I usually try to shy away from non-media related blog posts and especially about topics like politics! I have only done one really politically focussed post before about UKIP and the correlation between their media exposure and votes. Politics is a tricky and quite often sensitive topic to blog about. It’s easy for someone like myself who doesn’t fully understand all the policies to contradict and generalise when discussing politics. For someone who primarily blogs about television shows from a mostly objective perspective, I was wary about doing this post. It won’t be completely clear, easy to comprehend or make a lot of sense but I wanted to just unload my thoughts about the recent election and current political parties.
This week, in the United Kingdom, we have had a general election. Following six weeks of campaigning and various television appearances (the debates that weren’t quite conventional), voters went to the polling stations on Thursday and cast their votes to decide who should be the next government. I saw the exit poll and the first result come in from Sunderland (Labour) before I gave in and went to bed. I wished I had stayed up to watch more of the results as there is a sense of excitement and anxiety but I would definitely have been more of a zombie at work yesterday if I had! I caught up on the results during the day at work, watching on the BBC website as the map of the UK turned more blue (Conservative). By midday, Cameron had got a majority Conservative government and three other party leaders had resigned. The most unpredictable outcome.
As someone who is left-wing when it comes to politics, I have to admit I was very disappointed with the result of the election. I was happy locally with results both in the constituency I voted in and my hometown’s results – they were the best results for the area and they match my political leaning. However, across the UK, these results were not replicated as the Conservatives held and gained more seats.
Why am I so annoyed with the result? During the campaign I was thinking nationally about who I would like to lead the country and what parties would benefit the country as a whole. During the first three debates I was impressed by Labour, Plaid, SNP and the Greens though I did admire the boldness of some of the Liberal Democrat’s policies such as helping with mental health. Although impressed by Plaid Cymru and the Greens I was not fully convinced by their performances on the debates or how much power they could actually wield so I was pretty set on Labour. I had a slight wobble after Question Time a week ago with all parties dismissing the notion of coalition and decided to vote on a local level. The best candidate in my constituency was Labour so I did end up voting Labour.
Labour’s campaign and policies were enticing to me as they wanted to raise minimum wage (ideal for a myself as a full-time worker on minimum wage), less public service cuts (which would hopefully save the arts) and like Plaid and the Greens, Labour under Ed Miliband appeared to treat people as humans instead of money. I am disappointed with a Conservative government that will work on finances at the detriment of people’s lives. I am a big supporter of the arts and youth music in particular as some of my blog posts have shown. Local services across South Wales have been threatened majorly recently due to cuts that have filtered down from Westminster to local government and I am in fear that all the hard work to save these services will be reversed quickly. A Conservative government may help a certain class, age group or certain areas in England but it does not help the people where I live in South Wales.
Should we still be worried by UKIP despite the fact they only got 1 MP elected? I am so glad that this election was not the extreme right wing revolution it was billed to be. That said, there has been an increase in UKIP votes across the country with the party reaching second or third place in numbers of votes in many constituencies. Despite the party only winning one seat, I am a bit worried that the Conservatives will lurch further to the right on policies like immigration and the European Union to appease those considering defecting to UKIP. UKIP may not have much power but I fear a politics of fear and us vs them mentality may be nurtured by the Conservatives. This would be an extremely dangerous path to follow when dealing with terrorist groups and foreign relations.
Is the voting system fair and does it need to be reformed? I feel that I am currently one of the only supporters of First Past The Post at the moment. Yes, it elected a tory government that I disagree with but proportional representation would lead to instability and hung parliament after hung parliament. There was a reform pushed by the Lib Dems following the coalition in 2010 for voting reform which was rejected in favour of the current system. The new shouts for reform are mostly from those who voted Green from my generation who feel their votes have not been represented (the Green party only has 1 MP). However, if there was proportional representation, there would be a fairly large number of UKIP MPs which quite frankly would be terrifying in my opinion as they would then easily form an extreme right coalition with the Conservatives. I think First Past The Post is effective: the person who gets the most votes in a constituency represents the constituency. I feel that England’s results do tend to dominate the results as opposed to the other nations in the UK so perhaps to make First Past The Post fairer, the constituencies in England need to be reconsidered.
The Lib Dems have been punished. Following their disastrous u-turn on their tuition fees pledge to students in 2010, it is no surprise that the Lib Dems have lost crucial seats especially in student heavy constituencies. Indeed, I knew that I would not be voting Lib Dem this time as by joining the coalition with the tories in 2010, they went against their own principles as a party and liberals. However, I do feel a bit sorry for the Lib Dems that they had such a massive defeat this election. I feel they have been punished for the coalition yet the larger party that inflicted most of the cuts and harder policies have been rewarded with a majority government to do as they please.
Do we love or hate Scotland? The Scottish National Party lost a referendum last year over their independence. Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems all teamed together for the winning ‘No’ campaign which led to Scotland remaining part of the UK. Following the close competition, Scotland was promised more powers and devolution as a way of keeping them sweet. However, as the general election campaign got under way, the SNP was painted as evil, a party that none of the main parties wanted to associate with and their leader Nicola Sturgeon was called “the most dangerous woman in Britain”. This confused me as although I do not agree with their pro-independence stance, I found Sturgeon the most convincing leader on the tv debates and willing to work for progressive politics yet all the other parties warned of the dangers of Scotland. This has led to a heavy defeat for Labour in particular as Scottish voters have been alienated by the UK parties turning their back on the country.
Did Rupert Murdoch’s media influence ruin Ed’s chances? Poor Ed Miliband. His Labour leadership has always been questioned since he beat his Blairite, New Labour-loving brother David to the title of party leader. Supported by the trade unions, Ed has worked to shift Labour away from the issues of New Labour and its record (the unneccesary wars in Iraq everyone was opposed to for example) back to its socialist roots. I think that despite his hard work transforming the Labour party, voters have not committed to the party due two factors: not being able to disassociate Labour from the problems that New Labour caused and his image. It is sad when politics is overshadowed by what people look like but I think our society is still very image obsessed and judgemental. The press picked up on this and the sheer number of right wing newspapers this elections has been scary. Rupert Murdoch famously has a lot of power and influence with David Cameron’s Conservative party and, as owner of tabloids like the Sun, has been able to exert his political influence nationwide by depicting Ed as an unfit prime minister through unflattering photographs and bullying, vitriolic attacks on his character. Media effects theory has been disproven which means that people don’t just absorb what they read/hear/see in the media and do as they’re told but I feel Murdoch and the Conservatives have had extreme exposure and dominated the press in terms of choice. Some people have tried to fight back with twitter campaigns like the #milifandom which celebrated Ed to challenge the right wing press images of him and #jesuised where several people took photos of themselves eating food messily in solidarity with the former Labour leader.
I do feel sorry for Ed Miliband. Questions over his competence for the job (and the fact that he wasn’t his brother) have plagued him since 2010. I was really sad to see him resign as leader of the party as in my lifetime I think he is the best leader Labour have had as he appeared to care more about people and socialism than his predecessors. Labour should return to their principles as the party has started to do and now choose a leader that can deliver on these or I may turn to smaller parties in future elections.