Jeremy Corbyn has won the Labour leadership election. He won by a landslide – a 59.5% knockout in the first round. Andy Burnham got 19%. Yvette Cooper got 17%. And she seems like a decent human being. She’s definitely not deserved the personal abuse she’s received throughout the contest, much of it from our side. But Liz Kendall got 4.5%. I’ll leave it at that.
I was entirely unprepared for the Corbyn phenomenon. I’ve known about and been a fan of Corbyn for ten years, give or take, and he’s someone who I hold in the highest esteem – he’s unerringly principled, utterly committed to the causes he believes in, and has dedicated his life to helping the poorest and most vulnerable, which to my mind is the best thing you can say about anyone.
And despite all that, if you’d have asked me what I thought the chances were of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Labour leader back in May, just after Ed Miliband stood down, I would’ve said ‘less than 1%’. If you’d have asked me what I thought the chances were of Jeremy Corbyn or anyone vaguely left-wing even getting on the ballot paper, I probably would’ve said the same. In the run-up to the general election, I wrote a blog post specifically designed just to remind people the parliamentary Labour Left still existed – praising Corbyn, McDonnell, Skinner and co but generally lamenting its current weakness and poor prospects for the future. Continue reading
Since Mrs Thatcher, British politics has been horrifyingly right-wing. Big business, the financial sector, the corporate media and the Westminster political establishment have colluded to present an extreme neoliberal vision of what society should be like as somehow being ‘centrist’, ‘moderate’, ‘sensible’ – the country’s unquestionable default setting. ‘Fiscal responsibility’ and being ‘a credible alternative’ now mean governing in the interests of the corporate-financial elite, and the wealthiest people in Britain. Politics is now a one-way pipeline – to ‘modernise’ is to give even more ground to the overpaid, overpowered and sociopathically self-interested.
Austerity and the all-consuming fixation with ‘the deficit’ and ‘balancing budgets’ is just an ideological smokescreen, masking the most radical upwards redistribution of wealth in modern history. Between 1997 and 2012, the wealth of the richest thousand people in Britain quadrupled from £99bn to £414bn. In the years since, it’s risen to £547bn. During the same period, wages and living standards for the vast majority have fallen – ignoring inflation, the average worker’s wage is now lower than it was in 1979, a fifth lower for the very poorest. Continue reading
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
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
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
Barely dented by accusations of extremism, UKIP’s highest profile County campaign in history saw the mainstream parties shunted aside by the purple juggernaut.
Here in the eternally green, pleasant and Blue-or-Yellow-ruled West Country, a gruelling night of ballot-box overturning revealed astounding levels of support for United Kingdom Independence Party, Britain’s foremost catch-all protest party of wax-jacketed xenophobes.
Nationally, UKIP have just pulled off the biggest jump in support any fourth party has achieved in over half a century. At the last County elections in 2009, eight UKIP councillors were elected. Yesterday, they got 147. Of all the votes cast in 34 separate elections across England, nearly a quarter went to UKIP. In Somerset, they leapt from nowhere to secure three seats. Continue reading
A protestor unfurls an anti-Tesco banner in Bristol
And what better way to hail the New Year’s bounteous arrival than with the tale of another doomed-heroic charge against corporate unaccountability by small-town Somerset’s very own community Light Brigade, Forehead.
Another rain-lashed winter’s evening on the Somerset Levels, another town hall meeting about Tesco. For once, it wasn’t left to a rag-tag bunch of community activists to drag council apparatchiks and supermarket big-wigs into the same capacious room as a crowd of fiery locals. This time the gathering was council-organised, designed, apparently, to help the councillors who would eventually approve or deny Tesco’s superstore bid come to an educated decision. Continue reading