Friday, May 08, 2015

How Do We Respond To Cameron's Victory?

Image result for Cameron at No 10
Matters would have been problematic enough even if Ed Miliband had made it to 10 Downing Street.

But now we face really huge issues in a much more difficult climate. (a) Do we need a written constitution with a federal structure to hold onto Scotland, (b) how do we respect the rights of not only the SNP but of others such as the Northern Ireland Parties and Plaid Cymru who are also local to their own territories, (c) how fair is an electoral system which has resulted in the two main parties taking 87% of the seats with only 67% of the vote - whilst UKIP gets only one seat with an overall vote of 12.6% and the SNP get 56 seats with a vote of just 4.7%: which seems unfair even if we don't like UKIP, (d) what is the future of the Labour Party, including who should be its new leader and deputy leader (and how will this help shape its ideological direction on key issues such as climate change and economic and a social justice) (e) how do we relate to the EU, (f) what will we do about the people who are drowning in the Mediterranean due to serious instability in their countries of origin (g) what avenues do we use to feed such concerns into the political process - is it via Labour, other or new parties, or (instead or as well?) via pressure groups such as (say) 38 Degrees?  These and other issues need to be pursued with vigour; but what fruitful avenues can we use for this or what collectively can we help build?

2 comments:

Ernest Jacques said...

Harry raises some really interesting points about Labour’s 2015 election defeat which saw the party annihilated by the SNP in its Scottish heartlands and squeezed in England by a by significant numbers of stay-at-home former Labour voters or deserting to UKIP and other parties.

A process supported, as always, by a hugely biased and obnoxious press making personal attacks on Ed Miliband, which from day one has been relentless and going far beyond that can be deem fair comment. In my opinion the press barons and their big money apologists and paid flunkies are no better than school bullies.

Anyhow, the mortem has begun with, broadly speaking, those on the right (including the self-serving Blair and Mandelson duo) arguing that Labour cannot win again unless it occupies the middle ground, appeals to the middle classes, is business friendly Etc. while many on the left suggest the party no longer represents the interests and needs of working people and the socially excluded and has turned its back on social democracy and traditional Labour values.

Former ILPer Jon Trickett has weighed-into the debate saying the party is not only paying the price of New Labour failures but also because its narrowly focussed and unrepresentative metropolitan elitist image is hugely damaging.

But for many within the Labour Party leadership the remedy seems to boil down to picking the right leader (the unions the party picked the wrong Miliband last time) and focus on the needs of business and the wealth creators, the middle and aspirant working classes as the necessary precondition for election success and government.

But no-one to my knowledge ever suggests that a fundamental part of the problem might be structural and a broken democracy?

Broken Democracy
But to my mind the crisis of Labour is also a crisis of a flawed and corrupt democracy where machine (Tammy Hall) politics and nepotism (Aka Falkirk) is widespread and routine. A corrupt system which allows career driven wannabe MP’s and the favoured sons , daughters and friends of past and existing leaders to be parachuted into safe constituencies and foisted on local people who they know and care little about. So we now have an intake of look-a-like MPs far removed from the world of work and the local communities that they nominally represent. And this deeply bastardised internal democratic process is also reflective of a deeply flawed and undemocratic (first-past-the-post) electoral system and a Westminster Parliament that is rooted in the 17th century with its archaic language, costumes and rituals overlaid with sycophancy, establishment and political patronage and the Westminster gravy train.
So last week a triumphant Tory administration was elected with a 12 seat Parliamentary majority on just 36.7% of the popular vote. And many redundant MP’s and ministers will now trot off into the welcoming arms of the lobbyist, the city, big money and the House of Lords. And some (well many) like Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind didn’t bother waiting for leaving day.

The case for devolved government and proportional representation with a democratic second chamber and strict rules to end to the Westminster gravy train together with a proper one-member one vote, bottom-up internal democracy must, surely, be a prerequisite for change and the rebirth of a Labour Party that reconnects with ands energises local people.

After all, the Scottish Labour Party debacle wasn't just down to an ineffectual Jim Murphy(and he is) or because the SNP opposition is more middle class focussed and business friendly. It’s been a long time coming but raced out of control once the Labour Party got into bed with the Tories, during the Scottish Referendum campaign.


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Harry Barnes said...

Ernie : We had a fine Discussion Meeting at Dronfield yesterday evening. It was under the title "After the General Election : What Now?". It was attended by 21 Labour Movement activists. The "speaker" was Keith Venables who is convenor for both "Independent Working Class Education" and the "Derby People's History Group" and a former trade union and equalities tutor at places such as the Northern College. He did not, however, give us a talk. Instead he handed us the following questions to discuss in small groups and then to report back on our findings to the full group.He guided the process. The questions were (a) Why have people been prepared to accept neoliberalism; wholesale privatisation and the diminishing of the State? (b) Why did so many people vote Conservative and UKIP? (c) What is our vision of Socialism and how do we intend to fight for it? The exchange of ideas was impressive in the best traditions of the dialectics of debate.

We need to begin to draw together conclusions from the ideas which were flouted and start to push for these. Hopefully, the ILP will also seek to play such a role.

On your proportional representation (p.r) proposals, it also needs to be noted that in Scotland the SNP took nearly all the seats on 50% of the popular vote. Whilst 50% is quite an achievment and pips the UK post-war record of 49.4% by the Conservatives in 1955, it does mean that the other 50% only obtained three seats amongst themselves. So a further referendum will not necessarily lead to independence.

We need to carefully examine what the best system of p.r. would be. Pure p.r. (in regions?) gives even more power to the hierarchy of the political parties to decide who goes where on the party lists. Then having an MP responsible for their particular patch has advantages when they do their job properly and have a history of local links and involvement. But I am sure that a form of p.r. can be worked out which can advances its pro's and limit its con's.It is an element of the wider agenda for what should be our current debate.