The British general election of 2015 is almost upon us and never has an outcome been as unpredictable or of more relevance to British expats.
Labour and Conservatives alternate weekly for first place in the polls with UKIP running third and the Greens recently overtaking the LibDems at fourth. A week may be a long time in politics but not even the weeks leading to polling day on May 5th will be enough to overturn the fact that no party can realistically hope for a clear majority. The next government will either be another coalition or a hung parliament.
Boris Johnson Photo: Colin BlackwellThe situation isn’t helped by continued disillusionment with mainstream politicians, which haven’t changed much since the Daily Telegraph blew the lid off the expenses scandal in 2009. Westminster is still good at keeping other lids on though. The findings of the Chilcot Inquiry, launched in 2009 about the invasion in Iraq, inexplicably won’t be released until after the election.
Recent revelations that “unnatural sex” took place in Whitehall, which Margaret Thatcher is thought to have known about at the time, raises morality issues.
As sitting PM, David Cameron has the most to lose from televised debates, and wishes, much like the scandals, they’d just disappear. At first he claimed he “won’t attend” unless the Greens were also invited. An obvious manoeuvre that he hoped would endear him to the Green Party or shelve the debates – or both. No such luck. The Greens are now participating, as are Plaid Cymru and the SNP, who are expected to take most of the Scottish seats to the great displeasure of Labour.
One contender who won’t be invited to debate is the stereotypical right-wing British “Pub Landlord” Al Murray, who says he’ll run as the FUKP (Free United Kingdom Party) candidate against Nigel Farage in the South Thanet constituency, which the comic admits he “doesn’t know where it is.”
Farage immediately welcomed a fellow beer-swiller to the race with an offhand “at last some serious competition”, but perhaps he should be more worried. Like the French comic Coluche long before him, this unlikely but popular contender is a lot brighter than he looks (he read Modern History at Oxford) and could collect somewhat of a protest vote. Murray’s comedy routines and political lampooning are caustic enough to strike home with many, especially his claim that “the good people of this country have been given the run-around for too long”. He can’t hope for anything other than a token score but the votes he steals would probably come from unaligned voters and UKIPers.
However, like Coluche, Murray is far more likely to stand down well before the election, although not before exposing a few embarrassing realities about British politics.
Naturally, the particular relevance of this election for British expats stems from David Cameron’s promise of a post-election referendum on “Brexit” – Britain’s possible exit from the EU that so worries UK business leaders. Britain overtaking France to become the world’s fifth largest economy gets praise from IMF president Christine Lagarde but the applause would soon fade if faced with a economically catastrophic “yes” vote.
British expats can register as an overseas voter for up to 15 years after leaving the UK, as long as they are a British citizen and were registered to vote in the UK within the previous 15 years (or were too young to have registered when they left the UK, in which case their parent or guardian must have been registered).
And yet, according to the David Cameron, “Of the five million British people living abroad, virtually none are registered to vote – despite the fact it’s now simple to do online. In fact, it only takes 5 minutes to sign up for a postal vote.”