Defensive Voting: Not Everyone In Labour Is Shit

mcdonnell corbyn

Slightly irked by suggestions that admittedly excellent Caroline Lucas is the only anti-austerity MP in the Commons, we spotlight the hardy dissidents on what remains of the parliamentary Labour Left.

Here is a tellingly short but heartfelt list of the Labour MPs we’d happily vote for. Since the 1990s, the Labour Left has all-but evaporated as a visible, vocal political force, particularly in Parliament. That’s been fairly catastrophic, because in the ‘70s and ‘80s it was a vibrant, boisterous presence in British politics, pointing the way towards an radically more equal, democratic and infinitely nicer kind of society. People like Tony Benn stood for just the type of pragmatic radical socialism that we desperately need back (albeit with a much greater focus on the environment).

But now, its impact is negligible, reflecting the decline of the mainstream radical left more generally. The Labour leftists that are still kicking about are far from perfect – often just as ferociously tribal as the Labour right, despite the emergence of parties far more in line with what they believe in than their own. But even though they’ve been politically marginalised, and just as ignored by their own leadership as by the press, a small hard-core of Labour MPs continue to thanklessly hammer away at austerity, rampant inequality and the all-round horror of neoliberalism. So here they are. Continue reading “Defensive Voting: Not Everyone In Labour Is Shit”

How Elections Produce Governments: A Short Guide For The Perplexed

House_of_CommonsAt election time, the news media does a terrible job of explaining how it all works. Since so much of what we watch on the TV or read in the papers is ultimately designed to keep us passively satisfied, prejudiced, woefully ill-informed consumer-drones rather than encourage us to be active critically-thinking citizens, that’s not really surprising.

Most of us have a vague understanding of how an election produces a government. You vote locally for which person you want/dislike the least to be your MP, and somewhere along the line that helps determines which man in a tie off the telly becomes Prime Minister. But beyond that, for a lot of people the system is fairly baffling.

So, to fulfil our non-existent public service remit – a ridiculously short guide to the perplexed.

Political parties have policies. Changes they want to make to how the country works. Abolish tuition fees, raise or lower taxes, replace primary education with Chucklevision repeats, whatever. But to get those policies put into action, they have to be made into law. And to pass a law, you have to get Parliament to agree to it. Continue reading “How Elections Produce Governments: A Short Guide For The Perplexed”

Brian May and the Party Political Mug’s Game

Brian May
Brian May

We’ve never liked Queen, but it recently occurred to us that Brian May’s Common Decency campaign looks vaguely like a more polite/less ragingly cynical version of the Defensive Voting thing we keep going on about.

May, the band’s 67-year old guitarist, is on the telly every five minutes at the moment plugging this new initiative, an attempt to transform the political landscape through a combination of cajoling apathetic non-voters into turning out on May 7th, and getting them to vote as a bloc for candidates they collectively deem to be the most ‘decent’ on offer, regardless of party.

We’re increasingly thinking that in a neoliberal non-democracy, under abjectly rubbish First Past the Post, people need to look at elections strategically rather than as just millions of atomised individual choices – and the natural evolution of that idea would be to organise like-minded, non-tribal voters across the country, get them to collectively decide which is the most viable non-Tory candidate in each constituency, all go away and vote along those pre-agreed lines and encourage others to do the same. Continue reading “Brian May and the Party Political Mug’s Game”

Defensive Voting: The Greens And The Slightly Nicer Flipside

Caroline Lucas
Caroline Lucas

Our adventures in sell-out electoral Machiavellianism continue now, with a look at the Green Party, and places where our rubbish Defensive Voting idea actually lets you vote for them. Unfortunately, there aren’t many.

Having argued that even dyed-in-the-wool left-wingers should reluctantly vote Lib Dem in places like Wells, this time we turn to places where Defensive Voting is less shudder-inducingly horrible.

The Green Party’s emergence as a genuinely left-of-centre force with increasing public exposure is about the only good thing to have happened on the political front in the last five years. They’ve embraced ideas we never thought we’d live to see talked about in a mainstream context. Now you can turn on the telly and see Natalie Bennett or Darren Johnson endorsing the Citizen’s Income scheme and the need to end economic growth. And they’ve grown at a mind-boggling rate. At the peak of the much-trumpeted ‘Green Surge’, the party gained 13,000 new members in one week.

And yet, despite all that, the Greens will win hardly anywhere on May 7th. That’s the wonder of our spectacularly dismal First Past the Post electoral system.

The least worst realistic outcome we can expect from May 7th is a minority Labour government, pulled leftwards by an anti-austerity voting bloc made up of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and the Greens.

The ideal outcome, of course, would be a crushing landslide victory by the Happy People’s Socialist Party that annihilated the Tories, the Lib Dems and the feeble, supporter-forsaking Labour Party in one fell swoop, while enacting a programme that made the Greens’ look like it was drawn up by the Pincochet Fan Club. But that’s not going to happen. Continue reading “Defensive Voting: The Greens And The Slightly Nicer Flipside”

I Want The One I Can’t Have (The Smiths)

A sadly neglected Smiths classic featuring all the hallmarks that made the band genre-defining, vapid mainstream-shaming gods of the middle 1980s – a sinuous, Wildean-witted Morrissey lyric (‘And if you ever need self-validation/just meet me in the alley behind the railway station’), Marr’s flourishing guitar, and quota-fulfilling amounts of working-class social realism. As well as evidence of Moz’s growing fixation with rufty-tufty estate boys.

This here’s an abysmally lit but compellingly furious rendition from the band’s 1984 jaunt across Europe.

Defensive Voting: A West Country Case Study

Wells
Wells

Further banging on about Defensive Voting. Which, come to think of it, is probably just tactical voting with a specific political purpose in mind – namely stalling neoliberalism through the Westminster infrastructure long enough to nail together some kind of radical left-wing alternative outside of it (there was an excellent bit of analysis published by Counterfire this week which came to similar conclusions). And this time, we’re looking at it in relation to a conveniently local real-world example.

Wells in Somerset is one of the most marginal constituencies in the country. It also happens to be the next one over from ours.

Most constituencies are ‘safe’ – the people living in them reliably vote for the same party in election after election, and that party easily wins by a mile. Yeovil, for example, has been Lib Dem for over thirty years (well, technically, it was Liberal from 1983 to 1992, then Lib Dem ever since). At the last election, Lib Dem candidate David Laws got 31,000 votes, 13,000 more than the next placed candidate.

As such, safe seats don’t really matter. The ones that do matter are the marginal ones, the swing seats as they’re often known – constituencies like Wells that are much more likely to change hands. These are the places that will decide who’s in government this time next year. Continue reading “Defensive Voting: A West Country Case Study”

A Short History of British Non-Democracy

diggers
The Diggers

Plato to Mrs Thatcher In About Five Minutes

It’s a fairly established position of this irrelevant internet blog to argue that the UK isn’t a democracy. It’s not a fascist dictatorship by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s probably one of the least worst countries to find yourself living in. But it’s not democratic at all in the proper, original sense of the word. It’s this analysis that underpins our whole outlook on British electoral politics – including our view of what principled, pragmatic left-wingers should do in next month’s general election (short version – acknowledge it’s all an anti-democratic sham, but vote anyway).

Wikipedia/the infantilisation of everything means you don’t even have to bother getting a book out to look up democracy and its origins anymore. A fraction of a second on Google will tell you that D-word stems from the Ancient Greek term demokratia, itself a combination of ‘demos’, Greek for people, and ‘kratia’, Greek for power or rule. Democracy is ‘people power’, or ‘rule by the people’.

Nowadays we tend to divide democracy into direct and representative democracy – the former being a situation in which the general public make the political decisions themselves, the latter being the one that exists in practically every self-hailed democracy in the world, where the public vote in representatives who make the decisions for them. But the Greeks wouldn’t have seen Type 2 as democracy at all. Continue reading “A Short History of British Non-Democracy”

Modern Socialism #2: What Is Socialism?

GreshamCollege-AneurinBevan_VernonBogdanor234 Last time, in the first bit of this series, we sketched out what the thing we call Modern Socialism is and why we think it’s needed. This time, we’re more interested in socialism in general.

A question that seems stupidly obvious to begin with, but gets harder to answer the more you think about it – what actually is socialism? If you’re over-precociously trying to modernise something, you better have a cast-iron grasp of what it is, and what it isn’t. So, as quickly and painlessly as it can possibly be made – an attempt to nail down an increasingly fuzzy and flippantly-employed socio-political concept.

There are really two types of left-of-centre political position. The first is what’s called social democracy. The second is what’s called socialism.

Confusingly, the terms are often used interchangeably – or in distorted, politically motivated ways. But there’s a fundamental difference between the two. Social democracy aims to make capitalism nicer. Socialism aims to replace capitalism with a nicer system. Continue reading “Modern Socialism #2: What Is Socialism?”

Mammy Anthem (Frank Zappa)

Eventually becoming the ‘The Mammy Nuns’ in Frank Zappa’s ineffably bizarre rock musical Thing-Fish, itself loosely based around his earnest belief that the AIDs virus was manufactured on purpose, ‘The Mammy Anthem’ began life as a guitar-based instrumental used to open shows on his 1982 tour. This version comes from a bootleg recording of what was apparently a particularly stellar gig in Pistoia, Italy. A bunker-busting riff hails the arrival of the usual mangled odyssey of a Zappa guitar solo, his straining, sizzling whammy bar theatrics buoyed by Tommy Mars’s ethereal keyboard vamp.

We’re All Stupid: (Not) Watching The Leader’s Debate

tv debate

After whole minutes of thought, The Bemolution decided not to watch last night’s seven-way leadership debate, and took in a 1997 episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer about hyenas possessing people while simultaneously watching Twitter watch the debate instead.

To lazily quote an old blog post rather than have to think of a different way of saying the same thing, the debates are an “awful development, further chiselling down what should be a vast, complex, citizenry-engaging discussion about how societies are run into a rubbish squabble over who gets the top job. They’re a stunningly shallow American export we never should’ve touched, and need scrapping immediately”.

We did actually watch the first thirty seconds while fiddling with the DVD player. The announcer burbled some codswallop about Salford. There were some sub-Apprentice/Spooks stop-start swooping camerawork over the Mancunian skyline, set to plasticated techno that sounded like it came from about 2001. Presenter Julie Etchingham said something about the ‘big iss-oos’ facing the country. Clegg looked terrified, Nicola Sturgeon looked stilted, Miliband looked calm, Leanne Wood gave a nice happy smile and looked delighted to be there, and David Cameron did a face that made him look like Michael Howard. All of which are the kind of profound, substantive judgements the debates encourage you to make. No-one ever really offered a satisfactory explanation for why the Irish parties weren’t invited. Then the DVD kicked in.

After two hours of watching 140-character opinions dribble out from the #leadersdebate hashtag, we’d gleaned many an insight into the woeful state of twenty-first century public discourse, including 1.) that a lot of people labour under the misapprehension that you can calculate the definitive winner of something as subjective and un-scientific as a debate, 2.) that a lot of people were just going to declare victory for the person they already liked the most going into it and 3.) that according to numerous self-appointed arbiters of truth – more numerous than those calling it for any other leader, anyway – the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon was the most impressive. Continue reading “We’re All Stupid: (Not) Watching The Leader’s Debate”