UK General Election 2017: National Government now

Writing this at 4:30am on election night, no single party looks likely to win sufficiently many seats to be able to form a government on its own. It seems plausible that one party may be able to form a workable minority government and struggle by, though odd defections and illnesses here and there look likely to make it increasingly difficult. A second election looks like a distinct possibility. It seems a reasonable conclusion to draw that the country is more strongly split than ever, with some commentators identifying the split being one between the young and the old, or the outward-looking and the inward-looking. (Not quite the same distinctions, but close.) The largest party looks set to earn dozens more constituencies than the second largest party, but the overall numbers of popular votes may not reflect anything like the same degree of discrepancy.

The Conservative and Labour manifesto pledges were thought to be more different from each other than was the case in many other recent elections. Nevertheless, there are a great many topics on which the two biggest parties agree, to the point where these topics are seldom discussed out loud, and yet these are important parts of the political process. Yet I am convinced that there are other initiatives for which there could be cross-party support but no single party would want to be associated with proposing them. Would either of the largest parties want to be associated with issues considered to be related to morality? Noting that the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have been willing to speak in favour of the decriminalisation of drugs and a different approach to prostitution; might there be cross-party support for such initiatives among parties that might be reluctant to admit it?

There is a hard deadline in place for negotiations for the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, unless further deals can be done — and these have been ruled out in theory, though pragmatism may well lead to something quite different in practice. Uncertainty over who might be responsible for those negotiations can only make the UK’s negotiation position weaker still. I consider it far from settled that this exit must take place, and that a second referendum on whatever deal can be arranged, especially if it is a weak one, would be in the national interest even if parties have committed against having one.

With this in mind, I call for a National Government for just a couple of years or so to deal with this issue, for development of the country in (probably relatively limited) non-partisan fashions where there is genuine cross-party support, and for doing the things that the parties would like to see happen but not in their name. I believe in technocracy, which often seems to be something of a dirty word, and don’t feel this is a partisan issue. There are talented politicians on all sides and a political system that does not serve the country well. Party politics can take a step back for a couple of years; a better country, and a more appropriate electoral system, might well arise as a result.