And the winner is…election abstention once again?

Whether people will vote at all is a very open question

Whether people will vote at all is a very open question

With less than a month to go until polling day, the UK General Election promises to be the most unpredictable – and dare we whisper, exciting? – contest in the modern era. If the opinion polls are anything to go by, then it seems increasingly unlikely that any two parties will be able to muster sufficient votes and seats to form a majority two-party coalition government on May 7th. The prospect of a three- or four-party coalition government is therefore a very real one.

Let’s consider the evidence. Continue reading

After Greece, is the UK next in line for an electoral shake-up?

Professor Matt Henn

Professor Matt Henn

As the clock ticks down toward next month’s General Election, media coverage is awash with stories about the vulnerability of the traditional big hitters (Labour and the Conservatives), the meltdown of the Liberal Democrats, the resurgence of the Greens, the dominance of Scottish electoral politics by the SNP, and of course the onward (if occasionally gaffe-faltering) march of UKIP.

Alongside the churning electoral fortunes of these political players, we are also becoming very familiar with repeated warnings that we are increasingly disillusioned with democratic politics, rejecting the institutions of national government, and leaving British democracy in a state of relative crisis as a consequence.

However, the apparent rupture between citizens and the institutions of democratic governance is not an exceptionally “British” issue. In recent times, a deepening disconnect between citizens and formal politics has developed in many advanced democratic states. As we look ahead to our General Election, it is worth looking further afield to see what we can learn from the election experiences in other countries as we try to make sense of democratic politics at home. Continue reading

Will Scotland ensure May 7 is Westminster’s day of reckoning?

Dr Medhat Khattar

Dr Medhat Khattar

Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats joined forces in the final days of the Scottish independence campaign to win a decisive victory against the Scottish National Party (SNP). But you could be forgiven for feeling perplexed at how such a decisive win ended with the losing side collecting the spoils of battle. The SNP now boasts the third largest membership in the UK (replacing the Liberal Democrats) a party leader with high approval ratings and what appears to be an irreversible lead in the opinion polls north of the border. If the SNP holds on to its lead in the polls, Labour would do exceptionally well to hold on to a dozen of its 41 parliamentary seats in Scotland.

What the Scottish referendum exposed in the mainstream parties was not the legitimate democratic position of voting for the union to continue, but rather their inability to contemplate alternative political realities that focused on hope and vision. Only in the dying moments of the campaign, and rattled by one opinion poll which showed a lead for the independence movement, did leaders of the three Westminster parties appear to concede the possibility of a federal UK in all but name. The promise, referred to as ’The Vow‘ in one newspaper at the time, ran into difficulty the morning after the referendum when the Prime Minister appeared to link further devolution in Scotland to securing EVEL (English Votes for English Laws) at Westminster. Continue reading