Ruth's Diary


Yesterday, the UK had a National Election. When the last one happened 5 years ago, I had imagined that, 5 years ahead, I would write a very long, in-depth entry talking about the successes and failures of our coalition government. Trouble is, for most of the time I've honestly been out of the country so...I honestly don't believe I have a very good insight into their government, their policies, impact and effect on local life. There are some key things I am aware of, but the reason politics interests me so much is because big decisions are often connected with the nitty-gritty.

Said nitty-gritty I am not completely aware of. But I will say this: the only reason the coalition could even keep together, was leadership. Clegg and Cameron kept their roles and showed leadership for the entire 5 years, which is impressive, but I do believe is partly down to their mutual respect (dare I say friendship?) towards each other. Considering stories came out about how the pair were often dealing with internal cabinet squabbles that erupted along party lines...well, those stories just made me cringe. The entire point of a coalition is that people set aside their ideologies and party lines in the spirit of cooperation; so in that regard, the coalition government can be considered an unfortunate failure, as well as an unfortunate representation of British politics: truly bitter, confrontational and fractured.

That David Cameron's first speech as Prime Minister involved him publicly thanking Nick Clegg only seems to prove my musings. It's also the one singular bright spot - friendships really can form in British politics.

As I am an expat, I was delighted to discover how easy it was to register for an overseas postal vote. So then...who to choose? Honestly, my main priority was not necessarily policy, but who could I elect that would be competent? And so I had my dilemma: while visiting for Easter, Nathan talked about some of the key policies of the Green Party, which I found myself liking despite not agreeing 100% (although when it comes to political parties, you never truly can). I have to say, the Greens produced one of the nicest election manifestoes I had seen in a long time. They were frank and honest, with their goals and aims stated but no false promises or magic-waving (aka. stating they will do an action without specifying how they will achieve it). Also, out of the UK-wide parties it was only the Green manifesto that had a section specifically devoted to the topic of defence and military spending.

So if I really liked the party and manifesto, you might ask, where was my dilemma? Simple. My constituency MP, Tom Brake, is very competent, capable and dedicated. I can pretty much single him out as the reason the Liberal Democrats got my support in the first place (that their policy lines matched my centrist view of issues was a bonus). Plus, while the Lib Dem manifesto came across as trying slightly too hard, they actually bothered to justify the reasons for their aims and goals (such as connecting social services more closely with the NHS, as well as highlighting the need for more mental health resources). So I voted for Mr Brake and was very happy to see him keep his seat.

I was then shocked to discover he is the only Lib Dem MP representing a seat in all of London. June, my best friend, lives in the next constituency over, where Paul Burstow of the Lib Dems was defeated by a Tory candidate.

At this moment I can't help but think of what kind of election this was. The last election had tons of electricity in the air. There was plenty of excitement in the lead-up to the election and more excitement over a week afterwards! When the exit poll showed likelihood of a Hung Parliament, my housemates and I were jumping for joy at the prospect of a coalition government. (Maybe not literally.) This time...the entire election feels a lot more boring and low key. I also feel a lot more tactical voting took place. The SNP stole nearly all the seats away from Labor and the Lib Dems in Scotland, which indicates an entire nation desperate for change of some sort within the political elites. And I'm not just talking about Scotland, frankly the entire UK want it. The problem is, the English are more likely to vote towards cynicism than the Scottish idealists, so I couldn't help notice their votes were tallied in order to keep out the parties they trusted the least. UKIP only got one seat, although I was startled by the increase of their vote share even within my constituency. So yeah, a lot of people wanted it made known they wanted a referendum on EU membership. In the meanwhile, a lot more of the Conservative voting base wanted to avoid any chances of another coalition whatsoever, it seemed, so having a majority Tory government seemed somehow more appealing to them. Probably because they will get things done with less hassle that way. That would be just one of a list of reasons why the Lib Dems lost that many seats.

Understandably, Nick Clegg announced his resignation as Lib Dem leader. Under such failure, so he should. But does this mean Sheffield Hallam will have a bi-election? He is still the local MP, after all. I'm so happy Ed Miliband stepped down. Part of the reason that Labor didn't get a majority (I opine) is that no one trusted him with either the economy or leading the country. Did anyone really want Ed Miliband being the face of our country to the world? I'd sooner pick Harriet Harman!

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