As the dust settles on another extraordinary election result there are more questions than answers about what happens next. Will the PM hang on? Is an accord with the Ulster Unionists viable? Just what are the implications of this result for the kind of Brexit and the kind of relationship we might try and forge with Europe?
Civil society always gets excited by hung Parliaments and precarious politics, mostly because of the simple fact that it gives us more leverage and more political space to operate in. It is very difficult to influence Governments who have a large and stable majority because they don’t need to listen. By all accounts this one will have to open its eyes and ears to some wider views.
That simple fact ought to make us optimistic for a more participative approach to governance. No majority means no monopoly on wisdom any more so politicians of all persuasions will have to engage.
Nowhere is this more obvious than over Brexit. Gone are the certainties about the kind of complete break which simply ignored the 48% remain voters and the doom-sayers versions of economic meltdown. At about 2am on election night, various commentators started talking about staying in the Customs Union. For some the single market was back on the table.
For charities and voluntary organisations, here is a second chance to get our Brexit thoughts on to the table. How can we best protect human rights and environmental standards? What about the Erasmus programme and opportunities for our young people to travel, live, work and love without hindrance in 27 countries? Should civil society demand a seat at the Brexit table? Having been completely excluded from what has gone before, Scotland’s politicians may well be asking themselves the same questions. We have a mutual interest in seeking a more open and inclusive Brexit process.
Devolution is back on the agenda too because there are some awkward questions to be answered about agriculture and fisheries policies, immigration levels, industrial policy and the like. There is unfinished business too around welfare and the dreadful treatment of some of the poorest people in our society. Wouldn’t it be nice if thoughtful politicians took up the cudgels here instead of using more devolved powers as a giveaway to stave off independence?
Arguing for more devolution because it is better than the status quo would be quite a tonic. It might signal that our politics was growing up and that we weren’t going to allow ourselves to be trapped in the binary cul-de-sac of yes/no for another generation. It is one of the many ironies of the UK election result that a renewed dominance of two party politics is accompanied by the need to build bridges and consensus across the divides. If governance in a hung Parliament is going to work at all it needs all of us to lend our energies, ideas and enthusiasms to help it succeed.