3 Reasons Not To Lose Hope After The UK General Election
As you can imagine, Thursday was a very long night for folks in Scotland.
At around 2 in the morning, results started piling in from national polling conducted in all corners of our historically Labour-red idyll.
Seismic democratic change appeared underway, but results in England have left us feeling kind of dejected. But in that darkness, there is light.
Here’s how it went down.
All seven seats in Glasgow (the city I call home, the birthplace of the Labour party and the vanguard of modern British socialism) fell to the Scottish National Party.
(The only party preaching an end to austerity measures that have decimated public services and slashed assistance to our country’s most vulnerable.)
This was to be repeated across Scotland, with 56 seats out of 59 turning or remaining SNP yellow.
Liberal Democrat, former Scottish Secretary and general all-round risible individual, Alistair Carmichael narrowly held on to his seat in the Orkney and Shetland isles.
Affluent Edinburgh South stuck with Labour (with the help of a lot of tactical voting). And in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, they voted for Tory David Mundell, which we can only assume was a big joke.
We were feeling jubilant. Scotland was sending a very clear message; it was rejecting the old British politics of neglectful rule from London with its casual and dismissive xenophobia.
This was a rejection of the kind of government that continues to preside over the desperation of a working poor who rely on charitable food banks to feed their children.
The kind of government whose callous attitude has led directly to drowning of thousands of desperate people in the Mediterranean.
Labour had failed so spectacularly to present an alternative to this, that the swing to the SNP broke the BBC’s f*cking swingometer (and the BBC’s swingometer is pretty f*cking robust).
It gets light pretty early here once we hit spring, but as the sun was beginning to rise at around 4 am, so it was to set on the hopes and aspirations of millions of people.
It soon became clear that the changing tides of opinion in Scotland did not reach far south of the border.
An interested American friend asked (perhaps a little too soon after the fact) what we were feeling after it became clear that the Conservatives had won a workable majority.
Immediately, there was massive disgust and disappointment.
Both at the Labour Party for their feckless attitude and complete willingness to wander blindly along the road to oblivion with no reflexivity whatsoever, and at the section of society south of the border who had in their selfishness continued to vote for a broken capitalistic ideology which is literally starving its people.
But as the dust begins to settle and the media commenced its massive post-mortem misinterpretations, allow me to present to you some truths that suggest a brighter future for Scotland, the UK and humanity in general.
The Tory government is now in a catch-22, which could spark the end of its right-wing agenda.
Before the election, everyone was talking about a hung parliament, which is where no one party has a majority of seats and so they either need to recall another election or team up with other parties to get legislation through.
Now, the Tories have won a majority; it’s easy to see this as a big victory.
But, that majority was won at the cost of party unity, and a lurch to the right will be hard to maintain in practice.
It is a majority so slender that any divisive issues (EU referendum, anyone?) are likely to lead to some heated backbench discussions and, perhaps, some rebellious voting.
On a small majority like this, party unity is everything.
Publicly and privately, the more right-wing sections of the party are keen to see promises laid out in the Conservative manifesto fulfilled, like repealing the Human Rights Act (pretty f*cking scary, right?); cuts to welfare for children and the disabled and a tougher migration policy.
But, it won’t take many in the Conservative party to retain an ounce of humanity in their bone marrow for this agenda to run into difficulties. As we say in Scotland, it’ll be squeaky bum time for Cameron over the next five years.
And, with the fresh and energized opposition to this, presented by the newly elected SNP group, he can’t afford to take his eye off the ball.
And, the SNP will be the most effective voice in opposition because...
The Labour Party's death warrant was signed in the 90s and only socialism will save them now.
But, it’s not going to happen, and that’s good because there is a young, dynamic and honest left movement in the UK that will take up the reins.
Why won’t it happen?
There are many reasons, but here’s one you won’t be hearing much from the party themselves.
"Special advisors" have infiltrated and cemented themselves into the very fabric of the party, to the extent that it is ruled by floating public opinion, a timidity over any bold policy moves and an endless search to capture a non-existent "middle ground."
It’s the kind of situation that means, when a leading party figure says there are some fundamental questions the party needs to address, a non-elected advisor in the party takes to Twitter to tell that person to “shut up.”
It’s the kind of situation that leads prospective future leaders to clamber over one another to proclaim they will lead the return to "Labour: the party of aspiration."
The continuation of this attitude has its roots in a massive historical fallacy, one that has infected thinking across the party membership and informed the Labour party’s terminal decline.
That fallacy is that left politics don't win votes.
It’s predicated on the party’s failure to build support during Thatcher’s reign, and the understanding that Tony Blair’s 1997 election landslide victory was due to the party shifting to the right and, thus, nabbing the loyalty of previous Conservative supporters.
By today’s Labour standards, however, the headline 90s policies look pretty decidedly left-wing. A massive increase in public sector spending was funded by a windfall tax on the profits of utilities companies in the country.
This sort of thing would be pretty unthinkable now, but it’s generally accepted that these kinds of policies represented a fundamental shift to a center ground that appealed to all sections of British society.
And that’s why we’re hearing the argument that Labour was "too left" for England in this election.
Which, quite frankly, is just bollocks. And not just because their manifesto this year was decidedly and frustratingly center-right in outlook.
It’s a logic that enjoys longevity because it is fundamentally based on the lazy and flawed assumption that there are eternal truths in politics.
What worked for people in the late 90s, doesn’t necessarily work for people today.
People like us couldn’t vote in the 90s, but lived through the New Labour years: the initial halcyon days followed by 9/11, a disastrous adventurous foreign policy, the continuing economic crisis in the European Union and massive government spying operations on its own citizens.
As we say goodbye to Labour, we say goodbye to the old politics of the misrepresentation of public opinion, staged grassroots enthusiasm, amoral political "realism" and shifty, weaselly, half-truth nonsense.
And that’s good because...
The success of the Scottish National Party is, perhaps, the most inclusive and internationalist thing to have ever happened in British politics.
Have you ever heard of Godwin’s Law? Basically, it says if you liken your opponent to the Nazis, you already lost the argument a long time ago.
It’s a law that can be applied pretty readily to the SNP’s opponents over the past few years.
Extraordinary thing about reading memoirs of those in early 1930s Germany is conviction that it surely won't get out of hand… @theSNP — Iain Martin (@iainmartin1) May 4, 2015
I can get why some people might be confused; there’s a "National" in the Scottish National Party. But, please have a look at their record in Scotland and their proposals for Westminster.
Mathematically, with 56 seats in Parliament, it will be hard for them to turn this positive and progressive agenda into positive and progressive policy.
But, one thing's certain: It’s not going to get boring here anytime soon.