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Published On: Fri, Apr 10th, 2015

UK elections and the shift from ‘tribal’ politics

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By. Peter Geoghegan
Britain(ANN/ Aljazeera.l)As election day nears, insurgent parties see new possibilities to break the two-party dominance in UK politics.
British elections
Glasgow, UK – Some seven million viewers across Britain tuned into the first, and only, televised multi-party debate ahead of May’s general election. What they saw on April 2 was a stark illustration of how much UK politics has changed in recent years.
Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron fielded questions from the live studio audience, and parried blows from opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband.
But the real winners were the five smaller parties also on the stage.
Polls declared Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon the victor of the night, followed by the eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party’s (UKIP) Nigel Farage.
British politics has long been a two-horse race. But the field for May’s general election is increasingly open, potentially spelling a permanent end to centuries of single-party majority rule at Westminster.
In 1951, 97 percent of the UK electorate voted Labour or Conservative. At the last general election, in 2010, that figure was just two in three, leading to a historic coalition between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.
This time around, the prospects of one party winning overall control look even slimmer.

Labour and Conservatives are tied at 34 percent each, according to a BBC poll of polls.
The Labour party would need a lead of around five points to win a majority, said John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University.
Due to the vagaries of Britain’s first-past-the-post system, the Tories, who draw most of their support in the richer south, would require a seven-point margin of victory to emerge with the 326 seats needed to command a majority in the House of Commons.
The reality, said Curtice, is there is unlikely to be a clear winner on May 7. “We have never seen an election like this.”
We have about a quarter of the electorate saying they are going to vote for someone other than Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem. That is just off the end of the historical pattern. You can go all the way back to 1832 and you won’t beat it,” Curtice said.
Horse-trading and deal-brokering
A hung parliament would necessitate something on which British politics has traditionally not been strong: horse-trading and deal-brokering.
The coalition government has long been the norm on the continent, but in the UK it is still a relative novelty. A predicted collapse in the Liberal Democrat vote – and the Fixed Term Parliaments Act introduced in 2011 to make dissolving Westminster almost impossible – could make the business of forming a new government even more tricky.
This all means that the party that emerges in the strongest position may have to reach an arrangement – either a formal coalition or a looser deal – with one or more of the UK’s insurgent parties.
The most likely kingmaker is the SNP, which is campaigning on an anti-austerity message. Despite defeat in last September’s independence referendum, the nationalists have seen their support surge.
Membership has quadrupled to more than 100,000. Polls suggest that the SNP may win dozens of seats from Labour, making it far more difficult for Miliband to secure a majority.
Last year’s independence referendum fundamentally changed Scottish politics, said political commentator Gerry Hassan.
“Something has profoundly changed about how the Scottish public see and do politics and their role in the union. Passivity, acceptance and belief in traditional elites – Labour included – now seem a thing of the past.”
UK parties have struggled to understand the SNP surge.
Last weekend a leaked memo purportedly revealing that nationalist leader Sturgeon had told a French diplomat that she would prefer another Tory administration, appeared in the right-wing Daily Telegraph.
But the smear appears to have backfired, with both sides flatly denying the claims. Questions have been raised about how the civil service document was released. An inquiry will now be held.

Source: aljazeera.com

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- Arraale Mohamoud Jama Freelance Journalist and Human Rights Activist Arraale, is a 20 year experience as a professional Journalist and human rights activist Over the years, worked for the major News Papers in Somaliland as a reporter, editor and contributor. 2008 established website Araweelo News Network, he currently runs a web site based in Somaliland. who is the specializes in the investigation and reporting on issues relating to human rights, democracy, and good governance. contact: Info@araweelonews.com jaamac132@gmail.com Send an SMS or MMS to + 252 63 442 5380 WhatsApp + 252 63 4764409 + 252 65 910 7347.

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