As the election results become clearer in the (dis)United Kingdom I feel obliged to prepare a summing up of some kind which will make sense to my friends here in Munich.
I shall ask them to imagine Merkel's conservative CDU with just enough seats to govern alone without a coalition partner. Imagine a weakened SDP with only two-thirds as many parliamentarians. Okay so far? But then imagine the next largest party in the Bundestag is one which strives for independence from the Federal Republic, desires above all to be a separate nation! Imagine this third force having the exceptionalist passion and self-confidence of the Bavarians, but with a progressive, innovative and liberal agenda and that this party has just won almost every single seat in the State.
There will be shaking of heads!
Some random paragraphs from the Quartz newsfeed on Saturday:
- Though it failed to secure independence for Scotland last year, the Scottish National Party swept to an unprecedented victory north of the border, winning 56 of a possible 59 seats at Westminster. Labour increased its vote share but lost seats; the Liberal Democrats lost not only votes, but so many seats that the party was almost extinguished in Parliament. The Green Party, which won only slightly fewer total votes than the SNP, and the anti-immigrant, euro-skeptic UK Independence Party—which won nearly three times as many—each took just one seat. And despite a surge in votes for smaller parties, the ruling Conservatives won the clear majority they had failed to secure at the last election.
- If the surprise Tory victory in the UK election bolsters the debate about a potential British exit from the European Union, there is going to be at least one member of the opposition with a highly personal stake in the outcome—newly-elected Labor MP Stephen Kinnock is married to Denmark’s prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
- If the argument against Britain’s exit is that Europe’s social and political ties will outweigh economic strains and nationalist politics, Thorning-Schmidt and Kinnock are a tangible example of the continent’s integration. As is queen Elizabeth II, it should be noted. The UK monarch descends from the German House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, part of the UK’s long tradition of importing European royalty to head its monarchy. Elizabeth’s own great-grandmother was a Danish princess.