So, I am back in Brazil for Fatima`s family Xmas (we had our trip booked before they announced the General election date) That meant I was hearing the election results from several thousand miles away – and that does give some perspective. It doesn`t make the results any less unpleasant – but there is a certain detachment possible – and, at least the sun is shining.
What is the correct word? Disappointing? Devastating? Disaster?
Well, I think I have seen all three used on FaceBook threads. Certainly, there has been an outpouring of grief from some FB contacts and no wonder, really. Life is going to get a lot worse before it gets better and, indeed, there is little reason to believe it will get better any time soon.
The only consolation I can offer from my lifetime involvement in the political sphere is that it WILL pass. The “Winter of discontent” passed; Thatcherism passed; even the Iraq war passed. The problem is that some people will not live through it, either because they die of old age or disease or accident before said period passes. Or, worse, they die BECAUSE of whatever difficulties we are facing. And THAT is the most troubling aspect of this current situation – the government`s own figures show there will be a lower economic performance in ANY form of Brexit – and that means some people will suffer setbacks at least, maybe worse, as a consequence.
I am not about to rerun the election campaign, however. You may rest assured of that and carry on reading. My thought processes are more concerned with the question “What do we do next?”
No more petitions
One of the first things that struck me this morning was someone on FaceBook suggesting a petition about something – honestly, I forget quite what, but it was something I would normally relate with and, probably, sign.
NOPE! No more bloody petitions – we had several really big ones relating to Europe/Brexit – didn`t do a scrap of good! No more marches – went on several, wearying, marches with lots and lots of nice people, cost a lot of money for train fares – didn`t do a scrap of good!
I have to say that I have never been a great believer in “demonstrations”, “manifestations” or even “civil disobedience”. There is possibly some evidence that the suffragette movement changed hearts and minds. But what is the point of universal suffrage if the voting system is corrupt and not fit for purpose; or if the media ownership is monopolised by the ultra-rich; or if ordinary people don`t bother to vote…
Canvasser…knocks on door. “I am here to ask which way you might vote on Thursday…”
Resident… answers door. “No, you`re alright thanks!” Closes door – what does that even mean!?
…or Resident, sees you are there at the door… doesn`t answer, carries on watching TV.
Let`s stop being “Tribal”
There was an attempt to build a form of remain alliance, which meant moving away from tribalism a bit and a small core of seats had one or more parties stepping down to give the others a better chance of winning against the Tories. At the time of writing I have not yet seen an analysis of how that panned out (but clearly not well enough to alter the result!) But that failed overall because the Labour Party chose not to opt in – arrogance or ignorance, I am not yet sure. But then Momentum trolls, having accused many, (most? All?) Lib Dems of being “Yellow Tories”, wanted these same Lib Dems to stand aside for their tribal representatives. Without any quid pro quo either.
Aside from the inherent nastiness in this scenario, it reflects a wrong analysis of current politics. Economic changes, technical changes, industrial changes and, of course, political changes mean that the overtly class-based labouring class versus capitalist-class model is now much more complex. Sure, it still has relevance, but the concentration of economic power into the hands of the tax avoiding, tax-evading mega-rich at the expense of virtually everyone else has changed the narrative.
It has allowed the story to thrive that xenophobic British (perhaps just English?) less-well-off voters need to “take back control” from grubby forriners who come over here, take jobs from us all and clog up the NHS and social services at our expense. The fact that it is not actually true has become immaterial. The populist story-tellers have simply made it believable by large swathes of naïve ill-informed voters. They are ill-informed, of course, because the media barons have deliberately mis-informed so many people with myths, pedalled not least by the opportunist liar now inhabiting Downing Street.
So, the attempt by Corbynist, socialist strategists, to appeal to their former tribal base has been thwarted by the populism and proto-fascism of the Johnson government. Fed-up with the never-ending soap-saga of Brexit a large, previously Labour-leaning cohort of northern voters fell under the spell of the simple (and simply untrue) message “Get Brexit done”.
So, being tribal is now a hindrance, not a vote-winning strategy.
The Climate election
There was some hope at the beginning of the election campaign that a major feature of the election might well be a realistic reaction to the very obvious rapidity with which the Climate Catastrophe is bearing down on us. Not least, the fact that even the Tory Party notionally set a date for achieving zero carbon emissions as 2050, suggested that the issue may be seriously debated. No such luck!
Neither the Tory leader, nor the Brexit Party leader turned up for the Channel 4 “Leaders` Debate” and they were both empty-chaired and represented by melting blocks of ice. Perhaps it was inevitable that they ducked out, given that the Tories at least scored only a paltry 5.5 for their environmental manifesto against 30, 31 and 33 for the Lib Dems, the Green Party and the Labour Party, respectively. (We`ll set aside the probably under-marking of the Lib Dem manifesto by Friends of the Earth relative to this essay – perhaps taking that up another time!)
So, now I have got to the heart of my reason for writing this blog today. The large degree of overlap in potential solutions to the Climate Crisis between the Lib Dems, the Green Party and the Labour party (at least as far as the manifestoes are concerned) was something we need to build upon. Some of you, at least, will know that I have long argued for a closer working relationship with the Green Party. It is now also apparent that there is a seriously green strand within the Labour Party too – although that did not appear to include any Members of Parliament, since none of their front people were at all convincing talking about it.
It was clear from the Channel 4 debate that Jeremy Corbyn had been well-schooled by somebody since he did speak the correct words in most cases, according to the questions asked, but, for me, he did not show a real belief in many of the things he was saying. But, yes, well schooled.
What REALLY disappointed me was the very lacklustre performance of our Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson, who showed the same sort of schooled `functionality` as Jeremy Corbyn, but it really did NOT come from the heart. There were several questions where Jo Swinson`s responses could and should have shown real leadership by the party, since our policy was well thought out and should have emphasised the urgent nature of starting the decarbonisation process NOW. Sadly, that did not come across at all. And she was put on the back foot immediately by the unambitious 2045 end-date for zero-carbon neutrality.
The Channel 4 debate was, as far as I was concerned the start of the unravelling of the Liberal Democrat position. I will say no more just now about that, since Jo Swinson has paid a heavy price for not getting things right. But before I leave the topic of our leader I do have to say, that after one of the other leaders` debates I put her in clear third place to Nicola Sturgeon and Caroline Lucas, where one of the questions was about whether each of them would “press the nuclear button” if they were prime minister.
Jo Swinson`s pathetically easy “Yes”, with a side-swipe at Corbyn, was sad to hear. If we are being truly environmentally responsible with our planet, saving it from the Climate Catastrophe, how on earth can you also say you would press a button that would kill millions, potentially billions and may make the planet uninhabitable for aeons. Coming from the lips of a young woman aspiring to lead the mother of democracies and hoping to enthuse new generations of young political activists, that “Yes” was anathema to me and, no doubt, to many others.
As I said earlier my thought processes with this article are more concerned with the question “What do we do next?”
My answer is that we should seek a real realignment of the radical left of centre, joining with the Green Party and green (primarily non-socialist) environmentalists from the Labour Party. We must lose the `us & them` attitudes associated with former party tribalism, in order to force through Proportional Representation, without which this country, and maybe the planet we live on, are screwed.
There is no Planet B – and if we want real change, let me pinch the Green Party election slogan and say, “If not now, When?”