Sunday, May 10, 2015

election reflections...

There is a really lovely photograph of Ed+Justine Miliband and their two sons in today’s Observer (see above!). They look very happy… and perhaps, after the hugely-disappointing election result, just relieved that they’re going to get their lives back again. Despite the election outcome, I’m genuinely very pleased for them and wish them well.

Although I’m a Green Party member these days, I wanted Labour to form the next government – in alliance with the minor parties.
The fact remains that the Tories won… with a clear majority. I freely admit that I’m still feeling somewhat numb… and sad… and very depressed at the “prospect” of what the new government has in store for us over the next five years.
Following Thursday’s outcome, I’ve been reading comments from various pundits and politicians (usually “former”) who claim that the only way Labour will regain power is to re-join the centre ground of politics. They may well be correct but, in many ways, I feel that Labour could actually be criticised for being only marginally to the left of the Conservatives(!) – often, it seemed, they were merely following on the tails of the Tory policy (or, on occasions, having the government taking on Labour’s own initiatives).

I think it’s been fascinating how successful the SNPs have been in communicating their “austerity policies” to the public – in Scotland and through the UK – and how, time and time again, Nicola Sturgeon was hailed as the “winner” of the television debates.
The key fact was that she delivered her message with passion, intelligence and conviction AND had the ability to respond effectively whenever she was challenged by her opponents.
I thought Ed Miliband did well in the final election run-in… but the trouble was, in my view, that it was too late to have any real effect.
I absolutely HATE the whole process of Prime Minister’s Questions and all that its yah-boo, them-against-us politics stand for. Sadly, this isn’t going to change in the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, time and time again, I think the Tories were able to “win” the majority of these encounters. The same could be said of the Osborne-Balls battles.
So, until the Labour Party is able to come up with a leader (plus other key front-bench figures) who has the charisma, wit and intelligence (along with the agile mind of a top lawyer!)… someone like Blair (I’m afraid to say!), I think they’re going to continue to struggle.

In 2010, I actually thought Ed Miliband would make the best leader… and I think I’ve been proved wrong! I had hoped that the 2014 Scottish Referendum was going inspire the population and political parties alike to make last week’s general election DIFFERENT. Well, it was (to some extent – with massive involvement from Greens and UKIP), but our ridiculous first-past-the-post system can’t cope with a “new” style of politics! In the event, 63% of the population did NOT vote for the Conservatives… and, sadly, although the turn-out was the highest for 18 years, ONE in THREE of the population failed to vote! Clearly, the current government won’t be interested in changing the present system!! I’ve just re-read one of my blog posts from last year and it’s sobering to note that three of the seven leading Labour politicians pictured lost their seats last week.
The really, REALLY sad thing, in my opinion, was that Labour were pretty appalling in opposition (and it pains me to say that). They missed countless “open goals”. They SHOULD have been keeping the Tories in check week in week out. They SHOULD have been constructively critical about SO many government policies. They SHOULD have been winning most of the key arguments… but they didn’t. As the Green Party’s economic spokesperson, Molly Scott Cato MEP, so clearly outlined in the “New Statesman”: Labour’s failure was its willingness to “accept the narrative of its opponents" (her article is well worth reading).

In the meantime, we face five years (at least) of Tory government and the difficulties that this will inevitably bring to many. I think my good friend Bruce Stanley got it right on facebook this morning when he observed: “not sure about PR, but what is the system (probably the Borgen system) that would miraculously see Caroline Lucas as PM?”
PS: I don’t know who will be the next Labour Party leader (I just hope the process is quick – unlike the painful, prolonged course of action last time!). I don’t think there are any stand-out candidates. People like Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Maria Eagle and David Lammy are all excellent politicians, but I don’t see any of them as “ideal” Leaders. In my view, the closest they may have is Chuka Umunna (Shadow Business Secretary before the election) – I recall mentioning him on facebook a couple of years ago after watching him in a television interview. He’s written an interesting article in today’s Observer about where he thinks Labour went wrong and what he thinks they need to do to regain power (ie. effectively throwing his hat into the ring as far as the leadership is concerned!)… you can almost hear the “why-didn’t-he-say-this-earlier?” shouts! It includes the following about aspirations (which I wouldn’t argue with): “Our vision as a party must start with the aspirations of voters: to get on and up in the world, to see their children and grandchildren do better than they did, to get that better job, to move from renting to owning, to take the family on holiday, to move from that flat to that house with a garden. That means offering competence, optimism not fatalism, an end to machine politics, an economic credo that is both pro-worker and pro-business and, most of all, a politics that starts with what unites us as a country rather than what divides us”. The trouble is, we’ve become very cynical when it comes to politicians (surely not!) and writing rousing sentiments such as these is the easy bit… inspiring us all to believe it’s achievable is the real challenge.

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