The big news this week is about defectors. Not the sort of defectors who go and live in a foreign country, but political defectors in our own parliament.
It started with a group of disgruntled Labour Party members of parliament. They resigned from the Labour Party in a public fashion, calling a press conference to announce their reasons. Some said it was about Antisemitism. That is just the usual charge against the party, for not having a sympathetic stance on the state of Israel. Rather than address the human rights record of Israel, provide answers to what they are doing to other ethnic groups in their own country, or how Israel is moving further to the Far Right, they use the hackneyed accusation of Antisemitism, a catch-all that sounds great in a soundbite. But we all know it isn’t about religion and culture. It is simply about the actions of a religiously-dominated country imposing its will on those who do not share the same religion.
Some of those defectors showed more honesty. They were leaving because of Brexit. They had voted to Remain, and they lost. They want the Labour Party to promise a second referendum, and the leaders refuse to do so. So rather than work from within, promoting their own agenda, they chose to resign, and to sit in parliament as Independents. But they are not Independents in the real sense, as they rode in on the back of the organisation they now claim to revile. They are a small band of Centrist politicians who have never been Socialists, and never really espoused the true origins of the working-class Labour movement. They are the kind of people who want to just tell the voters what is best for them, and then hope that they just go away and do what they are told. We were soon hearing about this new ‘movement’, middle-ground politics, neither one thing nor the other. They complained that Labour had been taken over by left-wing extremists. In other words, their party members were now actually Socialists, as they should have been all along.
Soon after, those eight Labour politicians were joined by three members of the Conservative Party. They are also people who voted to Remain, in the EU referendum. They also want a second referendum, in the hope of changing the result. They were honest with their reasons. They don’t like the way Mrs May is continuing to insist on a departure from Europe, and they are unhappy with their colleagues on the Right of the party, who are urging a no-deal Brexit. They want to offer the public a new political alternative, a Centrist utopia, where they tell us what is good for us, and we quietly go away. They have happily joined this new group started by the Labour Party defectors, and I suspect it will have a new name soon. Something like Social Democrats, perhaps?
This is music to the ears of Vince Cable, and his pathetic Liberal Democrat Party. He has rushed to embrace the turncoats, and offered to work with them at any level. He may well be offering them senior roles in his own party, should they choose to join. More likely, these unreliable self-seeking politicos will swallow him whole, and his party with him.
But I am not unreasonable. Politicians should of course be allowed to resign, if they find themselves at odds with the policies of their own party. That is only fair and right. But it should come with consequences. The people that voted them in to those well-paid jobs did so because of the parties they represented. Someone voting Labour might not even have known the name of the candidate, and could have been voting out of loyalty to a party, or from their own basic political beliefs. The same applies to those who voted for the four Conservatives. They expected their elected members to support the party they voted for. Or what was the point of an election in the first place? So my proposal is that there should be a new election in every constituency where the member has chosen to resign from their party, and claim to be an ‘Independent’. Let them give up their lucrative jobs, finance their own campaigns, and then see if they really enjoy the support of the public that they still claim to represent.
But no, that won’t happen. The eleven people who claim to be so troubled by their ‘conscience’ were not troubled enough to leave behind the salaries, and the position of influence that comes with the job. Instead, they will just cause trouble, make vacuous statements, and continue to insist that they are doing the right thing by those who elected them.
And they will continue to draw that £77,400 ($101,130) a year salary, plus all expenses.
We are about to see a new resident in Number Ten Downing Street. Tomorrow, David Cameron goes to pastures new, (and no doubt very prosperous pastures too) leaving his post, and handing over the most important job in the UK to Theresa May, the current Home Secretary. She will become the second woman to hold this office in the UK, the first being the reviled Margaret Thatcher. Let’s hope that she is not planning on becoming a ‘Thatcher 2: The Sequel.’
After a brief but acrimonious leadership election, it was always her that was the favourite to win. Despite some slurs about her not relating to families because she has no children, she kept her nerve, and was an easy winner. Her political pedigree is second to none, and she has held many important cabinet posts since she was first elected as a member of parliament, in 1997. She is known for her tough stance on some issues, and for a liberal opinion on others, including support of same-sex marriage. Naturally, I hold no brief for this woman. She is a Conservative, and I dislike them all, by default. They are friends of business, big money interests, and the preservation of the status quo. They have little interest in ordinary working-class people, and tend to revel in the age of Empire, surrounded by fluttering Union flags. Despite her own position of wishing to Remain in the EU, she now represents a party that voted overwhelmingly to Leave.
Of course, the voters of this country had no choice about who would become their next Prime Minister. Like many before her, she was foisted upon us, by an electoral system that has gone unchanged for decades. In the UK, we vote for a local member of parliament, not for a leader; a person to take charge of the country, and to be its political figurehead. In the last century, half of those who became the Prime Minister did so by being elected leader of their party after the death or resignation of their predecessor, and not as the result of a general election. So, nothing unusual about Mrs May, and her rise to power. As all this is going on, the so-called Opposition, the Labour Party, is also torn apart by a challenge to its current leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Like Theresa May, Corbyn was the choice of the party members all over the country. And like her, he was not the natural choice of his fellow members of parliament.
Whatever the outcome, it is certain that the opposition parties will remain weak and divided. They have little to offer in the way of solid policies to counter the current Conservative regime, and remain locked in a cycle of remonstrations and regrets about the possibility of departure from the EU, as the whole party campaigned for a Remain vote. As long as they fail to show solidarity, to get behind the elected leader they already have, they are unlikely to unsettle someone as steely and determined as our new Prime Minister.
Theresa May was born in 1956, making her four years younger than me. I would say that she has a lot still left in her, at the age of 60. I have a bad feeling that we are going to have to get used to seeing her around for a very long time.
Well the 2015 election is almost at a close. My worst fears have been realised. Another five years of smug Conservative rule, detrimental to the NHS, the youth of Britain, and the lot of the ordinary working person. The Liberals have paid the price for accepting to be in coalition with the Tories. They have lost almost all their seats, and their leader has resigned. As a political force in this country, they have ceased to exist.
Labour have also been punished. They elected a leader who had no personality, no leadership skills, and failed to connect with anyone, even his own party’s most ardent supporters. Writing off the surge of nationalism in Scotland has all but wiped that party off the map there, and many of the highest placed and most experienced Labour members have lost their seats. The few gains they did make were not enough to leave them in credible opposition, which will now depend on reluctant alliances with former ‘enemies’, and still not muster enough votes to force any defeats.
Scotland has spoken. Despite not taking the opportunity for complete independence in the recent referendum, the Scottish people have voted overwhelmingly for nationalism, by returning all but three members as representatives of the Scottish National Party. This country is now divided politically, if not by physical borders. UKIP failed to capitalise on their supposed popularity. By concentrating on a single issue, immigration and fear of foreigners, they lost their way. Even their leader failed to win a place in parliament, and resigned accordingly.
Miliband has also resigned as Labour leader. This is a prime example of too little, too late. He should never have been there in the first place, and Labour deserve the ignominy of defeat for ever thinking he could win them an election. Socialism in any form is now almost non-existent in this country. The defeated parties will move further to the Right, in the hope of attracting support, and the voters seem to have already moved there. The much-lauded youth vote failed to make any difference whatsoever, despite some increases in turnout.
Not only has Cameron won, he has managed to force the resignation of the three leaders of the main opposition parties on the same day. No wonder he is looking very pleased with himself. He has a working majority, and no credible opposition to have to worry about.
I now have to continue to live in another Right-Wing European country, run by the men in suits, for the benefit of international financiers, multi-national companies, the rich, and the aristocracy. Is Cuba accepting migrants, I wonder?
Next Thursday, there is a General Election here in the UK. It has been hailed as the most important election since 1945, mainly because no party is expected to win. I don’t get the comparison at all. Labour swept to victory unexpectedly after the war, winning the 1945 election with an unheard of majority of 146 seats. They nationalised industries, inaugurated the National Health Service, and greatly improved the lot of the ordinary people across the UK.
Whatever happens next week, nothing momentous will happen as a result. If either of the main parties secure a working majority, it will be nothing short of a miracle. Whoever wins will be compelled to arrange shaky alliances with parties that they would normally never get into bed with, no doubt making promises that they will break, and doing deals that they will renege upon. The rise of UKIP was talked up a lot, but it is unlikely that they will get many seats. The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, is so ineffective that even traditional party supporters are reluctant to vote for him. The Conservatives promise much, and may sneak ahead at the last minute, with the voters worrying about the economy, and embracing the politics of self-interest. But even if they win, getting enough seats to form a government seems unlikely, so the deals and back-door negotiations will begin on Friday.
Some will use their votes as a protest, or not vote at all. Turnout in many areas is expected to be low. New powers have emerged in Scotland, with the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon getting much praise for her determination and fighting spirit. Her success could mean the end of the Labour Party as a national force, as it is far too dependent on its many seats in Scotland. The gloomy outlook is that we could see Conservative governments long into the future, further reducing the value of the working classes, and heralding a return to the bad old days before that 1945 election. They may need those shaky alliances to keep going, but as long as the opposition provides no alternative, the hung parliament, propped up by underhand deals, looks to become the norm in the UK.
You would be forgiven for not realising that a general election in this country is only a few weeks away. I have hardly seen a poster, received nothing through the door, and had no canvassers calling. The TV news channels dutifully report the comings and goings of the party leaders. Oh look, the Prime Minister is visiting a building site, and there’s the leader of UKIP saying that he will sort out immigration. Nick Clegg made a paid for appearance tonight, asking us to open our doors to his policies, and trying to assure us that he doesn’t really like the Conservatives that he has been working with for the past four years. Miliband has been shouting a lot in Parliament, and some grey has appeared in his hair; but he is fooling nobody. He still has no personality, and a complete absence of any qualities that might make voters change to Labour.
The three main parties are once again lining up in the same old way, to offer us the same old lies and platitudes. UKIP are flushed with recent success, and appealing to the lowest common denominator. They might get some more seats, but they are not going to be in power. So, their politicians can say anything they like, make any promises that people want to hear. They know that they won’t have to implement them. Not so long ago, people would be arguing about the forthcoming election at the drop of a hat. They would be in earnest discussion at any opportunity, hoping for change, for something fresh and new. Windows and front gardens all over the country would be festooned with posters of all colours, urging us to vote for this or that party.
In 2015, apathy rules. Nobody believes any of them anymore, so they have just switched off. Party memberships are at an all-time low, and even the fringe parties can’t be bothered to make a fuss. If there was an Apathy Party, they would have a landslide win. There’s no election fever. There’s not even an election heavy cold, or high temperature. It’s not even in the league of a hot flush.
We just all know that it won’t make a blind bit of difference.
In a few months, we will have the long-awaited General Election here in the UK. As far as I can tell, we have already lost it. The people that is. Hoping for an end to this lamentable coalition, it seemed that any alternative would do. Even a Labour government, led by the ineffectual Ed Miliband, a man devoid of presence and charm, had to be better than a bunch of smug Tories, and their Liberal-Democrat lackeys. Despite some defections from the Conservatives to UKIP, including an unexpectedly successful by-election win, giving UKIP their first MP, even the most optimistic Nationalist could only really see them getting about eight or nine seats, on a good day.
The outlook for the Lib-Dems is bleak. They will be lucky to retain the seats they already have, and there is every chance that they could face electoral humiliation next time. They seem unable to do little more than nod agreement to Conservative policies, and their own identity, such as it was, has been swallowed up by their involvement in this unspeakable coalition government. They are a bit like Bulgaria during WW2, hanging on to the coat-tails of the Nazis, sending some troops to fight. Yet seeing none of the benefits of victory, whilst taking undue blame in defeat. Like the Bulgarians, the Lib-Dems chose the wrong side.
Despite the unpopularity of this government, polls and pundits suggest that the Conservatives will actually win in 2015. They won’t even need the assistance of their weak bedfellows to do it, apparently. They might well have to suffer a reduced majority, and will also have to enlist the support of Nationalists from Northern Ireland, and UKIP. (If they have any members) This seems incredible. They have attacked the benefit system like never before, blatantly supported their rich friends, and have driven most of the working people down to levels of existence unheard of since Victorian times. But they are expected to win, so how can this be?
The answer is simple, Ed Miliband. This 44 year-old with the looks of an awkward schoolboy is one of the least effective party political leaders since Neil Kinnock. He is a poor speaker, finds it hard to answer difficult questions, and other than the gang of supporters around him in the shadow cabinet, he is incredibly unpopular with most Labour voters. His only policy seems to be that of staying in the EU, and whenever he is face to face with anyone from the opposition, he always falters. In recent polls, few voters could even recognise his photo, yet even those not from London, could put a name to Boris Johnson, the Conservative Mayor of that city. In a political world where decisiveness, charisma, and strength is all, he possesses not one iota of any of these qualities. He may well be a sincere man, and a good family man, and he is undoubtedly well-educated. But he is not a leader, and is neither suited, nor qualified, to be the leader of this country.
This leaves us with a few options, all of them bad. A victorious Conservative party, allied to the extreme Right. A Labour-Lib Dem coalition, winning with a minuscule majority, failing rapidly, leading to a quick second election. A hung parliament, with no party in overall control, leaving groups to do deals, renege on deals, and do new deals with different partners. In short, Italy.
Whatever happens, the ordinary people have lost. Again.
After all the hype and anticipation about the right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP), they failed to win the Newark by-election this week. Despite a good showing in local council elections, and success in elections for the European Parliament, (which they oppose?) it seems that they cannot capture the imagination of the public sufficiently to gain a proper parliamentary seat in Westminster.
Their two most publicised policies, of Immigration Control, and departure from the EU, may be popular in modern day Britain. However, their other policies, those rarely discussed, do not stand up to scrutiny. Luckily, it appears that would-be Nationalists and protest voters have looked behind the populist smoke-screen, and let their consciences decide. The dismemberment of the NHS, the eventual erosion of the Welfare State, possible forced repatriation of non-Britons, and other Right-wing policies are not really palatable to the mostly conservative (small C) general public.
During a week of celebrations of the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and the war against the Nazis, and other far-Right regimes, it would have been inappropriate, to say the least, to see a Nationalist elected into Parliament. Despite a reduced Conservative majority, Labour pushed into third place, and the derided Liberals in their worst showing ever, UKIP failed to secure this seat, at the time when their wave was riding its highest. All the fear and panic prior to the election turned out to be unfounded. This country does not appear to be swinging madly to the Right, as many (including me) feared.
Commonsense prevailed, at the eleventh hour. As it often does here.