„The Clash of the Kings”

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PRZEMYSŁAW SOPOĆKO

800px-UK_Flag_and_Outline_MapThe title taken from a recently popular novel written by George R.R. Martin, might be appropriate for the description of current British politics. The incumbent prime minister, David Cameron, will have to stand tall against his friend and enemy at the same time – Boris Johnson, who has been serving as Mayor of London since 2008. What is interesting, they both come from the same political party – the Tories (Conservatives). The other “kings” are: labour Ed Milliband, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition and unpredictable Nigel Farage from United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Of course, we cannot forget about Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland, pushing his people to the referendum that will show if Scots would like to stay united within the United Kingdom, or not. These are “kings”, whose acting will have an impact on British politics.

The Brief Overview of David Cameron’s policy-making

Since General Elections held in 2010, the UK has been changing under Tory’s government. D. Cameron started his premiership with a big shock. The unpopular reform that raised up the tuition fee at British universities set off criticism over Tory-led policy-making. Later, looting across the country in 2011 allowed Cameron to enact oppressive law allowing police and secret service to detain anybody up to 90 days under suspicion of terrorism, without court’s warrant.

Governmental criticism of immigrants’ rights to claim social benefits pushed Tories into “waters” reserved earlier for UKIP. It affected also Poles living and working in the UK. The unjust opinion sparked a new discussion on British membership in the European Union. Even sir John Major, successor to Margaret Thatcher and predecessor to Tony Blair, who almost lost vote of confidence in the House of Commons signing the Treaty of Maastricht, assured Cameron to back his re-negotiations over changing the shape of the European Community.

On the other hand, David Cameron encouraged and guaranteed further development of devolution. Particularly in Wales, which has been developing rapidly since 2011.

Reforms in the field of labour force decreased number of unemployed to the lowest level in the last years. Thanks to Tory efforts, people at the age of 50 and over were enabled to revive their chances. As for young British citizens (< 24 years old), if they are not in the NEET category (Not in Education, Employment or Training), their social benefits will shrink or taken away.

Internationally David Cameron involves rarely, though there were some statements with regards to current conflicts. But even an initial reaction on shooting down the Malaysian airplane was muted. Two weeks later, the Prime Minister changed his language and compared Ukraine to Poland and Belgium during the World War 2, and Russia to Hitler’s Third Reich.

By encouraging Arabic business to invest in the City of London, the British capital city become the largest finance centre of Arabic investment outside the Middle East, and it is another achievement in plus that has been done by Cameron.

In the field of constitutional law the Prime Minister repealed the Act of Settlement 1701, having replaced it with the Succession to Crown Act 2013. All Commonwealth member states agreed on proposed changes, including rejection of banning the royal marriage with Roman Catholic person and the rule of primogeniture putting men heirs in favour.

William, the Duke of Cambridge and his wife Kate, the Duchess were gracing their people in Oceania – Australia and New Zealand. David Cameron (whose consent as the Prime Minister is needed in every case of the official Royal trip, as well as consent of the Queen) supports the royal family in popularising British monarchy in remote Commonwealth Realms. On the other hand, the Prime Minister fears for the upcoming elections (2014 – European and Local; 2015 – General). He tries to convince Commonwealth citizens living in the UK, entitled to vote in General Elections (under the provisions of section 1 subsection 1 point c of “Representation of the People Act 1983”), to cast a vote for Conservative Party. The same situation occurred earlier when the President of the Republic of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins visited London and HM the Queen. Irish people can also participate in the General Elections in the UK. Concluding, not only is this visit a part of Royal duties, but it is also a well-planned political gesture to secure re-election to Mr. Cameron.

Many things have been changing, but the Labour Party complains about the lack of real acting,. Cameron is seen by labours as someone who has run out of ideas, “even the silliest ones”, providing for a “Zombie Parliament”.

NATO Summit in Wales

These day, in a Welsh city Newport, the NATO Summit is being held. Sixty heads of state or government are discussing the current issues of international security and their military aspect. It is not only the Ukrainian conflict, evolving close to NATO’s and EU’s borders, but also the situation in the Middle East and the raise of the Islamic State (ISIS). There are several hundred British citizens fighting in the army of the Islamic caliphate; this poses a real threat to the United Kingdom.

Regardless of final results, David Cameron will use the event as another element of electoral campaign. Acting as a great statesman, the Prime Minister might increase social support for his international policy, especially among peaceful-minded Muslims, Kurds, as well as British citizens reluctant to violence. Also the iron conservative electorate, while still dreaming about the past Empire, should stay behind Cameron, the “warrior”.

The Scottish Referendum AD 2014

As a result of a deal between David Cameron and Alex Salmond, the British Parliament passed The Referendum Act. The voting itself will be held on 18/09/2014 (it was initially planned for 24/06/2014, on the 700th anniversary of the Bannockburn battle that maintained Scottish independence). Alex Salmond, liked to a Victorian king – Robert I Bruce, who defeated English army, would like to become a politician that led his people to full independence. Regardless of costs, mainly economic. On the other hand, political aspects of such a move might result in completely unknown consequences.

“NO-campaign”, run by Cameron, stands opposite to Salmond’s “YES-campaign”. The Prime Minister has been trying to persuade Scottish people to remain a part of the United Kingdom, as they have been since 1603, under the act of personal union. The act too place when James I Stuart (VII in Scotland) accepted the English crown, soon after death of Elizabeth I Tudor. Later, both parliaments passed the Act of Union 1707, unifying both realms into one body.

In general, Scotland had never rally complained. Millions, later billions of pounds coming from London annually have been supporting the development. In 1979, Scottish referendum confirmed its citizens’ will to devolve central policy into regional level. But less than 40% of the people agreed on the proposals – 51,6% voted “yes” with the turnout 63,8% – that was about  1,23m Scots, when ca. 1.5m was required.

Aware of Scots’ aspirations, the Cabinet of Margaret Thatcher decided to give concessions, including free health care and possibility to study without tuition fee at Scottish universities. Later, Tony Blair re-installed parliament in Edinburgh (located symbolically in Holyrood Palace), under the Parliament Act of Scotland 1998. The devolution in the northern part of United Kingdom went the furthest. In 2007, after local and regional elections, new government was created by Scottish National Party. Its leader, Alex Salmond, started his efforts aiming at independence. Firstly, it was just a slogan for gaining support, later it became the idea for Scotland’s re-birth. After Tony Blair and a short period of Gordon Brown, Cameron “inherited” Alex Salmond as his fellow in the Privy Council. The second “king” to face. Recent polls show that Scots are not eagerly looking for independence. Due to governmental  information campaign, they learn more and more facts about advantages and disadvantages of being separated from the Union with England. On 2/09/2014, a survey published by BBC suggests that 48% of Scots stand against independence (42% say “yes” and 10% cannot decide).

The Upcoming General Elections AD 2015

In 2015, under new constitutional regulations, the General Elections will be held.  Inside the Conservative Party, David Cameron neutralized two ministers as other “kings”. First of them, William Hague, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, was forced to changed his job and became the Leader of the House. Second minister, Michael Gove, was sacked from the office of Minister of Education, being replaced by Nicky Morgan.

The weakness of Labour leader, Ed Milliband, gives Tories an opportunity for second consecutive victory. Nigel Farage, unexpected winner of May’s elections to the European Parliament, has been losing his potential, as proved by the case of by-elections in constituency of Newark (Nottinghamshire), which was won by Tories.

Nick Clegg, the current deputy Prime Minister, stays in the role of a possible coalition partner, rather than a challenge for Tories. Leader of the Liberal Democrats is dependent on Cameron and will remain associated with Conservatives.

In the planned for 2017 referendum British people will decide if they stay or not in the European Union. Supporting Donald Tusk in the race for the seat of unofficial ‚President’ of the European Union, who was famous for his words of obligation for the UK to stay in the EU, shows now a different approach to further integration.

The Future

Summing up all the facts and possible developments, the prediction for the next year post-election landscape of British politics is an impossible task. By eliminating, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage, the “kings”, there are still some questions without any answers.

Will Boris Johnson replace David Cameron as a new Prime Minister? Will Scotland vote “yes” in the referendum and becomes an independent state? Will the United Kingdom with(out) Scotland leave the European Union?

The following weeks and months will bring the answers. “The Clash of the Kings” will decide the fate of the UK. Soon the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as we know it nowadays, might not exist anymore.


Przemysław Sopoćko – Współpracownik CIM – absolwent Politologii na Uniwersytecie Warszawskim. Stypendysta programu Erasmus na Uniwersytecie w Southampton. Absolwent kierunku Administracja na Politechnice Warszawskiej (2013 r. ) praca dyplomowa: „Ustrój administracyjny Wielkiego Londynu”. Obecnie doktorant na Wydziale Politologii UMCS w Lublinie. Osoba, której główne zainteresowania dotyczą Wielkiej Brytanii, w dosyć szerokim spektrum. Określony kiedyś jako „Polak z urodzenia, a Brytyjczyk z serca”. Jego pozostałe zainteresowania to film, podróże oraz historia najnowsza.


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