(This blog post was commissioned by Claude over at Hagley Road to Ladywood, where it is cross-posted)
This year’s General Election seems long ago now, I’ve filed it far away in the recesses of my mind, politics, in the UK at least, has lost it’s luster for me and I’ve now gone back to obsessing about American exceptionalism, female genital mutilation and South African crime rates.
What killed it for me was voting Liberal Democrat, as I did in 2005, as they represent (or so I thought) my views the closest and then had to watch the bastards power-grab a horrible little deal with the dreaded Conservatives.
But before I turned my back on UK politics in an extraordinarily tedious fit of pique, I did something quite dramatic: I joined the Labour Party.
I was raised in a very Tory household and as soon as I could I wanted to vote Labour, because it seemed to me the team in blue represented something cruel, mean-spirited and negative; features all shared by my Tory father. So from 1994 onwards I was a devout Labour boy and only when they broke my heart by getting us into an illegal and terrible war, as well as a catalogue of human rights infringements and a slow and horrible metamorphosis into a cruel, mean-spirited and negative political party (are we really turning into America with no choice at all between the Devil and the very deep, very blue and terrifying sea?), I turned to my ideological bed-fellows: the Lib Dems.
It seemed a perfect policy fit and with the election this year the golden bastards actually stood a chance of winning. Thanks to the archaic joys of our electoral system and also not as many people voting for them as expected (always a problem in an election) they were left as kingmakers and decided, even though 15.4 million Brits had voted for left of centre parties rather then the 10.7 million that had turned blue, to back David Cameron and his entourage.
Ouch. That hurt.
And I mean really hurt. And perhaps my hurt is irrational, flawed and riddled with an utter loathing of the Tories and everything they stand for and perhaps, in a stumbling through kind of way, the current Con-Dem alliance is doing alright (even though VAT increases kill us all, especially the poor and why some focused tax hikes on rich folk like me aren’t an option I’ll never know) but I voted for a party of the left, a liberal party because I was sick to death of Labour’s Tory transformation and my vote was betrayed. Where has the left gone?
And yes, I did just say betrayed, for this is a love affair and Nick Clegg has given me chlamydia.
So I decided to cheat on him with my old lover (this relationship and sexual transmitted disease metaphor is starting to run aground isn’t it?) and commit because I see no other options for those of us on the left to turn to, options that actually have power within their reach, rather than hopes and dreams. What use are they?
Firstly, you have to align yourself with the party which is most ideologically suited to your own demeanour. I was raised in a staunchly Labour household and was described as being left of Trotsky by my late grandmother (who was left of Lenin herself). I have only NOT voted Labour on one occasion that was the last local elections here when I voted Green - purely as a protest vote. I didn't feel good about it, but I felt less dirty than voting for the Cons or Lib-Dems.ReplyDelete
At the 2010 General Election, I was intially impressed with Cleggy's persona, but I had a gnawing suspicion at the back of my mind that if you voted Lib-Dem, you would end up voting Tory. History has a habit of repeating itself and the Lib-Dems have proven this by hitting the self-destruct button as soon as they got between those blue-satin sheets and felt the cold, clammey grip of Cameron's dead hand on their virginal inner thigh.
In the past, I used to take the piss out of the Lib-Dems whenever they revealed their allegiance. I used to chide them that they were probably indecisive in their own lives, that they were probably scared of committment and had splinters in their yellow backsides from sitting on the fucking fence so much. Turns out I was right...
What the Lib-Dems did was stick two fingers up to those wavering voters who saw them as the third way - the alternative. They proved to be no alternative. We are yellow tories, they say. Of course, staunch Lib-Dems will argue the toss, but are you really happy that you leader dealt so low for a greasy lick at the spoon of power. All those policies given away just so he can sit like a puppet at Cameron's right hand...happy, really?
It turned our political system into a joke. Coalition parties equal unsteady government, a series of political compromises that serve no-one and when it collapses, political apathy. I've never been so apathetic about government since the dying days of John Major, but even then I could muster a spit of vitriol.
But no we have the political equivalent of Ant & Dec gurning for the cameras, and they are equally as vacuous. They say: "Don't worry, we're in this together..." but really they are saying: "This won't affect us, this will affect you because you will be paying for this for the next decade".
But they nearly fooled me those devious Lib-Dems, and thankfully when I made the walk to the polling station I told the Missus that I just couldn't do it. I had to stick to my principals this time and I am so glad that I did. I don't condemn those who got fooled, because they have to live with the consequences of their actions, but I will just offer that line from that rock song by that rock band and make them promise that they "won't get fooled again".
In the US, we don't have anything resembling a labor party. In America, if the unions formed their own party, that would be revolutionary.ReplyDelete
The good fight, is getting rid of Blairites, and making Labour live up to its mandate.
Contrary to the extreme left, Labour is the working class's party.
Okay - here goes...ReplyDelete
When I was nobbut a lad, the word libertarian was associated with the left; it imported a kind of soft anarchist, definitely not Leninist position. It's a pity that the word libertarian has been taken over - especially in the states - by right wing nutters because it seems to me necessary for the left to reclaim this tradition.
The problem with the Labour Party is its clunking statism. The old Labour Party's fault line was the cold war. The right was atlanticist and anti-unilateralist. The old left was soft on Stalinism. Both sides were centralisers and bureacratisers (if there is such a word). New Labour lost old Labour's inpulse to equality but retained its authoritarianism. They really can't have liked or trusted the populace much given huge swathes of the legislation implemented 1997-2010.
This caused them to get wrongfooted by the Tory/NuLiberal coalition. Hands up anyone who is against the coalition stated position of abolishing the following statist dross:
Intrusive checks on any volunteer who may get within 10 miles of a child.
Or imposing constraints on CCTV footage.
Or ditto on the DNA database.
Or a judicial inquiry on British complicity on torture.
Or the proposition that there are far too many people in the nick.
I've never voted Conservative in my life and can't imagine I ever would except in a straight fight with a fascist but Labour does end up looking like a body that, a la Brecht, would like to dissolve the people and elect a new one. The coalition will crash and burn on equality (or blatant lack of) issues and not liberty ones (though they may well relapse into the authoritarianism of the right when things get tough - despite the attractive mood music, it's never far below the surface).
Rediscover other traditions: mutualism, syndicalism. As for the Labour Party, let it bleed to borrow a phrase.
White Rabbit: When the working class moves politically, the first place they go is to Labour. If you're not in Labour, you are on the outside.ReplyDelete
With it out of power, its a good time to go in, and bury Blairitism.
Excellent comment, as always.
I can't imagine there ever being a Labour party in the UK, if people get scared by Obama then an actual union party would drive them mad with rage.
People get what they can handle.
And it should be the party of the working class and the people but it seriously lost its way, I hope things change, I'll do my best to do it from within and also, you're right on the bourgeois Lib Dems. I am bourgeois though...
I can't stand libertarian positions WR, the cult of the individual, I believe in the many and the power of the masses and the idea to help others, not to stand alone.
I am also a fan of statism I'm afraid, within reason.
And yes, many of the things you listed were errors, but for me they are errors that New Labour beat the Tories to by being in power.
'many of the things you listed were errors, but for me they are errors that New Labour beat the Tories to by being in power'ReplyDelete
No argument there.
For the avoidance of doubt - as we say in the trade - IO'm no fan of rampant individualism - liberty comes as a set with equality and fraternity.
'the many and the power of the masses and the idea to help others, not to stand alone'ReplyDelete
I was raised reading 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' at my Grandad's knee and, like many here, was a life-long Labour voter until last time. Don't worry though - I live in one of those Northern constituencies where a donkey in a red rosette would win, so my voting for A. N. Other made not a shred of difference to the result.
Utter disillusionment has set in. Now I'm with the anarchists - if voting changed anything they wouldn't let us do it. As a last ditch attempt to prove myself wrong, I will be going all out to try and make the referendum on AV a yes vote. But putting my faith in the Labour Party after the last few years of God-inspired war, torture and child detention??
Not a chance.
Trying to pretend Blairism was some kind of collective delusion that has now been repented of and that all parties to the left of Labour are loonies and militants just proves that there's no integrity remaining at all in the Party-that-used-to-be-of-the-Workers.
Great article though, liked it a lot!
I know what you're saying Julia, I really do but I can't go down the path of no hope, or no options, not yet but perhaps one day soon.ReplyDelete
I do have hope - just not in our electoral system. If the coalition split up tomorrow and there was another election, this time won by Labour, what would change for the ordinary bloke or lass in the street?ReplyDelete
Like 10mh.net says, "If voting changed anything, they would make it illegal." You chose a different flavour of capitalism is all.ReplyDelete
Call me an asshat but I do think there would be some form of change that would be of a discernible impact.ReplyDelete
Time will tell, I guess.ReplyDelete
I just can't see the Party responsible for the F1 thing, the Iraq War, the detention of child asylum seekers, the expenses scandal, PFI and all the rest of it suddenly ushering in a future fair for all, because they got stomped in one election.
They're not learning the lessons of that defeat. Which, I think, should be that we need to wake up to the fact that whoever you vote for, the system always wins.
I do agree that the system wins but until we and I mean WE, come up with a better alternative we have to participate in the existing parameters.ReplyDelete