Tag Archives: Clegg

Snap British election gives Farron and Lib Dems a genuine chance to unite anti-Brexit voters

Tim Farron has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to forge a new broad-based liberal, moderate and pro-Europe party across the United Kingdom. (Daniel Hambury / Stella Pictures)

In calling a snap election for June 8, British prime minister Theresa May has done exactly what former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown didn’t do a decade ago — taking initiative to win a personal mandate and extend her party’s majority for up to five more years.

With Labour’s likely support tomorrow, May is set to win a two-thirds majority to hold an election, in spite of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act that would otherwise set the next general election for 2020 — long after the two-year negotiations triggered last month by Article 50 to leave the European Union are set to end. May and the Conservatives now hope that voters will give her an emphatic endorsement for her approach to Brexit — and a much wider majority than the 17-seat margin the Conservatives currently enjoy in the House of Commons. Though some commentators believe a wide Tory victory would make a ‘hard Brexit’ more likely, a lot of sharp commentators believe that it could give May the cushion she needs to implement a much less radical ‘soft Brexit.’

In any event, it’s not unreasonable for May to seek a snap election while EU officials pull together their negotiating positions for later this summer — since the last vote in 2015, the country’s experienced the Brexit earthquake and a change in leadership among all three national parties.

It will also come as the Tories are riding high in the polls by a margin of around 20% against Labour, now in its second year of Jeremy Corbyn’s hard-left leadership. If the election were held today, every indication points to a historic defeat for Labour. It’s not only the polls, which are dismal enough. Corbyn has made so many enemies among the parliamentary Labour Party that many MPs will not stand for reelection (including former home secretary Alan Johnson, one of the few genuinely popular figures around who represent ‘New Labour’).

Corbyn’s electoral record, too, is weak. When Jamie Reed, a Corbyn critic and an MP since 2005, resigned, Conservative Trudy Harrison captured his Copeland constituency by a 5% margin against the Labour candidate in a February 23 by-election. Not only was it the first gain for a governing party in a by-election since 1982, it was a seat in Labour’s once-reliable northern heartland, held without interruption since 1935.

Without a major change (and it’s hard to see anything that could swing voters on Corbyn at this point), Labour is doomed. The next 51 days will likely bring iteration after iteration of Corbyn’s political obituary, with a crescendo of the infighting within Labour that has characterized his leadership.

It will be ugly.

Labour, with 229 seats, is already near the disastrous levels of its post-war low of 1983 (just 27.6% and 209 seats), and there’s reason to believe Corbyn could still sink further. No one would laugh at the suggestion Labour might lose another 100 seats in June. For Corbyn’s opponents within Labour, the only silver lining to a snap election is that a decisive defeat could end Corbyn’s leadership now (not in 2020), giving Labour an opportunity to rebuild under a more talented and inclusive leader.

Moreover, in the wake of a call for a second referendum on independence for Scotland (which would presumably seek to rejoin the European Union), Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon could well improve the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) position — the party now holds 54 of 57 seats in Scotland with the unionist opposition divided among the three national parties.

So where does this leave anti-Brexit voters who are uncomfortable casting a vote for May’s Tories?

The Liberal Democrats. Continue reading Snap British election gives Farron and Lib Dems a genuine chance to unite anti-Brexit voters

How Scotland’s referendum will influence Brexit vote

scotland

Everyone knows that Scotland narrowly voted against independence in September 2014.scotlandEuropean_UnionUnited Kingdom Flag Icon

The ‘Yes’ campaign  waged that fight fully knowing that, by 2017, there would be a broader UK-wide vote on the United Kingdom’s membership in the European Union. Given that Scots are relatively (though not universally) more pro-European than English voters, growing British euroscepticism may have played an important role to nudge some Scots toward the ‘Yes’ camp.

With that Brexit referendum now set for June 23, it’s the Scottish referendum that looms over the coming vote in at least two ways that could make Brexit more likely.

The first amounts to pure game theory on the part of Scotland’s voters, who comprise around 8.4% of the total UK population.

Continue reading How Scotland’s referendum will influence Brexit vote

Farron wins poisoned chalice of LibDem leadership

farron

If the contest between the two contenders to succeed Nick Clegg as leader of the Liberal Democrats seemed particularly grim, it’s probably because most of the ‘big beasts’ lost their constituencies in last May’s wipeout.United Kingdom Flag Icon

Vincent Cable, former business secretary; Danny Alexander, the former chief secretary to the treasury; Simon Hughes, a former civil liberties minister and former deputy party leader — all lost their constituencies in an election that saw the LibDem caucus shrink from 56 to just eight.

So there’s not an incredible groundswell of excitement for Tim Farron, who was announced today as the party’s new leader — The Telegraph ran a comprehensive profile today in anticipation of Farron’s widely expected victory.

In a nutshell, Farron is the most openly pious major party leader in recent memory — somewhat unique in a country where Alistair Campbell, a media adviser to former prime minister Tony Blair (himself something of a believer) once famously said, ‘We don’t do God.’ Farron’s Christianity has made him somewhat hesitant on LGBT rights, including on the landmark 2013 vote to enact marriage equality, and he’s somewhat anti-abortion as well.

Otherwise, Farron ran as a candidate far closer to Labour than to the Conservative Party, and it seems clear that Farron wants to pull the Liberal Democrats back to their comfort zone of the 1990s and mid-2000s as a leftist alternative to the Tories.

Since 2005, he’s represented the Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency in Cumbia, England’s northwestern corner. Though he narrowly won the party presidency in 2011, Farron has no ministerial experience and he has a history of bucking the party’s leadership — most notably opposing Clegg’s now-notorious turn on student fees. The December 2010 vote split the party — 28 MPs supported the measure, which tripled tuition fees. Clegg’s decision maintained the unity of the Tory-LibDem coalition, but it disillusioned many of the party’s supporters. Clegg had campaigned vigorously in 2010 on the promise that he would oppose fee hikes, and the issue is widely cited as a primary cause for the LibDem wipeout in the 2015 election.

Farron’s opponent, Norman Lamb, was viewed as the more moderate candidate with close ties to Clegg. Twelve years older than Farron, Lamb has been an MP from Norfolk since 2001, and he served as minister of state for care and support from 2012 to 2015. Though Clegg never formally endorsed him, Lamb won the support of two additional former leaders — Menzies Campbell and Paddy Ashdown.

If history serves as any guide, Farron’s task will largely be a thankless one that leaves him, at best, in a rebuilding role. At worst, he may be destined to become the party’s analogue to William Hague or the Michael Foot.

After the Labour Party’s defeat in the 1979 election, it took 18 years and three leaders before the party returned to power.

When the Conservatives, likewise, suffered a cataclysmic defeat in the 1997 election, it spent 13 years in the wilderness, shuffling through three leaders before it eventually landed on David Cameron.

Four candidates are currently vying for the Labour Party leadership — voting will be open to party members between August 14 and September 10, with the leader to be announced at a September 12 conference.

Charles Kennedy has died at age 55

charles kennedy

It’s a stunning thing to wake up to the news that Charles Kennedy, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, has died at the relatively young age of 55.United Kingdom Flag Iconscotland

The Inverness-born Kennedy represented Ross, Skye and Lochaber since 1997, and who represented a similar constituency in northern Scotland from 1983, until the general election just over three weeks ago. The Scottish National Party (SNP) swept away all but three of Scotland’s constituencies, including Kennedy’s, a shock result that had more to do with the dynamics of Scottish nationalism in the post-referendum era, not Kennedy, who remained widely popular. His death will deprive the Liberal Democrats of someone who could have helped the party rebuild its presence in Scotland.

As LibDem leader between 1999 and 2006, Kennedy served as a key transition between the beloved Paddy Ashdown and Nick Clegg, the latter who led the party on an economically liberal turn in the 2010 elections and ultimately brought the Liberal Democrats into government.

In May, however, the Liberal Democrats were wiped out — in England and Scotland alike — after widespread disappointment among their voters. The Liberal Democratic caucus reduced from 57 members of parliament to just eight.

Notwithstanding the Cleggmania of 2010, the high-water mark for the party was actually the 2005 election, when Kennedy’s Liberal Democrats won 62 seats.

As leader, Kennedy was one of the few opposition voices to prime minister Tony Blair’s decision to join the United States in its invasion of Iraq. Despite grumblings from some Labour MPs, including the late former foreign minister Robin Cook, Blair’s decision to join the Iraq invasion won at least begrudging support from his own party and quiet acquiescence from the Conservative Party.

It’s no exaggeration to say that, while the Tories fumbled in the electoral wilderness, shifting leaders from William Hague to Iain Duncan Smith to Michael Howard in the mid-2000s, Kennedy was often the de facto leader of the opposition, and he was certainly the undisputed leader of the anti-war movement in 2003 and beyond.

It’s true that Kennedy’s leadership ended when it became clear that he had a problem with alcohol. That he admitted it, sought treatment and remained a beloved elder statesman within the Liberal Democratic camp speaks to his strength — even Blair, in his memoirs, spoke of the pressure that drove him to problem drinking at Number 10.

Notwithstanding former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond’s comments, now being widely derided, suggesting Kennedy might have been a closet nationalist, the universal response across the country today is praise for a charismatic leader who took principled stands.

The party holds a leadership election on July 16, with the more leftist Tim Farron generally leading his opponent, the more centrist Norman Lamb. That the winner of the contest will try to restore the party’s fortunes without the talents of Charlie Kennedy, however, amounts to a tragic setback.

Clegg could lose both his leadership and seat in UK election

clegg

Though the office of deputy prime minister is relatively new in British politics, and though there have been stretches since 1945 when British governments haven’t even featured a deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg risks becoming the first sitting deputy prime minister to lose his constituency in the United Kingdom’s general election on Thursday.United Kingdom Flag Icon

Throughout the campaign, Clegg has struggled to take a clear polling lead in Sheffield Hallam in south Yorkshire. His party, the Liberal Democrats, are predicted to lose up to half of their 56 seats in the House of Commons, and Clegg’s surprisingly tough race means that his future as an MP is just as fragile as his future as the leader of the Liberal Democrats, which joined a formal coalition with the Conservatives following the May 2010 general election. In that campaign, Clegg stole the spotlight in the country’s televised leader’s debates against both current prime minister David Cameron and then-prime minister Gordon Brown.

This time around, Clegg has been forced into an awkward mix of defending his record in government while attacking Cameron’s Tories for going too far in cutting social services in the party’s zeal to reduce the country’s budget deficit. Clegg’s popularity collapsed early in the coalition, when he not only agreed to budget cuts in the midst of a recession, but particularly after he consented to an increase in tuition fees from around $3,000 to around $9,000, backtracking on what had been a key LibDem pledge in the 2010 election. A groveling apology to LibDem voters only made things worse for Clegg.

* * * * *

RELATED: Why Clegg should step down as LibDem leader

* * * * *

A Lord Ashcroft poll released April 29 showed Clegg losing to Labour’s Oliver Coppard by a 1% margin. A Guardian/ICM poll released May 4, however, indicates that Tory voters are voting tactically for Clegg in a bid to retain his seat. The Liberal Democrats have historically been somewhat left of center, most importantly opposing British participation in the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in the 2000s and creeping civil liberties abuses by Labour. Clegg, with a market-friendly, traditional economically liberal perspective, is still seen as the most likely LibDem leader to bring his party into another coalition with the Conservatives after May 7.

In contrast, if Clegg loses his seat and the party is forced to choose a new leader quickly, the favorite would be the secretary of state for business, Vincent Cable, whose views on economic policy lie much closer to Labour’s than to the Conservatives.

Even as Clegg signals that Cameron’s promise of a 2017 referendum on British membership in the European Union need not be a deal-breaker for a coalition, he’s said that his party could partner with either major party, adding ‘a heart to a Conservative government and a brain to a Labour one.’  Continue reading Clegg could lose both his leadership and seat in UK election

Farage’s future hinges on South Thanet win

farage

He’s one of the most charismatic characters in British politics, and it’s difficult to imagine much of a future for the eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) with him leading it.United Kingdom Flag Icon

Nevertheless, Nigel Farage, the investment-banker-turned-beer-swilling-bloke-next-door, has pledged to stand down as UKIP’s leader if he fails to win election to the House of Commons on May 7 from the constituency of South Thanet. At best, some polls give Farage a slight lead; many other polls, however, suggest Farage is locked in a three-way fight with his Conservative and Labour challengers. The race to win South Thanet, a constituency in the southeastern corner of England in Kent, has kept the UKIP leader focused on winning his own high-stakes contest instead of zipping throughout the country to bolster the party’s chances nationally.

Farage, who is also a member of the European Parliament, is unlikely to fade away, even if he loses. He presumably remain a colorful presence in British and European politics, especially if prime minister David Cameron wins a second term and holds a referendum on the country’s membership in the European Union in 2017.

* * * * *

RELATED: Why England needs a series of regional parliaments

RELATED: UKIP’s Farage is winning the British debate on Europe

* * * * *

But Farage’s loss would highlight the shrinking fortunes of UKIP, just a year after it won more votes in the European parliamentary elections than any other party as British voters lodged protest votes over growing EU influence. Farage, in the afterglow of his unprecedented victory, hoped to ride a populist wave into 2015 on a platform that questions the value of the country’s membership in the European Union, restricts growing immigration to the United Kingdom, and rebalances a constitutional structure that’s left England, as a region, out of the devolution trend that’s given Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland more regional control.

It’s hard not to like Farage when he’s lined up in a room with Conservative prime minister David Cameron, Labour leader Ed Miliband and Liberal Democratic deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. He’s got swagger and charisma in droves. He’s never far from being photographed in a pub sipping on a pint of beer, and he’s one of the most talented politicians in the United Kingdom. For all the nastiness of UKIP’s fringes, a party that Cameron once dismissed as ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists,’ Farage and his merry band of ‘Kippers’ make a compelling case with respect to both the European Union and English nationalism. Continue reading Farage’s future hinges on South Thanet win

How Northern Ireland might become Westminster’s crucial swing vote

cameronrobinson

On Monday, Northern Ireland’s health minister Jim Wells resigned after he made numerous comments that not only disparaged gay and lesbian parents but alleged that LGBT parents were more prone to child abuse.northernirelandUnited Kingdom Flag Icon

His party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), is the strongest party in Northern Ireland today, and its leader, Peter Robinson, serves as Northern Ireland’s first minister. Though Northern Ireland is home to just 2.9% of the United Kingdom’s population, and it’s allocated just 18 seats in the 650-member House of Commons, those seats could make the crucial difference in the race to become prime minister.

Though the election has been more about Scotland’s role in any post-election coalitions, Northern Ireland could become even more important. If Robinson’s DUP holds the balance of power, it could thrust one of the most anti-gay, socially conservative parties in Europe into the spotlight with consequences that could shake the still-fragile power-sharing agreement that’s brought peace to Northern Ireland.

* * * * *

RELATED: What about gay marriage in Scotland and Northern Ireland?

RELATED: No eulogies for Paisleyism

* * * * *

Polls consistently show three things:

  • The Scottish National Party (SNP) is projected to win, for the first time, the vast majority of Scotland’s 59 seats, and its leader, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she’ll prop up a center-left government led by Labour’s Ed Miliband and will not support, under any circumstances, any vote of confidence for the incumbent, David Cameron (pictured above with Robinson).
  • Neither the Conservatives nor Labour are projected to win enough seats to form a majority, forcing Cameron and Miliband to seek allies from minor parties.
  • The Liberal Democrats, which have joined the Tories in a governing coalition since 2010, and whose leader, Nick Clegg, says he could support either the Tories or Labour after 2015, are not projected to win enough seats to propel either major party to a majority.

Conceivably, that’s where the DUP would become vital — a world where a Tory-Lib Dem coalition falls just short of the 326 seats Cameron would need for reelection. No other party, after the SNP, is projected to win more seats than the DUP, which currently holds eight of Northern Ireland’s seats.  After entering into an electoral alliance with the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) in a handful of constituencies, there’s reason to believe that the DUP/UUP could together emerge with as many as 10 seats. Continue reading How Northern Ireland might become Westminster’s crucial swing vote

LIVE BLOG: British leaders debate

debate2015

9:57: Obviously, it’s hard to ‘keep score’ of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in a seven-way debate. Bennett seemed largely invisible and, aside from the dust-up over immigration, so was Farage, who tried to turn every other question into an opportunity to discuss the European Union and immigration.

Wood and Sturgeon had strong nights, and their attacks on Cameron often made the Labour case better than Miliband’s arguments. Sturgeon, in particular, will have benefited from airing Scottish grievances directly to a British prime minister for the first time in a leader’s debate.

Clegg tried, sometimes successfully, to position himself as a sensible moderate. He also successfully signaled that he could work with a Labour government as well as a Tory one.

Miliband was most successful, I thought, in his criticisms of Cameron’s EU policy and his plans for the NHS. But he didn’t have any clear moments where anyone could say, ‘Aha, there’s the next prime minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.’ He came across as a thoughtful, earnest opposition leader.

Which brings us to Cameron. He’s a skillful debater, and he knew when to attack (against Miliband), when to hold back (against Clegg), and he quite cleverly triangulated Miliband against Farage. The format clearly helped to make Cameron look ‘more like a prime minister,’ even at the expense of having to stand mutely listening to a lecture from the Scottish first minister. Nevertheless, it’s not clear why Cameron is so scared of a direct face-off against Miliband. Continue reading LIVE BLOG: British leaders debate

It’s too late for Labour to boot Ed Miliband as leader

Miliband beggarPhoto credit to Nigel Roddis/Getty Images.

Though it hasn’t been a great month for British prime minister David Cameron, November was quite possibly the worst month in the four-year tenure of Labour leader Ed Miliband, who was forced to endure a full-fledged crisis of confidence just six months before the next general election.United Kingdom Flag Icon

Miliband (pictured above) began the first half of the month batting away rumors that a backbencher uprising might topple him from the leadership just before the country prepares for the May 2015 general election. Miliband had already come under fire for a lackluster speech at Labour’s September party conference in which he didn’t mention the British budget deficit.

* * * * *

RELATED: Miliband shifts Labour’s focus from austerity to health care

* * * * *

Most reports urged Alan Johnson, the widely respected former home secretary, as a potential replacement, though Johnson declaimed all interest in leading the party, thereby depriving any plotters of the most necessary ingredient to a successful putsch — the quick installation of a universally well-regarded successor.

Labour struggling to retain working-class supporters

No sooner did the ‘dump Miliband’ story quell than Miliband was forced to sack Emily Thornberry, the shadow work and pensions secretary, for a photograph (see below) posted to Twitter that seemed to mock working-class English voters — it’s a peculiar quirk of the delicate nature of class that a photo of a white van parked in front of a house with two English flags waving would stir such controversy. But it’s arguably the most damaging moment for Labour vis-à-vis the British working class since April 2010, when then-prime minister Gordon Brown was overheard calling a Labour supporter a ‘bigoted woman.’

Emily Thornberry's Twitter image. 'Emily did not mean to cause offence,' another Labour MP said. 'Bu

Miliband was forced to reaffirm that Labour was founded as the party of ‘working people,’ even as Nigel Farage’s anti-Europe, populist United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) now threatens to steal as many traditional supporters from Labour as from the Conservative Party.

UKIP won a November 20 by-election in Rochester and Strood, triggered by Conservative MP Mark Reckless’s decision to defect to the party — Reckless, as the newly minted UKIP candidate, easily defeated Tory challenger Kelly Tolhurst, leaving Labour far behind in third place with 16.8%. Reckless is the second Tory to defect to UKIP, joining Douglas Carswell — and quite possibly others in the months ahead.

Though you might think that’s more of a headache for Cameron than for Miliband, UKIP’s rise is just one reason why the November scare won’t be the last time between now and May that Miliband faces a surge of doubt within Labour ranks.

Continue reading It’s too late for Labour to boot Ed Miliband as leader

Scottish referendum results: winners and losers

bettertogether

The results are in, and Scotland did not vote yesterday to become a sovereign, independent country.scotlandUnited Kingdom Flag Icon

Scottish residents — and all British citizens — will wake up today to find that, however narrowly, the United Kingdom will remain as united today as it was yesterday, from a formal standpoint.

With all 32 local councils reporting, the ‘Yes’ camp has won 1.618 million votes (44.7% of the vote) against 2.002 million votes (55.3% of the vote) in favor of remaining within the British union, capping a 19-month campaign that resulted in a staggering 84.6% turnout in Thursday’s vote.

Moreover, ‘Yes’ won four councils, including Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city:

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 9.59.08 AM

But the close call has shaken the fundamental constitutional structure of the United Kingdom, and Scotland’s vote will now dominate the political agenda in the final eight months before the entire country votes in a general election next May, for better or worse.

So who comes out of the referendum’s marathon campaign looking better? Who comes out of the campaign bruised? Here’s Suffragio‘s tally of the winners and losers, following what must be one of the most historic elections of the 2010s in one of the world’s oldest democracies.

The Winners

1. Scottish nationalism 

10646933_865686350108943_8042319944003093622_n

The nationalists lost Thursday’s referendum. So why are they still ‘winners’ in a political sense? Continue reading Scottish referendum results: winners and losers

If Scotland votes ‘No,’ what will devolution-max entail?

(35) Scottish Parliament

One of the biggest carrots that the ‘Better Together’ campaign is dangling to undecided voters in the week before tomorrow’s Scottish independence referendum is the concept of ‘devo-max’ — the idea that London will deliver ever greater devolution of policymaking powers to the Scottish parliament in Holyrood.United Kingdom Flag Iconscotland

Conservative prime minister David Cameron, Liberal Democratic deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband on Tuesday together signed a high-profile pledge to give Scotland greater powers, even without reducing the amount of financial support Scotland currently receives from Westminster.

That is, of course, if Scots vote ‘No’ to independence.

It’s a vow that nationalist leaders, including Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, were quick to dismiss as last-minute gasps of desperation not to be trusted. Salmond, among others, noted that it was Cameron’s insistence on a straight in-or-out vote that eliminated a possible third option for a more federal United Kingdom or some form of devo-max when the two leaders agreed the referendum in March 2013.

Former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown has argued for months that a ‘No’ vote would necessarily require a debate over additional devolution. It might have been strategically wiser if British party leaders, as well as the leaders of the ‘Better Together’ campaign like former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling, had acknowledged the devo-max option earlier. That may be one reason why Brown, who engineered Scottish devolution upon Labour’s 1997 electoral victory, has emerged as such a strong champion for the ‘No’ campaign, despite his national defeat in the 2010 general election. His speech today, less than 24 hours before polls open, was one of the best of the campaign (on either side) and maybe the best of his career.

If a ‘Yes’ vote could endanger Cameron’s premiership, a ‘No’ vote tomorrow could alter Brown’s legacy for the positive.

But as politicians from the left and the right have descended upon Scotland in the last week, with polls showing a much tighter contest than the anti-independence campaign ever anticipated, it’s worth considering three questions about the latest promise of further devolution:

  • Has Scotland effectively used its local governance powers in the past 15 years?
  • What additional powers might Scotland be granted as part of ‘devo-max’?
  • With a general election approaching in May 2015, and with the governing Conservative base firmly rooted in England, is the promise of devo-max something Cameron can legitimately deliver, in light of grumbling from English Tories increasingly frustrated about concessions to Scotland?

Continue reading If Scotland votes ‘No,’ what will devolution-max entail?

If Scotland votes for independence, will David Cameron resign?

cameronscotland

It was another Conservative prime minister, Harold Macmillian, who explained in just five short words how governments can crumble with such spectacular suddenness:scotlandUnited Kingdom Flag Icon

Events, my dear boy, events.

Today, his Tory successor, British prime minister, David Cameron faces one of the biggest events of the history of his country — the possible disintegration of the British union, as the chances of a Scottish vote in favor of independence in 10 days rise dramatically.

As polls show that the campaign has rapidly narrowed (the ‘No’ campaign had a 20-point lead just last month), and with handful of polls now showing that the ‘Yes’ campaign has taken a narrow lead just days before the September 18 referendum, Cameron now suddenly faces the prospect that he’ll be the prime minister on whose watch Great Britain simply dissolved.

* * * * *

RELATED: Why would an independent Scotland
even want to keep the pound?

* * * * *

It was Cameron, after all, who agreed with Scottish first minister Alex Salmond last year to hold a referendum, and it was Cameron who demanded a straight in/out vote — no third option for ‘devolution max’ or a federalized version of the United Kingdom.

So if Cameron loses Scotland, must Cameron go?

Victory for the independence camp would cause nearly as great a political earthquake in the rest of the United Kingdom as in Scotland. It would leave rest of the United Kingdom — England, Wales and Northern Ireland — to pick up the pieces of what was once a global superpower. All three major parties, including the center-left Labour Party and the junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, fully opposed independence. So a ‘Yes’ victory would be a repudiation, from Scotland at least, of the entire political mainstream.

Cameron’s position, in particular, would be especially vulnerable as the prime minister who allowed the great British union to fall apart.

Continue reading If Scotland votes for independence, will David Cameron resign?

Why Clegg should step down as LibDem leader

cleggeuro

Though he may well survive his party’s horrendous defeat in Sunday’s European elections, Nick Clegg’s decision to cling to the leadership of the Liberal Democrat will almost certainly doom it to equally damaging losses in the May 2015 British general election. United Kingdom Flag Icon

Appearing weary in a television interview after his party lost 10 of its previous 11 seats in the European Parliament, Clegg (pictured above) defied calls yesterday from both inside and outside his party to step down as leader.

It’s axiomatic that junior coalition partners tend to suffer in elections. ThFreie Demokratische Partei (FDP, Free Democratic Party), which joined German chancellor Angela Merkel in government between 2009 and 2013, lost all of its seats in the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, for the first time since World War II in last September’s federal elections. It, too, suffered on Sunday, losing all but three of its previous 12 MEPs in Sunday’s election as well. 

In Ireland, the center-left Labour Party, the junior partner in a government led by center-right Fine Gael, lost all three of its MEPs and won just 5.3% of the vote. Its seven-year leader, Eamon Gilmore, who has served as Ireland’s Tánaiste, its deputy prime minister, and foreign affairs minister, since 2011, resigned on Monday, taking responsibility for Labour’s horrendous showing. 

Gilmore’s example makes Clegg’s position even more awkward.

Paddy Ashdown, a member of the House of Lords, and the party’s leader between 1988 and 1999, defended Clegg, as did former leader Sir Menzies Campbell. But private polls, leaked to the press, show that Clegg’s Liberal Democrats are headed for an equally jarring defeat in 12 months, and that Clegg himself could even lose his seat.

Clegg is widely viewed as having lost a series of debates with the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, Nigel Farage, who led UKIP to a stunning victory on Sunday, winning 27.5% of the vote and 24 seats in the European Parliament:

UK

Farage credited his victory, in part, to the debates with Clegg, though he crowed on Monday that Clegg’s position as leader is untenable, and that he would be ‘surprised’ if Clegg leads the LibDems into the next election.

To Clegg’s credit, neither Conservative prime minister David Cameron nor Labour leader Ed Miliband were willing to debate Farage by strongly defending European integration and the continued British role in the European Union. Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair noted Clegg’s integrity yesterday for doing so, while accurately highlighting the more fundamental problem for the LibDems heading into election season:

Blair praised the way in which Nick Clegg had shown leadership in confronting the anti-EU mood in the country. “To be fair to Nick Clegg – I don’t want to damage him by saying this – over the past few years he has shown a quite a lot of leadership and courage as a leader.

“The problem for the Lib Dems is nothing to do with Europe. The problem they have is very simple: they fought the 2010 election on a platform quite significantly to the left of the Labour party and ended up in a Conservative government with a platform that is significantly to the right of Labour.

Partly in response to UKIP’s rise, David Cameron agreed last year that, if reelected, he will hold a referendum on British EU membership in 2017. Continue reading Why Clegg should step down as LibDem leader

Momentum shifts in favor of Scottish independence

Gordon-Brown-3228133-1You know the unionist campaign against Scottish independence may be flagging when its strategists believe that its secret weapon is…  former British prime minister Gordon Brown:scotlandUnited Kingdom Flag Icon

Tavish Scott, the Lib Dem member of the Scottish parliament (MSP) for Shetland, says Mr Darling and Better Together have done well at providing an intellectual case for remaining in the UK, but have failed to connect with crucial sections of the electorate such as traditional Labour voters. Mr Scott wants major Labour figures in Scotland such as former prime minister Gordon Brown and former UK minister John Reid to take a greater role in shoring up “soft Labour” support for the union.

What’s clear is that the ‘Yes, Scotland’ campaign in favor of independence is gaining momentum, while the ‘Better Together’ campaign is losing steam.

Panelbase poll conducted between April 27 and May 4 shows that the ‘No’ side would win 46% of the vote and the ‘Yes’ side would win 41% of the vote, with 14% undecided. Though Panelbase has typically shown a stronger ‘Yes’ vote than other polls, its findings are consistent with other surveys over the past month. While ‘No’ continues to lead ‘Yes,’ sometimes by double-digit margins, there’s no escaping that the polls are tightening.

That’s causing some alarm within both government and opposition circles. Though British prime minister David Cameron almost certainly believed that most Scottish voters wouldn’t support independence when he agreed to the terms of the referendum with Scottish first minister Alex Salmond last May, his governing Conservative Party must now face the prospect of a too-close-to-call referendum in Scotland just eight months before the wider UK general election in May 2015.

If Scotland votes ‘yes,’ or even comes close to endorsing independence, some senior Tories are already wondering if Cameron will have to resign — after 307 years of union with  England, he’ll be the prime minister who ‘lost’ Scotland.

With the Scottish Labour Party largely leading the charge against independence, what will it say about the generation of national Labour leadership, including includes Scottish-born prime minister Tony Blair, that delivered devolution  Scotland in 1997?

More fundamentally, however, why, so suddenly, does the ‘Yes’ campaign — once deemed hopeless — now seem like it has a chance? Continue reading Momentum shifts in favor of Scottish independence

UKIP’s Farage is winning the British debate on Europe

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 6.04.14 PM

It’s not hard, watching the two debates over future British membership in the European Union, to see why Nigel Farage, the leader of the euroskeptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), is such a successful politician.United Kingdom Flag IconEuropean_Union

In the last of two debates with deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Farage asked voters in his closing remarks to ‘join the people’s army and topple the establishment that got us into this mess.’

British viewers apparently agree — in an instant Guardian poll following the debate, they believed that Farage won the debate by a margin of 69% to 31%. The debate precedes the May 22 elections to determine the United Kingdom’s 73 members in the European Parliament.

If former prime minister Margaret Thatcher was the British answer to US president Ronald Reagan, Farage (pictured above) is its answer to Newt Gingrich in his ability to lead an anti-establishment political revolution. In the same way that Thatcher reshaped the Conservative Party in the anti-government, pro-market mould of the US-style conservatism, Farage is reshaping the way that Britons conceive the debate over EU membership, just as Gingrich rewired the nature of political debate in the United States — by attacking the consensus of a longstanding political elite through a simple, compelling message that scrambles the traditional lines between left and right.

Farage is doing to ‘Brussels’ exactly what Gingrich did to ‘Washington.’

Farage’s performance has been so smooth, it’s tantalizing to wonder just how well he might do in a four-way televised debate in the campaign for the May 2015 parliamentary elections alongside not only Clegg, but also Conservative prime minister David Cameron, and Labour Party leader Ed Miliband — or how effective Farage might be leading the ‘no’ campaign in the pending 2017 EU membership referendum, a vote that Cameron was forced to promise to hold (if reelected next year) largely as a result of UKIP’s rise in popularity over the past two years.

Here are just three examples from Wednesday’s debate that show just how effective Farage can be — he manages to argue against EU membership as a champion of greater globalization, of protecting minorities and the working class, and of greater world peace.

You don’t have to buy what Farage is peddling in order to acknowledge that he’s devastatingly effective in framing the UK-EU debate in uniquely new and powerful ways.

It’s no longer an academic point.

A March 26-27 YouGov poll for The Sun shows a three-way race in the European elections: Labour wins 28%, UKIP wins 26% and the Tories win 24%, leaving the LibDems far behind at 11%. Nearly one in two Conservative voters from 2010, and nearly one in five Labour voters, plans to back UKIP. Among the most likely to vote, UKIP leads with 30%.

Continue reading UKIP’s Farage is winning the British debate on Europe