It was known in advance that this year would see three, possibly four major European elections. It was not expected that the upcoming British general election would be among them. After all, they went to the polls two years ago and delivered a majority Conservative government, and then again last year to decide whether or not to leave the European Union, the result of which forced the Conservatives to change their leader and cabinet. Theresa May, playing the role of ‘last man standing’, promised upon her election to the leadership by Conservative MPs that she would not go to the polls again. Overandover, she promised that she would not have another election, because Britain needed stability.
Then, in April, she called a snap poll, set for early June. Officially, it’s also for stability. Given that directly contradicts her stated reason for not going to an election, it seems more likely that it has to do with the investigation into Conservative Party expenditure during the 2015 election, which may well have necessitated multiple by-elections. Losing those by-elections would have made a slim majority even slimmer, and make her government even more susceptible to backbenchers crossing the floor. So, here we are. (As an aside, it also seems likely the Conservatives really, really wanted to wait until the new electoral boundaries were put in the place next year before having an election, which reduces the Commons by 50 seats. Most of the seats being taken away are in Labour areas.)
The first of the big European elections of 2017 is here, and it’s promising to tell us…very little. The governing coalition of Mark Rutte’s Liberals and Lodewijk Asscher’s Labour are not going to be able to form government again, but at least one and possibly both may be part of a governing coalition. Welcome, then, to the most pure proportional electoral system in the world, where 0.67% of the vote will usually get you a seat in parliament.
For all the battering that received political wisdom got in 2016, it still has its uses.
The lead-up to the Western Australian state election has felt a bit like going back in time, all the way back to a decade ago. Then, as now, state politics are less important than they used to be, with the federal government vacuuming up revenue and powers from the states, leaving them on the edge of irrelevance. But one effect of this is that federal politics has come to an almost complete standstill, with the sheer numbers of important issues piling up, and the capacity of any government to make changes in any of them decreasing. This, however, has freed up state politics to continue being about ‘the issues’ (mostly), even though the importance of those issues is not as great as it used to be.
The Australian government has been in a state of paralysis for some time, across both major parties, because any real movement one way or the other on the vast array of ‘big issues’ it can now legislate on is likely to be met with absolute fury and, therefore, a loss at the next election, which always seems just around the corner – particularly in the modern, worldwide political environment, which is happy to throw the established order of things out the window. At state level, though, ‘big issues’ are no longer at play. The kind of things that are driving people to vote against the liberal order in national elections are not able to do the same as state level, because the states aren’t really able to do much about it. Conventional wisdom is therefore thrown a lifeline at this election which, I must admit, makes it a bit less interesting, but without the dull elections we wouldn’t be able to tell when a truly extraordinary election is taking place.
How many words can be written about the 2016 United States presidential election that have not already been said? America’s penchant for long political campaigns often feels at least a little bit ridiculous, but conventional political wisdom has been totally thrown out the window over the past eighteen months. Within that time, billionaire businessman Donald Trump has gone from being ridiculed and joked about for running any kind of political campaign, to being within reach of being the next president of the United States. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has gone from being The Chosen One to looking seriously vulnerable. What we have now is a contest that is repeatedly being labelled ‘too close to call’, which is normally an annoying phrase that feeds the media narrative of a horse-race that doesn’t end up reflecting reality, but in this election may actually be true.
Such an election is worthy of a in-depth preview, and that is what I shall strive to give you here. …