Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Charge of the Labour Brigade; magnificent, but stupid

Charge of the Light Brigade, Balaclava, Crimea, October 25, 1854.

Great letter from the most excellent Colin Hines in the Guardian today. Taking his cue from Jackie Ashley's piece about how First Past the Post (FPTP) distorts political attention onto swing voters in marginal seats, he points out that like it or not, this is beshiten position in which that we find ourselves in this election. Colin points with a finger trembling with righteous indignation at the consequences of a Cameron victory:
  • Public services decimated.
  • MP numbers reduced by one sixth (seximated?) - mainly Labour MPs.
  • Possible full Scottish independence, further reducing Labour MPs in Parliament
  • Cuts in large scale Union funding for Labour
  • Electoral reform off the agenda

    Result - A Tory victory means the end of the Labour Party as a force in UK politics.
 Add to that the other negative consequences of a Tory victory:
  • They are infested with climate change deniers and free market fundamentalists. 
  • Osborne's economic policies threaten to bring a double dip recession onto the country.
  • Cameron's "greenness" is wafer thin, as evidenced by the lack of emphasis on the environment in his recent speeches.
A Tory victory represents a real and severe danger to progress in the UK.

Colin's conclusion: We have got to vote tactically. "This leaves Labour voters in Lib Dem marginals and Lib Dem voters in Labour marginals with no choice. They must hold their nose and cast their votes informed by the battle cry "ABC": Anything But Cameron".

The man is right. But will the voters listen? Only a tiny few, sadly.The majority of voters have tribal loyalty. I'm a Labour man, I'm a LibDem, I'm a Green. (I was out canvassing once when the householder opened the door, took one look and said "No canvassers thanks, we always vote Green here". Slam. Oh thanks).

The obverse to the tribal voter lies in local party obduracy, where, for instance,  Labour local parties stand in every seat they possibly can, irrespective of the effect that it will have on the outcome. Given the dire consequences of a Tory victory, particularly for its own future, the reasonable and logical response of the Labour party would be to stand aside in LibDem/Tory marginals, with the LibDems doing the same in Lab/Tory marginals, and so on. But no. That would be to cry for the moon.

Come election time, a mystical blanket descends from the sky onto the head of every party politician.  "We can win here, we can win here" becomes the mantra, irrespective of the betting odds. Elections for parties are a form of mass hysteria, a Charge of the Light Brigade. The order has been given, the starting gun has been fired, and off we go, regardless of the futility of the exercise, regardless of the outcome.  
"We will fight all other parties in the constituencies, we will fight them on the doorstep, we will never surrender our right to stand our candidates, even though the FPTP system means that overall, our party and our country will be vastly worse off".

So it's serious. But all is not lost. The chance of a hung parliament are good, and we must hope that that is the outcome, and that the LibDems, in forming a coalition, make proportional electoral reform a sine qua non of their participation in government.

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