Sunday, April 26, 2015

How Boris could be PM by Christmas

I wrote this last December for the Express & Star. Though UKIP will get fewer seats, the Lib Dems more and we probably won't win the Ashes or the World Cup, you never know....

Looking back on 2014 is all very well but what about looking back on 2015? As Charles Dickens might have said: ‘2015? It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’
England winning the rugby world cup and regaining the Ashes were, without a doubt, the highlights of a year when the country’s past glories were proudly displayed for all to see.
Unfortunately, though, both the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta reminded us of what we have lost.
Waterloo was a famous victory over the French – the very people who, for most of 2015, were making life as difficult as possible for our various Governments to re-negotiate a deal on membership of the European Union.
And Magna Carta, the basis of our civil liberties and freedoms, was also the basis of our democracy. But what a terrible year for democracy it has been.
With no work to do, our MPs spent the first four months of 2015 going round the country ‘stirring up apathy’, as ex-Home Secretary Lord Whitelaw once said.
Most of us were bored to death of the General Election long before polling day yet, as predictions of the outcome grew more and more uncertain, the manic politicking of all the parties grew more intense by the day.
Finally polling day arrived. UKIP did not do as well as some people expected but still picked up 10 seats. Nigel Farage became an MP. The Lib-Dems did as badly as everyone hoped and were reduced to 14 MPs while the Greens gained three.
Most shocking of all was that the Scottish Nationalists won 45 seats, compared with just six in 2010.
After days of uncertainty, excitement in the ‘Westminster village’ and a certain detached curiosity among the rest of the country, the SNP leader Alex Salmond emerged as the power-broker.
After some bad-tempered negotiations with Ed Balls, Mr Salmond agreed the SNP would prop up a minority Labour Government.
He became Deputy Prime Minister and Ed Miliband tried to form a Government.
Labour’s leader did make it through the doors of Number Ten but his triumph didn’t last long.
Though Labour was shored up by the SNP and the three Green MPs, the new coalition was struggling from Day One.
Collapse was inevitable. And though this had been central to the SNP’s demands, Mr Miliband discovered his backbone and refused to allow Mr Salmond to hold a new in-out referendum on Scottish independence.
So the Queen – who this year became Britain’s longest-serving Monarch, beating Queen Victoria’s record – was forced to intervene. She asked new Tory leader Boris Johnson to try to form a Government.
He immediately abandoned David Cameron’s election pledge to hold an EU referendum – ‘the time is not right,’ he said – and persuaded new Lib-Dem leader Danny Alexander to form another Tory coalition.
UKIP at first refused to join but then Boris made Nigel Farage Minister for Europe so he pledged to vote in support of Mr Johnson’s Government.
The Unionist parties from Northern Ireland also signed up on condition there was more money for Ulster.
This uneasy and fragmented arrangement only lasted until the party conference season when it became clear supporters of both the Lib-Dems and UKIP were outraged by the turn of events.
Yet there was no easy way to call another General Election, thanks to ex-MP Nick Clegg’s introduction of fixed-term, five-year parliaments when he was Deputy PM.
The rules said there had to be a vote in the Commons requiring two-thirds of all MPs to support calling an election. At the first attempt, there was chaos as the Conservatives, with 251 MPs, refused to vote to dissolve Parliament.
This condemned Boris Johnson to struggling on without a majority and when MPs rejected his much-delayed Budget in November, there was a motion of no-confidence passed in the Government which, 14 days later, triggered the General Election.
Even that was controversial. Britain’s politicians went into Christmas 2015 in a state of high anxiety. The next election is due to be held on Thursday, January 7, 2016.
As a result, politicians are spending the entire festive period campaigning for votes.
Everyone who hopes to get away from all that political unpleasantness for a couple of weeks over the Christmas and New Year period has been disappointed.
Some MPs were even out knocking on people’s doors on Christmas Day itself. One Labour MP was mistaken for Father Christmas though she later denied she was as fat as all that and said her beard was actually a scarf.
As we look forward to 2016, we can at least comfort ourselves with the knowledge that, while one way or another we have not had an effective Government for the whole 12 months, life carries on as normal.
Perhaps the best thing to say about 2015 is that we never really had a Government at all – and nobody noticed.