As 2010 draws to a close, it is perhaps more important to look ahead rather than to reflect. While 2010 has brought change, amply demonstrated the division, inequality and tension at the heart of the dated political construct that is ‘Britain’ and a series of fascinating events in our democracy, 2011 will be the year in which English and British people will have to fight harder than they have for a generation to protect what they believe in.
In terms of democratic activity, the referendum on the AV system will take place on the 5th May 2011. This laughable, bizarre and inappropriate electoral method is widely supported amongst Liberal Democrats, radical leftists and other people who reside in dreamworld. It is perhaps fitting that the official Electoral Commission website is riddled with grammatical inaccuracies in its explanation of this ludicrous ‘system’:
The votes are counted in stages. In the first round only first preferences are counted. If a candidate receives more than half of the valid votes cast, they are elected. If no candidate has received half of the votes cast, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and all of their votes are passed to the next preference on the ballot papers.
This process is repeated a candidate is been elected. If there is a tie at any stage then a candidate is selected by the drawing of lots.
Yes, you do read correctly. We could exchange a system which has returned Members to the House appropriately and logically for hundreds of years in favour of one that could in many cases lead to MPs taking their seats thanks to selecting a slightly longer piece of stick. Baffling, illogical and patently unfair. That is quite aside from all the other valid arguments posited on the matter. Fully representative parliamentary democracy came at a phenomenal price to our ancestors: we would be paying a heavier price still if we do not defend it from the vain and the arrogant.
It may be the case that the first examples of the (either conscious or unwitting) defence of the nation take place at the Local Government Elections, which will also take place on 5th May. Already, we see the manifestation of a party’s contempt for its supporters, as some reports posit that UKIP have overtaken the Liberal Democrats in Wales, of all places. We should be prepared to see a changed political landscape at local level, if nowhere else.
Aside from politics – though it will undoubtedly be manipulated or capitalised upon for political ends – is the royal wedding of His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales and Miss Kate Middleton on Friday 29th April next year. It is sure to be a joyous occasion, and if trends around Europe are to be believed, may see a spike in the popularity of the Royal Family. The Royals have seen something of a rise in their popularity this year as it is, particularly in light of Her Majesty’s full agreement in a budget freeze for the coming year; an act that stood in stark contrast to the public perception of the greed of bankers. However, in spite of the couple’s very modest aspirations and intentions for married life, they will undoubtedly come under attack from left-wing zealots and idealogues. It would be worth those on the right establishing the many benefits of the Monarchy. There is no more effective way to do this than to demonstrate their intrinsic importance to our democracy, as amply demonstrated by revelations about Gordon Brown reported in the Guardian.
However, at every turn we are reminded of the hardships inflicted upon English people by the inequality of devolution. This year’s principle turning point has been the march of students against higher tuition fees, and whilst many of those who marched may have been unaware of the finer points of the agreement and ignorant of the fact that it was unrepresented English people who would suffer from this laughable ‘compromise’, they went some way to highlighting the effects of devolution. It was plainly obvious for the first time that a party whose elected majority was overwhelmingly in one of the Home Nations, yet insufficient in other constituent Nations, would be duty bound to compromise and cede huge amounts of ground to those Nations in order to sustain power across the Union. If more people were made aware that these kinds of rulings were taking place across the board thanks to the less-than-illustrious Barnett formula, the political sphere of the nation of England would be permanently transformed for the better. We must make our voices louder and be more determined to demonstrate to our fellow Englanders that we are being exploited under the present system, and seek to extol the virtues of the alternatives. Namely, an English Parliament.
It will be all the more fitting in this context to amplify some of the outlandish claims that will no doubt be banded around by sabre-rattling SNP and Labour Members of the Scottish Parliament in advance of the Scottish Parliamentary elections – also on 5th May. We must watch closely to determine the intended political aims of the MSPs for their next four-year tenure, as theirs, despite being politically separate through sustained will, are inexorably still linked with those of English Nationalists. Failure, or success, for one political party could result in a key turning-point in England as well.
All these aspects are without taking into account the effect of the spending cuts on employment statistics, the MoD and the economy, or the effects of change in schools brought about by the new Government, the continued threat of terrorism, the ever-encroaching EU, the apparent impotence of Her Majesty’s Opposition, or even the ability of the Coalition to sustain itself in its first full year.
We move on to a year that will undoubtedly prove to be of fundamental importance to the future of England and Britain. We must endeavour to arm ourselves and aspire to the standards of the Knight in the old hymn:
Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed
‘Gainst the dragons of anger, the ogres of greed;
And let me set free with the sword of my youth,
From the castle of darkness, the power of the truth.