Political Short Termism: The (Second) Biggest Loser of GE2015

Conservative Party activists wear face masks of Scottish National party leader Nicola Sturgeon during a stunt outside the Houses of Parliament, in central London

One (very) last thing to say about the election, before a lengthy moratorium on posts about party politics. Here’s a rubbish intervention in more mundane matters, having essentially said secede from Westminster’s jurisdiction and start self-sustaining hippy communes the other day.

Really, second only to the vast majority of the population, political short-termism was the biggest loser of the 2015 General Election – most notably in relation to Clegg’s dalliance with the Tories, and the Labour Party’s embrace of New Labour.

In 2010, Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems threw aside most of their principles for a shot at power with the Tories.

They knew that minority partners in coalition governments tend to be smashed the next time an election comes around.They knew that five years in Downing Street with David Cameron was very likely to alienate three core components of the Lib Dem vote – rural progressives who’ve traditionally voted Liberal to keep the Tories out, students who supported their tuition fees stance, and directionless anti-establishment voters who used them as a protest vote.

And they really should’ve known that the Tories would do their utmost to destroy them. Chris Huhne, ex-Lib Dem MP, Coalition minister and jailbird, recently said he first realised Cameron was planning to annihilate his party when, during the Alternative Vote referendum campaign in 2011, the Tories personally attacked Clegg for going back on his tuition fees pledge, something they insisted he do as part of the coalition agreement.

On May the 7th, the Lib Dems were predictably massacred. They went from having 57 MPs in Parliament to having eight. It remains to be seen whether they can recover. Continue reading “Political Short Termism: The (Second) Biggest Loser of GE2015”

GE2015: A quick word on New New Labour and ‘Miliband was too left-wing’

labour leadershipppp
An inspiring choice of rich white people

After Labour’s unexpectedly drastic loss in last week’s general election, the party is now trundling into the first phases of the process that will decide who follows Ed Miliband as leader.

Its now-considerable right-of-centre contingent has quickly gathered behind the idea that the Tories won because Ed Miliband was too left-wing – sentiments expressed in vague, euphemistic language about ‘aspirational voters’ and ‘embracing business’.

With right-wing candidates unsurprisingly monopolising the leadership contest – since the early 1990s, being more right-wing than the bulk of Labour members and most of its voters has been a prerequisite for getting on the party’s frontbench, after all – it seems inevitable that the party will shift right under whoever wins.

In fact, party deputy chairman Jon Trickett has produced figures showing Labour won more votes from middle-class ‘aspirationals’ this time than it did in 2010. It was its working-class vote that declined, continuing a trend traceable back to 1997. Continue reading “GE2015: A quick word on New New Labour and ‘Miliband was too left-wing’”

GE2015 and Beyond: Anarch-ish

Super Mario's sister joins anti-government protests outside Downing Street
Super Mario’s sister joins anti-government protests outside Downing Street

This week, the liberal papers are full of chipper editorials all called something like ‘reasons to be cheerful’ that try and pick some positives out of Thursday’s electoral cataclysm. But there aren’t any.

Yes, Nick Clegg’s gone. Nigel Farage didn’t get in. Esther McVey, Danny Alexander, Douglas Alexander, Jim Murphy and Mark Reckless all lost. Caroline Lucas kept her seat. Aside from Katy Clark, the one really regrettable casualty of the SNP surge, Labour’s few remaining left-wingers were re-elected, often with increased support.

And the Tories might have a parliamentary majority, but it’s one of the smallest in history. Bigger leads have dwindled to nothing in the past, as MPs died or stood down. Rebellious Tory backbenchers could make Cameron’s life a misery, as they did to John Major in the early ‘90s.

But that’s all pitiful up against the tsunami of human misery a Tory majority government will go on to unleash – “five more years of pure evil”, as Ken Livingstone aptly put it.

Continue reading “GE2015 and Beyond: Anarch-ish”

GE2015: Three Hours Past Midnight – Watching The Telly Watch The Election

As everyone knows by now, the pre-election polls were disastrously wrong, and the actual outcome on the night was crushingly terrible. The Tory vote didn’t fall, which looked inevitable beforehand. It rose. And the Labour vote didn’t recover, even to the piddling extent that was widely predicted beforehand. It fell. The polls said no party would win a majority, the result being another hung parliament, and another coalition government of one kind or other.

If you’ve always harboured a Luddite suspicion of ‘polls’ and hated the all-prevailing political obsession with them, last night might have been very satisfying if the real-world implications weren’t catastrophic, socially, economically, morally and ecologically.

By about 3am, it was clear that the Tories were doing far better than expected, and Labour were doing far worse. The Lib Dems were being annihilated. The SNP were clearly on course to win the vast majority of seats in Scotland.

The end result was a Conservative majority government. Unfathomably, we’re now faced with a worse situation than the one we found ourselves in 2010 – more of the same nation-plundering, majority-disdaining austerity agenda, but this time shorn of the erratic, smidgen of moral conscience that the Lib Dems brought to the table. Continue reading “GE2015: Three Hours Past Midnight – Watching The Telly Watch The Election”

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband Rules Out A Labour Government, But That Might Not Be Too Bad After All

Ed Miliband Spring Conference in Birmingham

We’ve run out of time to talk about the election, thankfully, and this’ll likely be the last post until it’s all over. We’re quite pleased, because thinking and writing about our risible excuse for a representative democracy all day is wearing in the extreme, particularly when there’s starvation, drowning immigrants, earthquake-ravaged Nepal and oodles of other harrowing human misery all going on at the same time.

With about a week to go, it looks like neither of the two main parties will win enough seats to form a majority government. The Tory vote will drop, but they’ll probably still be left as the largest party. Labour will do better than they did in 2010, but not by much. They’ll be annihilated by the SNP in Scotland, who could win 40-odd seats. The Lib Dems will lose a lot. UKIP will win a substantial wedge of total votes cast, but not many seats, thanks to First Past the Post. For the same reason, the ‘Green surge’ will come to nothing at a parliamentary level, although thankfully it seems Caroline Lucas will hang on to Brighton.

It looks very unlikely that the Coalition will be able to continue – even together, the Tories and the Liberals won’t be left with enough seats for a majority. The Tory-UKIP-DUP doomsday scenario almost definitely won’t come to pass either, mercifully.

We’ve spent about a month exerting the titanic political influence we wield over our three readers to try and bring about a minority Labour government, propped up and pulled leftwards by an anti-austerity bloc made up of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. It turns out some sort of Labour-SNP deal is one of only two feasible scenarios that’ll produce a workable government, unless things change substantially over the next week. The other is a Labour-Tory unity coalition. Continue reading “General Election 2015: Ed Miliband Rules Out A Labour Government, But That Might Not Be Too Bad After All”

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”

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”