a ‘war’ on immigration, calling for June 23 to be renamed ‘Independence Day’, a victory for real and ordinary people. He said, and I quote, “today honesty, decency and belief in nation…is going to win”. So what about the other 48.1% Nigel? What about all those people who will inevitably lose their jobs because we have an economy that will undoubtedly shrink? What about the younger generation who trusted overwhelmingly that remaining was the best prospect for their future, one which now looks set to be bleak and gloomy.

Our decision to become part of the European Union was in part to heal the rifts and divisions born out of war. The EU was more than a mere organisation, more than a single market, it was symbol of peace. A symbol to show the world that we could move beyond centuries of division and work our differences out together, for the collective interest of all involved. It is sad, that instead of choosing the path of tolerance, we have now decided to turn our backs on our neighbours who once were our enemies.

Democracy may have spoken, but David Cameron still resigned. Yes, it may be three months from now, but given the current turn of events, we now have an even bigger problem on our hands. I shudder to think that we have given men like Boris Johnson a mandate to run our country. I am no lover of the Tories, but it seems like for many, a vote for ‘Leave’ was a vote against the establishment, and it has gone horribly awry.

This is not a moment to make prophecies about the future, though I have indulged myself in a few, however it is a cause for concern that as we head into the next few months and possibly years, we face an existential crisis, what is our place in society? With a nation divided down the middle, and with a likely second Scottish Referendum (possibly Northern Ireland too), on the table, we head into a dark future with disturbing possibilities.

Brexit vs Bremain has gone too far

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Flickr/Abi Begum

When did almost 53% of our society become so nauseatingly narrow minded? At what point did we start to justify prejudice, when did we start discriminating against our neighbours and friends and why has Racism become the norm? We need to ask ourselves why intolerance and deep rooted suspicion of the ‘other’ has become the cornerstone of British Politics in recent months?

Our elected representatives are fighting like feral animals, pointing fingers, crying lies upon lies and hurling insults. Is it just me, or has the entire EU Referendum debate brought to the fore what is base about our polity?

If you want know why I’m asking such a tirade of questions, look no further than Nigel Farage’s unveiling of the ‘Breaking Point’ campaign poster. When Michael Gove told Andrew Marr he ‘shuddered’ at UKIP’s Brexit propaganda, he can’t undo it now, can he? You cannot justify the blatant absence of any white faces on the borders of Europe (Slovenia, 2015).

Farage’s stance is starkly reminiscent of Nazi Propaganda branded about in the 1930’s, he is absolutely opposed to the free movement of people, and justifies his argument in the most barbaric way possible, by making a mockery of the refugee crisis.

Dividing lines

Undoubtedly since the hail of the Brexit campaigns and its counterpart ‘Bremain’, we have become ever more divided. Whichever margin of the debate you support, or even if you’re simply sitting on the fence, praying for a miracle that will guide you on June 23, our society has become deeply suspicious and paranoid.

In the face of what is set to be the most important and far-reaching decision we will make in years to come, why is the debate focusing on immigration? Why has the far-right been allowed to grasp the agenda.

It is far more noticeable, less than 24 hours away from the Referendum Vote that we are now living in a climate of hatred and cynicism, one that we have built! Doesn’t anyone else think that we’ve gone too far?

I apologise if I offend, but I just don’t buy the ‘English as a persecuted minority’ argument, one echoing Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood speech’. Why are Brexiteer’s trying to con us with phrases like ‘Make Britain Great Again’? I’m sorry, but I didn’t receive the memo to say that we’ve lost our greatness in the first place!

After watching a recent BBC Documentary, ‘The Immigration Question’ presented by Mishal Husain, I feel like I need to respond.

I say this with the greatest respect to Mrs Chowles who is going to have to wait 15 years for a Council house to accommodate the needs of her disabled husband, but Brexit is not a silver bullet! Clacton, despite having unemployment above the national average, has relatively little immigrant influx compared to other cities in the South of England, it actually houses few people who were born outside the United Kingdom.

Where the problems truly lie

The truth of the matter is, that core issues with the NHS, housing, unemployment, social security and education can’t and won’t disappear overnight. They will be present on June 23 when we vote, and regardless of which way we decide to vote, we will wake up to these issues once again on June 24.

Unfortunately, Mrs Chowles’ determination to vote Brexit, and others also motivated by the same concerns, will undoubtedly realise that their legitimate concerns, have never been the fault of immigrants, rather the failure of successive governments to provide sufficient funding and resources to these areas.

If the NHS is stretched, why can’t we give them more money, more Doctors and more Nurses, don’t scrap the bursaries! If we don’t have enough homes and Council houses, then why aren’t we building more? If there aren’t enough jobs, are you sure you’re looking properly?

Eastern European immigrants are being exploited by British businesses who abuse their work ethic for low pay, don’t insult immigrants for a problem that doesn’t lie with them. These issues have little to do with our membership of the EU and more to do with the fact that during the 2015 general election, the majority of us, voted in a Conservative Government to run our country.

Immigration has never been, and will never be the problem. As a second generation British national, I am greatly offended by the divisive tactics used to scaremonger our society. In the face of threats like home-grown terrorism and climate change we should not delude ourselves that standing isolated is standing strong.

Unity is the bedrock of British success and progress; standing united with Europe is the only chance we have to fight the threats we face today. We all know deep down, that Brexit flies in the face of British values, values that countless generations before us have fought tooth and nail for. Why should we dishonour them now?

Don’t be impressed by nostalgia and notions of exceptionalism, let’s show men like Farage that we don’t need to succumb to prejudice and discrimination, that we can build a better future with tolerance, respect and unity, one hopefully within the EU.

Demystifying the Brexit fear campaigns

© European Union 2013 – European Parliament – Pietro Naj-Oleari:

The campaign for ‘IN’ or ‘OUT’ has been a long drawn out process, one which has captivated the nation for all the wrong reasons. Seemingly, the new way to win a political campaign is to scare everybody with any given excuse. As a soon to be Politics graduate, I find this a sad and sorry state of affairs.

In this two part series I shall seek to demonstrate what these political campaigns have failed to do, provide fair debate and factual statements.

Admittedly, I am a supporter of the European Union and I will be voting to remain. However, I will not seek to scare you, I simply intend upon feeding you the truths that I believe to hold firm through my own research. As such, I implore you to read on, what I say next may well change your minds, for the right reasons.

In this first part I will cover three main topics, the environment, the NHS, and the economy and sovereignty.

The climate

Even if you dislike some of the EU ‘red tape’ the media perpetually talks about, it is hard to argue with arguments surrounding the environment.

Climate change and the environment more generally will without a shadow of a doubt be the challenge of our generation. It shall not be – as some might have you believe – terrorism, Corbyn becoming prime minister or about any of us finding a job.

If you decide to vote to stay in the EU even if it’s just for the one reason, I would encourage you to make it a climate reason.

The EU climate and energy package was adopted in 2009 to implement the 20-20-20 targets endorsed by EU leaders in 2007 – by 2020 there should be a 20% reduction of Green House Gas emissions compared with 1990, a 20% share of renewables in EU energy consumption, and energy improvement by 20%.

It has also implemented a single EU-wide cap on emission allowances from 2013 onwards, with a linear annual reduction until 2020 and beyond.

To deal with climate change we need transnational organisations. Climate change is not confined to borders, it is worldwide and to fight it, prevent it and save ourselves we must be part of bodies such as the European Union.

The NHS

The next topic for scrutiny is the much talked about NHS issue, perhaps the best and most incredible British institution. Much is being made about staying in the EU costing our NHS because of ‘uncontrolled immigration’ and the money spent on the EU which could be better spent ‘elsewhere’.

For starters, the money we get from being part of the EU to fund research and development is huge. Furthermore, the EU promotes joint action for cancer research and control where member states work together. There is also a large body of evidence suggesting that the NHS is also critically reliant upon the U.K. economy, which as we know would suffer no end if we ‘Brexited’.
Much of the furore surrounding the NHS regards the issue about TTIP, which many people are worried about. The NHS is currently being negotiated out of a deal for this transatlantic trade agreement and would therefore not affect the workings of the NHS.

Equally, the main advocates for leaving the EU, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage have all spoken about their desire to privatise the NHS, so when they claim they want to give it more funding or whatever else they may say, you may want to challenge that.

EU migration also makes up around 10% of NHS doctors and 4% of nurses.

The economy and sovereignty 

Both campaigns have also fed the general public questionable figures. Ipsos Mori have carried out a non biased research analysis into the EU, the following were some of the central findings.

48% of the UK’s total international investment comes from the EU and 44% of our total exports are sold to EU countries – china only accounts for 1% of investment and 5% of exports respectively.

23% of those intending to vote leave don’t think that MEP’s are elected. Much of the general public as well as the media also peddle the sovereignty argument regarding Britain not having control over its own laws and regulation.

Instead of persistently looking at the negative portrayal of the EU, why not take a positive stance and view what regulations and laws the EU has brought into place which have benefited us all; trade agreements to reduce tariffs and agree increased trade between EU countries, a cap on the amount of hours an employee can make an employer work for, price caps on mobile roaming charges, ban on tobacco advertising, a minimum of 4 weeks holiday per year and a cap on banker’s bonuses.


Ultimately, in a globalised world of interconnectedness, one which we ourselves pushed and furthered, it makes no sense whatsoever to now become isolationist. Yes, certain aspects of the EU need reform but the wider, transnational issues at hand need to be dealt with collectively. You go and look back at history and tell me how successful and peaceful the Europe and the world more widely has been a) when it has been split up into individual bodies and b) when it has been held together by multi-nation bodies. The proof is pretty clear.

The great immigration game

European Union 2013 - European Parliament ---------------------------------------- Pietro Naj-Oleari: European Parliament, Information General Directoratem, Web Communication Unit, Picture Editor. Phone: +32479721559/+32.2.28 40 633 E-mail: pietro.naj-oleari@europarl.europa.eu

© European Union 2013 – European Parliament
—————————————-
Pietro Naj-Oleari:

Here in part two of my Despatch Box mini-series I aim to demystify the scaremongering and ludicrous claims surrounding EU immigration.

It’s as if everyone has developed Tourettes syndrome and immigration is used as an excuse for just about everything. ‘I have no money’; ‘its the immigrants’. ‘I don’t have a job’; ‘its the immigrants’. ‘There is traffic on the motorway’; ‘its the immigrants’. So let’s get a few things straight on immigration and the current debate in which it is engulfed.

For part one, which explores the EU and the NHS, the environment, the economy and sovereignty, please click here.


First and foremost, a study entitled ‘the Fiscal Impact of Immigration to the UK‘ found that, ‘European migrants made a net contribution of £20bn to UK public finances between 2000 and 2011’.

We can also see that EU migrants claim far less in benefits than UK nationals, ‘In 2014, 4.9 million (92.6%) working age benefit claimants were British while only 131,000 (2.5%) were EU nationals’. Similarly, a study carried out by UCL said immigrants ‘were less likely to claim benefits and live in social housing than people born in Britain’.

Immigrants who arrived after 1999 were 45% less likely to receive state benefits or tax credits than UK natives. They were also 3% less likely to live in social housing. Those from the European Economic Area (EEA – the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) had made a particularly positive contribution in the decade up to 2011, contributing 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits.

Immigrants from outside the EEA contributed 2% more in taxes than they received in the same period, the report showed. Over the same period, British people paid 11% less in tax than they received.

The report also showed that in 2011, 32% of recent EEA immigrants and 43% of non-EEA immigrants had university degrees, compared with 21% of the British adult population.

Last but not least, within the NHS 10% of doctors and 4% of nurses are from the EU and many more from outside the EU. From personal experience of both my mum and dad being treated by the NHS I know just how important this immigration is to keeping it functioning.

Why the immigration fury?

Well, the public and much of the media seems to have conflated and misunderstood the whole idea behind the ‘free movement of people’.

This applies to the 28 EU member states, in other words, you have to be a part of the European Union to gain the free access of movement. Therefore, people living outside those 28 states cannot just freely move to the UK as they please – evidenced by the UK government’s decision to turn away the 3,000 unaccompanied children who were alone in Europe without a home.

This is where the confusion seems to lie and the positioning of blame is very wrong. The current ‘migrant crisis’ we see is not to do with EU migrants putting a ‘drain’ on our services or the ‘Romanians coming over here and taking our jobs’. It has much more to do with the mass devastation that we see spread across the world, particularly the Middle East, by war.

People are fleeing the crisis in search of a better life, not because they want to kill us or take our jobs or ruin our ‘nationality’. The ‘security threat’ of ‘uncontrolled migration’ which ‘increases the threat of terrorism’ is also an absolute Houdini act from the media and Leave campaign.

The inter-service security networks we receive from being part of the EU are second to none, more noteworthy is the fact that recent terrorist attacks in the EU have been carried out by naturalised European citizens and not immigrants, citizens who feel alienated and left out by many policies.


If we are truly interested in reducing immigration figures then we must deal with the crux of the issue, instead of pinning the blame on the ‘undemocratic EU’ and the ‘bureaucracy of Brussels’.

It is far too easy to place the blame elsewhere and play the blame game. However, the issues we currently face in the EU have a huge amount to do with the financial crash of 2008 and ineffective foreign policies in the Middle East.

The financial crisis was perpetuated by an unregulated and irresponsible capitalist world and much of the unrest and displacement in the Middle East has to do with Western meddling in the area.

I am not saying that immigration does not need to be controlled but to leave the EU will solve none of our issues, it will simply mean that we brush them under the carpet and turn a blind eye.

What to expect from UK politics in 2016

Flickr/Chris Chabot

It was Harold Wilson who said “a week is a long time in politics”, and especially after the extraordinary events of 2015, including the result of the UK General Election, and the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party, any predictions this early into the New Year would appear counter-intuitive.

Nevertheless, this article will provide general observations and analysis of the major forthcoming headline issues and events in 2016 for both the Conservatives and the Labour Party, as well as the potential consequences in the current political climate.

The EU Referendum

In 2016 the political landscape in the UK will almost certainly be dominated by the EU Referendum, which could take place between June and September, following the Prime Minister David Cameron’s renegotiation of the terms of Britain’s membership.

However, whilst David Cameron has secured general concessions from EU leaders, including greater competition and a British opt out from further political integration, the restriction of benefits to EU migrants for 4 years has proved problematic.

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande have emphasised their commitment to “the core principles of European integration”, including “the principle of free movement and the principle of non-discrimination between European citizens”.

The actual impact of restricting benefits to EU migrants is unclear, as according to research undertaken by British Future, an independent think tank, “there is little to suggest this would be transformative” on EU migration, particularly when EU migrants come to work in the UK primarily for “jobs and better wages… not state benefits”.

Nevertheless, whilst such a policy might be purely symbolic, the Prime Minister’s failure to secure this specific concession could have repercussions. Indeed, an ICM survey for the Vote Leave campaign, which showed support for a Brexit at 41%, and 42% in favour of remaining in the EU, found support for Brexit would rise if no reforms to freedom of movement rules were secured (45% to 40%).

This risks exposing deep rifts in the Conservative Party, as demonstrated by Bernard Jenkin MP who described the renegotiation as “a sham process”, and Steve Baker MP, the co-chairman of Conservatives for Britain, who labelled any concession on EU migrant benefits as “a compromise too far”. These sentiments could easily increase amongst Conservative ranks, especially since the Prime Minister granted Cabinet colleagues the right to campaign for Brexit.

Consequently, the result of the EU Referendum is not beyond doubt, (far from it) which makes the next few weeks of David Cameron’s renegotiation all the more critical, for the Conservative Party and the future of the UK.

Labour’s Year of Discontent?

In 2016 the Labour Party potentially faces further rifts, particularly if the party fails to secure respectable results in the May Elections, which include Local Council, Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament Elections and the London Mayoral Election.

Certainly, after a week in which Jeremy Corbyn’s first Shadow Cabinet reshuffle lasted nearly 4 days and 3 Shadow Ministers resigned in protest, the possibility of a leadership challenge following the May Elections increases all the more.

In fact, a source close to Jeremy Corbyn recently revealed it could perhaps be the “beginning of the end” for the Labour leader if the party failed to secure 35% of the vote in these electoral contests.

However, given the Labour leader secured an overwhelming mandate (59.5%) from the party membership only in September, any challenge by Labour MPs must be with a single candidate who can appeal to a broader range of membership and the general public.

Still, the possibility of any leadership challenge is highly dependent upon the results in May and Jeremy Corbyn may still survive unscathed, especially if Labour secures a decisive win in the London Mayoral Election.

In the latest YouGov poll Sadiq Khan, the Labour Mayoral candidate, has a lead of 10% over the Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith (55% to 45%) which, if maintained up until May, could further secure Jeremy Corbyn’s position.

However, even if Sadiq Khan secures the London Mayoralty, if results from across England, Wales and Scotland fail to reach comparable heights it could reinforce the view that Jeremy Corbyn’s appeal is limited beyond London.

If anything, what the May Election results will definitely mean for Jeremy Corbyn is the debate surrounding his electability will no longer be a matter of party opinion, but a matter of electoral evidence.

An Economic Slowdown?

As 2016 begins, the long term stability of the UK’s economy is increasingly uncertain. Recently George Osborne outlined what he described as “a dangerous cocktail of new threats”, including the slow growth in China, the recessions in Brazil and Russia and a substantial fall in oil prices against the backdrop of turbulence in the Middle East.

In his speech to business leaders in Wales the Chancellor stated, “the biggest risk is that people think that it’s job done”, an admission which was surprisingly lacking when George Osborne delivered his Autumn Statement in November.

In his Autumn Statement the Chancellor utilised an expected £27 billion windfall (according to OBR figures) to soften the impact of spending cuts across Whitehall, and withdraw from £4.4 billion worth of cuts to working tax credits – this led George Osborne to proclaim there was “a light at the end of the tunnel”.

However, the UK economy still faces a period of increasing uncertainty, particularly as a consequence of the UK’s economic growth primarily being consumer-led, as oppose to export and investment-led.

According to the most recent Bank of England figures, UK consumers borrowed an additional £1.5 billion in November, the biggest monthly increase in unsecured borrowing since before the 2008 financial crash.

Consequently, any interest rate rise would have financial consequences, particularly for mortgage holders, as was recently highlighted by the BBC Economics Editor Kamal Ahmed who reported “concerns in the Treasury”, due to the fact that a significant proportion of mortgage holders have yet to experience an interest rate rise.

However, even if interest rates remain static there is the risk that with “money so cheap, people could be encouraged to overextend themselves because they’re feeling ‘the economy is back on track”.

Nevertheless, from a political perspective, George Osborne’s message of avoiding complacency could be viewed as a clear attempt to re-emphasise key differences in the Conservatives’ and Labour’s economic approach. This further reinforces the Conservatives’ rhetoric of the dangers of Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity message.

However, whilst this message might cut through to the electorate, if the UK economy begins to show signs of a slowdown George Osborne personally risks degrading his own economic credibility – which could have further implications in any leadership bid for the Conservative Party.

To try and predict the outcomes of the EU Referendum and the May Elections would certainly be counterintuitive, while the long term future of the UK economy is subject to far wider global factors. Nevertheless, even as the New Year begins, these particular headline issues mean UK politics in 2016 could be as just as unpredictable as 2015.

 

Is There Any Point Trying to Call the 2020 Election Now?

Elections 2012 at Ricoh Arena

Elections 2012 at Ricoh Arena

We are now a month on from the 2015 general election, the result of which many commentators and pundits managed to call with an accuracy that would make a tabloid journalist wince, and already it is time to start thinking about the next. I don’t say this too seriously but rather to complement the raft of articles already published since the 7th May outlining how events happening now will impact on the result of the next General Election – 7th May 2020.

William Hill already have the odds (at the time of writing) at 6/5 for No Overall Majority and 6/4 for a Conservative majority. Now I am by no means suggesting that betting agents are making a serious prediction of the next general election result five years out, nor that the commentators who are talking about how current events will impact on the result doing anything other than their job, yet it remains that so much will go on in the next five years that any suggestion at an outcome is little better than pointless. This article then, before accusations of hypocrisy rise from your thoughts like the palpable sadness from an embarrassed opinion pollster, is more of an assessment of why any meaningful predictions based on current events are hazardous to make.

Firstly, the big question that will be put to the people of the UK, is a referendum on our membership of the European Union. One lesson from Scotland is that a referendum on an issue doesn’t necessarily put said issue to bed. Given that UKIP came second in 125 constituencies, could the referendum campaign give the party ever increasing prominence? It is certainly possible. Arguably Labour’s association with the other parties in the Better Together Campaign was the final nail in their coffin of Scottish woes in the eyes of many of their traditional base. If David Cameron, regardless of what he manages to negotiate backs staying in the EU, then it could be the last straw for Eurosceptics in the ranks of Tory voters. Equally Ukip did significant damage to Labour in the north of England, there are Labour voters and members who don’t like the EU, or what it will likely be associated with in the campaign, “open door immigration.” They could move to Ukip too.

The difficulties of the European question don’t end there. The Conservative party, though it has the potential to be in power for another term, may find it struggles to get through this one. John Major struggled with his backbenchers in relation to Europe, and it remains the case that a significant minority of Tory MPs would be unhappy with the leadership campaigning to remain in the Union without proper reform. This has the potential to split the party, something which would make a Blue victory in 2020 somewhat less likely.

Furthermore Labour will have a new leader.  Currently there are three prominent forerunners;  Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham. All are strong candidates, albeit with weaknesses (either too little experience or too much), and could lead the party into revival. Having taken the least number of seats since 1983, Labour is perhaps not likely to be governing alone after 2020, but a new and dynamic leader coupled with a new programme could mean the party stands a real chance of leaving opposition.

The SNP landslide in Scotland was nothing short of remarkable. It is difficult to see how Labour can crawl back to pre-eminence. Whilst there is a new Scottish devolution bill being put forward it is by the Conservative government, not Labour. Equally the SNP can claim it is only being done because of their presence or if it doesn’t go far enough, as they can say even if it does, they can explain to the voters of Scotland why they need to remain there to secure a better deal.

In addition to this, another Tory majority is not impossible. The constituency boundary reforms that were blocked by the Liberal Democrats will likely now take place. This is not the Tories being wholly self-serving, the current set up means that the electorate in some constituencies is wildly smaller than others meaning certain parties can win more seats with lower vote shares. Regardless it could mean that the Tories can maintain a grip on power come 2020.

Finally, a Liberal Democrat Revival is eminently possible under a new leader. Despite the hammering they took on the 7th May there is a feeling among many that a centrist voice is needed – a view evidently held by the more than 12,000 new members they have gained since the election. There might not be a streak of Lib Dem yellow in government again anytime soon, but the party has taken electoral wounds before and come back from the brink.

Though dealt with briefly, each of these elements come together to explain why the result of the next election is so hard to even begin to predict. With so much going on in between now and then is there any great point in trying to link every current event to the 2020 result? A lot will happen in five years, personally, I’m calling it for the Greens.

By Andrew Mckendrick

[image credit: Coventry City Council]