Tag Archives: 1923 general election

They’re Behaving/Pretending Like They’ve Won The Election!

As the dust settles  on the General Election result, one thing is obvious: no one won an outright majority. The Tories lost their majority after their leader’s high stakes gamble in calling a snap general election, and Labour came second. Those facts are inescapable.  But why call the election in the first place? The reason given by many political hacks was that, apparently, May took one look across the dispatch box and perceived a weak Jeremy Corbyn, and thought she could walk it by uttering a few idiotic soundbites. How wrong she was. She and her party thought the landslide was in the bag. How wrong they were. Remember, this was a landslide widely predicted by the great and the good of Britain’s media. Their oft-repeated prediction was intended to achieve one aim: to intimidate Labour supporters, and convince them to stay at home rather than vote for the unelectable Labour Party led by the unelectable Jeremy Corbyn (who’s actually won every election since 1983).

Since the election the complaint from the Tories and mainstream media has been “They’re behaving/pretending like they’ve won the election”! This complaint reveals an ignorance of how parliamentary politics and the constitution works. It also demonstrates a weak grasp of history, particularly of hung parliaments and minority governments, and the role of the opposition in a hung parliament. More importantly, the complaint itself is puerile and serves to further undermine our limited and deeply corrupted democracy.  But it also underscores the Tory Party’s authoritarian tendencies: in other words, you can have an official opposition as long as it’s supine and scared of its own shadow. Thankfully, we don’t live in a Tory one-party state – yet.

I have already talked about two hung parliaments in December 1923 and February 1974, which resulted in hung parliaments and minority governments. It is clear that this latest hysterical outburst from the Tories and their media allies is designed to convince gullible members of the public that Labour is out to destroy the country by not playing ball with May’s apparently serious and adult government (sic), which is supposedly acting in “the national interest“.

Labour has the right to say that it is waiting and ready to form a government. Why? Because:

  1. The role of the opposition in a hung parliament is to use every opportunity to defeat the government. You can guarantee that if the situation were reversed, no one in the media would say “They’re (the Tories) pretending they’ve won the election”. Instead, the media would actively encourage the Tories to find ways to defeat a Labour minority government as The Daily Mail  – with the connivance of the secret state – did in 1924.
  2. Labour is the second party and could form a minority government if the Queen’s Speech is defeated. That’s how the constitution works. This is what happened in January 1924 and February 1974.

It’s annoying to see even seasoned political commentators like Andrew Neil resorting to this kind of bullshit. He’s supposed to know how the constitution works. It’s his job. Mind you, he is a Tory after all.

This is the latest manifestation of an ongoing campaign to smear the Labour Party and, by extension, Jeremy Corbyn, because the previous smears failed. Indeed, the party did better than expected in spite of the tow year long smear campaign in much of the media.  Unable to comprehend the election result, Tories and their media allies have misrepresented Labour’s rediscovered sense of confidence for arrogance, but it’s a projection.  I mean, how dare they feel confident? They lost, didn’t they? Well, yes, but the Tories didn’t win either despite being the largest party and besides, it looks as though they’ve been caught cheating again.

Finally, the Tories are weak and they know it, so they lash out like wounded animals. In 1974, Ted Heath attempted to form a coalition with Jeremy Thorpe’s Liberal Party. The talks broke down over the weekend. May’s Tories are trying to form a confidence and supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party and, by all accounts, it isn’t going very well.  The DUP have accused the Tories of being poor negotiators. We’re also told that this deal has to happen because, according the the Tories and the media, the DUP “doesn’t want to see Corbyn as PM”. So what? We don’t want to see the Tories continue to drag Britain into the abyss, nor do we want to see the DUP pull May’s strings – she’s weak enough as it is.

The sooner this useless and cruel government is dispatched, the better.

 

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Filed under Government & politics, General Election 2017

Let’s Talk About: Legitimacy (of the parliamentary kind)

The Tories and their allies in the press seem to believe that the party with the most seats in the event of a hung parliament should have the automatic right to form a government. They also claim that should Labour get fewer seats than the Tories and if they form a minority government with the support of smaller parties, then this government would be illegitimate. This has been comprehensively debunked time and time again. Yet the Tories and Nick Clegg continue to lie about this, relying on widespread ignorance of how parliament and governments function.

There is a historical precedent that has never once been mentioned during this election campaign by those commentators whose job it is to ‘explain’ the political system to the voters. The General Election of 6 December 1923, which Stanley Baldwin had called over tariff reform (which meant very little to many working class voters), produced a situation similar to the one commentators claim will happen this Friday. Baldwin hoped that he could cement his authority after succeeding Andrew Bonar Law as party leader and Prime Minister, and he was eager to make his mark.

But Baldwin’s plan to increase his party’s already large majority backfired. Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour Party came second with 191 seats. Herbert Asquith’s Liberals came third with 158 seats (the Liberals were split). Baldwin’s Tories came first with 251 seats . When added together, the combined anti-Tory seats outweighed the Conservatives’ numbers. However, things were not straightforward:  Baldwin claimed legitimacy and appeared before the Commons, but was defeated on 21 January by a no confidence motion tabled by former Labour leader, J.R. Clynes. George V had no choice but to appoint MacDonald as Prime Minister. Labour then formed a minority government with the support of the Liberals on 22 January, 1924. There was no question of Labour’s legitimacy to form a government on that occasion, because everyone knew  how the game was played. Today, the Tories and their media chums continue claim that should Labour come second, they will lack legitimacy. The front page of today’s edition of the Murdoch-owned Times has printed a variation on the lie.the_times front page

However, the role of the Liberals in 1924 should not be read as the facilitation of a Labour government but as part of a plan to secure more power for themselves, should the government fall. Indeed, the Daily Mail begged Asquith to form a coalition with the Tories to keep Labour out. Asquith hoped that the voters would see Labour as incompetent. What the voters actually saw were squabbling, power hungry politicians knifing each other in the back. Even so, MacDonald’s government was weak and unstable and suffered its first defeat in March. By October, it would be voted out of office thanks to the Zioniev Letter.

The Liberals paid for their treachery and they were reduced to 40 seats. Asquith lost his seat, was kicked upstairs and died four years later. Even though Baldwin secured a massive majority, he would again lose out  to Labour in the so-called ‘Flapper Election’ of 1929, which resulted in another hung parliament. MacDonald relied on the support of Lloyd George’s 58 Liberal MPs. But this government wouldn’t last long and in 1931 another election was called. Again, this produced a hung parliament and the notorious National Government was eventually formed with Baldwin pulling the strings.

In February 1974, Edward Heath’s Tories came second and Labour came first. Heath remained in Downing Street as  the caretaker Prime Minister and attempted to form a coalition with Jeremy Thorpe’s Liberals. But Thorpe rejected the Tories’ coalition proposals on the basis that Proportional Representation wasn’t offered as part of the deal. Harold Wilson was invited to form a minority government with the support of the smaller parties. Again, there was no question of legitimacy.  This government lasted until October, when Wilson called another election and won a wafer-thin majority. By 1976, Wilson was gone and replaced by’ Sunny’ Jim Callaghan, whose majority began to evaporate due to by-election losses and defections. Callaghan was forced to enter into a pact with the Liberals (the Lib-Lab pact) in 1977. This lasted until the end of 1978 and the rest, as they say, is history.

What these elections reveal to us are the flaws inherent in the First Past The Post voting system. Whichever party forms the government after tomorrow’s election, we must take to the streets to demand electoral and constitutional reform.  There must be no let up.

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Filed under 20th century, General Election 2015, History, History & Memory, Let's Talk About, Media, Tory press, Yellow journalism