The past week has seen a return to the issue of the Labour Party leadership on many News and Current Affairs features here. Most pundits are predicting that Jeremy Corbyn will be re-elected by the party members, and that he is set to defeat his nondescript opponent, the former pharmaceutical company lobbyist, Owen Smith. Corbyn’s enemies are lining up to bad mouth him, in advance of his probable win.
Many of his fellow Labour members in parliament appear on round table discussions or late-night news programmes, telling anyone who will listen that they will not serve in his cabinet, and are unlikely to support his policies.
The main argument against Corbyn, from both his spiteful colleagues, and the media commentators, is that a party with him in charge is not electable. They claim that the Labour Party will split into yet more factions, and by the time of the next election in 2020, will lose more seats, and cease to be an opposition in all but name. They also claim that the British public does not want further nationalisation of industry, higher taxes to pay for improvements in the NHS, or to see an end to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Those in his party who oppose Corbyn, many of them Blairites and crypto-Tories, are stalking the chat shows like harbingers of doom, foretelling the end of Labour as we know it.
Many of these individuals, and the political reporters they are so keen to talk to, are the same people who claimed that UKIP brought about the vote to leave the EU, and that the voters are so keen to embrace their policies, that they will no longer vote for the Labour Party, and change to UKIP instead. They blame Corbyn for anything they can think of, including the vote to leave. This argument seems desperate to my way of thinking. UKIP has only one MP in parliament, and less than 40,000 members in the party. The former leader, Nigel Farage, remains as an MEP in Europe for the time being, alongside twenty or so other UKIP MEPs who will all be out of a job after Britain leaves the EU. They have around 500 elected local council officers, out of a total of many thousands around the UK, and overall control of only one council in the entire country.
This does not tie in with the level of influence and power that Labour dissidents claim for this minor party of protest voters that will ruin their own party, and see them consigned to the political wilderness for ever. Yet these same people assert that Corbyn cannot galvanize support, or enthuse a nation with his policies, despite the vast power base and traditional working-class vote that the Labour Party seems to be slowly recovering.
Jeremy’s opponents want to have their cake, and eat it. On one hand, they claim that the public wants their pseudo-Tory and business-backed policies, and that socialism is not the way forward. To keep Corbyn as Labour leader will be the end of everything as we know it, they say. But on the other hand, they warn that UKIP, with one MP, can influence the whole nation by a click of its fingers, or a raised eyebrow from Mr Farage.
They can’t have it both ways, I’m afraid.
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.
There has been a great deal of excitement lately about the success of the UK Independence Party in two recent by-elections. If you watch or read the reports closely enough, you will have noticed that both the men elected were previously representing the constituencies concerned. They simply resigned from the Conservative Party, then stood for re-election under a different banner, and a more extreme agenda. I will not speculate on their motives for doing this, though I suspect that there are others who may well follow their example.
UKIP leaders and officials make many claims about the reason for their success, whether in the local council elections, or the recent parliamentary ones. Perhaps the most offensive claim, is that they represent the true opinions of the working classes in this country. In reality, they reflect the least informed, most biased, and racist opinions of just some of the people in the UK, working class, or not. They appeal to the lowest common denominator at each end of the political spectrum here, yet the other parties, and the media, appear to be letting them get away with their outrageous claims.
Those of us concerned enough to be worried about the emergence of the Far Right into the daylight of political representation are correct to worry. There are so many throwaway lines, soundbites, and off-the-cuff comments that need a great deal more investigation. Repatriation of immigrants is casually mentioned. This is supposedly popular with the majority of people in this country, though there is little evidence to support this, outside of some spurious polls, and talking-head TV interviews. This is the same policy advocated by the National Front, The BNP, and other groups of the extreme Right.
Less taxation of the rich. Is this popular with everyone? I doubt that, but perhaps they read no further than the supposedly populist immigration policies. Part-privatisation of the NHS. (This is currently being ‘reviewed’ by UKIP, who may have realised the folly of stating this so blatantly) Have any of the predominantly white, working-class, UKIP supporters thought this through? Unlikely. They are the people most likely to need the service that UKIP would convert into a system similar to that in America. Treatment dependent on ability to pay, and health for the rich, at the expense of the poor. Abolition of inheritance tax, to ensure that the rich stay rich. Scrapping education targets that currently try to get at least half of school leavers into university. Free Schools will only be allowed to continue if they ‘uphold British values’, (Whatever they are…) and grammar schools will return, to further divide the young people of this country.
Any current energy policies will be mothballed or scrapped, with the emphasis on shale gas, fossil fuels, and a return to air-polluting power stations, as well as on-site power generation for any company that wants to use this method. There will be no subsidies for alternative or cleaner energy, and no further investigations into other ways to generate power. They will also ‘streamline’ the benefits system, and introduce a cap on the upper limit of benefit received. There are few specifics here, just the ominous use of the word ‘streamlined’. Members of parliament from constituencies outside of the borders of England will have no vote on issues considered to be important only in England. This is the first step towards an independent England, and a break-up of The Union. Perhaps they should be called EKIP? They will abolish the Human Rights Act, and withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights. This will be replaced with something yet to be detailed. In employment, rules governing Agency workers would be done away with, and employers would be allowed to discriminate in favour of British applicants, as well as disregarding many existing agreements with trade unions.
All of this, and much more, can be found on their official website, under the heading ‘Policies for People’. I haven’t made anything up.
They have two policies that I do actually agree with. Leaving the EU, and not going ahead with the unnecessary HS2 rail line. This is not enough to make me support them though, as the right-wing policies that dominate their thinking will surely be the tip of a dangerous iceberg, if they ever get into a position to implement them. They would take this country back to how it was before 1939, and see that as progress. Culture would suffer, the poor would ultimately pay an unacceptable price, and the working classes that supposedly support them would be returned to a place that they have fought their way up from over the last seventy years.
Given that they are unlikely to get any real power in the 2015 election, what am I worried about? I am worried that all other parties will continue to move to the Right, hoping to keep their own supporters, and stop them voting for UKIP. I am worried that the population will start to see right-wing and extremist policies as acceptable, and something to embrace. I am worried that they may hold the balance of power in a parliament where no major party has overall control, and that ‘deals with the devil’ will happen as a result. I am worried that the future of this country is for it to become a haven of Far Right thinking, regressive policies, and backward-thinking. And I am worried that the so-called voting masses will think that all of this is good.
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.