In the last few weeks, Green supporters like me were pressured to ‘swap’ our votes or simply vote Labour to stop the Tories – not a positive message, not based on hope, not based on policy – purely based on fear. But it truly was ‘vote for the lesser of two evils’, where Labour were just Tories with the volume turned down. And no doubt many thousands of Green voters did exactly that – even here in Cambridge we saw split votes, voting Green locally and Labour nationally. The reason why Labour lost was not the Greens – it was their lack of opposition, failure to provide an alternative and wholesale acceptance of the Tory version of the truth.
Labour embraced the ‘deficit’ narrative buying into the way this was distorted by the Tories where ‘deficit’ was somehow equated conceptually with household debt. We built the welfare state, provided free education with a deficit and real debt much higher than we have currently. There is no external pressure to pay this fake debt back either – no giant bailiffs at the door. This has everything to do with profit, and the way our economy works, which is no longer based on production but the creation and movement of money. Yet Labour never questioned this, never opposed it. Their shadow chancellor accepted Tory fiscal policy and Labour MPs voted with the government for a further £30bn in cuts.
In truth, the policy of austerity is driven by two things – to stabilize and maximize the profit margins in the City, restoring confidence in UK banks; and a neo-liberalist ideology to destroy the welfare state.
Across the board Labour abandoned their principles and own ideology in favour of what they called ‘centrist’ but what I would see as a right-wing populism, in some cases even adopting versions of UKIP policies. They carved ‘immigration control’ on a stone tablet; bought into the continuing right-wing denigration of the teaching profession, continuing the OFSTED reign of terror and introducing idiotic ideas like the ‘teacher MOT’ and ‘oath’; replaced the bedroom tax with youth tax; deserted the poor for ‘working families’; only disputed Trident on the basis of precisely how many WMDs they’d like: - the list goes on.
When a political party abandons ideology and principles simply to garner the maximum number of votes, what does it become? How can it retain any identity, or more critically, how does it remain distinct from other parties and offer an alternative?
I think what we have seen here is that it cannot. If you admit the same fiscal problems and follow the same solutions as another party, but offer a toned-down version of the same solution, what do you think the electorate will do? Vote for the full version of the solution to this problem you have admitted, or for the non-committed version that you offer?
-You accept that fracking is a good thing for the country and the economy, but with ‘conditions’. The Tories say the same thing but will go full on. What’s the option for the voter?
-Tories say that the NHS needs private capital. You agree, but will limit it to just 5%. Why?
Another terrible mistake was buying into the Tory narrative that the Scots are the ‘enemy within’. The betrayal of the Scots by the Labour party during and immediately after the Indyref was inexcusable, but then to add insult to injury by admitting that another Tory government would be preferable to any deal with the SNP – Labour was deservedly eradicated.
When Nicola Sturgeon – not even standing in this election in Scotland – won the Leaders’ Debate hands-down amongst even the English electorate, Labour possibly recognized then, too late, they had made a horrific mistake. Painting the anti-austerity SNP as rebels and secessionists and as a threat to England (and even democracy!) was their only option. The SNP didn’t stand on a devolution ticket in this election. They stood proudly and firmly against the Tories, they provided a real alternative and true opposition. And they sent ‘proud Edward’s army home tae think again’!
It has been said that for the Syriza alliance and Podemos to grow in Greece and Spain, their Labour parties had to die. In many ways, the Labour party of old, to which we owe a great debt of gratitude, died with John Smith. Blair was a thatcherite populist, to put it politely, and yet as the Labour exec casts about for identity, they are forgetting his crimes and crediting him with ‘Labour’s‘ last electoral win. But the memory of Labour is only disgraced by Blair, and to credit him with anything other than the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands is sickeningly deluded.
Now is the right time for a new alliance, and a new party to be born from the ashes – a rebirth of true labour. But only the death of the party will ensure that the base will switch allegiance, forced to admit that the Labour Party no longer represents them or their best interests, and look to a new party on the basis of ideology and policy – the fundamental elements that create the distinctive identity of a political party - and which make it electable.