9 Apr 2015

Election 2015: Political exuberance in Scotland, indecision and indifference elsewhere

One thing is clear in this otherwise somewhat indistinct General Election – a very different and considerably more vibrant contest is being fought in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK.

Those of us who were in Scotland during the independence referendum campaign experienced an intoxicating exuberance and a depth of commitment and understanding on both sides that none of us had seen in more than a generation anywhere else in Britain.

My own conclusion was that the driving force for this lay in the scale of widespread alienation from Westminster which was felt right across Scotland.

Among those disaffected, some argued that it could be resolved by the granting of maximum devolution, others by independence itself from the rest of the UK. One thing’s for certain – everyone there appreciated being given the choice.

That alienation from politics and from Westminster is widely detectable across England now. But there is no focus for it. The state of the conduct of politics at Westminster, as yet, is not a declared issue. Indeed there are many in all parties who, however reluctantly, candidly admit that coalition government has been a success in a technical sense.

The problem is that even in the new era of coalition, many are still questioning how inflexible and fit for purpose Westminster has proved to be.

Our political make-up has changed, but our Parliamentary system has not.

So many of the big political stories of the past five years – the rise of Ukip, the surge in membership among the Greens, and of course the #indyref – have happened outside of the bubble.

Multi party politics fought out in a Commons and Lords designed for two party politics have arguably failed to engage the public in the same way. Increasingly, the antediluvian activities glimpsed online and on television inside Parliament appear further and further removed from our present day lives.

Digital activity – consultation, voting, and the rest appear all but absent. Where else in the world does a legislative body take fully twenty minutes to conduct a simple vote? How many person hours are spent doing this dozens of times a month?

Then there is the human make up of Parliament, which still has not changed to reflect the society in which most of us mix.

The staggering statistic that only 370 women have ever sat in the Commons since 1918, says it all. There are few ethnic minorities represented either.

And then there is the House of Lords.

It’s heading for 900 members, a significant number of whom happen to have donated money to the parties. There are ninety who got their by dint of who their father was.

And then there are those who were persuaded to relinquish their seats in the Commons in return for a seat in the Lords.

Finally there is the virtual automaticity of elevation for virtually anyone who has served as a Minister – whether they were good or bad in office. It hardly chimes with times we live in.

I suspect in the end that voters do not have memories as short as many politician might hope.

They remember that the two largest parties voted for war; both allowed light touch regulation in the city; both outsourced vital public services to private conglomerates who have frequently fallen down on the job.

How significant are the daily back-and-forth rows over tax and spending by comparison?

Is it any wonder that the polls display indecision, confusion, and little clear water between either of the big parties?

Follow @jonsnowC4 on Twitter

Tweets by @jonsnowC4