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Editorial: Jamaica’s interest in UK result

Published:Sunday | May 10, 2015 | 5:00 AM

It may not be conventional wisdom, but the result of last week's election in Britain matters. So, Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) should pay attention. But first, they must have a clear perspective of what the issues are and why we should care.

In that respect, the specific outcomes of the elections are important, beyond the fact that the Tories, under David Cameron, won a clear majority of seats - though narrowly so - in the Commons and, therefore, will be able to govern without a coalition partner, as it was forced to do after the 2010 vote. Also of significance are the results from north of the border, where the Labour Party was devastated and the Nicola Sturgeon's pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) made an almost clean sweep of the constituencies and will have 56 seats at Westminster.

There is, too, the performance of the nationalist, anti-immigrant United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which, although it won only a single parliamentary seat in Parliament, got nearly four million or 12.6 per cent of the votes. Significantly, UKIP, compared to the 2010 election, increased its share of the vote by 9.5 per cent, the highest by any of the parties - over three times the gain of the next performer on this score, the Greens. Indeed, the Conservatives, with 36.9 per cent of the share of the ballots, increased their share by less than one per cent, while the Labour Party upped theirs by 1.5 per cent.

These outcomes are, on the face of it, mere internal dynamics that are unlikely to affect Britain's foreign policy and its relations with Jamaica and the CARICOM, with which, these days, the UK is not deeply engaged. In the case of Jamaica, which has a relatively large population and active diaspora movement in the UK, that depends, in part, on how it defines itself and its national interest.

 

MATTER TO BE PAID ATTENTION

 

This newspaper has urged that that definition ought to be beyond our island's spatial geography to a concept of Greater Jamaica, inclusive of everywhere Jamaicans live. Jamaica, therefore, should have more than a passing interest in the political environment in which its people live and the connectedness between their well-being. In that respect, the growth of UKIP, especially if it continues, and its potential, even from outside Parliament, to influence policy action in the UK should be a matter to which Jamaica pays attention. Anti-immigration sentiments, in these circumstances, often include racist undertones, particularly against black people.

There are two other matters whose implications Jamaica and CARICOM should pay attention. One is David Cameron's commitment to a referendum on Britain's membership with the European Union (EU) and how that relationship ought to be structured. At the worst, Britain could depart the EU, with which CARICOM has a free-trade pact and from which the region receives economic support. This region, therefore, should begin to do work to determine how all potential eventualities would affect the Caribbean.

Despite last year's Scottish vote to remain in the union, the SNP's gains will revive questions about the longer-term stability of the United Kingdom. Mr Cameron has promised Scotland "the strongest devolved government in the world with important powers over taxation", but suggested that similar, if not precisely the same, accommodations will have to be made for Wales, Northern Ireland and England. This is a matter in which Greater Jamaica should have an interest.