A short essay to the British Jews

Dear British Jews,

I’m writing this short essay to you in your capacities as freethinking, rational, spiritual, and political beings to share my observations and concerns with you about the forthcoming general election and it's implications for British Jews.  I start with a brief outline of the course that British politics has taken over the last 15 years and why, followed by predictions and analysis of the May 2015 general election scenarios. I then share my observations and concerns for British Jews, and conclude that a hung parliament and a Conservative Party and UKIP coalition is currently the most probable election outcome, and that UKIP does not need to win the election in order to get into power, it simply needs to agree to form a coalition if asked to by the Conservative Party.

The May 2010 General Election

In the May 2010 general election we witnessed a hung parliament and a coalition government.  This is because a British political party needs to win 326 seats in the House of Commons out of a possible 650, in order to achieve the overall majority required to ensure a safe landing into No. 10 Downing Street without having to form a coalition government.  None of the political parties achieved this in 2010 so a hung-parliament was declared and political dominance fell to the party with the largest non-overall majority share of the vote, and their choice of coalition partner.  When a voter cannot see a party whose political leadership s/he trusts, or that does not sufficiently represent his or her interests or runs counter to those interests, the result is voter apathy - the voter chooses not to exercise his/her vote at the ballot box.  With the Conservative Party achieving the largest share of the votes in 2010 with just 36% of the vote and 306 seats in the House of Commons, they agreed to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats who achieved 23% of the vote and 57 seats.  

The Labour Party's Impact on the May 2010 General Election

The hung parliament of the May 2010 general election occurred in the context of 10 years of a Labour Party government which had been something of a rollercoaster at times for the British electorate.  We had mourned the death of Princess Diana, witnessed the decision to invade Iraq which resulted in a national protest march of 1 million British citizens.  Parts of the medical and legal establishment lobbied hard against the alleged discrepancies surrounding the cause of the self-prophesised death of the highly regarded British government scientist David Kelly, ahead of his plans to publish his controversial insider knowledge of his Iraq and weapons of mass destruction assignment.  We then witnessed the furore surrounding the Labour Party’s legal justification for invading Iraq - Weapons of Mass Destruction – a highly controversial episode in British politics which further outraged the nation’s sensibilities, and which ultimately paved the way for Labour’s defeat at the 2010 election leaving the door wide open for a change of government.  

During this time, the Labour Party through it’s close links with the Bush administration had begun to occupy the centre-ground of British politics, as oppose to the far left and centre left. The result was Labour Party decisions and policies that were sometimes right leaning – the war on Iraq, and at other times left leaning – widening the reach of the welfare state. Their subsequent adoption of a ‘light touch regulatory approach’ to financial market regulation was followed by the near collapse of our economy. The Labour Party's shift from the far left to the centre ground opened up the political arena to political parties who would appeal to the far left, the centre left and the centre right of British politics.

The Coalition Government

It was against this backdrop that the Conservative Party won the largest non-overall majority share of the vote in the 2010 general election.  Though the Labour Party won the second biggest non-overall majority the Conservatives did not choose them as a coalition partner.  Traditionally these two parties are each others largest political and ideological opponent's so a coalition between the two could have generated a hot bed of tension, volatility, and ideological warfare thus undermining their ability to govern effectively.  

The May 2015 General Election

With the forthcoming May 2015 general election just a few weeks away, it is a good time to consider the potential political realities we are facing, and whether or not they will change incrementally or radically from the coalition Conservative Party and Liberal Democrat status quo.  My concern for British Jews, as a mixed-race black and Jewish lady with an academic and work background in law, policy and politics, and whose ethnicity keeps me at a polarised vantage point, is what will you do, how will you feel, and what will be our future if in May 2015 we end up with a further hung parliament requiring a further coalition to be formed? What if the Conservative Party win a non-overall majority and agree to form a coalition with the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage? The question we must ask ourselves is, “have any of the political parties done enough between 2010 and 2015 to command sufficient trust and confidence of the British electorate to secure an overall majority share of the votes without the need for a hung parliament and the subsequent formation of a coalition government?  For some this is a moot point, but the polls suggest they have not done enough.  
The current Conservative Party and Liberal Democrat coalition entered No. 10 Downing Street under a cloud of voter apathy and disdain.  5 years later there is only a marginal non-overall majority share of the vote swinging between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party from one week to the next.  That is to say that one week the Conservatives are predicted to be the main vote winner in the polls by a slim non-overall majority, and the next week the non-overall majority falls to the Labour Party.  What is clear, is that neither of these two parties have made any significant gains since the 2010 general election, and none of the parties are predicted to command an overall majority, therefore a further coalition government can be expected.  A political party winner is predicted, but the margin continues to fluctuate between the 2 big parties and is so slim that either the Labour Party or the Conservative Party can potentially win the next election, and there are only 9 weeks to go.

Forecasts and Predictions 

The 2015 ‘Election Forecast' sets out forecasts, predictions and potential election scenarios as modelled by 3 academics - Chris Hanretty (the University of East Anglia), Benjamin Lauderdale (The London School of Economics), and Nick Vivyan (Durham University) at www.electionforecast.co.uk.  They place the probability of a hung parliament at currently 0.91%, a Labour Party non-overall majority at 0.04%, and a Conservative Party non-overall majority at 0.04%.  This translates as a tiebreaker between the ‘big 2’ political parties based on modelled voter share percentages. The Election Forecast predicts the Conservatives will win the election with 33.8% of the vote representing a 2.3% decrease from it’s 2010 position, and that the Labour Party will come 2nd with 31.9% of the vote representing a 2.9% gain since the 2010 general election.  These figures and predictions fluctuate daily hence the non-overall majority swings back and forth between the big 2 parties as the daily politics continue and new poll data is processed, reviewed and updated. The big political issue here is that the fluctuating and swinging non-overall majority lead is only marginal, hence the current 'big 2' tie-breaker prediction.  


UKIP are closely tailing the Liberal Democrats with only a 3.4% gap between them.  The Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats that make-up today's coalition government are currently less popular than they were at this time in 2010, with a 2.3% and 9.3% decrease in voter popularity respectively. The Liberal Democrats are predicted to lose yet more seats.  The Labour Party has made a 2.9% gain in voter popularity since 2010.  None of our political parties look set to win the confidence of the British electorate without having to form a coalition government, as no party is predicted to obtain an overall majority share of the vote. Therefore it is reasonable to expect a hung parliament in May followed by another coalition government made up of one or more minority parties, because voter apathy and lack of confidence in the political process is not being successfully addressed by any of the political parties, except UKIP and the Green Party who have achieved the greatest gains since the last election placing them 4th and 5th on the Election Forecast’s list of contenders to govern our country.  However, as we saw in 2010 a party’s choice of coalition partner does not have to rank in order of vote share.  To illustrate, in 2010 the Conservatives finished 1st, Labour 2nd, and Liberal Democrats 3rd, however it was the Liberal Democrats who agreed to form a coalition with the Conservatives, not the Labour Party. The party that wins the largest non-overall majority share of the vote does not have to choose the next largest vote sharing party to form a coalition with.  This is how UKIP or any other party with a minority share of the vote has the potential to form a coalition government with the winning party in May 2015.  The alternative to these scenarios is a dissolution of Parliament and a subsequent re-election.  Though not impossible this is unlikely to happen. 
A Shift in British Attitudes
UKIP occupies the far-right in British politics since the Conservative Party vacated that space in favour of the centre right following an ambitious desire for re-election in 2010.  UKIP’s party leader Nigel Farage has not been able to contain many of his party members alleged far-right extremist views towards non-indigenous English and non-heterosexual sections of the electorate.  This can be seen in his party's political attitudes towards incoming economic migrants and refugees, ethnic minorities, non-heterosexuals, and it's anti-European Union ideological stance.  In a radio interview recently aired Mr Farage went beyond merely being embroiled in the controversy as UKIP party leader, by actively defending his party member's alleged racist and homophobic views – live on air.  In a television documentary shadowing his Party aired this week, further racist attitudes were expressed by several of his Party members, one of whom was dismissed for having failed to adhere to advice to "tone down" racist conversations when talking to the press.  This makes The Green Party UKIP’s biggest opponent aside from the Labour Party, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats.  The Greens make for a refreshing alternative to UKIP in this context, on account of their pro-minority interests, pro environment, animal and human rights, and their pro European Union stance.  From this perspective it's easy to see why parts of the electorate consider the far-left Green Party’s attitudes as being preferable to those of UKIP's far-right attitudes.

Scenario 1 - A Conservative Party Election Victory

Imagine the hung parliament scenario of the 2010 election repeats itself this May due to unresolved voter apathy and the lack of majority vote winning alternatives.  Imagine that the Conservatives achieve the largest share of the vote by a whisker, but a share that does not make up anywhere near the 51% required for an outright majority, meaning they get to choose which party to approach to form a coalition with.  In this scenario I predict that the Conservative Party's preferred strategy will be to select the party whose values and ideology most closely resembles it’s own.  From this perspective we can see that the Conservative Party is extremely unlikely to form a coalition with the Labour Party as these two parties values are poles apart, and each week we witness the latter's position as the Conservative Party’s largest political opponent being rigorously defended at Prime Minister's Questions.   A coalition government made up of centre left and centre right political forces, will clash ideologically and the resulting volatility would potentially undermine either party’s ability to govern effectively.  On this basis we can safely rule out a Conservative and Labour Party coalition in May 2015.  

Scenario 2 - A Conservative Party coalition with the SNP and or the Green Party

This leaves the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party, the Green Party and UKIP as the next likeliest contenders.  Alex Salmond has already shown his discord with the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats following the marginally unsuccessful Scottish Referendum in 2014. There is also no reason to think the Conservatives will coalesce with the Green Party as there is simply no identifiable common ground to be shared between the centre-right ideological values of the former and the far-left values of the latter.  Furthermore, we have witnessed how hard the Conservative Party fought unsuccessfully in the last 12 months to keep the Green Party out of the televised election debates.  The Conservative Party’s attempts to exclude the Greens at all costs strongly suggests it will also exclude them from the prospect of a coalition.

Scenario 3 - A Conservative Party coalition with the Liberal Democrats

Given the Liberal Democrats' landslide forfeiting of their strong-hold seats in the 2014 local elections, and more seats forecast still to be lost, coupled with their un-influential impact on the course of British politics since taking office in 2010 - it is unlikely the Conservative Party will retain them as a coalition partner.  It is not impossible, but it is unlikely given the full range of alternatives. 
Scenario 4 - A Conservative Party and UKIP Coalition Government
The only real prospect of a coalition following a Conservative Party non-overall majority in May, is if they team up with UKIP which is the only party whose ideological values closely reflect those of the Conservative Party.   The Conservative Party shifted from the far-right to the centre right in order to appeal to the electorate in 2010.  UKIP are now occupying the far-right political space and are campaigning on similar immigration issues advocated by Enoch Powell in his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, and similar issues that Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron campaigned on prior to their subsequent election wins.  These are, immigration, the distribution of wealth and job creation through the scaling back of public services and the privatisation of State owned industries, and, the UK's membership of the European Union.  UKIP's position on the European Union is clear, he wants to leave the EU immediately in order to claw-back Britain's sovereignty.  The Conservative Party's position is that it wants to stay in the EU but claw back it's sovereignty and drop the Human Rights Act in favour of a watered down less authoritative 'Bill' of Human Rights.  The Conservatives position on the EU is weakened by the fact it only has 20 MEP's compared to UKIP's 24.  
Scenario 5 - A Labour Party non-overall majority election win
The flip-side of the coin is that the Labour Party will achieve the non-overall majority, and will then form a coalition with the Scottish National Party as their 1st preference -Scotland being a Labour Party stronghold - meaning the Green Party would be it’s 2nd preference.  
Implications of A Conservative Party and UKIP Coalition Government
A coalition from this perspective would be certain to bring more power to both parties if they engage in a process of bargaining, compromise and convergence on their core nationalist, right-wing policy issues.  This would allow them to form a coalition government to deliver the decision-making and policy implementation needed to restore the robustness of the British right-wing, at a time when right-wing politics in Europe is slowly but surely gaining momentum.  UKIP and the traditional Conservative Party politics are a match made in heaven for the British Right-Wing, though neither party will admit this prior to the general election for fear of alienating key sections of the electorate including the British Jews.  However, the 77 Conservative Party councillors and 2 MP’s who defected to UKIP, can be seen as further evidence that some traditional Conservative MP's view UKIP as being the only other Party that speaks their language.  By forming a coalition government with UKIP, the Conservative Party and UKIP win big - they win more power in the UK and in Europe, their old MP's effectively return to the fold, the UK's position in the European Union is consolidated and strengthened allowing it to be more dominant there, and it creates the opportunity to form alliances with Right-Wing forces within the EU, should the need arise.  Arguably, UKIP's political values mirror those of the traditional Conservative Party far more closely than David Cameron currently cares to admit.  Note that no Conservative MPs have defected to Labour, Green, or any other political party.  They appear to have identified UKIP as being the only political party that speaks their language.  Therefore it would be naive to think that Mr Cameron hasn't realised that a UKIP and Conservative Party coalition is where the future of his government lies.

Observations and concerns

My observations and concerns for British Jews in the run up to and following the May 2015 general election, is that whichever way a vote is cast in May, it is 99.1% guaranteed at this stage to result in a hung parliament followed by the forming of a further coalition government, which I predict will see a return of the currently populist-centric right-of-centre Conservative Party to it’s traditional ‘back-to-basics‘ far-right roots - which it can only achieve by choosing to form a coalition with the far-right UKIP.  I predict it will achieve this if Nigel Farage persuades his Party members to "tone-down" the racist conversations when speaking to the media, and at the expense of the faithful and loyal British Jews.  Note that the Conservative Party has said and done nothing of value to rule out a coalition with UKIP, despite the latter's alleged racist, homophobic and xenophobic rhetoric.  The Telegraph reported that Mr Cameron accepted a £1m donation from a football executive reported to have expressed anti-semitic views.  If true, this casual attitude towards anti-semitism is similar to Nigel Farage's previously casual attitude to racist comments and attitudes expressed by some of his Party members in recent years.  It amounts to a willingness to accept racist and anti-semitic influences, which cannot be a positive step forward for British Jewish life.
A hung parliament is inevitable where no single Party has won the confidence of the British electorate sufficient to command an outright majority share of the vote in the May 2015 general election.  The question that the British Jews have to decide upon is which political outcome are you most willing to accept? A Labour Party and Scottish National Party or Green Party coalition? Or, a Conservative Party and UKIP coalition?  If you prefer the former you would have to vote Labour Party 1st choice, and either SNP or Green Party 2nd choice at the ballot box.  If your preference is for a Conservative and UKIP coalition you would have to vote Conservative Party 1st choice, and UKIP 2nd choice. (Please note that when all the votes are in at the count, the voter slips that don't have a clear X mark in 2 boxes are declared invalid and destroyed, without informing the voter their vote didn't count).
People in politics form alliances with those people whose values closely resemble their own. Their main objective is to acquire and hold onto governing power for as long as possible.  Therefore, if the Conservative Party wins an overall non-majority share of the vote, my prediction is that it will form a coalition with UKIP because this is the only identifiable party who shares it's own Right-Wing ideology and political space.   All the evidence points to the Conservative Party and UKIP as being the two parties that share enough common ground in their centre-right to far-right policy issues, interests, preferences and rhetoric, to justify forming a coalition government with each other.  However, also of note is that politics is as much about the things that have not been said and done, as about those which have been said and done.  The wait and see approach is one that the Conservative Party has used before now, but which if adhered to could see the British Jews out on a limb.  A Conservative Party and UKIP coalition government would further consolidate a sinister trend towards the formation of a far-right political vacuum of power throughout Europe similar to that seen in the early 1930’s, which could be seen as an irreparable betrayal of the British Jews by the Conservative Party.   All that is required for the preservation of Jewish interests by British Jews, is an open mind and a rational but somewhat radical shift in voting attitudes, to ensure the course of British politics preserves Britain as a safe, democratic, and moderate country in which Jews can thrive, without fear of increasingly far-right political forces and related policy implementation that would surely follow a Conservative Party and UKIP coalition government in the May 2015 general election.  UKIP does not need to win the election in order to get into power, it simply needs to agree to form a coalition if asked to by the Conservative Party.