(Photo taken from Hoffingtonpost)

by Isotta Rossoni

Barely a week ago David Cameron’s Conservative party secured a shock victory in the 2015 British elections. This win came as a surprise to many- with the polls predicting nip and tuck between the Tories and Labour, a large chunk of the public had likely resigned to the idea of a hung government. Yet British pollsters got their sums dramatically wrong. As the counting of votes progressed, one after the other, party leaders Nigel Farage, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband announced their resignation. Cameron, the last man standing, moved back into 10, Downing Street, ready to lead a majority Conservative government.

Scottish surprises

All that glitters is not gold and the SNP’s ‘conquest’ of Scotland rings alarm bells in the minds of many Britons. Only a few months ago the Scots headed to the polls for a referendum on Scottish membership in the UK. Back in September 2014 Scotland voted ‘no’ to independence, but Nicola Sturgeon’s recent successes may hint to stormy weather ahead. Although there was no talk of separatism during the election campaign, Sturgeon has made clear that her party would not shy away from another referendum, should the circumstances call for it. According to the party leader, the elections may well have confirmed Labour’s declining support among Scottish voters, but they have also proved that the population stands united ‘against continued austerity’. One thing is for certain: the mood in Scotland differs from that of its neighbours and Cameron should not underestimate the Scots’ thirst for change.

Farewell EU?

Beyond the usual tensions between Scotland and Westminster, the recent elections have brought UK-EU relations back on the discussion table. In 2013 David Cameron had promised an in/out referendum on Britain’s future in Europe. Although the election campaign did not feature any substantive debate on the EU, in his post-election speech PM Cameron reassured the British public that the referendum on EU membership will indeed take place.

For a while now, political scientists, economists and journalists have highlighted the significant losses the EU and Britain would incur if the latter were to abandon the Union. Nonetheless, it is hard to predict whether the Brits will opt out of the EU.  We cannot foresee the political and economic changes that will take place in the next two years, nor can we guess their impact on the referendum. We may well worry that with euroscepticism still rife in the country, the populace will make ill-informed decisions, influenced by populist rhetoric rather than by cold hard facts.

Yet matters are more complex than this. Britain’s confusion doesn’t only extend to its rapport with EU member states – it also has to do with its relationship with its former colonies, the Commonwealth and the United States. Plagued by a deep-seated identity crisis, Britain is unsure of its place in the world, often preferring to set itself apart from its next-door neighbours. Such idiosyncrasies are unlikely to be solved by a referendum. Nevertheless, the latter might turn out to be a blessing in disguise: it may represent an opportunity for the Brits to put identity issues aside and give proof of their famous pragmatism. It may be a chance for Britain to stop playing hard to get.