I don’t often sit down to discuss national politics. Yes, politics is something that I do i.e. I work in a party political world but it can be boring at times you know. When I meet friends the last thing I want to do is debate the political crisis of the day especially if the right wing tabloid press have already given it a good spin. One thing that has always amused me though is how in a constituency like Sefton Central where in recent times we have consistently elected socialist MP’s you can watch folks coming out of local paper shops who are invariably carrying a right wing newspaper such as the Mail! How does that fit together? Maybe that was Tony Blair’s trick i.e. understanding that conundrum……
Of course, many folks are turned off by politics these days particularly with regard to party political slanging matches – Prime Minister’s Question Time comes to mind for me; what a childish affair that can be.
But politics is important as it shapes all our lives whether we take part in the democratic processes or not. I have always seen myself as being left of centre but I am the first to admit that the right wing of British politics has always been better organised than the left which has more factions than you can shake a stick at. The mainstream left starts for me with Social Democrats, through Liberals and on to Socialists of numerous sects. And thereby hangs the problem i.e. the individual freedoms that Liberals in particular stand for against the collectivism socialists believe in. Of course you can find some Liberals and Social Democrats who may more easily fit with the right of British politics economically but are socially left. This latter category seemed to me to be where Tony Blair was coming from and whilst I did not fall under his spell his mixture of right and left politics was why he was so successful – plenty of Daily Mail readers must have voted for his New Labour!
The untimely death of John Smith, a Labour Leader whom I thought could possibly have brought the mainstream left under one large umbrella and in doing so pushed the Tories out of Government for a couple of decades is something I have commented on before. I imagine him being the Labour Leader working with someone like Paddy Ashdown or Charles Kennedy as Lib Dem Leader – our world may have looked very different to what it does now. Ashdown and Blair had a go at this but the chemistry between them was not really there.
Political parties can be a force for good and sadly a force for bad as well because they are so tribal. It is only with political leaders who can gain some respect amongst those who did not vote for their party or whose votes they borrowed from elsewhere that we move forward. Sadly in recent times such political leaders have been few a far between. Perhaps Charlie Kennedy, before his alcohol problems, was one such well respected leader across the spectrum and I hope I don’t say that just because he is a Lib Dem politician. I will be back to John Smith again soon but have you noticed that the political Leaders I most respect have all been from Scots or Celtic stock?
Hard economic times are always tougher for the left as desperately hard economic decisions have to be made as is the case now. Yes, we all know that if Labour were in office they would be doing 95% of what the Coalition is doing and they would be just as unpopular but the agonising of a left wing government trying not to do what needed to be done but then being forced to do it anyway would do little to encourage the money markets. So the Coalition, troubled as it is at times, is the best way forward because if the economy is not sorted out we are all going to hell in a hand cart.
But will these harsh economic times lead to another realignment of the left? It may well do after the next election especially if we end up with a right wing Tory party with a majority, which must be a possibility. Trouble is Labour would probably lurch further left in such circumstances, Social Democrats within Labour would be unhappy and everything would fall into the Tory/right wing hands. The alternative i.e. a Labour Government being elected with high hopes but then needing to continue to pursue harsh economic policies would also favour the right as Labour would become hugely unpopular, the left would kick lumps out of itself (as it always does in tough times) and the Tories would eventually win that way. Is there any wonder that the Tories see themselves as the natural party of government? They may not be liked, be rather unpleasant and superior but they have still spent many years running our small islands! If only the left could sort itself out.