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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”→
At 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.