As some of you may be aware my hands on involvement in the political arena has somewhat subsided of late, primarily due to circumstance – moving to London, a physically demanding work-life, as well as some element of disillusionment admittedly. During this time I have felt far from alienated, in fact I have felt in touch with a side of my political psyche which is activated as a kind of observer. A left-wing commentator who is uninvolved with the action. This position has led me to find a form of tranquility for the time-being, and I have found myself making keen acknowledgements of the political atmosphere which I would like to share with you all.
Firstly, I feel that politics in the British Isles is affirmidly more presidential than ever before. We are all aware that charismatic political leaders have had huge influence on the degree of swing in general elections for the past generation or so, but I now feel that politics has progressed to a point (influenced by many other factors including: partisan de-alignment, working class re-alienation and declining turnout) where party leaders can in fact define the outcome of first order elections. The reason this has become so evident and concrete in this electoral round is the subsequent resignation of a positive cohort of party leaders (albeit some of them have grappled back onto power). This reinforces a “presidentialized” link to outcome of an election as opposed to a parliamentary parties support of a leader. As a result of this, leaders like Nick Clegg and Jim Murphy (Scottish Labour) have felt forced to resign from the leadership of their party, when in fact they were to some degree subject to a larger electoral shift, arguably out of their hands. Ed Miliband’s case is slightly different as the continuous press railings against his lack of charisma, bad leadership skills and haphazard policies were by no means corrected during his time as leader. In this way he became victim to a surprise turnout of “closet tories” who declared support for Labour, but when actually going to the polling booth voted for Tory status quo.Secondly, we can decisively proclaim that the political atmosphere and identity of Scotland has been truly divorced from the rest of the United Kingdom. A long overdue happening partly a result of the shift to the right of the Labour Party during the mid-1990’s. Scotland’s population have finally rooted themselves in a party which sufficiently embodies their national identity as well as their more left leaning political beliefs. Much to the disdain of left voters in England (particularly Northern England) and Wales who find themselves looking at a future where Southern English middle-class Conservative voters will trump their electoral wishes for a generation to come. My personal emotions on this matter are of great elation, despite the harder situation for working class people outside Scotland we should not resent their courage and struggle to politically define themselves. If anything we should see the SNP as an example which needs to be replicated and learned from across the rest of the United Kingdom. They prove that a party which defies the Westminster establishment and supports left wing opinion can represent real change and meet with electoral success.
Thirdly, Labour are fucked. The class dealignment and re-alienation of the working class in Britain has been underway for the past few decades and despite the experimental New Labour project by Blair & Brown they have been waning as a political force with sufficient roots to efficiently contest the elitist neo-liberal force of the Conservative Party. I have no doubt the train-wreck they are currently faced with can be salvaged and returned to the tracks, but left wing Britons need to come to terms with the fact that Labour will never again be able to sufficiently champion the cause of workers, and defend the remnants of the welfare state whilst gaining ample electoral seats to rule in a majority government. The New Labour government of Blair was a sell-out. Although they defended areas of the welfare state like the NHS and education spending they also coupled this with an acceptance of neo-liberalism, western imperialism and a long-term commitment to Thatcherite privatization. Whatever new leader comes to the fore he/she will be consistently heckled by mistakes of the past, struggle to unite the party around their programme and find themselves in a weak minority government or no government at all.
Fourthly, the collapse of the Liberal Democrats was inevitable. Their temporary popularity in 2010 was mainly concentrated around a student/left-leaning middle-class people’s protest vote. Their party had no core voter base – an essential element for a political party to continue its existence. Their only major foothold, among students, was catastrophically butchered by Nick Clegg and the Lib-Dem’s entry into Tory coalition. Their adeptness at local campaigning and championing of local causes was by no means sufficient to staunch the gaping wound they inflicted upon themselves by firstly sealing their place as an establishmentarian party, and secondly betraying their ideological stance and getting in bed with the Tories. I would love to know what their party strategists predicted as the long-term effects of sharing power with a party they had publicly derided and condemned. My prediction is that they will never be a sufficient force for the next generation, if ever. They may even re-merge with the a future Labour Party (something I am surprised no commentator has suggested) or another party of the centre-left ideological spectrum.
Finally, I would like to say a few words about the task ahead for socialists in relation to the 2015 general election. Any success of a new left party needs not just to contest elections on a widespread basis with policies supporting the working class, but needs to present a truly modernised political alternative with its electioneering strategy. They need to be able to react in real-time to local, national and global events, presenting a positive and powerful force for political change. The advent and long-term decline of the Trade Union’s may be highly regrettable and hopefully reversible but the needs of working class people are urgent and cannot wait decades to be alleviated from political banishment. Any left group serious about being a geniuine political force must utilize modern media platforms much more efficiently than the establishmentarian parties do (which won’t be that hard), tapping into anti-establishmentarian fervour of even the politically alienated. They must also put sectarianism truly aside and come out in support of any policies which truly aid the needs of the working class. The last part is a big ask, but we must not merely be a result of history but we must learn from it and define it.