Thoughts on the election 3 The rise of nationalism

One factor driving the election result across the country is nationalism. In Scotland, the Catholic working class vote has over a period of 15 years deserted Labour and backed the SNP. This reflects a change in the SNP which at one time was held together by anti-Catholic and anti-Irish sentiment. It also reflects a move among some voters of swapping an identity based on Irish nationalism to one of Scottish nationalism.  In both cases the decline in the importance of a Christian identity (whether Protestant or Catholic) has impacted on political identity. Religion is just no longer an important part of life for the majority of Scottish voters and this has allowed the SNP to ditch a sectarian outlook and Labour supporters to switch votes. In doing so the Scottish electorate has united behind an anti-London and anti-English sentiment. 

In England, the vote has been driven by the perceived threat to prosperity from other people. Politically, the country is increasingly progressive on some policies (for example gay rights)  but less progressive or even regressive where individual financial wellbeing may be threatened. This leads to a nationalism that is anti- migrant, anti-EU and anti-benefit claimants. These sentiments are not unique to England. As the world’s population increases and becomes more mobile, there is a perception that “other people” are competing with “us” for land and resources.  The decision by the EU to allow people to drown in the Mediterranean as a deterrent to others is one consequence of this. 

The UKIP voter is one who does not mind expressing their nationalism in terms of race. The shy Conservative is embarrassed by racism but is going to use the ballot box to protect their financial interests against the perceived threat of other people, whether Scottish Nationalists “holding the country to ransom” or migrants risking their lives on boats.  The outcome of the election points to a worrying future where nationalism (unfettered by either liberal or religious thought) increasingly plays a role in forming policy in relation to global issues. In the UK, we may be facing the reemergence of bitter anti-English or anti-Scottish identity either side of the border. In the Mediterranean, we may see more people losing their lives. 

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