By Vijay Darda | 18-05-2015
Not many pollsters and pundits were willing to give another five-year term to prime minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party when the United Kingdom went to polls early this month. Indeed, the pre-poll collective wisdom was that the Tories would be thrown out of office, and the opposition Labour supported by like-minded parties would enter into a ruling coalition. However, the exit polls were on the dot predicting that Cameron would hold on to power for another five years. The immediate reaction from an opinionated press being: “Five more damned years?”
It is the victory of the right wing over the Left that is in sync with trends all across the globe. The electorate is rejecting the politics championed by the slogans like we shall help the poor. There was no resonance for the Labour challenger Ed Miliband’s claim made a week before the polls: “We’re fighting for a Britain where we reward the hard work of every working person, not just those who get the six figure bonuses in our country.”
In contrast Cameron was able to convince the voters that he would be able to build on the past successes of his government. “I’ve now laid my brick” he said before the vote while describing it as the biggest and most important election in a generation and predicting that the big payoff is yet to come for Britain as the country builds on the work he’s done.
True, the United Kingdom is no longer the great imperial power of the 20th century, when the sun never set on it. As the old timers moan, it does not have any place on the high table in the globe. Indeed, there are doubts if the United Kingdom would stay united for long, with the Scots straining at the leash and seeking independence. The impressive tally of the Scottish National Party (SNP) that clearly wiped off Labour from this erstwhile stronghold tells its own tale. The manner in which Mhairi Black, a 20-year-old politics student and the youngest ever to win since elections began in 1667, defeated Douglas Alexander, Labour’s election chief and a former cabinet minister, demonstrated the extent of party’s rout and the rise of the SNP. The nationalists also took the former labour prime minister Gordon Brown’s seat.
Now of course, analysts are pouring their eloquent analytical wisdom on what went wrong for the Labour, and there is strong criticism that Miliband did not look beyond his loyal 35 per cent vote. He was only content with the approval of the party and did not bother about the wider electorate. He was expected to stay with the centre, but then he moved to the left. But the man who is now almost unanimously credited with the Tory turnaround is Lynton Crosby, an Australian poll strategist who saved the Conservatives from themselves. The kind of hard work that he put into the campaign can be sampled from the fact that he sat in the middle of an office, where he was accessible to everyone “from intern to prime minister” calling every one ‘mate’ and holding his first meeting of the day at 5.45 am. The pieces of advice that flowed from him included gems such as “ignore the polls” and “stay out of national politics” to candidates while campaigning in their constituencies.
Cameron however, has a tough job on hand and the years ahead could see an alteration in the country’s relationship with the European Union, NATO and the United States. The boost for the Scottish National Party could fuel a fresh push for Scottish independence. Right now he has been asserting that the EU would remain intact, and a future referendum might even strengthen the relationship but the Euroskeptics also have a strong voice. Besides, there is no way of knowing in advance as to which way a poll would go in this political scenario.
For us Indians it does come as a source of lot of undisguised pleasure that our folks are making their presence felt on the erstwhile imperial power’s political landscape. So, when a Priti Patel hailed by the prime minister Cameron as Indian diaspora champion becomes a cabinet minister, there is a lot of vicarious satisfaction for us. The total tally of ten cutting across the Tory-Labour divide is fairly impressive, and speaks a lot for the manner in which our people have integrated themselves with the ruling elite of a land that ruled over us for more than 200 years. Some chest thumping and blowing of the trumpet is called for when names like Seema Malhotra, Virendra Sharma and Rishi Sunak (son-in-law of the famous IT czar Narayan Murthy) have the credentials and honour of members of the Parliament in United Kingdom. May be this is some form of revenge for the years of slavery and the domination that the earlier generations suffered.
At the bilateral level, it is London that is now eager to court New Delhi. The British companies are more than eager to participate in the development projects that the Modi government has to offer in the defence and infrastructure sectors in particular. The better Indian economy is expected to push a challenged British economy. This is a far cry from the patronizing attitude of the British when they used to run an aid-India programme that has run its course. India now looks forward to cooperation with stronger countries like America, Japan and China.
But the relationship goes back more than 400 years, and though it has its ups and downs, it always pays to play on the strengths of such bonds rather than let them wither away. Now that there is a certainty of government for the next five years in London, it follows axiomatically that New Delhi recalibrates it responses so as to strengthen the relationship in more meaningful ways.
Before I conclude…
The recent revelations from American journalist Seymour Hersh about Osama bin Laden vis-a-vis American government, Pakistan and the ISI links should open our eyes to the behind the scenes games that have a vital impact on our everyday lives. For one Hersh’s revelations are only an assertion of the widely held suspicion that Laden could not have stayed within 40 kilometres of the military academy without the knowledge of the Pakistan authorities. Whatever may be the truth, the fact that there is a narrative other than the one that has been officially sold to us, is enough to make us uncomfortable. It also makes it incumbent upon us to be prepared for such deceptions in future as well and build our strategies accordingly.