Saturday, 9 May 2015

In Tony's Shadow

Well, there have been better nights in the history of the left.

First of all, I would like to point out that I was, of course, completely right.  While suggesting a potential Labour plurality of seats was a likely outcome, I was sensible enough to add the crucial rider that, "anything up to and including a slender Tory majority is still possible, based on just minor shifts."

So unlike Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage, Jim Murphy, Ed Balls, Vince Cable, Charles Kennedy and many many others, I survive and with my reputation for prescience enhanced.  I may not be quite as good at calling elections as I thought I was, but I am good at covering my own arse.

Anyway, on to minor matters.

It was, without doubt, the most fascinating election since 1997.  And it managed to eke out it's drama to the very last few seats, when Cameron crept across the line and achieved a wafer thin majority.

Some thoughts.

First of all, commiserations to Anthony Wells at UK Polling Report.  He's been happily analysing and discussing polls from all parties for years, with an enthusiasm that even I find a little bit odd and unnerving.  He is always measured and thoughtful in his comments.  And, it turned out, completely wrong.  Not just him, but virtually every polling company as well, to the point where the few that might have been pointing to a Conservative surge looked like outliers.  If it is any consolation, he was working with evidence, and the evidence al pointed the way he said it did.  But it can't be fun watching your life's work go up in flames.  He's not the only one who endured that last night, of course, but the rest of them deserved it more, one way or another.

Second, a nod to Ed Miliband.  He's a decent man, but clearly, not the man needed.  He managed to be right on most issues and still lose.  It happens.  It must be galling to go through what he has done - the family trauma of his so-called 'betrayal' of his brother, the constant vilification in the press, the mockery and disrespect from his own party - and find it has all been for nothing.  Tactically, Labour fought a good campaign, strategically they lost this election about 20 years ago, when Tony Blair started his process of 'modernisation', dragging Labour to the right until it became the mess it is today.  Ed Miliband was praised for preserving unity after the 2010 defeat, keeping the left and the right of the Labour party together - but perhaps a more ruthless attitude towards the Blairite faction might have been preferable.  Too many of them were left to fester in high places.

Interestingly, for the first time in the history of things, perhaps, First Past the Post has delivered a representative result.  The combined Conservative and UKIP vote is about 50% of the total cast, and the Tories and UKIP hold about 50% of the seats.  The British people voted for a government of small minded, reactionary, xenophobic, economically illiterate, right wing buffoons, and that is what they got.  Still, this election has highlighted the screaming, desperate need for electoral change in Britain.  While I despise everything about UKIP, 3.7 million people voted for them, a massive increase on votes. But they managed to win just one seat, while less than 1.5 million voted for the SNP and they get 56. The Greens polled about as many votes as the SNP. And got one MP. Something has to change. Everyone, except the Tories, seems to understand this now. Scotland should not be virtually a one party state; The Greens and UKIP represent people whose voices should be heard, or people will continue to becom disengaged from politics; the political 'elite' can't be protected by an unfair anachronism of a voting system. Though as Labour found out last night, the protection is somewhat illusory.

There were many silver linings to be found amid the dark clouds that gathered last night.  First of all, the notion of the supposed political influence of Russell Brand will hopefully be consigned to the rubbish bin.  Let's never, ever, ever have to endure the sight of a Labour leader trying to win an endorsement from that self important, vacuous, hypocritical clown.  Second the Tories are effectively isolated.  No-one is going to go into coalition with them, ever, after seeing how the Lib Dems were punished by the electorate for this.  They have to win by themselves, and it looks like their final share of the vote in 2015 is 36.1%, virtually the same as in 2010.  They barely improved their standing with the electorate and I think this is their high water mark.  They are the party of the 36%, and the feeble majority Cameron obtained last night. His administration will be weak and ineffectual, plagued by rebellion and being dragged to the right by the gang of loons and xenophobic 'bastards' that made John Major's later years so miserable. And recall what happened after that miserable administration was put out of its misery. A Labour landslide and 13 years of opposition for the Conservatives, blocked from power by the combination of First Past The Post and Balirite cynicism.

There is a whiff of the mid-90s already about Cameron's new government.  A PM that no-one actually wants any more (even Cameron himself doesn't want to be PM), a dubious economy and the prospect of civil war in the party over Europe.  That 12 seat majority won't last long, and won't insulate him against any significant rebellion. Isolated from other parties terrified of catching the electoral plague that did for the Lib Dems so viciously, and with the British economy still looking a bit peaky, and the prospect of even more ghastly spending cuts to come over the next five years, as Osborne continues to hack away at the deficit that defeated him last time, in defiance of economic sanity, it seems likely Cameron's second term will be a painful one.

Still, a lot of the 'Old Guard' have gone, the Blairite poison is mostly flushed out of the system, though it is a shame that the patient has had such a hard tme of it. Because 2015 is very much the result made inevitable by Tony Blair's ascension to the leadership of Labour. And yet the Blairites never saw it, cawing after 2010 about how Labour won when it was New Labour, and lost when it reverted to Old Labour - as if there was any significant difference between the manifestos of 1997, 2010 and 2015. Blairism was sold as a process of modernising, which was essentially a hollowing out of the party, and an obsession with pleasuring the rich and powerful, followed by a cynical rejection of the democratic reform when it became selfishly expedient to do so. All those that lost last night did so in the shadow of Blairism.
... he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
Many found their graves last night, honourable or dishonourable or indifferent.  Or to borrow another much quoted line about statues, "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.  Or to nick off with another bit of Will, the evil that men do oft lives after them.  Blair's baleful influence lives on, though perhaps now enough pain has been inflicted on Labour for them to realise it has had its day.  Or perhaps, lemming like, they will insist on being more like the Tories, more pro-business and cozy up ever closer to the right-wing media.  And continue to ignore the little people who are expected to actually vote for them.  Because, you know, that's what worked for Tony.

Looking ahead, it really does make you wonder how Labour rebuilds from here. Caroline Flint? Chukka Ummuna? Keir "But I only just became an MP!" Starmer? The talent pool was shallow when Ed was chosen. Now it it more a dried out waterhole with the bones of defunct animals in it. Dennis Skinner won Bolsover with more than 50% of the vote. Maybe he could be leader? I have a horrible feeling the Labour Party might go for Andy Burnham or Alan Johnston, the slimy Blairite relics. Or Chuka Ummuna, who looks and sounds suspiciously like Tony Blair re-imagined for the post 'Cool Britannia' Britain.

Today, I'm very glad I live in New Zealand.  I wish Britain well for the next five years, though you did kinda bring it on yourself, and I suspect good wishes may not help much.  And I'm not sure how much longer there will be a Britain to wish well to.

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