Why Tories won’t mind losing 1 election & why all eyes should be on Labour’s PR stance

It’s the day after the next General Election here in the UK and progressives are seemingly in a majority, if you mistakenly assume that all Labour MPs are progressive which of course they’re not. There is a lot of celebrating as the Conservatives have finally lost their majority but it will take a ‘coalition* of willing progressives’ to create a workable left of centre government. Here are a few reasons why that ‘progressive alliance’, for want of another term, is likely to fail in short order leading to another populist government of the right.

Firstly, Labour, who have won some extra seats, really aren’t looking much like progressives at all, having run a campaign based on a centre-right platform. The SNP are more progressive but their independence or bust approach to working with other parties is a big stumbling block when you consider that both Labour and, sadly from my perspective, the Lib Dems are firmly unionist in their outlook.

The Lib Dems, who have won a significant number of seats from the Tories, are in reality two differing types of Liberals – Economic Liberals (Nick Clegg was one I guess) and Social Liberals. Whilst they share numerous Liberal values the Social Liberals tend to be very much of the left in UK political terms although many of them baulk at being seen as of the left. However, they’re the ones who realised early on that that Nick Clegg’s negotiated coalition with the Conservatives back in 2010 was going to be a disaster. Of course, they were right as Clegg backed out of the Lib Dem’s flagship policy of opposing Student Tuition Fee increases. It was pretty much all downhill for the Libs from there onwards for the next 10 years.

Would the SNP, having seen what Clegg did to the Lib Dems, even for a moment, contemplate watering down their independence for Scotland stance to make working with unionists in other parties easier or even possible. Frankly, they would be mad too, so how can a multi-party progressive government be formed in a way that brings an independent Scotland to the fore?

It’s proportional representation stupid

And then there’s proportional representation, which for generations Labour has opposed; a position that’s exposed it as being anti-progressive. Labour’s pretty much on its own amongst all left of centre parties across Europe and beyond over its heel-dragging with regard to PR. They got close to backing PR in 2021, of course, and now seem to be in a position where they no longer oppose PR but don’t really back it with any great enthusiasm either. The problem is they can’t be trusted to see through a PR agenda by progressive parties who probably look upon Starmer’s party as being akin to Justin Trudeau’s Canadian Liberals. They, having previously backed/promoted PR, pretty much ran away from delivering it. The SNP, Lib Dems and Greens think Starmer’s lot will pull a similar trick, and they’d probably be right to fear such an outcome.

Labour’s still a Brext party?

Too many of Labour’s MPs continue to be right of centre or they represent white, working-class, right-wing leaning constituencies even when they’re progressively inclined themselves. This was of course the very bind that drew Labour into at best sitting on its hands and at worst enabling a Brexit which has probably damaged poorer areas of the UK more than anywhere else. Of course the Lib Dems, SNP and Greens were utterly opposed to Brexit so here’s another big sticking point which creates barriers to progressives being able to work with Labour.

And look who Labour will probably want to be Chancellor, one Rachel Reeves who’s infamous, with this progressive anyway, for her 2013 utterance that Labour will be tougher than the Tories when it comes to slashing benefits, or words to that effect. She’s going to go down well with progressives in the Greens, SNP and Lib Dems NOT.

So can a Tory opposition so disparate and so very different from each other really carry the day? It could but only on a very limited agenda and proportional representation would very much have to lead that agenda. A further Scots Independent referendum would clearly need to be part of it together with an unbreakable commitment to devolve many more powers to Scotland, N Ireland, Wales and the regions of England, whether the Scots referendum delivers independence or not. This latter point should get the Lib Dems onside as they have long proposed powerful regional governance for the whole of the UK as opposed to the very limited and messy decentralisation which presently exists in differing ways in different parts of the UK. The only other potential issue for this limited agenda could be an emergency financial NHS rescue package. Surely, all progressives could get behind such an initiative? But that’s about it and of course, if Labour will not implement PR then all bets should be off. Certainly, Ed Davey would not survive any brokered deal that simply props up a Starmer Government; he won’t get away with what Clegg did!

And the alternative for anything like a progressive way forward? A minority Labour Government which progressive parties would back but only on matters/policies, they agreed with. On that basis, Starmer’ would be thrown to the wolves if he tried to pursue any right of centre agendas. I’m sure there will be other barriers to non-Conservative parties working together, I’ve just picked out the obvious ones here!

A UK version of Trumpism, that’ll probably be our future

No matter which way you cut it the Tories may only be out of power for one election (under our warped First Past the Post system that is) and they could live with that outcome. Without proportional representation being enacted we’ll be back to Tory Governments most of the time and they’ll probably not be of the benign John Major-type either. Right-wing populism has taken over the Tory Party of old and putting it back in its box will be the devil’s job. No PR Labour? Then settle back for a UK version of Trumpism because that’ll probably be our future.

* Oh and one last thing the Lib Dems have previously ruled themselves out (under Tim Farron’s leadership) of participating in any future coalition government and who on earth could blame them after they were Clegged!

Blair gets a gong and 1m signature balloon goes up!

Blair, if you put Iraq to one side, was the most progressive PM in generations; go on give me the name of a recent PM who was more progressive?

And the reason I’m blogging about Blair now? I’m told 1 million people have signed a petition asking for his Knighthood to be rescinded.

Yes he was too right-wing for me as a Social Liberal of the left, yes in my view (in European terms) he was akin to a Christian Democrat, yes he was a policy ditherer too, taking far too long to get on with things. But despite all that he’s still the most progressive PM we’ve had in generations, so doesn’t that show how right-wing the rest have been!

I’m ignoring Brown here as I never got where he was coming from, although he’s become a bit of a Jimmy Carter-type in retirement i.e. looked upon as a statesman, but only after he’d left office.

But the other thing for as an observer of politics like me is how much Labour Party members and supporters dislike Blair, indeed they seem to look at him in the same way they look at Thatcher! I’ve lost count of Labour backers slagging off Blair so I’m guessing many of the 1m signatures on the petition to get his gong removed will be Labour members and supporters.

Starmer has backed Blair’s award but then again he had little choice. If you think about it Starmer is of the Labour right-wing, some say he may even be right of centre with regard to British politics. On that basis, he’s going to want to back the award to Blair. However, I bet he’d rather have kept quiet as he knows his party members will be 80%ish against Blair. But saying nothing was not an option because it would make him look like a leftie and that’s the last thing he’d want as he tries to get the white, working-class, right-wingers back within Labour’s tent. So he was cornered and had to say he backed Blair’s gong.

My point here is that as someone of the left I’ve not been motivated to add my name to the petition, indeed I saw the award as an inevitability at some point. Yes, I know the vast majority of the signers will be to the right of my politics and I also accept that there’s a case for Blair to answer with regard to Iraq and its long-running humanitarian and terrorism consequences. But, from a cynical perspective, I see the campaign against Blair’s award being driven, at least in part, by those who find it a useful distraction to help turn away eyes and ears from the appalling government we presently have. We can’t do anything much about the things Labour did under Blair, they are history. However, we progressives can try to turn the screws on Johnson and his wretched government and frankly that should be very much our aim as opposed to refighting battles of the past no matter how much Labour members enjoy such blood letting.

Slagging off the Tories?

Warning this posting could get some on the left effing and jeffing!

Or is it now called ‘doing a Rayner’?

You might recall that Labour’s sometimes loose cannon Deputy Leader was being chased by the media for calling Johnson some names recently, but does her approach win hearts and minds to oppose the Tories?

Name-calling in politics is rooted in tribalism so within political groups it is actually commonplace, particularly in the further reaches of the right and left. It can also be something that is required/expected within certain political groupings/sects to have any street credibility. But outside of such groupings in the real world does political name-calling, or one could say child-like insults, actually gain political support for your cause/party? My feeling is that it can actually have the opposite effect but I realise even saying that may well inflame angry political folk who think it is both necessary and indeed effective.

My view has always been that once you’ve started throwing insults around you’ve already pretty much lost the argument. You see most ordinary folks turn off when they see politicians slagging each other off. Yes, your own political tribe may well be cheering the insults on but they are already on your side; it’s reasoned arguments that are more likely to have an effect on how people change their voting intentions.

So ‘doing a Rayner’ does not work in my book. And yes I know she was actually showing off to what she thought was a friendly internal Labour audience when she was caught out and subsequently spent a few days running away from the media. But can you imagine how she must have cheesed off Starmer as her insult gained more publicity than what he was trying to say during what he’d hoped would be his time in the political limelight? I am, of course, no supporter of Starmer but I can see how his heart must have sunk when he realised that her slag the Tories off jibe had actually sunk him.

Throw political insults around if you wish but please don’t do so if you really are trying to make friends and influence people outside of your own tribe as all it does is push potential floating voters away.

Brexit Deal – ‘celebrating’ abject political failure

Welcome to the UK at the end of a terrible 2020. Like everywhere else on earth we’re battling against Covid 19, but we’re also very troubled with our own self-destructive need to shoot ourselves in both feet. For years our politicians and our press have found ways to blame foreigners, the EU, the French indeed pretty much anyone outside of the UK for our own self-made troubles. The whole sorry mess has culminated in what looks to be a wretched Brexit Deal which is bound to be one of the greatest acts of self-harm this country has imposed on itself in living memory. Just look at the deal; it’s terrible:-

We often look to the right of politics to blame for our Brexit debacle but in reality the supposedly progressive parties have sadly had a big hand in this process as they’ve found themselves unable to effectively rise up and oppose it; an abject failure of leadership across the board.

The Tories found themselves being infiltrated by UKIP and latterly the Brexit Party in a far more successful way than Militant ever infiltrated Labour in the 1980’s. Many senior Tories acted like appeasers and they were rolled over and left politically dead. But not content with allowing narrow nationalism to take over their party they then elected as their leader the most unsuitable person just about ever to lead them and be Prime Minister. There can’t have been anyone within the Tory Party who was not aware of his flaws, indeed he’d changed his views over the EU from being a staunch backer of it to exactly the opposite and that can only have been for political power which could not have been gained otherwise. He’s proved to be the disaster that pretty much everyone thought he would be, but that’s of course no surprise at all.

But where has the official opposition been during this period of political turmoil? Labour under both Corbyn and Starmer have been fence sitting, hiding behind their Brexit sofa and trying not to be an opposition because too many Labour supporters on it’s right wing and even a few on its left wing are Brexiteers. Indeed, many of its white working class supporters helped to deliver Brexit by voting for Johnson’s Tories at the last election! Many of us progressives thought Starmer was having his wings clipped when he was Corbyn’s Brexit Spokesperson but sadly he’s hardly moved Labour from its ‘hide behind the Brexit sofa’ position at all as their new leader. He now even says Labour backs Johnson’s terrible deal!!!!!

And what of the pro-EU Lib Dems? Some false dawns prior to the last General Election came to nothing as they were unable to win the hearts and minds of voters even many who actually agreed with them! Suffering a lack of high profile leaders since the tragic loss of Charles Kennedy they’ve been unable to communicate with voters at all well of recent years. Like Labour they went for a safe pair of hands (Ed Davey*) after political trauma when their new leader desperately needed to be a Kennedy/Ashdown kind of communicator who voters would take notice of. Predictably, having gone for the safe pair of hands, the Libs have not been cutting through and frankly Starmer & Davey might as well be a firm of high street accountants for all the good they’ve done at Westminster. Both are worthy, both may well be steady Cabinet members but neither are leaders of women and men.

If you’ve got this far I’m guessing you’re not a Brexiteer and that you realise there’s nothing, literally nothing, to celebrate with our former ‘oven ready’ Brexit Deal. We’ve trashed our economy and our neighbour trading relationships because voters were convinced (in 2016) that most if not all of our ills were the fault of the EU which, despite its many faults, it rarely was/almost never had been. The power of our right wing press to get what it wants and implant its views in elector’s minds has indeed been proven.

And what next? I’m of the view that Scotland will probably leave the UK and re-join the EU at some point. I’m also of the view that what has gone on will have hastened a united Ireland. I’m supportive of both I might add. The thing which is bizarrely working in Brexiteers favour though is Covid 19 as the wrecking of our economy can at least be blamed on that with the Brexit effects being concealed. How bizarre is that? So be prepared for many more years of blame for our ills on ‘others’ as Brexiteers are not going to stop lying to you.

From my perspective as a Social Liberal of the left and a progressive politician by instinct we need credible leaders on the left who can communicate with voters. Blair was successful as he could communicate well. Yes I know, he went off the rails big style over Iraq etc. but I’m taking about a real communicator. Politicians like him and Ashdown and Kennedy and John Smith are few and far between these days but if Liberals, Social Democrats and the Socialists who aren’t Brexiteers want to rid UK politics of our nationalistic politicians they’ve got to find such leaders and when found they need to sitting on the sofa with electors not hiding behind it!

Click on the scans of the Brexit Deal graphics to enlarge them

* But I do give credit to him for saying he won’t support Johnson’s Brexit Deal