The people who will suffer most from economic meltdown likely to follow from the UK election will be the country’s poorest and most vulnerable as funds dry up for public services, jobs disappear as firms move to the EU and as the UK’s international reputation for sound, stable government that attracts investors plummets.
Politicians on TV programmes were so shocked by the result of the British General Election that a number of them resorted to poetry to make sense of the chaos of a hung Parliament eleven days before the Brexit negotiations begin. What flitted through my numbed mind were the words of the Earl of Gloucester in King Lear: As flies to wanton boys (and this case, girls) are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport. The hoped-for large majority by PM May’s cynically calling a General Election while having a 21-point lead over Labour to allow her to wag her finger more vigorously at EU politicians during the Brexit negotiations has been shattered by her hubris. There are now calls for her to resign – even from within the Conservative Party.
The Tories could conceivably form a Government if Ulster’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) supported them. It is the main Loyalist Party in Northern Ireland although it is in a tussle with Sinn Féin, the Irish nationalists, over a corruption scandal which has caused the Northern Irish Assembly to be stymied with no resolution in sight in which case the Westminster Parliament could take over control. Try that in Scotland!
The price for DUP support which campaigned on being kingmakers at Westminster would be a softer Brexit than May wants, a seamless border with Ireland (which could mean not being able to stop the free movement of people in the UK as a whole) and a ‘no surrender’ policy to any closer union with the Republic. They would sadly bring sectarianism right into the heart of UK politics.
Alternatively, Labour could make a deal with the SNP which lost seats from its nigh-obliteration of all other parties in the 2015 Scottish election but is still the largest party in Scotland with the greatest number of seats (35 – more than all the other parties put together) and votes though you wouldn’t know that by reading the Unionist press in Scotland.
The SNP accused Labour’s Corbyn of being a ‘magpie’ by stealing the SNP’s policies on free student fees, taxation and much else so an agreement short of a coalition is possible though other parties such as the Greens and Plaid Cymru would also have to be part of the mix. The fly in the ointment is Scottish Labour which would be would be furious with a gap appearing between Scottish Labour Leader, Kezia Dugdale and Jeremy Corbyn over a second independence referendum.
If May is ousted, Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, is the likely successor. His idea of being a politician is to act the jolly, buffoon-like character he acted out when a boy on the green cricket fields of Eton, a farce that would not have been possible just a few years ago but in the LaLaLand of current UK politics anything is possible.
Meanwhile, across the Channel where the EU negotiators have agreement about their stances with Brexit from all remaining 26 members and are champing at the bit to go now don’t even know which party will represent the UK across the green felt of the negotiating table – with the clock ticking away. Carl Bildt, co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations, called the election result “messy for the United Kingdom in the years ahead” while EU Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt from tiny Belgium, called the result “another own goal” which would make the “complex negotiations even more complicated”. May, named by Germany’s ‘Der Spiegel’ not the ‘Iron (‘eiserne’) Lady’ but the ‘Wobbly (‘eiernde’) Lady’, is now regarded by the EU as a busted flush. Some people in the EU will feel sadness for the UK, some schadenfreude after all the insults from May and her Cabinet but in this mirk only one thing is clear – the UK is in for a hammering by the EU. The people who will suffer most from economic meltdown will be the UK’s poorest and most vulnerable as funds dry up for public services, jobs disappear as firms move to the EU and as the UK’s international reputation for sound, stable government that attracts investors plummets.
Duncan MacLaren is an Adjunct Professor of Australian Catholic University (ACU) but writes in a personal capacity from Glasgow.