I have long believed that what we had come to think of as the three main political parties – Conservative, Labour and Liberal/Democrat, all had the same basic policy; to win the next election by any means possible and, having done so, to hang on to power for as long as they could. The Lib.Dems knew that they wouldn’t win outright but hoped they’d have sufficient parliamentary seats to hold the balance between the Labour and Conservative MPs at
Westminster. They wanted to form a coalition with one or
other of the two parties (they really didn’t care which one) and they expected
to get a few cabinet posts and the title (and appropriate salary and perks) of
Deputy Prime Minister for their leader.
But in the General Election it didn’t happen like that. The Conservatives (who secured only 35 percent of the votes cast) obtained a small first-past-the-post overall majority and, as I had forecast, the Lib.Dems. were all but destroyed. The third party in today’s House of Commons is not the Lib.Dems. but the Scottish National Party! That's something that I hadn't foreseen!
After the General Election the leaders of the Lib.Dems, the Labour Party and of UKIP all resigned. Nick Clegg, Lib.Dem. leader brought his downfall upon himself by acquiescing to and defending measures he had, only a week or so earlier, promised to oppose. The opening words of Robert Browning’s ‘Lost Leader’ come to my mind ‘Just for a handful of silver he left us, Just for a riband to stick on his coat’. Ed Miliband, Labour Leader, lost the election not because of anything he had done or failed to do but because of the daily dose of quite unjustified vilification and denigration launched about him by the right-wing press. If something appears before your eyes day after day you begin to feel there must be something in it – even when there clearly isn’t. What about Nigel Farage of UKIP? He did resign, but was back and leading his odd army of Europhobes and crypto-fascists before you could say ‘
The Lib-Dems have chosen their new leader who has, as might have been expected, been denigrated by the right-wing press. Apparently he is a fundamentalist evangelical Christian and believes in a literal Heaven and Hell. Well, that’s no more fanciful than believing that ‘market forces’ and private enterprise will solve all the world’s problems. He is, I think, likely to prove to be a man of his word.
The election of a new Labour leader is proving much more exciting than had been expected. There appear to be three ‘New Labour’ candidates with proposed policies that are much the same as the Conservatives but perhaps – depending on what the latest opinion poll says – a little less harsh on the poor, the unemployed and the disabled. But now there’s another candidate; Jeremy Corbyn, fighting for the ‘old Labour’ policies of a fairer distribution of the country’s wealth, an end to privatisation and unilateral nuclear disarmament. At least one of those who sponsored him said that she didn’t think for a moment that he would get anywhere but that she felt the voice of ‘old Labour’ should be heard. No doubt lack of support for Corbyn was expected to demonstrate beyond doubt how thoroughly ‘New Labour’ had destroyed the tattered remnants of the ‘old Labour’ of George Lansbury, Nye Bevan and Michael Foot.
But, once again, it hasn’t happened like that. Jeremy Corbyn, who seems to be a very likeable, straight-forward chap, and his radical policies are proving unexpectedly popular, especially with younger Labour voters. Opinion polls suggest that he could win the leadership election. Hundreds of people who have previously not bothered to vote, may decide that Jeremy Corbyn offers something different; something that it’s worth turning out to vote for. I don’t know why everybody should be so surprised. The democratic socialist policies for which Corbyn stands are much the same as those held by the Scottish National Party who, you will recall, made an almost clean sweep of
New Labour MPs in the recent General Election.
Are the Scots really so different from the rest of we
Needless to say, prominent has-beens from Labour’s past have been paraded to offer dire warnings of endless years of opposition for Labour if Corbyn were to be elected leader. Finally former Prime Minister Tony Blair gave us his great thoughts on the matter - and probably increased rather than diminished Jeremy Corbyn’s chances of success.. Anyone, he said, whose heart was inclined towards old Labour ‘needed a heart transplant’. That, I think, was bound to infuriate hundreds of sincere Labour supporters who cherish the memory of the up-hill struggles of the 19th and 20th Century pioneers of the Labour, Trade Union and Co-operative movements. 'Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer, We'll keep the Red Flag flying here!'
No-one could deny that Tony Blair was a great winner of elections. He did so by creating 'New Labour and dragging it far enough to the right to attract the support o the Murdoch Press. Thousands of Labour Party members who voted to revoke Clause 4 imagined that they were voting against everything being nationalised. They were, in fact, opening the door to the privatisation of every public service.
In the ten years that New Labour formed our government, the gap between the wealthy and the poor actually widened, Tory legislation like the Right to Buy Act which lies at the root of today’s housing problems, remained intact. An unholy friendship between Tony Blair and the most reactionary American President in living memory, led to an illegal bloody war in Iraq that has resulted in the ruin of that country, the growth of terrorism throughout North Africa and in Europe and the USA too, and the martyrdom of hundreds of Christians in the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian sub-continent. Tony Blair was made United Nations Peace envoy to the
Middle East. As I have previously said in this blog, that
was like making one of the Kray brothers a Chief Constable.
It simply isn’t true to claim that a political party can achieve nothing in opposition. Had Nick Clegg not entered into coalition with the Conservatives the Lib.Dems. could have retained their independence – voting for, or at least abstaining from voting against – any legislation to which they didn’t object and joining with Labour and the small opposition parties to oppose legislation they found objectionable. Where the party in government has only a small overall majority this can be very effective. In this parliament David Cameron was all set to pass legislation legitimising fox hunting with hounds. The SNP MPs said they would join with Labour in opposing this (largely to remind the Conservatives of their fragile majority) and, to avoid the possibility of humiliating defeat, that legislation has been put on the back burner.
Had they adopted that policy the Lib.Dems. could have prevented particularly objectionable legislation from being passed, and retained their own integrity. They wouldn’t have been given any seats in the government and their leader wouldn’t have become ‘Deputy Prime Minister’ – but they might well have been spared humiliating defeat in the General Election. ‘This above all, to thine own self be true!’
I am neither a member nor a supporter of today’s Labour Party. I am a member of and support the Green Party because I believe that today, care of the environment and countering the effects of climate change are more important than any other political issue. I think though that if Jeremy Corbyn were to be elected leader of the Labour Party a great many, perhaps most, Greens would be delighted that one of the main parties would be working towards the resolution of at least some of our concerns.