The Aftermath of Vote 2011
So I said a few weeks back that I would start writing more on this blog, and with the local elections now done and the Lib Dems put back in their place, I actually have time to take stock. This post will look at the electoral-political reality coming out of this week, whilst i intend to write a further piece looking ahead at the coming months of Stop the Cuts work.
Lets start with the bad news. The AV campaign failed. There is an old saying that an injury to one is an injury to all, and my feelings over the defeat of the campaign have largely nothing to do with the concept of the Alternative Vote System, beyond agreeing with a friend who succinctly pointed out that this will kill preferential, consensus building, voting. The chances of getting STV are now beyond hopeless, and any further move towards Proportionality will likely rely on party-lists.
The reason I find myself depressed at the result is this: the AV campaign was a battle of new media verses old, a battle of grassroots truth against the old guard. History, as ever, is recorded from the point of view of the victors, and the narrative is coming over loud and clear – there is a British way of doing things and it mustn’t be interfered with, just as we don’t have mass strikes or serious public debate about ridding ourselves of the monarchy. British Democracy (TM) has survived countless attacks, and it is will continue to do so.
Perhaps there’s a slight silver lining in all of this: the No campaign have revealed that they knew from their message testing that the only message likely to cause undecided people to vote Yes was that it would hurt Cameron. If their data is true, then it shows that campaigning with direct reference to attacking Cameron will work across a fair sector of society, and that “critically engaging”, whilst having its own merits, isn’t what the public are looking for.
In the local elections, Labour did extremely well, spurred on by the advantage of a perceived break with the Blair legacy. At a local government level, the party contains many who see the cuts as unnecessary and harmful, but who see few alternatives to fighting their way back into power in four years time. The elections gave the a huge amount of power – and a huge dilemma, as they are consigned by their concern for budget responsibility to pass on the cuts from the Tory government.
I say the Tory government because the local elections showed that, beyond the comfort of the coalition, the Lib Dems are now nothing. Just as the Conservatives are no longer conservative in anything but kneejerk racism and the PR posturing that still characterises them as the party of the family, so the SDP part of the Lib Dem project has been swept aside by the destructive individualism of the Liberal tendency within the merger.
I think it would be a mistake for the national Anti-Cuts movement to throw its limited resources at fighting the Lib Dems now. They should be named for what they are: an extension of the Conservative Party’s plan to build a world based on self-interest, individualism and elitism. The problem is the lack of success in the fight to remove the Conservatives from office. That fight must begin with the mayoral elections next year: people may not like Ken Livingstone, but he offers the only real chance to boot out Boris.
Although its important not to let the Lib Dems save face, the fact is that no major policy objective of their making will ever become reality, and the list of proposals they have bought to the table has been a litany of “oh well, but its not quite so bad” compromises that ultimately sugar coat the bullets the Conservatives are using to kill of the human collective.
Returning to Labour’s gains, it is fair to say that many people chose to elect Labour councils as a shield against the cuts and outsourcing. But a shield is only so good in a battle. Ultimately you get pushed back further and further if you cannot present some kind of attack. Constrained by the budgetary limits placed upon local councils, Labour will be insufficient to the task even in the wildest hopes of a shove towards the left. The task remains one that only a mass movement pushing for a revolt amongst the general public can possibly achieve.