Columnists > A general election, like quantum physics, is a thing of waves and particles

04 May 2017 | by Peter Hennessy

A general election, like quantum physics, is a thing of waves and particles


We are living through the most heavily freighted general election of modern times, with several weighty and overlapping questions bearing down upon it.

It will, of course, be remembered as the Euro election – for the party competition about the nature of Brexit and the future relations of Britain with the European Union, all of which morphs into the wider Britain’s-place-in-the-world question.

The very configuration and make-up of the United Kingdom is also in play, with the Scottish question running through the pursuit of seats north of the border, even though the last referendum on independence is but two-and-a-half years behind us. By the time of the 2022 general, election we could be a much diminished nation, out of the European Union and shorn of Scotland.

In that event, a political nation consisting of England, Wales and Northern Ireland would be hard put to provide a plausible centre-Left alternative government, or to place a programme before the electorate, even if Labour could somehow emerge healed and growing in strength out of its current period of intense self-harm. For the survival of the standard model of UK politics is also in play in the 2017 general election – it is a model that does not fly without the jostling between liberal capitalism and social democracy that, so far, has been the essential nature of all our general elections since 1945.


Subscribe to The Tablet from just £19.99 quarterly
3 options available

Share this story

Article List

Post a Comment

You can post as a subscriber user...

User Comments (0)


Sign up for our newsletter

Sign Up

Latest Issue
Digital/PDF Version

PDF version (iPad-friendly)

Previous Issues
Tablet Subscription

Manage my subcription here