When it comes to racism, some forms of racism are clearly more equal than others. In our currently febrile social climate this has never been more true a statement. Our present public discourse has become polluted by notions of free speech absolutism, put forward by zealots like the right-wing libertarian outfit, Spiked and their associates on one hand, and the self-appointed anti-Semitism language police in the Labour Party and their media allies on the other. Anyone with a brain in their head could see where the weaponization and cheapening of anti-Semitism for political ends would lead to: a sharp increase in attacks on minorities – especially people of colour. Indeed, those who spend much of their time complaining about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party tend to be, for the most part, white and they’re not too concerned about other forms of racism within and outwith the party.
Anti-Semitism witch hunters will scoff at any suggestion that, through their words and deeds, a hierarchy of racism now exists in which weak claims anti-Semitism are prioritised over genuine cases of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism. What passes for anti-Semitism these days is more often than not, a conflation with anti-Zionism or criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people. Other claims are the product of lazy thinking. One such incident involved the right-wing Labour MP, Siobhan McDonagh, who in an interview with John Humphrys on Radio 4 deliberately conflated anti-capitalism with anti-Semitism. This anti-Semitic trope, which is heavily reliant on the knowledge of the Other, was allowed to pass unchallenged by Humphrys. Worse, the usual witch hunters kept schtum. Meanwhile, stories of anti-Semitic attacks like the one in Islington in February of this year, are rarely, if ever, afforded national airtime nor are they mentioned by our supposedly objective broadcast journalists. Furthermore, the media focus on anti-Semitism gives the impression to other ethnic minorities that the racism they experience is either imagined or of no importance (this has happened to me quite recently when I complained about racism directed towards me). Other forms of racism simply aren’t sexy or cool enough, and don’t possess the same emotional value as anti-Semitism.
So it is with the racism experienced by Gypsies, Roma and Travellers (GRT), one of the country’s most marginalised and persecuted socio-ethnic groups, not just in the United Kingdom but across Europe in countries like Hungary, Italy,Romania and Slovakia among others. So normalised has anti-GRT racism become that even our elected representatives are given a free pass to air their obnoxious racist views on the floor of the House of Commons. In April, the Conservative MP and former leader of Wandsworth Council, Paul Beresford, said in an adjournment debate to the House of Commons.
“We’re now in what we call the summer traveller season, it’s like a disease.”
That something like this can be said in the Commons without fear of censure, either from the Speaker, his party leader, the usual Labour MPs or the national media, speaks volumes. The fact that Beresford used the word ‘disease’, a word associated with the Nazi and BritFash discourses to refer to people not deemed as “Aryan” reveals to us the extent to which racism has become normalized in everyday political discourse. The Surrey Live website was one of several sources to carry the Beresford story, the other was Show Racism The Red Card. There is nothing on the BBC News site or any of the other national carriers, nor did the national press mention it. Beresford has been pressed to make an apology, but has, thus far, not done so. Moreover, the most vociferous anti-Semitism witch hunters in the Labour and Conservative Parties have said nothing.
Beresford is by no means the only Tory MP to openly express hatred towards GRT people. In 2017, when asked what he want to see more than anything else, Tory MP for Moray, Douglas Ross told reporters:
“Tougher enforcement against gypsies and travellers”.
In 2017, Tory MP, Julian Knight also attacked GRT people.
The Tories aren’t alone when it comes to anti-GRT bigotry, Labour MP, John Mann, himself a self-appointed anti-Semitism witch hunter, sent an anti-GRT booklet to his Bassetlaw constituents and yet, national news broadcasters said nothing and his fellow MPs said nothing. Instead, broadcasters like the BBC eagerly provide him with plenty of airtime to denounce someone, usually a left-wing figure, for anti-Semitism, or pronounce them a “Nazi sympathiser”. The interviewers, for their part, will always entertain his rants and his poorly-reasoned judgements without a semblance of criticism. Why? Because he makes “good telly”.
So where’s the outrage? The media’s silence appears to indicate an often casual complicity in the perpetuation of anti-GRT racism,which is both structural and institutional. GRT people are discriminated against in terms of access to education, medical treatment and even the law as this research paper from the London School of Economics makes clear.
On Twitter, recently, I had someone purporting to be a Corbyn supporter tell me that he “didn’t like Travellers but the old-fashioned Romanis were okay”. I blocked them. These kinds of views aren’t unique nor are they limited to one political party or another. They are informed by a knowledge of the Other, and further serve to illustrate the role in which myths and stereotypes play in shaping many people’s views of, not just GRT people, but people from other ethnic backgrounds. Moreover, it also reveals a fundamental ignorance of GRT history and, in particular, the Porajmos, the Romani Holocaust.
When it comes to anti-GRT racism, some of the worst offenders are the self-declared, hair-shirt wearing, anti-racist politicians, especially right-wing Labour politicians, who ignore anti-GRT racism while pursuing phantom claims of anti-Semitism. Their anti-racism is selective and no one, whether they are a member of a minority group or not, should be fooled by the calculatedly cynical flaunting of their flimsy credentials. If your anti-racism is selective, then you’re not an anti-racist but a person with an agenda: in other words, you’re someone who uses a selectivized form of anti-racism for political motives. That means you’re no better than the people of whom you’re accusing of anti-Semitism. In short, you’re a racist and you’re no good to those of us who are involved in the daily struggle against racism.
Anti-racism, therefore, must be intersectional. Since the EU referendum and the ensuing political turmoil, much of it the making of the professional politicians themselves, few MPs are capable of fathoming, not just the complex political situation they’ve found themselves in, but are reluctant or just too stupid to understand the powerful and dark forces that they have unleashed; forces for which they clearly lack the intellects and philosophical nous to defeat. Instead, they would rather blame anyone but themselves. Not only that, they show no concern that the fallout from their baseless accusations will hit other minorities, namely people of colour and GRT people.
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:
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.
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 cheatingagain.
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.
So he’s gone. Tristram Julian William Hunt, the MP for his own ego Stoke Central, has resigned his Commons seat. The passionate Blairite, who crossed an official picket line to deliver a lecture on Friedrich Engels, has left so-called ‘frontline politics’ to become Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. It’s a job that pays handsomely too. How could he pass it up? Curiously, however, I don’t recall seeing it being advertised in the usual papers or on the artsjobsonline website. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister herself is said to have “rubber stamped” it. I guess it helps to have friends in high places to make a little room for you at the top. No?
Tristy succeeded the previous MP, Mark Fisher, in controversial circumstances in 2010. I say “controversial” because he was actually forced down the local party’s throat by the National Executive Committee (it’s also rumoured that the Dark Lord himself intervened on his behalf). One local Labour member was so incensed that he stood against him as an Independent. That’s how the Blair-led party operated back then: they pushed right-wingers, some of them Tory defectors, onto Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) as Parliamentary candidates. They’ll take anyone but socialists. They even accept former UKIP Parliamentary candidates.
Hunt’s resignation follows on from the Christmas Eve resignation of Jamie Reed, the MP for the nuclear power industry. Indeed, one could suggest that Reed has ‘returned to the source’, having worked for British Nuclear Fuels at their Sellafield facility before entering Parliament. The Cat thinks his role at Sellafield will include convincing people that nuclear waste can transform ordinary members of the public into superheroes, meaning everyone can become the equivalent of The Hulk (She Hulk if you’re female) or maybe The Leader if they so choose. Marvellous.
Tristy claimed that being in Parliament was “rewarding but deeply frustrating”. I guess it must have been frustrating to see your ambitions as one of many Blair’s successors slip around the U-bend. But that’s politics. Right?
Since Jeremy Corbyn became party leader, poor Tristy felt he had to wear his Blairism like a crown of thorns. Not only did he cross an official University and College Union picket line at Queen Mary University (some historian, huh?), he believes that museums like the V&A should reintroduce charging visitors. Eh? But he’s taking a job as a… never mind.
In an impassioned address to the Cambridge University Labour Club, he said:
“You are the top one per cent. The Labour Party is in the shit. It is your job and your responsibility to take leadership going forward.”
He’s a proper little social Darwinist, isn’t he?
Tristram Hunt: he died for his party’s sins. Said no one. Ever.
UKIP thinks it has a chance of winning the Stoke Central seat, but The Cat thinks they’re huffing and puffing. If the Constituency Labour Party gets its act together and selects a socialist candidate, there’s no reason why they can’t win this seat.
The Labour Party now has over 500,000 members, many of whom have joined since Jeremy Corbyn became leader. Most politicians would chew off their right arm to get these kinds of numbers joining their party but not the Blairites. Indeed the most common response from them and their allies in the right-wing press is “the members aren’t the electorate” or “members don’t matter”. Sometimes this is qualified with “Labour needs to win over Tory voters”. Let’s take each of these in turn.
To the first two replies, I always offer the following response: “When was the last time a party in the contemporary era with fewer than 100,000 members last form the government or the official opposition”? The silence to the question is always deafening. More members mean more people to argue the party’s case on the streets, in the workplaces, the pubs and other social spaces. Party members are also part of the electorate. This is something the Labour plotters and their allies in the right-wing media have consistently ignored. They ignore it, not because they are blind, but because they know it’s the truth. Hundreds of thousands of newly politicized people scares the living bejesus out of the establishment.
This leads me on to the claim that Labour “needs to win over Tory voters” in order to win a General Election. There is no evidence to support this claim. When those who make this claim use the Nu Labour landslide of 1997 as their only mitigating response, it tells us only one thing: they haven’t paid attention to the fact that after 18 years of Tory rule, people were fed up and wanted something different. They’d have voted for anyone as long as they weren’t Tories. But those days are long behind us and the world has changed. The Third Way fails to meet the needs of the millions of people who have seen their incomes stagnate and the cost of living rise exponentially. People want hope and they want change. To tell them that “we must live with the world as it is and not how we’d like it to be” is no better than saying “tough shit”.
During the Blair-Brown-Miliband years, Labour lost 5 million voters and thousands of members. When I put this point to the Blairite MP, Jamie Reed on Twitter, he replied somewhat cryptically with “3 million dead”. Such a flippant reply reveals the arrogance of politicians like Reed, who are only in Parliament to feather their nests and satisfy their egos. I mean, how dare you question them on their lack of vision or their contempt for their members? You should be tugging your forelock and lavishing praise on them.
Here’s Reed speaking to the Huffington Post. He claims that “Corbynistas (sic) hate humour”. I can remember the racist and sexist comedians of the 1970s brushing off criticisms of their humour with “it’s just a joke”. Reed’s defence is no less dishonest.
“There’s nothing like getting told to die by an anonymous egg,” says Jamie Reed, the Labour MP and lightning rod for Twitter abuse from supporters of Jeremy Corbyn.
He knows why he gets it in the neck, but refuses to curb his criticism of his party leader on social media to pacify the “trolls”.
Remember even the slightest criticism is considered as either “abuse” or “trolling” by these oh-so-sensitive people.
The Huffington Post takes him at his word and gushes.
By contrast, Reed is playful, owing as much to Viz comic, the Beano and Carry On … as the tenets of the 1997 general election landslide. His Twitter avatar has been the British actor Andrew Lincoln in zombie series The Walking Dead. It is currently the leader of the Rebel Alliance starfighter corps from Star Wars.
“Playful”? He’s poison.
More telling is this:
He says former Tony Blair adviser John McTernan put it best: the hard Left hates humour. “It can’t co-exist with it. Just treating people who are clearly incensed – and in some case for reasons they don’t know why – with a light touch is something they hate.”
Reed even thought that Miliband was too left-wing and worked to overthrow him.
Reed played a central role in the failed attempt to oust former Labour leader Ed Miliband before the general election, and is angry about him distancing the party from New Labour.
So there you have it. Unless the leadership gets a grip and moves to jettison these Blairites, then the Labour Party is doomed to go the same way of the US Democratic Party or Spain’s PSOE. Labour leadership, take note.
Scene: an indoor gathering at which the local Labour MP, a professional politician and former public relations executive is present. An Ordinary Citizen has just asked the MP a question to which comes the following pat reply.
Labour right-winger [smugly]: We have to be a credible party of government.
Ordinary Citizen: But you’re not in government. You’re the official opposition.
Labour right-winger: Yes, but we need to be a credible opposition.
Ordinary Citizen: Make up your mind, I thought you said you had to be a credible party of government.
Labour right-winger [indignantly]:Stop harassing me.
Ordinary Citizen [puzzled expression]: Huh? I’m not harassing you.
Labour right-winger [feigned vexation]: Did you just threaten to kill me? I’m phoning the police!
Ordinary Citizen [rolls eyes and sighs]: I’m going for a pint. Have a nice day.
Labour right-winger: Now you’re threatening my family!
Ordinary Citizen walks off to the sound of the Labour right-winger ranting about ‘Trots’, ‘Militant’ and ‘entryists’.
Ever since Jeremy Corbyn announced he was standing as a candidate in last year’s leadership election, the smear stories have been relentless and increasingly shrill in their tone. This week has seen the absurd ‘List’, which was leaked to The Times and the ratcheting up of a dodgy story about Ian Lavery pocketing loads of union money. All of this happened, coincidentally, on the back of a good showing in the polls for the Labour Party.
Yet, some of these anti-Corbyn stories are downright hilarious, and others are just plain sloppy. A few days ago, I came across this article in The Independent in which someone called Caitlin Doherty, who says she’s a student, claims to have left the Labour Party because of “Jeremy Corbyn”. Well, that’s what the headline says and who am I to argue? Sod it, I’m going to argue. I’m going to argue that this article is little more than clickbait. Howzat?
I’m a student Labour supporter – but I just quit the party over Jeremy Corbyn
Last summer Young Labour blanketed itself in a sense of euphoria. Yes, our party may have lost the election; our optimism, encouraged by pollsters and the unexpected popularity of the Milifandom, may have been initially destroyed. But it wasn’t the end; it was just the start of a new beginning.
There was a new guy on the Labour scene: a guy who looked oddly like your granddad, wore tweed suits and rode a pushbike through Islington. Jeremy Corbyn was set to change the face of the tired and irrelevant Labour Party, and that hot bed of lefties – the student population of Britain – was understandably excited.
So far, so clichéd.
That euphoria, however, is slowly bringing about the end of the Labour party. According to figures released this week, the tidal wave of support that pushed Corbyn to the opposition front bench is coming to an end. For the first time since the general election of May 2015, more people are leaving the Labour Party than joining. And I am among them.
Caitlin links to this misleading article by Andrew Grice in the same paper (sic) that was published the day before, which makes the bold claim that party membership is “falling”. Predictably, Grice offers no sources for his claim.
The majority of these Labour “deserters” are thought, like me, to be the students that drove him to success: the idealists who were swept up in the hashtags and headlines became quickly bored and have moved on elsewhere, it is said. This sweeping assumption does Labour students a great disservice.
“The majority”? Some numbers would be nice or maybe a link? No chance. “Hashtags and headlines”… don’t you just love alliterations? They’re almost as good as tropes and there’s loads of them in this article.
Students aren’t leaving Labour because it isn’t trendy anymore. Students are leaving Labour because they are fed up. Fed up with the ecstatic reception Corbyn still receives – particularly in UK universities where Labour Societies have become increasingly elite and exclusive to ardent Corbynites, with no room for questioning Our Great Leader – despite very little demonstration of any opposition to the increasingly strident Conservative Government.
Was being a member of the Labour Party ever “trendy”? Notice how she slips in the word “Corbynites” and “Our Great Leader”, the latter of which I often see being used on comments threads beneath pro and anti-Corbyn articles.
Caitlin’s previous effort for The Indy was this article on how to survive ‘A’ Levels.
Caitlin is a second year English Literature student at the University of East Anglia, the Global Editor of UEA’s ‘Concrete and a writer for several other local and national publications. A passionate writer, committed politics follower, and occasional book reader she can often be found getting very angry about something.
She’s written three articles for them.
However, with a little digging, I discovered that Caitlin also writes for the University of East Anglia’s student rag. Last September, she wrote this article in which she says:
In a so-called “unity statement” on his campaign website he argues that: “There is no place for personal animosity, negative campaigning, and saying or doing anything now that will damage our ability to work together as one party”. and he urges supporters to add their signatures to this statement of intent. Campaign proclamations aside, whoever finds themselves elected leader in a few weeks’ time will likely have Jeremy Corbyn to thank for an increasingly disunited and fractured Labour Party.
I don’t think she joined Labour because of Corbyn.
I reckon our Caitlin would make a great Progress intern or a Murdoch hack. How about you?
Pusillanimous is a good word and it’s a useful word. It sums up Labour’s last five years in opposition. The definition of pusillanimous is:
showing a lack of courage or determination; timid
Either through cowardice or weakness, the Labour Party failed to counter the absurd allegations made by the Tories that they had created the recession and had driven the country to bankruptcy, because they “crashed the economy”. One ridiculous statement put forward by the Tories and the Lib Dems claimed the United Kingdom was in a similar situation to Greece. Not a single Labour politician that I saw on television or heard on the radio bothered to counter these accusations. Instead, they rolled over and let the Tories get away with murder.
Governments don’t create or cause recessions: these happen because of external factors, like banking collapses and stock market crashes. The current recession (What? You think it’s over?) was caused by a combination of factors, the most notable of which was the subprime mortgage crisis, which was triggered by the collapse in house prices and an increase in mortgage foreclosures. Mortgage companies lent money to people who didn’t have the means to repay the loan. Household debts like these were bought by unscrupulous companies hoping to capitalize on debts. Unfortunately the high rate of default meant that these debts were ‘toxic’.
The other factor in the recession story was the banking crisis, which was caused by the light touch regulation of the financial sector that has its origins in the 1980s under Thatcher and Reagan, and was continued under Blair and Clinton. The banking crisis and the subprime mortgage crisis are interlinked. Both crises were created by unabashed greed and a lack of regulation; the very cornerstones of neoliberalism.
Governments may not cause recessions, but they can make them worse through inertia, complacency and sheer incompetence. The latter includes handing out tax cuts to the rich; attempting to stimulate a property boom and basing a notional economic recovery on inflated house prices. All of these things happened under the Coalition government and look set to continue under the Cameron regime. Labour did little to challenge these things.
One more thing: the country wasn’t and isn’t “bankrupt” as the Tories and their erstwhile partners, the Lib Dems, have claimed. If the country was “bankrupt” it would not have been able to pay its civil servants or even its MPs. If the country was “bankrupt” it would not have been able to borrow money at preferential rates of interest on the international bond markets. Another Angry Voice comprehensively debunks these myths and others.
Instead of opposing the coalition’s fiscal imprudence, Labour actually walked through the Aye lobby with the Tories and Lib Dems and condemned the nation to more austerity by committing themselves to Osborne’s spending plans.
LABOUR MP Diane Abbott accused her party’s leaders yesterday of doing working people a “great disservice” by backing Tory plans for permanent austerity.
The London mayoral hopeful was among five Labour MPs who defied their whips to vote against the Con-Dems’ budget responsibility charter.
Katy Clark, Dennis Skinner, Austin Mitchell and Roger Godsiff also opposed the charter alongside 13 MPs from other parties.
But support from shadow chancellor Ed Balls saw the charter, which includes plans to slash public spending by a further £30 billion, passed by a whopping 515 votes to 18.
The Star reported that Green MP Caroline Lucas called his position “feeble and inconsistent” during Tuesday’s debate.
It’s little wonder those who would have ordinarily voted Labour decided to give their vote to another party or stay at home. I mean, why vote for a party that’s going to do exactly the same thing as the party in power? It doesn’t make sense.
And Ms Abbott yesterday revealed her dismay at watching fellow Labour MPs ordered to troop through the lobbies with Tories and Lib Dems.
“I was hugely disappointed yesterday to see the Labour Party vote in favour of further austerity and in doing so we have done hardworking people a great disservice,” she told the Morning Star.
“Instead of simply mimicking current practices we should be offering a solid alternative through investment in public services to create real and sustainable growth.”
Yet Labour apparatchiks denied this ever took place and here’s an MP saying that it had. Only 13 Labour MPs could be bothered to vote against Tory spending cuts. That’s pretty sad, but it’s also a disgrace. It’s as if Labour actually wanted to lose the election.
Whatever you think of George Galloway, he’s got the two main parties bang to rights. They are indeed “two cheeks of the same backside”.
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!
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.
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.