UK election result 2017: Why a hung parliament is good news from Britain

A multi-party government can ensure against Britain pandering to any erratic and unhelpful global order.

opinion Updated: Jun 09, 2017 16:44 IST
Krittivas Mukherjee
Krittivas Mukherjee
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UK election,UK election result 2017,Hung parliament
A demonstrator wears a mask depicting Britain's Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party Theresa May, poses with a mock gravestone bearing the words "Hard Brexit, RIP", during a protest photocall near the entrance 10 Downing Street in central London.(AFP Photo)

There are no visible winners from the British election. Except the British people.

For the voters, the election was about Britain’s future in the European Union, about its embrace of the free market, about pensions and housing, health and affordable education. It was also a measure of how far down right the country would go in the face of repeated terrorist attacks and growing anti-immigrant chatter from the ruling Conservatives.

Insofar as returning a divided mandate Britain has shown it was unwilling – just like France a month ago – to give up on its reputation for optimism, fairness and the spirit of enlightenment for a dark, pessimistic, xenophobic nation with a diminished relationship with the world.

For that alone the British people deserve the global applause Americans could have earned had they been more discerning when it came to electing Donald Trump as president.

In the run up to the election, it was easy for Britain to slip into a society closing in on itself rather than staying open.

It was a society torn over the referendum to leave the European Union. The economy looked uncertain, business confidence was hit, the pound traded 15% lower to the US dollar since the referendum and the wage-inflation gap was narrowing, signalling an income squeeze.

Then came the terrorist attacks, three deadly strikes over as many months that led Prime Minister Theresa May to speak of “far too much tolerance of extremism in our country”.

All this was the perfect grist for the mill for the narrative of fear-mongering, persecution and xenophobia that was used to fuel the rise of the far-right in many other parts of the world.

If it doesn’t descend into a coalition of chaos over complex policy decisions such as Brexit, a multi-party government can ensure against Britain pandering to any erratic and unhelpful global order.

Should May continue as prime minister in such a coalition, her political partners would be loath to support her idea of a special relationship with the United States or undermine any policy of social coherence focused on upholding human rights.

As for Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong anti-war campaigner who is May’s rival for the top job, he is known for calls to end “unilateral aggressive wars of intervention” and refusal to “scapegoat” migrants.

In politics, a landslide victory often triggers the tyranny of totalitarianism. That’s why the British election mandate may not be all that bad.

First Published: Jun 09, 2017 16:26 IST