So, the soothsayers, fear-mongers, and Labour commentariat were correct.
We will have “Another 5 years of the Tories”.
The SNP cleaned up in Scotland – more so than anyone could have expected. The Greens increased their vote share by nearly 3%. TUSC polled as the 6th UK-wide party.
But Labour’s defeat had nothing to do with any of the above. The majority of gains Labour made were from the Liberal Democrats, and where they have lost out, it’s been due to a swing to the Conservatives & UKIP.
This result, aside from being tumultuous for Labour, is also a crisis for the left as whole. The overwhelming message that needs to be taken from this is that the UK has responded to the unfettered barrage of right-wing, Establishment-nurtured rhetoric that has infected both the media, and Labour itself, for the past five years.
However, this crisis also presents us with the most delicious of challenges – and that’s how it undoubtedly needs to be viewed.
Labour’s experiment with leaning to the left has failed, as a result of a poorly constructed mantra based on a right-wing ideology (Inclusive Capitalism) – which they attempted in vain to gloss over with Axelrod’s socialist sheen. To think they will now regroup, and continue down the path of “socialism” (or whatever the Fabian’s interpretation of that is) is very hopeful, at best. They will revert back to open triangulation, because that has now been proved to be the fail-safe option – and in my opinion, said triangulation will be the “Blue Labour” ideology, championed by Jon Cruddas.
The “change from within” philosophy is finished. It may have held a semblance of gravitas if Miliband’s Labour had managed to secure a coalition; it would have been tenuous if the Conservatives had – but the latter having an overall majority? The upper echelons of the Labour hierarchy will be even less responsive, now, to the cries of the grassroots.
So, where does that leave the rest of us?
The first priority has to be not to immediately protest the new Conservative government. To be seen as to align ourselves with Labour’s sour-grapes would be disastrous, tarnishing us with a most unwelcome, bitter brush in the eyes of the public, and media. Quiet reflection, Comrades, is the order of the day.
The Trade union movement, as individuals and as a whole, must find the nearest mirror, and stare into it until their eyes bleed. You have leaders who are, for the most part, careerists, more interested in personal gain, than the welfare of those they are appointed to represent (Director at the Bank of England? Need I say more?). The days of being servile to someone else’s agenda, whilst quietly resenting every moment of it, are over. Change needs to be interceded directly from members; the Labour party needs to be abandoned, and the art of direct action reclaimed – look to the STUC for the lead.
Somewhere on your “Pasok’ing Checklist”, needs to be electoral reform. This should be the easiest of the challenges, as you will have the (now) might of the SNP on your side, along with the Greens and Plaid Cymru. But it has to happen – otherwise in 5 years, we will all truly feel like Bill Murrays; Groundhog Day in perpetuity.
The enemy needs to be reassessed. With a full majority, the Conservatives are going to be parading their ideological erections without shame, or fear of ridicule or arrest. Boris Johnson summed it up in his victory speech, in the small hours of Friday: “The country has rejected the politics of the 1970’s”. This will be their line of attack – 3 day working weeks, blackouts, rubbish piling the streets. We cannot afford to be seen as archaic. Some serious theoretical “spunk” is needed, to counter those right-wing ideological erections – and it cannot be a rehash of old ideas.
False prophets need to be exorcised, before they feast on any more of the sheep. These ravening wolves cannot be allowed to peddle anymore of their simpering, Establishment-friendly fodder, without serious, articulate and well-defined counter-argument. The “Commentariats” – the Joneses, Pennys, O’ Hagans, Bloodworths – need to either come on board, or wave us off from the shoreline.
Our movement as a whole now needs to get savvy. Cheering “£10 NOW!” “NO MORE AUSTERITY!” “BUILD COUNCIL HOMES!” and “FULL PUBLIC OWNERSHIP!” was all well and good, as an alternative, profile-raising chorus; the first and second verses now need to be composed, before the coda can ever be performed. People from within our movement, and willing and able outsiders, need to be found, who have the skills and abilities to stand as lead vocalists for lines in our song – and the most arduous verse, in my opinion, will be that of economics – credibility in this area is going to be hard-won.
We all need to kiss and make up (umm, as a minimum). Common ground now has to be found, between ALL “fringe” parties and groups – and we need to be looking beyond our conventional train of thought as well. If “Pasok’ing” is going to succeed, differences need to be ironed out, new comrades discovered, old wounds healed, and unity finally realised; and unlike our predecessors, we need to be all-encompassing – no more “Working Families” narrative – we are for everyone, no matter who you are. This may well be a truly once in a lifetime opportunity, and to simply let it slip through our hands, due to differences of opinion on what are, in truth, mere irrelevancies, would be nigh-on criminal.
Finally, to our Labour comrades:
We take no perverse gratification from the horror of what has happened. Life would have been infinitely less bloody complicated, had Labour been able to garner a coalition – and a majority? Walk in the park.
It didn’t happen, and yes, it fucking stinks.
But this is unfortunately a bitter pill, and one that will need to be swallowed whole, without water, and whilst you have an extremely sore throat. The time has come for you to ask yourselves whether you now wish to hold your noses, and stay with, what undoubtedly will be, an at-best shell of a social democratic party – or whether it’s a fetid stink that can no longer be stomached.
If the latter is true, then join us, and help regroup, realign, and ultimately rekindle the lost spirit of the “Real Left” in the UK. The touch-paper is there, and is now at its most incendiary.
This can be done. It will be done. External forces, as yet to come into play, will assist us with this – but only if we hold our nerve. The outcome of the election has made our task an even more arduous one – as stated at the beginning, this is a crisis for the left, as well as Labour, as we are in a far tighter position than ever anticipated.
But it is delicious, we should relish it with every sense available to us, and if we stick to the recipe, measure accurately, and only use the finest ingredients – we will be feasting for years to come.