Interesting times

Published in Editorial, Issue 4 (July/August 2015), Volume 23

editorRecent election results, both here and across the water, call to mind the apocryphal Chinese curse. Apart from the usual anomaly of the British electoral system’s ability to deliver decisive parliamentary majorities on a minority of the popular vote (less than 37% for the Conservatives in this case), the big story was the almost clean sweep of Scottish Nationalists north of the border (also on a minority of the vote, albeit larger). The issue of Scottish independence has clearly not gone away. Combined with the Conservatives’ promise to hold a referendum on EU membership by 2017, we now have a veritable Rubik’s Cube of possible combinations—a United Kingdom out of the EU, Scotland out of the UK but in the EU (or wanting to be), etc., etc.

Where does this leave Northern Ireland and the power-sharing structures so painstakingly put together over the past twenty years? To whom do unionists cleave if there is no Union? In contrast to the seismic shift in Scotland, the election results in Northern Ireland were depressingly familiar, with the politics of the sectarian headcount to the fore. One way or another, much of the political infrastructure across the water that people in Ireland took for granted for decades—in either supporting or opposing—is set to change radically. It will be interesting to see how the much-vaunted ‘mild British political temper’ (see Platform, pp 10–11) copes.

Does the recent 2:1 referendum vote in favour of same-sex marriage fall into the same destabilising category? At first glance, yes, especially from the point of view of NO voters. On reflection, however, it may be seen in years to come as a reaffirmation of ‘family values’, albeit with that heretofore conservative slogan turned on its head and with the family now defined in terms more in tune with the reality of society at large. The devil, of course, will be in the detail of legislation on the complex issues of surrogacy and adoption. We are in for interesting times indeed!

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