May 12, 2015 Abdul Haqq

Better the Devil You Know?

The May 2015 election win for the Conservatives surprised many, with David Cameron emerging as the undisputed champion in the political arena.[1] The subsequent resignation from three of the leading political parties leaves him as the undisputed political leader following their election defeats. [2]  It would not be amiss to liken Cameron from a political standpoint to another recent ‘champion’ – Floyd Mayweather Jnr – who defeated Manny Pacquiao to assert his position as the undefeated and undisputed boxing champion of the world. [3]   In fact, it now appears that Miliband, Clegg and Farage were actually pretenders to the crown.

Although having a slim majority, the Conservative party no longer has to concern itself with pandering to the demands of a smaller coalition partner as it had done previously for 5 years. It can, to a greater extent, be the author of its own (mis)fortune. Theresa May, who remains home secretary, has been quick to revisit the controversial Communications Data Bill or, ‘Snoopers’ Charter,’ in an effort to pass through legislation that will cause a further infringement of rights to those it is arguably aimed at targeting: Muslim communities. She will have undoubtedly celebrated  Nick Clegg’s failure to get reelected in view of his previous opposition to her attempts to introduce this as a new law while serving as deputy prime minister in the recent coalition government. [4]

With the other major parties politically weakened by this defeat and subsequent resignations, what are the societal implications of a Conservative government? We only have to look at how the previous one fared between the 80s and mid-90s to get a glimpse of what may be in store.

Thatcherism became the political ideology that polarised society for many years afterwards. Admittedly, some progressive policies emerged from Margaret Thatcher’s leadership like the ‘right to buy’ scheme for council tenants.[5] Policies introducing schemes like this that directly impacted many among the working classes, enabling them to climb the first rung of the property market, are among the positive legacies left by that government. The emergence of young upwardly mobile professionals (Yuppies) during the 80s was another positive societal development under the Thatcherite government. [6]  While a few die-hard conservatives will continue to laud that particular era, we cannot forget the darker legacy of Thatcherism:  the Brixton [7], Tottenham (Broadwater Farm) [8] and Toxteth [9] riots, the unions and miners’ strikes, Stephen Lawrence’s murder and the subsequent Macpherson Report that identified ‘institutionalised racism’. [10]  Added to this, soaring unemployment and the rictus gap between working and middle classes exposed the economic, social and regional divide that was exacerbated by the government during that period.

In light of the above observations, some questions for the existing Conservative government should be asked:

  1. Has the institutionalised racism of the 80s been replaced with institutionalised Islamophobia – especially the type witnessed by Michael Gove during his tenure as former education secretary?
  2. Will the potentially new ‘Snooper’s Charter’, alongside recent changes to the ‘Stop and Search’ legislation,[11] form the basis of a new type of ‘Suss’ law (used in the 80s against black communities) [12] and instead, target Muslim communities?
  3. Will the crass definition of non-violent extremism be widened even further beyond its current scope to marginalise an even wider section of Muslims who, while adhering to socially conservative values, are clear about their British identity and positively contribute towards society?

 

Undoubtedly, this particular government aspires to introduce a few policies that aim to benefit poorer elements of society as well as the more affluent. Its manifesto enabling housing association tenants to purchase their homes resembles that of its conservative predecessor.[13]  The party has also been good for business, so much so that even Lord Alan Sugar resigned from the Labour party following their election defeat due to the party’s ‘anti-enterprise’ policies.[14]

Scaremongering tactics formed part of the Conservative party’s election campaign. However, this has  also been a strategy used  previously by Labour warning voters against choosing the Conservative party. Their premise was for the electorate to:  ‘Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.’ Clearly, the warning went unheeded on this occasion. Therefore, the only conclusion to draw from this is that, for the majority of Britons, it has been a case of ‘better the devil you know’ in view of the other leading parties’ inability to convince us that they could provide a better alternative to what is currently on offer.

 

[1] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/05/cloneof150507072231217-150508045508423.html

[2] http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2015/05/08/uk-elections-conservative-party-on-course-to-unexpectedly-win-majority.html

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/sport/live/2015/may/02/floyd-mayweather-v-manny-pacquiao-mgm-las-vegas-live

[4] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/generalelection/snoopers-charter-theresa-mays-plan-to-push-ahead-with-communications-data-bill-sparks-online-campaign-for-internet-freedom-10239945.html

[5] http://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2013/apr/17/margaret-thatcher-legacy-housing-crisis

[6] http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=yuppie

[7] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2008/dec/17/brixton-riots-exhibition

[8] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-26362633

[9] http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/jul/03/toxteth-liverpool-riot-30-years

[10] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/277111/4262.pdf

[11] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/stop-and-search-theresa-may-announces-reform-of-police-stop-and-search

[12]http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/documents/raceinbritain/ehrc_stop_and_search_report.pdf

[13] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/apr/14/tory-election-manifesto-right-to-buy-housing-association-properties

[14] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/alan-sugar-has-quit-the-labour-party-because-he-thinks-its-antibusiness-10241325.html

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