Posted Under: Elections,Green Party,Labour,Liberal Democrats,Racism/Fascism,Respect,Tories
It’s not as bad as it seems.
Across the lefty web, journalists and bloggers are taking stock of their situation, looking for explanations as to why things seem so bad and desperately trying to work out where to go from here. Some want to retreat into localism, some are still clinging to the hope that constitutional convention will override democracy and save us from a Tory government, most are swearing at the Lib Dem lie and the state of the socialist left and almost all are hanging their heads. But I’m an optimist. And here on The Third Estate, I’m going to give you a little glass half-full election analysis. Don’t worry, be happy; always look on the bright side of life; and most of all, DON’T PANIC!
First of all, we have to recognise the realities. There’s no point running away from them. The Conservatives have won. I’ve seen a number of left-wing commentators clinging to outdated conventions which give the incumbent Prime Minister the first right to form a government, even if he or she were clearly defeated and the party they want to help prop them up against the wishes of the electorate was even more resoundingly trounced. But as socialists, as republicans, as democratic reformists, we should not be relying on Queen and convention to save us. Moral rights have always been more important to us than constitutional ones. That’s why we boycotted South Africa. We have to accept that the Tories gained the most votes and the most seats. A coalition of losers is not an anti-Tory majority anymore than one could argue that Labour should not have been allowed to form a government in 2005 because the vast majority of the electorate didn’t vote for them. The Tories may well fail to reach a deal with the Lib Dems, but they have the strongest mandate of all the parties to govern alone.
The Silver Lining
Firstly, and most obviously, the Conservatives didn’t win a majority. After 13 years of New Labour, after two unpopular wars, the worst financial crisis in almost a century, the total ideological abandonment of Labour’s traditional supporters and a raft of scandals, that the Tories didn’t win by a landslide is nothing short of a miracle. In two-party politics, enforced by our archaic and deeply undemocratic electoral system, parties enter parliament on a wave of support, they become increasingly unpopular the longer they’re in power, then the other party gets in and the cycle repeats. That’s how politics works. Not this time. Clearly there is a deep dissatisfaction with the way politics operates and there is a yearning for change. That will have to come, and the case for PR has never been stronger.
Unless the Tories can offer the Lib Dems PR, they are likely going to have to govern alone as a minority. Their priority, as they’ve consistently argued, is to reign in the country’s deficit through severe cuts to public spending. This is going to be a catastrophically unpopular move. Even before the election, Mervyn King was arguing that whoever wins will be out of power for the next 30 years for precisely that reason. This sounds to me somewhat alarmist, but should the Conservatives move immediately down the cuts route, they will find their already limited popularity significantly dented. They have a moral mandate to govern. But unlike Tony Blair in 1997, they don’t have a mandate to do whatever the hell they like and screw whoever the hell they like over in the process. Meanwhile, they will find it increasingly difficult to operate as a minority government, particularly on the most contentious pieces of legislation. If they are unable to compromise, it is a real possibility that they will lose a vote on the Queen’s Speech of the Budget and bam, that’s a vote of no confidence and another election. An election which, if their popularity has already been severely hit by proposed cuts, they may very well lose. Winning the election in this way may very well be the worst thing to happen to the Conservative Party since 1997.
You Could’ve Been a Contender
Of course, no election analysis would be complete without looking at the minor parties. The failure of Respect, since the split, is disappointing, but not all that surprising. They simply don’t have the national structure on the ground to be a serious political force, and local politics, no matter how strong, is not enough. Galloway’s failure to turn up at the count is the clearest sign that the Respect project is dead in the water. The loss of his seat, however, is not the end for Galloway. In fairness, he never really engaged much with parliamentary politics anyway. But like him or loathe him – and I continue to believe that on balance he is a force for good – Galloway is a tireless campaigner and whether he’s sitting in the Commons or standing on a speaker’s podium, the struggle carries on.
Respect, of course, remains the strongest traditional socialist party in the country. The dismal position of the TUSC demonstrates that. But all the minor parties found themselves getting squeezed in this election.
The one exception to this rule, and by far my highlight of the night, was Caroline Lucas’s election in Brighton Pavillion. She deserved to win that seat and win it she did. The country has gained a truely radical MP, a powerful voice for progressive change and a firm kick up the backside. The Greens have a much stronger national operation than Respect ever had, even before the departure of the SWP, and with a little luck and a whole lot of hard work, they can build on this historic win to become a new force in national politics. And for all the lefties who claim they’re still a bunch a middle class liberals with beards, read their manifesto. It’s as socialist as they come.
At First, When I See You Cry, I Go Ahead and Smile
The BNP got pwned! Yes pwned. I can use that word, because nothing else can describe it. This should make any decent human being incredibly happy. I never believed the hype and fear that they would gain their first seat at this election. They didn’t come close. In fact, they lost over half their council seats and were utterly wiped out in Barking and Dagenham. With the amount of money they will have lost in this election and the in-fighting threatening to tear them apart, this may very well be the beginning of the end for the BNP.
So you see, it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s plenty out there to cheer. In the meantime, the struggle carries on. As I write, a rally is just starting in Trafalgar Square for democratic reform. If this election proves anything, it’s that we need it now more than ever.