When the DUP and Labour combine forces to elicit the full text of the Government’s legal advice surrounding the Brexit deal you know the traditional Left and Right sides of politics or Parliament’s chamber have been traversed. When UKIP and Tommy Robinson plan to march against Brexit – at least in its current form, you know that those that pushed for it don’t want what is on offer. When Leavers and Remainers are both calling the deal illegal you know the whole omnishambles is unravelling.
Then we have the Brexit TV debate on BBC or is it ITV, with Leaver Corbyn having to speak against Brexit and Remainer May, for it. They are not the only two voices we should be hearing from, and they are far from the best. Where are NI or Scottish voices, LibDem or Plaid Cymru?
Theresa May is adamant that it is her deal or no deal. Occasionally, she suggests the possibility of a third option and then retracts it. Liam Fox, meanwhile, openly voices it:
“As leave supporters, the choice we face isn’t between the deal the Prime Minister has reached or a deal we might like to reach. The choice is between this deal and the very real risk of no Brexit.” – Liam Fox
This is such a poor deal of limited EU withdrawal and complete loss of influence in the name of a pseudo-Brexit that for arch-Leavers to even consider voting for it must be an indication that both this Government and Brexit itself are in dire danger of collapsing.
Whilst the ERG’s Rees-Mogg and pals can’t add up to 48 and wrote their letters of ‘No Confidence’ prematurely, Parliament itself can call a No Confidence motion under the Fixed Terms Parliament Act:
“If a motion of no confidence is passed or there is a failed vote of confidence, there is a 14-day period in which to pass an act of confidence in a new government. If no such vote is passed, a new election must be held, probably a mere 17 working days later.” – Institute for Government
Wahay! I say, as a biased-against-Brexit Remainer and non-Tory but who, nonetheless, is keen to heal the divide and find a way to work out why our differences of opinion have become so polarised. Surely the far right is not that prevalent in British politics, and for Lexit socialists to ally with them against the EU proves that new alliances have been formed but which sacrifice so much more in the name of new forms of seemingly ‘acceptable’ nationalism.
National socialism has twice before become fascist extremism, I can’t see that happening here in the land of moderation, I mean we are not rioting on the streets against petrol duty like the French. Labour may be a mess of confusion on Brexit but their moral ambiguity is not as bad as the Tory willingness to ally with the DUP to keep themselves in power or create hostile environments around immigration, welfare, or mental health. A majority of Labour voters supported Remain but its leaders can’t bring themselves to come all out to stop Brexit. The Tories are overtly right-wing but actually called the EU Referendum to stem the tide of voter defections to UKIP and the far right and also can’t bring themselves to descend into further right extremism. Many find ‘no deal’ unpalatable.
These are all minority views, however loud and briefly magnified into an ill-considered 52-48% yes/no vote that actually doesn’t reflect the true views of the majority who were content with the status quo and might have answered differently to a more nuanced question.
The United Kingdom, whatever happens next, will forever now be the Disunited Kingdom. It’s as if we have entered a new age of Civil War or Wars of the Roses that will haunt our history for some time to come. Ironically, the EU came about as a means to bring about peace and ensure an end to warring nation states.
Instead, the state of the nation is of one at war with itself, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, to the point of decapitating all other political, social and economic needs. Housing, health, homelessness, have all gone by the wayside as we apoplectically remain beside ourselves, obsessed with Brexit.
There is no salve, no solution, that will satisfy both sides, especially, when the sides are now three and not two. We have Hard Brexit, Bad Brexit, and No Brexit – all as available choices, and none of which will satisfy half the country.
“One cabinet minister is privately predicting that we are heading for the ‘gravest constitutional crisis’ in our history. This is hyperbole; the 17th century had several that were far worse.” – The Spectator
Brexit was all along a politically motivated idea that nobody really wanted in sufficient numbers. Instead, Cameron’s cowardice and short-term opportunism have aggravated what was a political sore into an open wound that will remain infected for some time to come. The only option is surgery but whether that is to cut ourselves off from Europe completely or to remove the option of Brexit entirely, the healing to democracy and nation may be unrecoverable.
A week really is a long time in politics, as Labour surge and Tories entrench to fight onto their minority Government. The latest post-election polling has Labour on 45% (+5) and the Conservative Party on 39% (-3) that means in another election Labour would win, but in all likelihood still fall short of a majority – making a progressive rather than DUP regressive coalition the best way forward. All this is another reason the Tories are shoring up deals with the devil to stay in power. The poll was in the Mail on Sunday and from Survation who had the Tories on 41 and Labour on 40 on 7 June predicting a hung parliament, and hence the most accurate poll.
Theresa May’s Leadership
Whilst “strong and stable” is clearly parked like the hastily hidden away EdStone in 2015, Theresa May still feels like she can hang on whilst the Tory Titanic sinks.
Just 38% now think Theresa May should stay on as Prime Minister, 49% think she should resign.
Whilst the Tories stubbornly call for ever harder Brexit, the DUP and Scottish Conservatives want a softer one. If this was an election called to confirm a strong majority for Brexit negotiations, then May has lost her mandate for it.
Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Tories, may be tempted to break away from the English and Welsh Tories in order to fight for a very soft Brexit and to campaign against the DUP amidst their anti-LGBT and women views.
“The pattern of seat results suggests that seats in Remain areas saw significant defections away from the Conservatives.” – Electoral Calculus
Tactical voting clearly played its part with people moving from minority parties to the main two in order to vote “anything but Tory” or for BluKIP, i.e., UKIP voters hoping to shore up the Tories. Seemingly, many UKIP voters also returned to Labour.
Goats for Votes?
Goats have often been used to persuade people to register to vote for the first time. My old university, UCL, did this year, and local to me, UEA, has done in the past.
Today, old goats were in the news, not because climate sceptic Michael Gove was made Environment Secretary – right up Donald Trump and DUP‘s street, but because the Queen’s Speech may be delayed. It turns out that the speech is written on goatskin (well heavy parchment now) and it takes 7 days to dry the ink and so the whole political process has ground to a halt. And so, #goatgate is born!
Back to the Future?
Whilst the Tories criticised Labour for appearing to go back to the 1970s, their own manifesto programme of a return to the 1950s – fox hunting and pre-EU, has now been torn up. It was clear that young people voted for a Jeremy Corbyn future in droves.
Theresa May has today apologised to the Tory 1922 Committee (who feel that 2017 is way too modern) saying,
“I got us into this mess and I’ll get us out of it”. – Theresa May
More Laurel and Hardy than Strong and Stable!
Perhaps, foxhunting, OAP hounding, goatskin, will mean the swansong of the pigheaded Tories and Theresa “Kitten Heels”. (Any more animal allusions I could get in there?)
Just how representative of the UK population as a whole were prospective parliamentary candidates and elected MPs in terms of gender, sexuality, disability, religion and colour/race/ethnicity? 97 new MPs joined the house, and Ken Clarke MP was re-elected as its oldest member and Father of the House. It is well known that, hitherto, the UK had the most LGB ‘out’ Parliament in the world, but not the most gender balanced, how has that changed after Theresa May‘s snap general election?
2017 sees 208 female Members of Parliament, up from 191 in 2015 (196 after by-elections). There were many seats where both the main candidates standing were female. 29% of candidates were women, 32% of those elected were – both records for the UK but not the world.
We were 46th in the world tables, we are now 39th. Guess who is first? Rwanda with 61% women, second is Bolivia with 53%. All others are less than 50%. Sweden (#6), Finland (#9), and Norway (#12=) are the top European nations, all Scandinavian. The first Western European nation is Spain at 14th and Belgium at 19th. Germany is 22nd but France 63rd! At this rate, 2062 would see gender balance in the UK Parliament.
Labourfielded 40% women, the Green Party 35% (statistically, of course, 100% of their MPs are female!), UKIP had 13%. Of those elected, there is wide variation among the political parties. Labour have 45% (119) and their leader in Scotland but never England (except as caretaker). Meanwhile, there are just 21% (67) among Conservative MPs despite a history of two Prime Ministers and their leader in Scotland.
Interesting that the DUP, the Conservatives in Scotland, and the Tories in England and Wales are all led by right-wing women, one of whom is anti-gay, another is gay, and another shifted to same-sex equality (through persuasion by a female LibDem MP) after a prior voting and campaigning record against it. Being a woman, it seems, is little impediment to political power in the UK. Indeed, add in Plaid Cymru, SNP, and for two weeks, even UKIP, only Labour (England and Wales) and LibDems haven’t been led by a woman.
Being female is no guarantee that one will hold pro-equality, pro-LGBT views. We now have a triumvirate of female-led parties forming a “confidence and supply” alliance to keep the Tories in power that may be in breach of the Good Friday Agreement.
LGBTIQ Sexuality & Gender Identity
With 45 openly LGB MPs (19 Tory, 19 Labour, 7 SNP) that’s also a record and 6 up from 2015 – at 6.9% that’s close to the supposed 6% openly LGB numbers in the population (much higher among young people, of course). None among the 12 LibDems, though their female MPs balance at 4 out of 12 is somewhat restored.
Seven Trans and two Non-Binary candidates stood (just 4 in 2015, so, more than doubling) but none were elected, several have stood in council elections before. Eddie Izzard continues to hint that he may stand as an MP.
UK LGB MPs are the highest proportion anywhere in the world. We have the most rainbow Parliament – quite an affront to the homophobic DUP with whom 19 LGB Tory MPs may now have to do electoral business with.
Since 4.5% of the people standing for election (147/3304) were openly LGBTQ, it means that LGB candidates are up to 1.5x more likely to win. Tories and Labour had 7% LGBT candidates, SNP 17% and 20% of their elected MPs, despite reduced numbers. Surprisingly, only 2% of Greens (same as UKIP!) and 4% of LibDems were. White gay men outweigh any other LGBTQ demographic 5x and are the most likely to be elected. Curiously almost zero LGBT candidates stood in Greater East Anglia! There’s an opening for me yet 😉
Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic MPs
Of the 147 LGBTQ candidates, just one was BME, in 2015 that was two – both shamefully low, though we don’t know the number of non-out candidates. However, 51 BME MPs were elected on 8 June – an increase of 10. At 7.8% this is just over half of the 14% general population representation.
Britain also elected its first MP of Palestinian heritage as Layla Moran for the LibDems “overturned a Conservative majority of almost 10,000 votes to win the Oxford West and Abingdon. Moran won the closely contested election by only 816, gaining 26,252 votes.”
Just four openly physically disabled MPs were elected, 0.6% of Parliament, compared with 16% of the UK. Mental health is so stigmatised, one wonders if it were possible for someone to be ‘out’ with a diagnosed long term condition and an MP, other than depression and anxiety that affect 1-in-4 of us, and undoubtedly affect MPs similarly. It would be great to see a bipolar MP, to show it is possible to manage a bipolar life.
The new Parliament sees the UK’s first female Sikh MP, Preet Gill and its first turbaned male Sikh, Tanmanjeet Dhesi. Both are Labour MPs. In the past we’ve had 5 Sikh MPs in the last 15 years but never wearing a turban in the House of Commons.
In the wake of the Manchester concert bombing, it is perhaps significant that the city elected its first Muslim MP, Afzal Khan – who was also ten years ago their youngest and first British Pakistani and Muslim, Mayor of Manchester.
It shouldn’t matter, but it is interesting nonetheless with accusations that the Tories were run by the Eton and Bullingdon Club set, and even many who stood as Labour leader being Oxbridge educated.
The Sutton Trust believes that 51% of MPs were educated in comprehensive schools, and just 29% at public schools (ie privately educated). It is still disproportionately biased to private education, therefore.
In conclusion, our LGB representation continues to be the highest in the world, across the three largest parties – but not elsewhere, and close to the assumed proportion of the general population. Several Trans, Non-Binary and similar, stood but at 9 out of 3300, they are about 10x underrepresented in standing, and to date unelectable; are they being stood as no-risk candidates in unelectable areas, that’s an analysis I’ve not done yet. On gender, we are getting there slowly, but ranking 39th in the world is a poor result, albeit an improved one. Realistically with parenting issues, 45% of Parliament would be a good showing for women, rather than the 32% we have. BME and disability remain woefully underrepresented. How a Tory deal with the DUP, who are anti-diversity on just about every count, can be squared with Parliament and the electorate’s ever-progressive diversity, remains to be seen.
From Remain to Leave, from a 2020 election to a 2017 election, from the Fixed-term Parliament Act to PM’s whim. This Prime Minister is for turning.
Markets have reacted to uncertainty as usual with the FTSE-100 down nearly 2.5% but the Pound also jumping over 1.5% against the Dollar.
Polls and Psephology
Psephologists and pollsters suggest she is odds-on favourite for an increased majority and mandate. Polls suggest a 15-20% point lead over Labour, a collapsed UKIP campaign as they’ve no longer Brexit to call for and many UKIPpers returning to the Tory fold as May goes for Hard Brexit or broke.
Be in no doubt this election is to crush Brexit (and any internal Tory) opposition – the very opposition she said at Easter didn’t exist because the country was united behind Brexit:
“a sense that people are coming together and uniting behind the opportunities that lie ahead” – Theresa May, Easter message
Hijacking a religious festival for a political message? Will she stop at nothing?
Falsely describing the country as united but Parliament, as divided, is disingenuous and erasing of the 48%, of the tens and hundreds of thousands who continue to turn out for pro-EU/anti-Brexit rallies.
“At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division. The country is coming together, but Westminster is not.” – Theresa May, Election call [full speech text | video]
She is referring to the SNP, LibDems, Labour and even the Lords, vowing to fight any bad deal with the EU. Surely, their opposition is in all our interests, even Leave voters, as nobody wants a bad deal. Again, it’s suspect since Article 50 was passed by Parliament, despite the narrow 52% EU Referendum majority and MPs being denied a free vote. Meantime, an election is the one surefire thing to divide the country afresh!
Whilst some may want an end to Leave-Remain bickering, some are opposed to a “hard” Brexit and may also vote against giving Theresa May a carte blanche to withdraw from the EU so drastically.
“Britain is leaving the European Union and there can be no turning back.” – Theresa May, Election call [full speech text | video]
A Second Referendum?
Inadvertently perhaps, Theresa May has just called a second EU Referendum:
“So I have a simple challenge to the opposition parties, you have criticised the Government’s vision for Brexit, you have challenged our objectives, you have threatened to block the legislation we put before Parliament – This is your moment to show you mean it.” – Theresa May, Election call [full speech text | video]
Single Issue Politics
Despite Audre Lorde saying, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives”, nevertheless, this may well be a single issue election.
Remainers will be tempted to vote LibDem, even many students with memories of betrayal over student loans or concerns about Tim Farron’s evangelical Christian faith and opposition to abortion and gay sex – that said, he has been quoted as saying he will follow party policy on the matter.
For the SNP, too, it will be about Brexit and a Scottish second independence referendum, because of it.
The LibDems – who gained 1000 new members an hour after May’s announcement, and Tim Farron are trending on Twitter, Labour are not. Labour MP Alan Johnson is trending, but that’s because, along with others, he is standing down.
Perhaps it is time for strategic voting as June will be seen as an ironclad Brexit mandate and a 5-year window to negotiate with EU pre- and post-Brexit. Labour are down but also voting for the early election. Greens and LibDems are slowly rising in support and membership since the EU Referendum. LibDem marginals winning back seats from Tories in pro-Remain areas are the likely possible cause of an upset. As a past Labour voter, conceited statements that the choice is between the Tories and Labour ignore the possibility of a third pro-EU force emerging, backing Greens and/or LibDems or independent candidates. Anyone with an EU partner, like myself and many friends, will be thinking this. We’ve had 40 years of integrating EU people, policies and partners into our society, and they remain a headline issue in this forthcoming election campaign.
Betting odds on the next leaders to replace the current batch are Labour: 4-1 Keir Starmer, 6-1 Clive Lewis, LibDems: 4-1 Norman Lamb, Tories: 4-1 Boris Johnson. Odds on the next PM: Theresa May 1-10 and on Corbyn 7-1. Tim Farron was 50-1 now 25-1. 7-4 odds on Labour losing 50 seats and LibDems gaining 10-20. Either way, doesn’t look good. Plan A is still strategic voting for the best opposition party/candidate in each locale. (Ladbrokes | Paddy Power | OddsChecker)
“So, tomorrow, let the House of Commons vote for an election, let everybody put forward their proposals for Brexit and their programmes for Government, and let us remove the risk of uncertainty and instability and continue to give the country the strong and stable leadership it demands.” – Theresa May, Election call [full speech text | video]
Between you and me, I once voted Tory – 30 years ago, and never yet Labouruntil Jeremy Corbyn inspired me. The Labour Leadership campaign, until Corbyn’s shoe-in to liven up the deadly proceedings, had initially deadened me to more of the same public school Oxbridge blue Labourites. Corbyn added heart, soul and principles – I don’t have to agree with him entirely, but we need a Tony Benn or Michael Foot for their beliefs and ethics, not just electability or the in-word according to Radio 4, credibility.
In the intervening 30 years I’ve voted LibDem and Green believing in free speech, equality and the environment. I have an Economics degree to my name, and so understand the economy – but it’s not an exact science, it’s more like being a meteorologist or historian with failed predictions and over-analytical hindsight still not faithfully dictating future outcomes.
“true Labour not blue Labour”
Corbyn has injected humane passionate inclusive positive politics back into the mix, he’s avoided criticism of the other candidates and made politics appealing to all ages once again. He’s packed out halls up and down the country. He’s apologised on behalf of Labour and welcome new and old members to Labour’s fold. He is, “true Labour not blue Labour“.
Globalisation is here to stay – and that is a good thing. I believe in a true globalisation, a fair trade where second and third world (what classist terminology) countries can export through economies of scale and relatively cheap labour until they rise up the economic rankings like the BRIC nations have but Africa, bar Nigeria and its oil, haven’t.
Capitalism and the not-so-Free Market
Capitalism exists not because of free market forces, but because those with power and economic privilege are able to fix the market. Under a true free market capitalism the banks, Iceland, Greece etc would have been allowed to go bust and would no doubt have been reformed and rebuilt (probably with outside support and freedom to reset currency) like Germany and Japan were post-War.
The EU or the fixed federal currency market, is not a free market, nor is protectionist America.
I no more believe in socialism as a divorced from reality theory than I do conservatism or capitalism, I do however believe in equality, human rights, opportunity and globalisation – as opportunity and undeniable reality. What this means is that my voting intentions lie across the field from Green to Liberal, Labour to Conservative, though given half the chance north of the border I’d probably vote SNP.
Nationalisation and Investment
I do believe in the re-nationalisation of basic transport, energy, and broadband, or their shared ownership by not-for-profit community interest companies as an alternative to buying them back. The Internet and fast transport are the modern industrial revolution, changes that cannot and should not be rolled back.
I also believe in responsible re-investment whilst interest rates are low and we have AAA rating. In infrastructure, for example, that will enable entrepreneurial expansion – something even Corbyn has voiced, he is not stuck entirely in the 1970s or the 1790s as Boris Johnson has termed it. Housing, transport, green/new-energy and technology need investment. Corbyn has said, as part of his Better Business plan:
“The current government seems to think ‘pro-business’ means giving a green light to corporate tax avoiders and private monopolies. I will stand up for small businesses, independent entrepreneurs, and the growing number of enterprises that want to cooperate and innovate for the public good.”
Vulnerable people need protection – Capitalism does not provide that. There has to be compromise with free market economics to achieve community care, compassion, and ethical responsibility. The focus on prosperity and opportunity ignores the needs of fair provision for all people and those disadvantaged by lack of possibility.
Socialism cannot meet that need without compromises either. I’ve always been a free market relative small-‘c’ capitalist with a socialist heart, green environment and liberal free speecher – that doesn’t mean a compromise candidate, but a strong-valued candidate willing to balance means and objectives, and prioritise people not power, not compromise principles. Labour has gone too far down the compromise route.
The language of “we cannot deliver principles or priorities until we have gained power (by any means)” leads to voter distrust. The politics of the majority may well be those of aspiration but the needs of the many are actually those of desperation and disenfranchisement.
“Something deeply attractive to most people in society of the idea of the cohesive, the coherent, the collective. The idea you don’t blame minorities, the idea you don’t make people with disabilities suffer, you don’t walk away from people with mental health conditions, you don’t walk away from people with problems. There’s something strong about a cohesive society…” – Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn & Political Change
Personally, switching from privilege to privation, through life and mental health circumstances, changed my politics. Politics now lacks principles and heart, Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood bring back something of that. They may yet reinvigorate the electorate.
Andy Burnham appears to be an opportunist, accused of flip-flopping policies for best outcome – remember he’s stood for leader before. Yvette Cooper has political history and association with the Blair-Brown years, and Liz Kendall is way too Blairite – and now cursed by the other Miliband. A cabinet composed of all of them stands a chance but bar Burnham (who seems to be manoeuvring himself to hedge his bets whilst everyone bets on Corbyn 1/4 whilst Burnham is 4/1) the others have stubbornly refused to share a table with Corbyn and Labour luminaries have done everything possible to derail and invalidate the democratic revival the leadership race has brought.
Democracy and Mass Appeal
By mass appeal I’m not talking majority aspiration, but appealing to the masses, the people who exist near the bottom bent under the weight of everyone else getting ahead by aspiration and avarice, and leaving them behind. Those forgotten, that even David Cameron cynically swore in 2010 before the election that he would not forget, during austerity. The poor, those on benefits, immigrants, the disabled, those with mental health issues, the forgotten and might as well be ‘disappeared’.
If print media column inches are counted then Jeremy Corbyn is streets ahead, and if social media is anything to go by then his Facebook campaign has 62,000 supporters (& 78k on his personal page) to Andy Burnham’s under 5,000 (18k on his personal page) Yvette Cooper’s 400 (20k on her personal page) and Liz Kendall’s 115 (7k on her personal page). Among my friends alone, 70 have liked Corbyn’s campaign page, 1 Burnham’s, and another has a declared interest for Kendall. It may be the Facebook generation that he is reaching, but by a long chalk he is the one Labour leadership contender reaching it. A spoof page for Liz Kendall for Tory leader has 3 times as many likes as the one for Labour leader.
Aside from social media, Corbyn is taking towns and cities by storm to packed-out venue crowds and queues down the street if feedback from Norwich is anything to go by. More than 1500 registered to attend an 800-seat event, so Jeremy stepped outside to address, without notes, those who couldn’t get in. Many chose not to attend once they knew it was over-capacity. this was Norwich’s biggest political rally in decades. This over-capacity story was repeated in Ealing, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Newcastle and other locations.
“This is a phenomenon, the like of which I haven’t seen in 40 years of watching Labour from close-quarters. Because it’s feeding off an aching for change that’s coming from ordinary Labour supporters below, not being imposed by rulers from above” – Brian Reade in the Mirror
Opposition – A Party of Protest
We could not have a better Leader of the Opposition for the next 5 years, certainly post-Miliband’s silent slide from the scene post his #EdStone and election loss moment, than Corbyn. During the interregnum Labour has been impotent and were the SNP to be a UK-based party one might have seen Nicola Sturgeon as the true heir to opposition leader in Parliament.
The fear that Labour would be consigned to “oppositional politics” or be a “party of protest” were Corbyn to be at the helm, is not a bad thing. The third of the electorate that don’t vote include people disillusioned with politics and politicians who all seem the same, 50 shades of austerity rather than any alternative vision. We have had more Blue Labour post New Labour and at the last election could barely tell the parties apart.
Janet Daley, among others, writes that the Tories are now waking up to the fear that Corbyn may win, after their initial glee at his rise, thinking that Labour had shot itself in the ‘Michael Foot’. Electing someone the Tories fear will create true opposition and debate, not an establishment bi-party centre-right duopoly. We’ve had the political equivalent of price-fixing for too long. The female-led Greens, Plaid Cymru and SNP gave us a taste of political change but could not break the mould other than in Scotland.
When the Right calls a political spade a spade:
“The only way that Labour can win that contest is to become (as they see it) a Tory-lite party: Conservatism with a human face. And that is not, absolutely not, what they are interested in. If, in order to be electable, you must relinquish all your socialist precepts and learn to love the free-market economy, then there is nothing perverse in turning your back on electoral victory.”
And, when Right wing Boris Johnson and Janet Daley are in agreement with Labour’s Dan Hodges, one has to wonder that a politician this scary may actually be quite good.
Principles over Power
Standing up for principles over power, may inadvertently deliver power. Focusing on power at any cost, as Blair did – delivered electoral victory and increasing disillusionment among the faithful as they witnessed the rise of Tory Blair.
In fact, the interventions of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Miliband, Alastair Campbell, Peter ‘Machiavelli’ Mandelson, and even Neil Kinnock are all proving counter-productive and appear as attempted establishment saving, rather than actually listening to the disenfranchised, for whom Labour was founded. The new class war is for the voiceless and voteless against the vices of the entrenched political victors (New Labour and New-but-increasingly-old Conservatives).
We could perhaps have a golden age of re-expansion with current cheap, albeit borrowed, money and investment, but it needs to be carefully managed not overspent – I’ve no idea who could deliver that, but I’d rather a realistic way to deliver Jeremy Corbyn’s heart were found than a heartless way to deliver Kendall’s power-hungry realism were.
The language of austerity and recovery (the Tory version or Labour’s “austerity-light”) has all been about working to pay off the deficit, whereas the reality of much of it was about cutting public sector jobs and the benefits of those out of work. The language of Ukip has been about preventing others coming here to work, or labelling migrants as “benefit/health tourists”. According to many international bodies the UK has done well – economically, but socially we are falling apart. Socially and in microeconomics terms, rather than the surface macroeconomic recovery, the Coalition isn’t working, also “Labour Isn’t Working“, the political opposition has been ineffectual.
Measuring the Health of a Nation
In health service resources terms we are 28th out of 30 OECD nations, 19th in terms of our actual health. The health of society should not be measured in mere economic terms. Education, welfare, mental health, attitudes to those that are different, migrants, or asylum seekers, are often a better guide to how we are really doing as a society. When a million people are using foodbanks, something is clearly wrong.
The language of Labour and Conservatives this election has all been about “hard working families“, with Ukip adding British-only workers to that, but then even Labour wanted to push for British jobs first. On paper, the unemployment rate is almost back to its 5.3% pre-crisis figure along with a massive shift away from public sector towards the private sector. After 5 years of austerity certain types of jobs are growing (self-employment, small business, zero hours contracts – 700k/2.3% of workers), but those without are being left behind – something Cameron promised not to do.
“I want to, if I’m elected, take the whole country with me. I don’t want to leave anyone behind. The test of a good society is you look after the elderly, the frail, the vulnerable, the poorest in our society. And that test is even more important in difficult times, when difficult decisions have to be taken, than it is in better times.” – David Cameron on the Andrew Marr Show, just before the 2010 General Election
Whether disabled, unskilled, mentally ill, being a carer, or struggling with some other difficulty that makes the 9-5 “Arbeit macht frei” ethic not appropriate or possible for all, many are being abandoned, and forgotten. The very purpose of the modern state, the welfare state, even something once quoted but not fulfilled by David Cameron, is to care for the weakest and neediest in society – without scapegoating them as sick scroungers.
Ed Miliband and the #EdStone
Even Ed Miliband in his Cecil B. DeMille Mosaic stone Tablets announcement this weekend put the economy as the number #1 priority and “higher living standards for working families” as number #2, apeing UKIP and the Tories at number #4 is “Controls on Immigration“.
What no welfare?
Nowhere among Labour’s 6 priorities were people in need, on welfare, even mentioned. For welfare to remain a “dirty” word even with a so-called socialist party shows how times have swung and the extent to which a party will spin and abandon its principles in order to regain power.
“Cuts” has been the message of austerity and debt reduction. But those cuts have fallen on the neediest in society, those on disability or welfare, not those most able to pay, or indeed – such as the banks, most responsible for the economic collapse in the first place. In 2012 UK Uncut protested the March budget with a “queue” outside Downing Street and an “Austerity Isn’t Working” poster campaign mimicing the 1978/9 Saatchi poster done for Margaret Thatcher and the Tories.
The verdict of a successful government is not just something measured in economic terms but also in moral and social ones.
Is the economy the only measure of a successful country? If I starve my kids to pay off my overdraft am I a great parent? #BBCDebate
David Cameron’s Easter message interview with a Christian magazine summed up Christianity as about “hard work and responsibility“, not Christ’s work on the Cross, meaning that, soteriologically, everything was actually already done for mankind.
Jesus said that the “truth would set you free”, the truth seems to be the thing furthest from modern politicians, with all their spin and question-dodging. No wonder 35% of the electorate don’t vote.
Less about Economic Wealth what about Mental Health?
The real hard truth is that “Britain isn’t working”. Inequality is increasing. Our communities are fractured and our countryside fracked. Those not in work are being punitively capped and cut until they can take it no more.
The irony of a government forcing state-funded CBT onto the unemployed yet unable to deliver self-requested CBT via mental health services for those that want to work is clearly lost on the Big Brother worker state. Hundreds of therapists, counsellors, and mental health experts, have written to outline their fears about the emotional and psychological toxicity of austerity and how it is being carried out. Suicides have increased over the last 5 years, especially amongst men.
Big Society or Broken Society?
Is the Big Society broken? Does society even exist or matter? Thatcher’s “there’s no such thing as society” is falsely interpreted though under a Tory-LibDem watch has been almost a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.” – Margaret Thatcher, 1987
Saatchi and Saatchi designed the 1978 poster that helped Thatcher win the 1979 election with the tagline “Labour [Still] Isn’t Working“. The Labour Party has spoofed the self same poster nearly 4 decades later. It is time to think outside the box not just rattle and rebrand it.
The truth is society is more broken than 5 years ago even if the economy may be on the mend. Austerity has been toxic. Our health, transport, housing, and education sectors have declined after being starved of resources or sold off to the private sector. Now it is society that needs rebuilding, not the economy. That is the true measure of recovery.
With the Conservatives returned to power, not just coalition but a slim but workable majority, and achieving a rare (once in a century) feat of increasing their vote share, how much did their victory owe to spin and emphasis on the economy not those in need? Are the democratic majority simply selfish? The majority view does not mean it is the right view – ethically, morally, socially. In the meantime the 37 year-old poster image is still doing the rounds with Daily Telegraph cartoonist BOB re-posting “Labour isn’t working” with a queue of unemployed Labour MPs snaking back from the dole office.
Today is the first full working day of the UK General Election 2015 campaign, the MPs are now just prospective Parliamentary candidates but some of Labour’s former MPs are keeping their distance from the immigration mugs in their online shop.
But for a moment, let’s celebrate – we have no MPs! Parliament has prorogued and dissolved. Anarchy in the UK! On a more serious note, the psephologists are number crunching, which we all know means the return of the swingometer and ever so accurate and meaningful poll predictions. Basically the Tories and Labour are neck to neck, but on day one it is Labour who are up to their necks in it.
Other issues from the weekend such as:
Labour’s “no” more borrowing and “yes” more borrowing
Conservative’s no third term for Cameron
Tony Blair’s offer of financial support curse
These were all dead and buried as old news after Labour created ‘better’ bad news!
It was barely an hour into day one of the official election campaigns and already immigration was the number one topic, or at least the mugs in Labour’s shop were.
Labour Anti-immigration mug
#MugGate, as it will no doubt come to be called, is all about Labour‘s Five Pledges, most of which are fairly non-descript and non-specific, but #4 “Controls on Immigration” was what caught everyone’s attention.
Labour have done nothing but apologise for the two things the polls say they are weak on, namely, the economy and immigration – respectively, the Tories and UKIP’s campaign strengths. Or, if like me – an ardent pro-migration and diversity activist, their weaknesses.
There were 500 mugs available, now around 90 – so over 400 bought! Probably by Tories, journalists and people like me thinking these will be worth a fortune on eBay after Labour tries to recall them as a damage limitation exercise.
The criticisms that Labour were using not just Tory immigration rhetoric but UKIP’s were all over Twitter and the several Labour MPs including Sadiq Khan and Chuka Umunna said they wouldn’t buy one either. Another Labour MP, Diane Abbott, called them “shameful”. and an “embarrassment“, and the “real problem is that immigration controls are one of our 5 pledges at all”:
This shameful mug is an embarrassment. But real problem is that immigration controls are one of our 5 pledges at all pic.twitter.com/4xslD22Gcm
Paul Bernal in a blog post, somewhat inevitably called “Storm in a Tea Cup“, drew attention to what he thought could have been five better pledges by Labour. I doubt anyone is calling for completely open borders, but to make immigration controls a leading campaign pledge, is neither Old Labour nor New Labour but some kind of aping of the Right and the perception that immigration is one of the biggest public fears. It may well be, but if so why not take the high ground and make the positive economic and cultural case for immigration to the people. Don’t make it a race to the bottom and sink to the level of UKIP.
Renowned socialist and Guardian journalist, Owen Jones, called them “Farage wannabe mugs”, calling on Labour to give the people “hope”, rather than fuelling immigrant hate:
“Fancy a brew in my ‘Controls for immigration mug’?”. Seriously, Labour. Scrap your Farage wannabe mugs and give people some bloody hope
Last November, Ed Miliband announced plans to ban EU migrant benefits for 2 years, and a week later David Cameron responded by saying he would bar them for 4 years! Of course Nigel Farage would never let them in, in the first place by leaving the EU, although he would no doubt remain married to his German wife.
Election Campaign Merchandise
Another thing that surprised me was seeing how commercial the whole fundraising and marketing angle of the campaigns were. I did not know that each party except George Galloway’s Respect Party had an online shop and election merchandise.
“Last week Labour released their “controlling immigration” mug. Here at The Green Party we believe in standing up for migrants’ rights. If you share the belief that we must all work together for the common good, join us in drinking from this mug! N.B. Exact design TBC. Coming soon”
The LibDem mug can’t actually be searched for on their website because all searches must contain at least 4 characters, which rules out “mug”! Although if you search for “mugs” you’ll be steered towards the only search result, a customised mug with your favourite LibDem MP, MEP or Lord on it! Browse by category and you’ll find the other 18 mugs on offer. Lesson – don’t let the LibDems build the next Government website!
There’s also an “I’m a counsellor” mug in the Welsh products section. I always thought that counsellors counseled whereas councillors stood for office, even in Wales.
The Tories have an illustration in their kitchen shop of mugs but no mugs for sale, hastily removed, perhaps, after Labour #MugGate? Though, for the price of Labour’s mug £5 you could buy “36 Blue cupcake cases“. By far the largest section of their online shop contains 23 Maggie memorabilia items. Many of the items elsewhere in the shop, including the baby clothing department, are actually green and not blue. Get in quick with your “Future Prime Minister” bib to replace David Cameron in the Parliament after next…
Labour are also selling replica posters from 1945 “Labour for Him/Her” with 70 year old campaign messages.
Future economic policies could perhaps be gleaned from the online shop Party political pricing. Labour and Green mugs are £5, SNP £6, the LibDems, “we won’t cut as much as Labour or Tory”, £7.50, and the Tory mugs were no doubt scrapped during the austerity cuts or vetoed by George Osborne. Plaid Cymru are positively encouraging migration to Wales as they are only charging £3!
The Political is Personal
David Cameron has said that the political is more than just personal, it is “national”, and made the campaign trail a straight choice between the Churchill-Cameron strong man or Ed “two kitchens” Miliband chaos.
So one of the very things that turns people off politics, is back to centre stage – personality politics. The soundbites are more about the Cameron v Miliband, than Conservative v Labour. Whilst Labour are fairly solid, repeated polls suggest that Miliband has the lowest approval rating of all the party leaders. Whether level-pegging or just ahead Labour would win more seats because of our demographic electoral system, however they are likely to fall short of a majority.
Whilst the USA has its Tea Party, here in the UK, in 6 weeks time, it will likely be a case of choosing which coalition set of mugs to form the next Government, and which get sold off on eBay at Poundland prices.