Posts Tagged ‘Ed Miliband’

Photo: Dave Radcliffe (www.flickr.com/photos/libdems)

Photo: Dave Radcliffe (www.flickr.com/photos/libdems)

Whatever one may think of the current Labour Party, there’s no denying that it knows how to lose an election.

The morning of May 8 brought a crushing defeat, but for all the upset there was no time wasted. Miliband resigned and straight away conversations started about what could be done differently – and under who – to win in 2020.

Coming, as it did, on the morning the party hoped to walk victorious into Downing Street, this was admirably resilient. But what of the night’s other losers, the Liberal Democrats?

While there is no consensus on why Labour lost it, the Liberal Democrats can be under no illusions: five years of propping up a Tory government had ground voter support down to a nub.

Yet somehow, the party seems to have missed this message. Its leaders speak as if the electorate lost the election, not them – as if no mistakes have been made, save for by the voters.

Nick Clegg, stepping down, said the results had been “crushing and unkind.” Paddy Ashdown said the outcome was “cruel.” You’d think the public had failed to support them out of spite.

Clegg went on to say his MPs had lost their seats because of “forces entirely beyond their control” and that the “politics of fear” had cost them – the latter point was echoed by Vince Cable.

In a moment of undisguised contempt for the electorate, Clegg evoked a Liberal Democrat councillor who, on losing his seat, said he wholeheartedly accepted the voters’ verdict if it was their thanks for the scraps begged from the Tory table.

The notion that the coalition might have been a mistake, meanwhile, is not indulged at all. The party is agreed – it was brave and selfless to leap at power like a dog after a stick, and a move all should admire.

If a failure must be considered, it’s that the party did not adequately communicate its greatness. Yet this too can be someone else’s fault. One councillor told me they blamed the lack of a Liberal Democrat mouthpiece on Fleet Street.

Even Norman Lamb, who at least accepts some wrongdoing, seems to only give ground on the tuition fee U-turn, otherwise defending the Liberal Democrats’ time in Toryland.

One might expect something like humility from a party that lost 85 per cent of its MPs, but the talk is mainly of rebuilding, and – with the coalition not disavowed – it’s on these toxic foundations.

The year after entering the Conservative coalition, Lib Dem party membership plummeted 25 per cent. Herein lies the key.

The Liberal Democrat voter base was, in no small part, composed of people on the centre-left. Did Clegg and co really expect to get into bed with a right wing party and retain that support?

For many, this loss will seem well earned and richly deserved. Here is a party that not only helped the Tories into power, but continued to support them even when its own values were the cost.

Whether or not the party did the right thing by sporting a Tory leash (it didn’t) is neither here nor there. The voters have decided it was wrong and, until the survivors distance themselves from the decision, they will be starved of support.

Clegg may mourn a sad result for liberalism, but liberalism is alive and well. Its followers didn’t abandon his party, his party abandoned them.

What matters now is who liberals choose to support in the future and, at this stage, it’s not the Liberal Democrats.

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Let me take you back. It’s September 2014 and David Cameron faces the very real prospect of being the Prime Minister who oversaw the demise of the United Kingdom.

Scotland is to vote on independence and the polls are horrifyingly close. Cameron the hard-nosed Tory melts away and his soggy leftovers entreat the Scots to stay.

Nicola Sturgeon. Photo: Scottish Government (www.flickr.com/photos/scottishgovernment)

Nicola Sturgeon. Photo: Scottish Government (www.flickr.com/photos/scottishgovernment)

Yet if a week is a long time in politics, imagine seven months. Those who agitated for independence lost the vote, but still the Tories have surrendered Scotland to them.

The Conservative campaign now takes it as given that the Scottish National Party will win the Caledonian constituencies, leaving Labour short of a majority on May 7.

What’s more, Cameron and co continue to insist that Labour will make a deal with the SNP, no matter how often or loudly Ed Miliband denies it.

This is partly about winning Tory votes in England – reaffirming unionist values on one hand, while implying Labour links with secessionists on the other.

Just as important though is the effect on Scottish voters. Every anti-Tory is being told you can vote SNP and get Labour just the same – no need to be tactical.

Under normal circumstances, anything that puts your rivals further from power is par for the course, but this loss is not a Conservative gain – the SNP get the spoils.

I won’t be voting for them, but I know Labour are the last levee against the nationalist flood and I would rather they ran the UK, than the Tories ran what’s left of it.

Besides, how woeful is the Conservative offering that they must endanger the union, not even to get a majority, but merely to keep its opponents from one?

Nor would a Tory majority, were it possible, protect our United Kingdom.

Only the blue team will hold a referendum on EU membership and only something like an EU exit would enable Nicola Sturgeon to push for another independence vote.

Plus there’s no doubt that a Conservative government would benefit the SNP – their independence rhetoric is laced with anti-Tory bluster which Labour would neutralise.

It’s doubtless true that the reds will take a beating in Scotland. Miliband may also go back on his word and jump into bed with the SNP, as his rivals say he will.

The political realities are what they are and merit discussion, but the Tory party and its supporters in the press have gone beyond this.

The Sun warns against the SNP in England, but rallies behind them in Scotland. After a debate, Conservative leaders praised Sturgeon for her performance.

This party wants to carve up our country. It deserves our contempt.

Make no mistake, the referendum has not settled the independence question “for a generation.” It has left a cut across the throat of our country – one that may not heal.

One people has started to think of itself as two. SNP membership has quadrupled and, in England, English votes for English laws and even a new Parliament are talked about.

With such a close result, nationalists will want the question asked again and again until they get the answer they want – it’s the neverendum.

Nationalism is the politics of division, left or right. Now is the time for our country to heal; to emphasise what unites us, not what separates us.

The election is done in a day. The United Kingdom must continue.

While politicos and pundits throw around statistics and debate policy, a great number of people are feeling right now the way I feel on match days – bored.

Photo: Bart Heird (www.flickr.com/photos/chicagobart)

Photo: Bart Heird (www.flickr.com/photos/chicagobart)

Every election I find myself trying to convince people I know to go out and vote, and every time I hear this argument: they’re all the same, none of them represent me.

At this point, some would try and push their party of choice, while others might try and give an unbiased account of each side. My problem is, I kind of get the argument.

In 2010, those who weren’t voting Labour or Conservative had a moderate third option in the Liberal Democrats and their centre-left manifesto.

But five years later, any Liberal manifesto is a risky proposition. Enacting higher tuition fees, party brass made clear that pre-election pledges count for nothing until Clegg gets a majority – a notion so far-fetched that the Dems can promise whatever they want.

Nor have teams red and blue become more attractive in the meantime. National debt, soaring under Labour, reached giddy new heights under the Coalition and though the economy is growing, so is wealth inequality, foodbank use and insecure employment.

Small parties offer one alternative, but each has its electoral baggage – from bigots to hippies – and you can only do so much to separate the two.

In any case, all options would require me to settle. Where I agree with a party on one thing, it’s negated by disagreement elsewhere. Besides, my vote makes precisely no difference in my staunchly Tory constituency.

If all this seems to be building to some puerile argument for refusing to take part altogether, rest assured it’s not, I’m simply saying we should vote for Batman.

A self-starter, the aforementioned Bruce Wayne recovered from personal tragedy and built a business empire, he recognises the value of investing in technology and takes a hardline on crime. He’s community minded.

I mean, I only saw the films, but that’s what I got from it.

Granted, he’s a fictional character – one that’s ominously quiet about the deficit and foreign policy – yet if I’m wasting my vote anyway, why not make a point of it?

With any other approach, it’s an all-or-nothing game. Don’t vote and you appear not to care, however principled your abstention. Vote for a party and you may as well support it heart and soul.

In my university days, there was a way to take part in student democracy without voting for the self-important twerps who’d plastered their faces on every building.

His name was RON, meaning re-open nominations, and every year he ran for every position. He never won, but I liked his resilience and, like Batman, he had a use.

Those in power don’t concern themselves with non-voters. It’s no coincidence that so much policy is geared towards older people, who hit the polling booths in big numbers, while so little is aimed at young people, who don’t.

Snub the polls and they’ll govern like you aren’t watching, snub the parties and they’ll know that you are.

By voting for Batman – or more accurately, by scrawling the bat logo over the whole paper – you say: “Yes, I’ll vote, but not for any of this lot.”

Banksy graffiti in Clacton-on-Sea. Photo: Duncan Hull (www.flickr.com/photos/dullhunk)

Banksy graffiti in Clacton-on-Sea. Photo: Duncan Hull (www.flickr.com/photos/dullhunk)

I once saw a Chihuahua – a male Chihuahua, no less – attempt to have sex with a man’s leg. I daresay you’ve seen something similar, but the conclusion you drew was probably quite different from that which John Rees-Evans, the UKIP candidate for Cardiff South, might draw. He finds such scenarios good evidence of a latent preference for bestiality in the homosexual community.

The inconsistencies with his reasoning are too numerous to explore in any depth, but suffice to say that a self-aware human homosexual and an amorous donkey are two separate things. Also, whilst we’re at it, the ass would technically be illustrating a sexual preference for animals by going after any quadruped, donkey or otherwise.

Anyway, if this past month is anything to go by, there’s nothing unusual in a UKIP member going off the reservation with their remarks. Candidate Kerry Smith last week quit after reportedly using colourful language like ‘poofter’ and ‘chinky’ while Councillor Rozanne Duncan was expelled from the party at the weekend for bringing it “into disrepute.”

Typically, the mitigation offered for such offences – be it by UKIP officials or supporters – is that members of all parties make similarly outrageous remarks, but the establishment media moguls will only pick on the plucky upstarts in their party.

According to this worldview, the media – as in the minds of the most paranoid conspiracy theorists – is a homogenous group, happily ignoring the indiscretions of mainstream parties and politicians. Yet we know this is not true. Last year, we saw a paper so eager to take a potshot at Ed Miliband that it dredged up the adolescent diary entries of his dead father, citing them as evidence of the deceased’s hatred of Britain. When it was alleged that former chief whip, Andrew Mitchell, used some colourful language of his own in Downing Street, the media frenzy was so intense that – even while protesting his innocence – Mitchell resigned, citing “damaging publicity.” Nor was the coverage limited to left-leaning media. These are not isolated examples.

Ours is one of the most competitive media markets in the world. News providers don’t run these stories as if grudgingly conceding that one of their own has been caught out – they fall over each other to be first to embarrass  our politicians. No establishment politician could whip out a word like ‘chinkey’ and expect to walk away unscathed because they lack a purple rosette.

True, these are not the parish councillors or paper candidates whose babble has drawn UKIP such unwanted attention recently, but then controversial comments are not limited to the party fringes. It was Godfrey Bloom, one of the party’s MEPs, who used the phrase ‘bongo bongo land’ to refer to other nations. He also yelled ‘Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer’ at a fellow Parliamentarian from Germany. I could go on, but suffice to say he and UKIP went their separate ways last year.

Another UKIP MEP, Gerard Batten, said he would ask British Muslims to sign a charter rejecting violence while another, Roger Helmer, called homosexuality “abnormal” and “undesirable” in remarks since disowned. Both men are still party members and, in fact, party spokesmen.

Even Nigel Farage flirted with disaster when he said to one interviewer in a wink-wink nudge-nudge fashion that ‘you know the difference’ which makes Romanians such concerning neighbours. He was also among the many party members who spoke up in defence of an anti-immigration song written and later withdrawn by Mike Read, recorded – tastelessly – in a faux Jamaican accent. The blowback from the song, said Farage after its withdrawal, was the sort of “confected outrage” only UKIP get. Does anyone seriously believe that the Tories are so short on critics that they could record a song which was only one stop short of blackface without getting called out on it?

A friend of mine once said that UKIP wasn’t a racist party, but it attracted racist supporters. As if to concede the point, the party chairman has warned Kippers off Twitter and revoked unauthorised use of the party logo by supporters, members and officials. It’s a move which says ‘of course the anti-immigrant hysteria is justified, but for god’s sake don’t go telling everyone about it.’ It’s true the party gets plenty of press for colourful comments, but there’s a reason for that and this time it’s not the fault of the establishment.