It’s been a strange few weeks in British politics. The EU referendum has driven every other kind of political question to the margins. The only question is IN or OUT of the European Union.
It is an open secret that the reason we are having a referendum at all. It is because the Prime Minister, David Comeron, feared a takeover by an alliance of the far right of his own Conservative Party and United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).
He was accused at the time of putting party politics above the health of the nation. Indeed, ever since he began campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU, he has been saying what a disaster it would be if we left.
When he went to Brussels to negotiate changes. He said that by holding a referendum, the Euro partners would know that he wasn’t just posturing when he set out his demands.
And then he came back and pulled out of his hat a small or non-existent rabbit, or a big rabbit – depending on who is telling the story.
His message then was that we would risk falling off a cliff if we voted to leave.
Well if that was true when he said it, it was true before he went to Brussels and he should never have risked the decision to a vote that was out of his control.
How Real Is UKIP
So how real is the threat from UKIP? If there are only a few UKIP supporters, then they aren’t much of a threat.
After the national election, Lord Leach of Fairford, Chairman of Open Europe, wrote to the Times saying what would have happened had the German form of PR applied in the general election.
Under that system, any party getting less than five percent of the vote is not allocated seats. The reason for that is to prevent a huge number of parties with one or two votes each swamping the actual business of government.
And what would have happened is that we would have had the Conservatives with 275 seats, labour 229, UKIP 92, Lib Dems 54 and no seats for any of the other parties. That is, the SNP would not have got any seats at all.
The Scottish National Party swept the board in Scotland – but only because it has 56 constituencies in a country that is only five-million people out of a total UK population of sixty-four million.
In other words, our first-past-the-post system and the constituency boundaries that apply in elections hide the fact that UKIP has a large base of support.
Here are the numbers for the seats, the number gained and lost in the election, the actual number of the popular vote and the percentage of the vote that the number represents.
Conservatives 330 (+37, -10) 11,334,726 36.9%
Labour 232 (+23, -48) 9,347,324 30.4%
SNP 56 (+50, -0) 1,454,436 4.7%
Green 1 (+0, -0) 1,156,149 3.8%
Lib Dems 8 (+0, -48) 2,415,862 7.9%
UKIP 1 (+0, -1) 3,881,099 12.6%
Nearly four-million people voted for UKIP. But they only got one seat in Parliament.
So the threat was real and Cameron has played it well – well that is if the Remain camp wins.
But what a risk to take.
I think the vote will go with David Cameron and the Remain camp. And if it does, then he will be saved again. And for some stupid reason, people will think he was the better option and we will all love the moderate Tories. Ha!
This article was first published on NO MORE PENCILS
Interesting reading. I didn’t know the background to this referendum.
I’ve asked around, amongst friends back home, if there is any movement at all for leaving the EU. From what I understand, there’s none. When we voted 1994, it was extremely close, and there were many raised voices afterwards, calling for leaving. Half of the population was against joining, but that seems to be all forgotten now.
I’m not a very political person, and haven’t taken time out to learn about what we gained (or lost) by joining.
The UK, Denmark, and Ireland joined the predecessor to the EU in 1973 and that entitled them to choose to opt out of joining the Euro.
The UK and Denmark opted to remain out of the Euro, while Ireland chose to join the Euro.
I just read up about Sweden, which joined the EU in 1995. I see that it hasn’t joined the Euro because it does not meet the convergence criteria for participation in the Exchange Rate Mechanism.
Perhaps that’s why people in Sweden are OK with EU membership – it gets the benefit without some of the problems of being in the EU?
Once a country joins the Euro, the European Central Bank has a huge part to play in a country’s monetary policy – I think that is part of the reason for Ireland’s problems, and of the Greek debacle and for the problems that have been brewing with Portugal, Spain, and Italy.
The root of it – and I believe it is acknowledged – is that when some of the newer members of the EU joined the Euro, they fiddled their numbers with the knowledge of the existing members to enable them to meet the stress tests.
The stronger countries did well selling to and lending to those countries when times were good. Then the credit bubble burst, as it was bound to do, and now those same countries have to live with austerity while the stronger countries don’t want to bear any of the cost of the defaults.
Are all parties are equally to blame and should countries like Greece not have spent beyond their means?
Or should those stronger countries that encouraged them and profited from sales and loans now take some of the burden of the defaults?
I don’t know if they’ve really been okay with it all these years … rather indifferent, I think (with emphasis on I). At first, there was a lot of hoopla from all the ones that voted no. Then there was a referendum about joining the Euro.
Now, after Brexit, voices seem to be raised again … many people don’t like the supranationalism, I guess.
Is there a real chance that Sweden could vote to leave?
Hard to tell, being away from there, but with all the stuff going on there, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit. Especially since the U.K.’s going to leave — they were sort of “allies” there …
Maybe the Swedes, like the English, have long memories to know who their allies are. “The Normans that invaded England in 1066 came from Normandy in Northern France. However, they were originally Vikings from Scandinavia.” 🙂
Heh! Yeah, it’s always good to know one’s history. 1066 is the only year I remember from history in school.