This is from my article on the British general election published in the International New York Times, 8 May 2015:

Before the election, with most commentators expecting an indecisive result, there was widespread discussion about the issue of legitimacy: Would a minority government, or a coalition of disparate parties, have a genuine mandate to govern? Thursday’s result may have prevented the feared constitutional wrangling, but it has raised deeper questions of legitimacy.


‘I want to reclaim the mantle that we should never have lost’, Prime Minister David Cameron told fellow Conservatives Thursday night, ‘the mantle of one nation, one United Kingdom.’ But no party can any longer claim that mantle. Over recent decades, support for all the major parties has geographically fragmented.


Whatever Mr Cameron’s desire, the Conservatives no longer constitute a ‘one nation’ party. It is effectively the party of England, and more especially of southern England. From the 1930s to the 1950s, the Conservatives were the dominant force in Scotland, winning more than half the votes in some elections. As late as 1992, the party took more than a quarter of the votes and held 11 seats there. In this Parliament, as in the last, there is just one Scottish Conservative member.


The Labour Party possesses even less of a national presence. From being the prevailing political force in Scotland, it has been all but wiped out, retaining, like the Conservatives, just one seat. And in England, it has been forced back into its heartlands in London, the Midlands and the North. Even here, it now faces a new threat. The populist anti-immigration, anti-European U.K. Independence Party polled strongly in many traditional Labour areas in the north of England and even in Wales. Come the next election, it may well challenge Labour in these constituencies.

Read the full article in the INYT.


  1. opalescent

    Kenan, your The Quest for a Moral Compass clearly shows the tendencies we, as a species, have always exhibited: there are Traditionalists and Rationalists, with the minor parties of Self-Interest, Whatever, and Huh?
    By the way, was it not noted that the SNP and the Bloc Quebecois of Canada were in an active conversation? The roadmap was given to SNP and they followed it very well. That road does go beyond this first step.
    Also of interest, Canada’s current PM, Conservative Harper, last won a majority with about 39% of the votes. Hmm. Perhaps the Bloc were not the only instructors on the plane.
    Were I to have access to the wealth of Koch, perhaps I, too, could develop a fractal maths-based algorithm for the benefit of political parties wandering in the old-growth wilderness of simple politics-for-the-people.

  2. There are more proximate causes as well. The Conservatives appealed to a specifically English nationalism, with one of their star performers, the probable future party leader Boris Johnson, referring to an expected tacit understanding between Labour and the Scottish Nationalists (SNP) as “Jockocalypse now”. Labour, for its part, allowed the Conservatives to define it, and leant over backwards to dissociate themselves from any such prospect, to such good effect that roughly a third of the Scottish electorate switched from having supported Labour in 2010 to SNP.

    And more general causes, echoed across Europe. SNP outflanked Labour to the left, promising to abandon Britain’s expensive and pointless separate nuclear weapons system, and suggesting, much as Keynes would have done, that the right policy in a recession is to grow your way out of it by job creation. Labour was vulnerable here, as indeed it was in the previous (2010) UK general election, because of its own acceptance of anti-deficit policies despite their social destructiveness. I am reminded of the collapse of PaSoc in Greece, while UKIP, with its nativism, incompletely concealed racism, and policies of abolishing benefits and replacing the National Health Service with private insurance, invites comparison with the far right-wing parties of the same European Union that it would like the UK to leave.

  3. Fiona

    It’s taken me a while to comment on this Kenan. I’m too close to it and have been for most of my life. My family were part of the old lefist tradition of home rule in Scotland. This was an existential self-determination they hankered for. After the first referendum I realised as a youngster that a lot of Scots (roughly half of us), didn’t share this existential stance. I was given some sage advice by my old english teacher (he might be the same one Sturgeon had, who was a Labour man). He told me that for all the blustering Labour had taken to about ‘nasty nationalists’ – both Scottish and British nationalism were essentially existentialist stances and could not be looked at in the same way as a moral imperative. You may argue for the redistribution of wealth as a moral imperativve – but the boundaries of state? In the end, and I came to agree with him, ot all comes down to numbers.There are not enough existential nationalists in Scotland to make it work on this basis, not at the moment. My daughter who has only known Scotland with a devolved parliament and increasing European integrationI, tells me things are changing and I am out of touch. I left the SNP and stopped thinking about politics for a long time. As an older person and a Scottish Green, I was asked to join the camp of utilitarian nationalism – and after much agonizing, did so and voted yes. If Scotland is to become a part of Europe without the intermediary of the UK government I can only hope that the end result justifies the upset and that we can reach a good, constructive equilibrium.

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