Monday, 11 May 2015

What Next? - Part 3

For Labour (1)

The situation facing Labour after the election should be considered, first of all, in terms of the flip side of the situation facing the Tories after, as opposed to prior, to the election. That is a lot is being said about how bad a result this was for Labour; as bad as 1983 and so on. But, it should be remembered that before the election, the government had a majority of around 80, and now it has a a majority of just 12! It should be remembered that, in England, Labour gained exactly as many additional seats as did the Tories – 24. In addition, Labour's vote share, across the UK, rose by twice as much as did the Tories, 1.5% points for Labour as opposed to 0.8% points for the Tories, despite the huge fall in Labour's vote in Scotland. In actual fact, the increase in actual percentage terms is even greater for Labour (5.2%), as against the Tories (2.2%), even across the UK.

Labour's failure to gain a majority, therefore, most certainly cannot be placed at the door of the party having moved too far to the Left. It gained seats in England, on the basis of its mildly lefter stance, just not enough to compensate for the seats it lost in Scotland. The loss of seats in Scotland, most certainly could not be put down to standing on too left a programme, given that the SNP swept the board on the basis of a much more left-wing populist stance.

In science, hypotheses are tested to determine their validity. The hypotheses of social science cannot be validated in the laboratory, but elections can often provide a good approximation of experimental validation. The fact, that the SNP swept the board with a more left wing programme than Labour, seems a convincing refutation of the hypothesis that Labour failed because of having too left-wing a stance, at least in Scotland. But, the hypothesis seems to be equally convincingly refuted in England and Wales too. Firstly, whilst standing on that programme, Labour gained as many seats as the Tories, and increased its share of the vote by double the amount, throughout Britain, despite the huge loss of votes in Scotland.   The increase in Labour's share of the vote in England alone, therefore, would be much more than this.  But, also a party did stand openly on the ground that the Blairites suggest would have won the election for Labour.

The Liberals stood openly, and loudly proclaiming a stance identical to that which the Blairites claim would have won the election for Labour. The result was that they were wiped out, as a political force! They lost 86% of their seats, and saw their share of the vote fall by 15.2 points, a drop of 66.4%! The idea that Labour could have won by adopting a more right-wing stance like that adopted by the Liberals is clearly nonsense. Moreover, all of those aspects of Labour's programme that are considered “Left-wing”, such as opposition to non-dom status, introduction of a Mansion Tax, a cap on energy prices, controls over private rents and so on, are all policies that are known to have been incredibly popular, even amongst Tory voters. How Labour's prospects could have been enhanced by dropping all of these popular policies is hard to see.

The problem, however, is that with Miliband having stood down, the media have been quick to shape the narrative of the reasons for defeat, and to do so by creating a new set of lies, just as was done in the aftermath of 2010. All of the weekend politics programmes, along with all of the Sunday newspapers, were given over to a non-stop procession of Blairites, to proclaim that, only by standing on a programme indistinguishable from that of the Tories, could Labour have any hope of winning.

Its said that the definition of an accountant is someone who counts the dead bodies, at the end of a battle, whereas the definition of an auditor is someone who bayonets the wounded to make the job of the accountant easier. Immediately after the battle, there has been no shortage of Blairite auditors, who along the way, stripped the dead bodies of any valuables they could lay their hands on.

The practice of Labour leaders standing down, just because the party lost an election is unbecoming. It plays into the ideology of individualism and cultism. As a democratic party, our programme is not handed down to us on high from the leader, but is our collective effort, and responsibility. If it fails to win over a majority of the electorate, it is likewise our collective failure and our collective responsibility. There is nothing determinant, or even necessarily significant about losing an election. It was far preferable for socialist parties in 1914 and 1939, to have opposed the rush to war of their states, even if that meant standing on an unpopular programme that would lose them an election. It should be the case that a progressive party sees further over the horizon, and is in advance of the class it seeks to lead, and that will often mean that the cost of being right and telling an unpopular truth is the loss of an election. Far better that than to tell lies or fail to tell the truth for immediate electoral gain, only to be damned, by the voters, for a generation, when they find you out. Just ask the Liberals.

The reason the Blairites are unable to adopt such a stance is because, essentially they represent a class of professional politicians, for whom becoming an MP is a career choice. They essentially see the party as merely a necessary vehicle to enable them to be able to pursue that career, and anything that stands in the way of that is to be swept aside. Having trades unions that provide the money to fight elections is one thing, but having unions that transmit the opinions and needs of millions of workers, when they conflict with the message the professional politicians seek to convey, is quite another. For the same reason, the idea that the party should have some principles, that determine the kind of transformation of society it seeks to bring about, is anathema, because that would require that the party actually go out to try to win a majority to those principles, rather than simply tailoring the message to the lowest common denominator of views required to obtain the largest number of votes. So, winning a majority becomes no longer something necessary, so as to bring about social changes, but is merely a means of providing the politicians with a career, whether the change they then bring about is meaningful, or even reactionary. Is it any wonder that very few party activists are prepared to devote their lives then not to changing society, but only to provide a few individuals with a comfortable career?

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