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Friday, May 08, 2015 

Acedia's blackest hole.

Where do we even begin?

Perhaps it's best to start with what I and so many others got spectacularly wrong.  First, the Lynton Crosby "crossover" happened.  It happened at the very last minute, but it happened.  Second, the mainstream, overwhelmingly right-wing media has far more influence than anyone on the left or on the internet as a whole has given it credit for in years.  Their screeching appeals to their readers not to vote Labour over the past couple of days are almost certainly not the reason the Conservatives have a slender majority, but the months, years of attacks on Labour and their depiction of Ed Miliband as a mixture of Stalin and Mr Bean, to borrow from Vince Cable, have exacted a heavy toll.  If you want a reason why UKIP won just shy of 4 million votes, almost as many as the SNP and the Lib Dems combined, you need only look as far as a media that depicts Britain as a country where the power lies not with the white, upper middle classes but with immigrants, benefit claimants, the EU, and a constantly being bent over and sodomised BBC.  The real metropolitan elite has succeeded in creating an image of a phony metropolitan elite, where politically correct limp-wristed Guardianistas allow children to be raped and everything that's wrong with the country is down to their smug, sneering attitude of knowing best.  You can't support England!  You can't talk about immigration!  You can't say anything anymore without someone jumping down your throat!

Where I would maintain I wasn't wrong is in that no one won this election.  Now, plainly, the Conservatives did.  They didn't however win on the basis of anything in the Conservative manifesto or almost anything that David Cameron said the whole campaign.  The Tories have increased their share of the vote yes, something not achieved since 1900, but the swing is a miniscule 0.5%.  The Conservatives won because at the last minute more decided to stick with what they know than risk a Labour minority "held to ransom" by the SNP.  Apart from a few exceptional results, like the defenestration of Ed Balls, the Tories have their majority thanks to winning the seats they needed to from their former coalition partner.  Nick Clegg's message of dead centrism, which even to me looked as if it might in the end pay dividends failed catastrophically.  Why have a Lib Dem MP supporting Tory policies when you can have the real thing?

The Labour result is though throat-slittingly, jumping into a gaping chasm, blowing your own head off with a howitzer bad.  It represents everything the party must have feared in its darkest moments combined with the very worst of its most gleeful enemies' fantasies.  To gain an overall swing of just 1.5% after 5 years of austerity, real terms losses in earnings and hacking away at the public services as only a Tory led government can is not just nightmarish, it suggests Labour as a party is in terminal decline.  As we've seen on the continent, it isn't the centre-right parties that have been most squeezed post-crash, it's been those on the centre-left.  Unlike in Spain and Greece where parties of the radical left have been the beneficiaries of the collapse, we're seeing a refracted image of the situation in France, where the Front National looks set to become the unofficial opposition.  Clearly UKIP aren't going to play that role here, but what has happened is that as all the main parties have moved to the right on immigration and the economy, it's the establishment parties of the left that suffer most.  As the Greens will never be a working class alternative to Labour for a whole myriad of reasons, the major shift has been to UKIP, but there has been a much smaller if still significant shift to the left also.

How is Labour meant to win those voters back?  The more hawkish it is on the deficit and the harsher on immigration the more it loses voters like me to the alternatives on the left.  Meanwhile those on the right aren't satisfied as Labour won't go further than merely copying Tory policies.  It's utterly stuck, and has next to no room to manoeuvre.

For the left to win, it seems the only hope is to have a charismatic leader.  They can be an utter bastard, like a certain Mr Blair, or they can be a sign of change rather than stand for anything, like a certain Mr Obama.  If you look slightly nerdy, decide that you'd rather than country was just a little bit more equal please sir, and that it's not the best idea in the world to chuck bombs at countries without thinking it through first, or to spend the whole of your life brown nosing some of the most despicable cunts on the face of the planet, then boy are you fucked.

Ed Miliband's gambit was that the country had on a few really quite slight measures shifted all but imperceptibly to the left.  In their heart of hearts, perhaps most people do feel that way: they do want a higher minimum wage if not a living one, they do want a job that provides a way out of poverty, which is secure, they do want the corporate behemoths that now run so much of our public services to be just that, rather than service only their shareholders.  When it came down to it though, they held onto nurse in case of something worse, the worse being an inconclusive result where a nationalist party set on breaking the country up would hold the balance of power.  Yes, the failure to correct or challenge the media/Tory narrative that Labour was responsible for the crash did have an impact, but then on so many other fronts Labour and indeed all the parties have failed to do the same.  For far too long the main three have been too scared to confront voters' prejudices and instead have given in to them.  You celebrate the way the country has become diverse and yet you tell us you want an end to immigration right now; you tell us you hate scroungers and yet the welfare bill is increasing because benefits are topping up low wages and subsidising landlords, not to pay for layabouts; you complain about the wait to see a doctor and the threat to the NHS, and yet you're not prepared to pay the taxes to fund it to the same level as health services elsewhere.

Who Labour should choose to replace Miliband seems almost moot.  It clearly can't be someone else from the Blair/Brown era, which rules out Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham at a stroke.  Chuka Umuuna would, should be a frontrunner but while he has steel he lacks said charisma and passion.  I'd like to think it's time the party chose a woman, and on that front Liz Kendall would probably be the best bet, only yet again there's no reason whatsoever to believe she would make the needed difference when there is so little scope for policy change without losing more voters to UKIP or the Greens.  If there is the tiniest, most minute squib of brightness, it's that nothing can possibly get worse for the party in Scotland.  It needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, but it can't get any worse.  Whether Scotland will still be part of the UK by the time it's ready to challenge again could be the real question.

Finally then we must turn to our new overlords.  The Conservatives have won a majority, regardless of how, on the back of the most right-wing manifesto since the days of Thatcher.  They promise to rip up the Human Rights Act, if only to replace it with a British Bill of Rights codifying the same things, to slash social security to the absolute bone in ways they refused to let us in on, to further ramp up the housing market, to all but abolish inheritance tax, and to run a surplus from which tax cuts in time for the next election will be handed out.  Let's surmise that in fact it won't be that bad: Osborne will now look at the books, realise that cutting as much as they say they will is complete lunacy, and that a further delay to reducing the deficit is sensible.  We still though will be facing cuts that look unachievable, if that is the party doesn't now renege on its promise to not raise VAT, to posit just one thing it could do instead.

As promised by Cameron, the starting gun on the EU referendum has sounded.  Let's assume the best: that Cameron gets something from Angela Merkel and the rest that allows him to claim he has successfully renegotiated our membership.  Regardless of that, his backbenchers, looking over their shoulders at UKIP once again will be campaigning for the exit.  The poll will not be about the benefits of the EU so much as what are seen as the negatives: the open borders, the loss of power, the amount we pay for barmy EU bureaucrats, and so forth.  Even if the vote is a yes to stay in, the Scottish referendum has proved that once you've asked the question you will sooner or later have to ask it again, as it's guaranteed the result will be as close as the 55%-45% share north of the border.

Then we have the issue of Cameron himself.  We know he's not going to serve a third term, so the party leadership battle begins here.  At the same time as the EU referendum we're going to have Osborne, May and Boris battling it out, with all that implies for infighting in the party in and around the referendum.  When you've won a majority on the back of being right-wing shitbags and those whose support you're trying to get are right-wing shitbags, why on earth would you then head back to the centre?

I could go on but that's probably enough and I'm sleep deprived as it is.  To be slightly optimistic again, the Tories are still going to have trouble governing: their majority is smaller than it was in 1992, their backbenchers will be just as fractious as in the last parliament, and by-elections will dwindle it further.

Let's not lie to ourselves, all the same.  Today's result is a disaster for those at the margins of society.  It's a disaster for those who believe in internationalism, rather than nationalism.  And it's the evidence we should have seen before that the left in England is fucked, probably irrevocably.

Have a good weekend.

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Only just seen this - your RSS feed seems to have disappeared on election night, so I (and probably others) just thought you hadn't been posting.

I think there's room for a bit of cautious optimism - with a tiny majority in the Commons and none in the Lords, the Tories are going to have a hell of a time getting anything even remotely controversial (e.g. HRA repeal) through Parliament. The chances of ever having a Labour government again look pretty slim, though.

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