So, the build-up to the French Presidential election was sort of muted by the sudden announcement of a snap election for the UK to be held on June the 8th, British Prime Minister Theresa May is apparently seeking a wider mandate to handle Brexit- but before we get to that, let's talk France:
So, it's Macron vs. Le Pen for Round 2 of the election, set for May 7th and I find myself curiously unwilling to make a prediction on this election. It's probably going to be Macron. Probably. The French have a sensible tendency to close ranks against the National Front in second round elections at all levels of their Republic, so I don't see a good reason why that wouldn't happen again.
And yet... the first round was kind of a train wreck and a half- Macron won with 24.01% of the vote, Le Pen following with 21.3% but after that you had Fillon at 20.01% and Melenchon with 19.58% right behind them. The top four candidates were pretty much in a photo finish here, with Macron taking it by a nose and the others coming to the line at about the same time. Macron's margin over Le Pen was less than 3% of the vote- Le Pen and Fillon were separated by 1.29% and Fillon and Melenchon were 0.42% apart. France, needless to say is a bit divided at the moment- at least if the First Round was anything to go by- but to be honest, if Le Pen was facing off against Fillon, I'd feel a lot better about calling this.
While Macron probably has the inside track, he's also a centrist and an independent candidate coming from the outside of the political system, there also seems to be a hint of "is this guy the real deal" hanging around him- by all account, he didn't look super great in the televised debates leading up to the First Round and while he'll probably benefit from Fillon, Melenchon and Hamon all calling for their voters to vote Macron, I'm not sure that's a sure thing or not. I'm not on the ground in France, so I can't say for sure, but the devil they know might be preferable to the devil they don't know- but election the National Front to the Presidency could understandably be a devil too far for a lot of voters.
But that last fact makes Marine Le Pen's move a potentially shrewd and interesting one- she stepped down as head of her party to focus on being a Presidential Candidate only- I'm not sure if two weeks is long enough for her to cast a wider net in search of more voters- but while she's got to be doing the math and wondering where she's going to get the voters from, Macron seems to be asking the same questions as well.
All the polls are indicating a 20 point, comfortable win for Macron. That might still happen, but I'm the guy who thought there was no way in hell Donald Trump could win the Presidency- even on Election Night. I would still bank on Macron, but do I think the margin is going to be a lot closer than 20 points. Maybe a lot closer than anyone imagines.
Moving across the Channel, let's dig into the surprise political announcement of the spring: Prime Minister Theresa May after months of insisting that she wouldn't call a snap election, went ahead and called a snap election, this time set for June 8th. It's hard to tell at this point if this was a good move on her part or not- the landscape seems to suggest that it was, but proclamations of a Conservative avalanche are very, very early.
But, you can also see why they're riding high on a wave of optimism as well- with Labour in the weeds and openly admitting they're not trying to win the general election, it's easy to see why the Tories pulled the trigger on this election. If you're going to swing for the fences, swing for them. If you get a wider majority than what you've got, you have more wiggle room when it comes to Brexit- the risk, however would be a resurgence where you're not expecting of anti-Brexit seats which would put you in something of a bind. This would probably point to a LibDem resurgence- and considering the fact that they've got a grand total of 8 seats right now, it would have to be one hell of a resurgence.
The interesting places to watch are going to be Wales (where there is now talk of an electoral earthquake in the making with polls seeming to indicate that the Tories are on course for gains) and Scotland, where the Tories are eyeing up to ten seats and throwing SNP plans for a second referendum onto the back foot. I'm not sure about Wales- but if the Tories make even half their predicted gains at the expense of the SNP- it will be a body blow for demands for a second independence referendum.
Of course, if you're not a Tory, then this is a grim, grim time for you. You can argue that whomever wins the election, it probably won't be you. But that's where Gordon Brown comes in... you see, back in March he gave a speech at the Festival of Ideas in Kirkcaldy, Fife (how cool is it that there's a Festival of Ideas? I want one of those here, damn it.) in which he laid out of a plan for a new form of federal home rule- essentially taking the powers that had been given to Brussels and handing them back not to London, but to the regions instead.
Whether you agree with Mr. Brown or not, this is the thing that I think the British 'Left' (or non-Tories) should be exploring more, not less. A lot of people seem to be okay with the idea of Scottish independence, because if you can't beat the Tories you may as well form your own little progressive Utopia, north of the border- right? But to me, that's the mainstream solution. It's the lazy solution. It's the solution that Americans bring up every time the Democrats piss away an election to an inexplicable Republican. (See: Calexit, etc.) The more radical solution would be remaking the entire British state from the ground up- modeling what a potential reformed EU could and should look like in a way that respects the self-determination of the people of the UK and the sovereignty of it's constituent parts.
I understand the appeal of Scottish independence- I do, but I also think that the SNP has failed to make the case with voters for obvious reasons. There's no guarantees on EU entry. There's no guarantees on currency. There's no guarantees on keeping Scotland together. There's no guarantees on North Sea oil being as bountiful as they think it's going to be. It's a big leap off of a very fucking high cliff- but I get it. But, the SNP should also be reading the tea leaves a bit better than this. Theresa May isn't wrong. Scotland deserves to see what Brexit looks like before you get to a second independence referendum. They have a right to see all the cards on the table. And if, after that, they still want out, then sure, why not. I wouldn't vote for it. I would, however, enthusiastically get behind anything that resembled what Gordon Brown was getting at. It would potentially solve the nagging Constitutional problem of the West Lothian question and give every one (Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland) potentially a better deal than they have now- and you wouldn't get the massive uncertainties an independent Scotland would have to face almost immediately. There's a reason Quebec isn't independent, y'all- Federalism is better.
(of course, being in America, I like the sound of Federalism, but hey, I make no apologies- and we could do with a little more of it over here on certain issues. #justsaying.)
With Round 2 in France coming up fast and the election in the UK just getting going, we've got busy months ahead of us! But, you know me- I love a good election!