So That’s It?

There’s an appalling stench to the election result and it’s one of scaremongering and dirty tricks, but there’s also a faint odour of Labour’s weakness, complacency and drift. Scottish Labour, especially, ran an abysmal catch-up campaign in which they adopted Tory scare tactics to try to frighten voters into returning to them. Labour also made a huge mistake in standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Tories and the Orangemen in the Scottish independence referendum. This, as well as their reluctance to offer a clear alternative vision to voters, cost them dearly not only in Scotland but south of the border too.

The turnout for this election was 66% nationwide.  That’s nothing to crow about.  In French presidential elections, the vote often exceeds 80%. According to the Daily Mirror, in Lucy Powell’s constituency, only 18% bothered to vote in the 2012 by-election.  Yesterday the turnout was 44%. It isn’t great.  That tells us that some voters who would have voted Labour didn’t bother to vote. Then there were the million plus voters who were simply scrubbed from the electoral registers. The Tories were counting on this to carry them over the line. The Greens had around a million voters but only held onto a single seat. Even UKIP’s numbers only gave them one seat.  The Lib Dems apparently got more votes than the Greens. How the hell is this possible? The real issue with this election was the antiquated First Past The Post voting system that favours a two-party system. Times have changed and this is not the 18th century when the only parties in Westminster were the Tories and the Whigs.

Already the BBC’s presenters are doing their best to restrain their joy at the Tory win. Andrew Marr has indicated, in not so many words, that Labour’s salvation depends on a move further to the right. This tells us something else: the range of political and economic discourses permitted in the British media is worryingly narrow. If you have an opposing point of view, it will not get aired either on the BBC or the other channels. If you are allowed on, let’s say, The Daily Politics, you’ll get shouted down, talked over and patronized by the hosts and their right-wing studio guests. You must not question the orthodoxy, for to question it (in the minds of the right) is to spit in the face of God Himself.

For over 30 years, we have lived with a neoliberal consensus that says spending is bad and taxation is evil, yet governments that fail to collect enough tax revenues create huge economic problems for themselves. Governments that refuse to spend money will also run into trouble as the nation’s infrastructure crumbles and public services are driven into the ground. We know the rich don’t rely on public services, so they don’t care and they will even say as much. In the early coalition years, many Tories were practically celebrating the closure of public libraries. “If you can’t afford to buy books, that’s tough. Why should we pay for public libraries” was one such comment I’d read on Telegraph blogs.

So that’s five more years of cuts, cruelty, bullying and lies. Or is it? It’s up to you if you want to roll over and let these bastards trample us into the ground. But that isn’t me and I hope that isn’t you. We need to start our fightback by agitating for a fair voting system.

It’s time to take to the streets. See you at the barricades!

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12 Comments

Filed under General Election 2015

12 responses to “So That’s It?

  1. The Infamous Culex

    Until now, I had no idea that the Tories had planned what amounts to a jerrymander which seems to have been based on the way that Jeb Bush secured Florida for Dubya. This is surely corruption at its very worst.

    I am not in favour of a reform of the system of registration, as that would still leave the continuing problem of safe seats, the “rotten boroughs” of our time. We need a new Reform Act that will forever abolish such corruption to history, for at least a tenth of the country is now no better represented than was Old Sarum.

    What I propose is not some tinkering with constituency boundaries by the Electoral Commission, but the selection of an MP for each constituency by a purely random process, perhaps based on machines such as those used by the National Lottery. It would immediately eliminate the sort of seat where, if one stuck a blue rosette on a pig, the pig would be elected and it could certainly break the hold the SNP has in Alba. It would tend to favour smaller parties and independent MPs not necessarily affiliated to any party, but the result would be no worse than the pretence at representative democracy we currently have and, with the ability for the electorate to petition and to vote on the recall of an egregiously bad MP after a few months or perhaps a year, it would come to represent the views of the electorate better than even a system of Proportional Representation ever could.

    There would need to be some safeguards, of course. It should be made a serious felony – punishable by up to five years gaol with hard labour and a lifetime ban on ever being an MP or peer, to seek to induce someone not to stand as a candidate. If an MP were recalled by at least 51% of those who cared to express a preference in a recall plebiscite, that MP would not be eligible to stand as a Parliamentary candidate in that or any other constituency for a period of five years. No MP would be eligible to stand in any constituency – whether in the same or another – for more than three successive terms, thereby ensuring that even if an MP were somehow selected repeatedly, they could not remain in Parliament for any more than 15 years at a time.

    • It’s clear that something needs to change. The Tories are implacably opposed to any electoral reform. Sadly, Labour is also opposed to it. The Tories opposed the first Reform Act for two reasons: 1. they were set lose their rotten and pocket boroughs and 2. they didn’t want anyone but landowners and their own class enfranchised.

  2. Having spent 3 years of campaigning to save Stafford Hospital taking to the streets camping out in the grounds doing many interviews on tele writing letters, this is not enough, the smear campaigning procedure that the government and in particular the tories use to mislead the people is very effective. They only won because they convinced everyone the scots nationalist party would be running the country, this lead to the wipeout of labour in Scotland , and people not voting for labour in England and wales. It seems you can fool most of the public most of the time after all. Now prepare for the propaganda telling us how we will all be broke within days if we leave the eussr, also untrue but it will be pushed for all its worth.

    • I remember telling people in the years and months before the election that the Tories could only win if they 1. cheated and 2. used scaremongering. Many people in this country don’t understand how parliament or government works, so they swallow the Tories’ lies without questioning them.

  3. greggwh

    I know this is late in coming but I decided to hold off until I thought that I had learned enough about the UK election and its results to comment in an I hope informed way. The fact that I did it mainly from reading the Guardian and watching the BBC in general and BBC Newsnight in particular (don’t cringe now) may not be the best preparation but I think I’m better informed on those bases than most of my fellow Canadians. I agree with what you’ve said and also what Barry Davies has replied. I have a question for you. Do you think that the English are, as they were asking on Newsnight, innately conservative? In case you missed it, that question was addressed to a panel consisting of historians David Starkey and Simon Schama and playwright David Hare. All three said yes though conservative in a “soft” way, though Hare is if I’m not mistaken on the left, and the only thing I can say I learned from the discussion is just how right-wing Prof. Starkey is, sneering (not literally) at Scottish nationalism as simply anti-English rather than progressive as Hare thought, as do I. Would it surprise you that the distortions of FPTP were not mentioned, except near the end when Danny Finkelstein (what exactly did he get a peerage for anyway?) commented that FPTP was an obstacle to UKIP’s electoral advancement. In that same discussion I discovered what a Blairite Guardian editor Jonathan Freedland is, as he said that Labour had moved to the left a second time, and it didn’t work. I’m guessing he might have agreed with the previous panel.

    • I don’t think the English are innately conservative but the media presents a somewhat distorted picture of the country. It does that in a number of ways: first, it ensures that the permitted range of discourse is narrow; so narrow that anything that dissents from the orthodoxy is considered heresy. We see this all the time on news bulletins and Newsnight, where they will have a group of 3 economists in the studio spouting variations on neoliberalism. There is never a counterbalance. Instead, economics is presented as an ideologically neutral ‘science’. The second way is to use vox pop interviews to suggest almost everyone agrees with the orthodoxy. Television news providers will edit the footage to ensure the vox pops match the narrative (more cuts, the country’s ‘broke’ and so on). The third thing they do is to claim objectivity, yet if you unpack what the reporter is saying, it’s slanted (qv. James Landale, Robert Peston et al).

      Scottish nationalism is outward looking, while English nationalism is inward looking, obsessed with skin colour and is deeply romantic. Its romanticism is manifested in its nostalgia for the days of Empire when “we” were “great”. Thus it is also triumphalist.

      David Starkey is a few stops east of Barking and his take on history, like that of anyone else, is informed by his political position. Cameron stirred up a great deal of anti-Scottishness during the election campaign and he played to latent (and not so latent) anti-Celtic sentiments… which is a peculiar way of trying to hold together the moribund union. There has always been a deep-rooted tendency among many English people to fear and hate the Scots (and other Celts). This often finds expression in jokes about red heads and Scots being mean with money. With the Irish, it was “they’re thick and stupid” and with the Welsh, it’s “they shag sheep”. yet, you won’t find anti-English jokes of that type in the Celtic countries.

      Finkelstein was given his peerage a couple of years ago. It’s yet another reason why the honours system and the monarchy that sustains it should be abolished.

      Freedland’s talking out of his arse: Labour didn’t move “left”, because it wasn’t permitted by the media to do so. From 2010, the press persisted with this ‘Red Ed’ notion. Sometimes you could be forgiven for thinking we were living in the 1950s and not the 2010s.

      • greggwh

        Sounds increasingly like the US. The claim of neoliberal economics to be an ideologically neutral science is grade A BS, as one economist you may have read, Prof. Ha-Joon Chang, has certainly shown (I can recommend a couple of his books if you haven’t read him). Your account of the media is certainly correct, and this is yet something else that distinguishes the Anglosphere from continental Europe, that over there the media is much more ideologically diverse, in part because the political party culture is, and as I have found some countries’ governments will even subsidize media, if parties aren’t doing it themselves, to get a wide range of viewpoints. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the rather greater knowledge of public affairs and government among citizens there, what has been called “civic literacy”, is no coincidence. Bear in mind that while New Zealand has PR, a friend of mine there has said that the media are pretty much the same as Australia’s (even more predominantly right-wing than the UK apparently, fortunately we have the Web now), but citizens there are somewhat more knowledgeable than in their big neighbour, I’m guessing because with PR there is a wide choice of electorally viable parties to vote for, and that’s one important reason to work for PR in your country and mine. Going back to Newsnight for a moment, on the election eve episode Kate Maltby commented that the party leaders were afraid to meet with ordinary non-pre-screened people after what happened with Gillian Duffy (I had to Google her name to be reminded of that incident), and because voters were angry. So what? Newsnight ran excerpts from an old ’60s doc “The Hecklers” (it’s available in full on their YouTube channel) when UK politicians weren’t so cowardly. Regarding what you said about the English making fun of the Celts (I’m Scots Irish and English, but Northern English, descent) the late Dave Allen took some good knocks at the English, but mainly of course the upper class variety. One of his jokes ended with the conclusion that God could only be an Englishman, because only an Englishman could say at the pearly gates (in RP dialect of course), “I’m terribly sorry but you can’t come in, you’ll have to go below and burn, ha ha ha!”

      • The UK is becoming like the States in many ways. Both Tories and Labour have imported ideas from the US. The television news programmes are becoming increasingly dumbed down.

        I saw those excerpts. Today’s politicians are mainly milquetoasts; too frightened of real people. Politicians like Dan, Dan the Sophistry Man (Daniel Hannan) can only approach the working class through fictional characters like Wayne and Waynetta Slob from the Harry Enfield Show.

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