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Saturday 11 April 2015

UK: Heisenberg's Election?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 2nd April 2015

In the United Kingdom, the next general election will be held in a month's time. Who will win? Good question. And what will the consequences be for Great Britain's LGBT population?

Insofar as there will be a clear victor, it used to be argued that Ed Miliband and his Labour Party would emerge in the driver's seat. However, Miliband's leadership has come under question and Labour's popularity has faded over the last several months, to the point where it is now on level pegging with the incumbent Cameron administration, which is deeply unpopular over its austerity and government service cuts programmes, due to its inept Minister for Works and Pensions, Iain Duncan-Smith. The Conservative Party is also facing competition on the centre-right at the first time from the United Kingdom Independence Party, which espouses religious social conservatism, immigration controls and secession from the European Union, given its alleged bureaucratic "interference" with British sovereignty. Although minimally represented within the House of Commons, and largely due to defections from existing right-wing Conservative Party MPs at that, UKIP has made gains in the European Parliamentary elections, although those are held under MMP, compared to the First Past the Post electoral system used to elect people to the House of Commons. For the Conservatives, there is a real risk that UKIP/Tory competition will cost the Conservatives marginal electorates, which may then fall to either Labour or the Liberal Democrats. Or are UKIP's more troglodyte electoral candidates likely to repell the electorate and minimise the impact of their vote over their next month? And if not, is the Conservative Party headed for trouble, given its own deep schism over European Union membership and policy? Would the prospect of a Conservative/UKIP coalition lead to turmoil within the Conservative caucus over whether or not to accept the possibility and the withdrawal of pro-European Tory MPs? For LGBT voters, a Conservative/UKIP coalition would be even more repugnant, given the aforementioned toxic, unreconstructed racism, homophobia and transphobia of many UKIP parliamentary candidates and activists, mostly unchallenged by its leadership. Marriage equality may be repealed, and service provider discrimination legislation may be introduced, akin to that within some right-wing US states such as Indiana.

At present, the United Kingdom is governed by a coalition government between Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, themselves internally divided between social liberals and centre-right 'classical liberals.' It may have been under the influence of the latter that the Liberal Democrats entered coalition with the Conservatives, but it has cost them support amongst their formerly broad-based constituency. Social liberals dislike Tory austerity policies and benefit and social service cuts and have deserted the Liberal Democrats for Labour, the Greens and Scottish Nationalist Party (north of Hadrian's Wall). However, Cameron has been pragmatic enough to keep the Liberal Democrats onside with a half-hearted, weak 'electoral reform' referendum that pitted FPP against the weak, barely proportional electoral system known as the Alternative Vote (or Preferential Vote), used predominantly within Australia's federal and most state lower parliamentary chambers. More popularly, it also backed marriage equality. Although half of the Conservative caucus voted against marriage equality, Cameron and his core Tory allies tend to be centre-right social liberals and thus voted for it, along with most of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the sole UK Green MP, in Brighton. That said, it seems possible that the subsidence of the Liberal Democrat vote will lead to resurgence of the Labour oppositional vote against the Conservatives, although Labour may also lose votes in Scotland. Labour favours comprehensive, LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying legislation, the last frontier for LGBT rights within the United Kingdom.

At this point, there is another variable to consider within the uncertainty equation that currently describes British politics. During Tony Blair's term of office, one significant move to undo Margaret Thatcher's highly destructive centralist brand of authoritarian conservatism was devolution of some power to constituent elements of the United Kingdom, such as Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and London. In Scotland and Wales, this led to the rise of regional nationalist parties, Plaid Cymru in Wales and the Scottish Nationalist Party, whose ultimate objective used to secession from the perceived English-dominated United Kingdom. However, Scottish voters rejected that option in another referendum this term. However, there is a very real prospect that if there is another hung parliament without any single party majority, Labour and the Scottish Nationalists may end up in coalition, despite current Labour leader Ed Miliband's stance that this will not happen. This would be a positive development. In order to keep Scotland within the United Kingdom, concessions will have to be made on Scottish autonomy within the United Kingdom, as well as a written constitution. Which is where we come in, as well as other communities of interest within Scottish civil society, because the Scottish Nationalist Party is as progay and pro-inclusion as Labour, which may result in the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity within any such document. Moreover, it may not be restricted to Scotland. Given the dysfunctional nature of the Liberal Democrat coalition relationship with the Conservatives, they may also come onboard any such coalition, facilitating the aforementioned constitutional reform process.

The excellent, the bad and the ugly. Over the next month, I'll be covering whatever relevant aspects of the election debate emerge within the LGBT context.

Gay Times:
BBC News:

Craig Young - 2nd April 2015

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