Thursday, 28 May 2015

Three weeks since the general elections. Thoughts and musings and what to do next?

Yay we did it guys. We beat the Tories. There is now a progressive alliance between Lab/SNP/Green and plaid. Austerity is over.

So that was the dream and now the reality that the Tories have an actual majority, I feel a sense of despair. I say majority, but 37% of the vote (if you don't count non voters) is hardly a ringing endorsement. To those that say "get over it, the Tories won the election, you lefties lost", I simply say this. Now matter how the election panned out, I was never going to stand by and watch Housing Benefit being taken away from young people, our Human Rights being taken away and our social housing being sold off. And also as I don't want to seem insular and narrowly preaching, I am happy to debate anyone who disagrees with me and have a genuine conversation about the future of the country. 

So are quite a lot people in the country on the right of politics?

This question is interesting. The opinion polls show majority support for things like rent controls and public ownership of the railways and health service. Yet considering how wrong the opinion polls were for the election, was this type of polling wrong as well? Were the samples they took accurate and representative? Maybe people are more right wing then polls suggest. Considering the insular individualistic culture and the divide and rule tactic that has been promoted over the last 30 years, is it any wonder 11 million people voted out of fear?
This brings me to my next point. The opinion polls showed a tie between Labour and the Tories right up to the election day, yet the there were still quite a few people undecided until election day. My theory is that the undecideds swung the election back to the Tories, partly based on fear of a Labour/SNP coalition. And even though the way data is collected for polls has been improved, occasionally polls will have wild inaccuracies, as proven by the 1992 election.

In this election, the Green Party got 1,157,613 votes. An increase of 336% from 2010 and the Tories got 2,000,952 more votes than Labour and won the election. It would be very easy to say the Greens split the vote on the left and let the Tories in. But looking at the figures, it would have not made much of a difference if all those that voted Green, voted Labour. It would of only meant one more seat for Labour but they still would of fallen short in votes. And if you look at the places that Greens did well but didn't win, I.e. Bristol West, Norwich, Islington North, Liverpool Riverside,  these were seats that Labour won . In my constituency, where it was a Tory/Labour marginal that Labour won, the Greens only got 2% of the vote. This shows that the Greens didn't really split the vote on the 'left' as much as people thought.

Furthermore this argument implies that Labour are still on the left. In my opinion, Labour sent a very mixed message in the election. On one hand they said they would tax the richest more but also stick to the Tories spending plans and cut public spending. At least with the Tories and the Green Party, you knew where you stood. Maybe this was also a contribution to Labour's downfall. With the Blairites taking control of the leadership contest, I think we can wave goodbye to Labour being a genuine opposition to the Tories in the next five years.

This is all well and good but what can the 63% of the electorate opposed to the Tories do now they are in power?

Good question. Well democracy doesn't just happen every five years at the ballot box. It happens when you join a trade union, take direct action by occupying spaces, going to rallies and protests, or even just chatting to someone in the pub or in the workplace about things.
It all counts. Especially that last one. It's all well and good going to a protest or a rally and preaching to the choir but if you actually chat to people on a everyday basis, you can get a sense about why they voted the way they did or why they didn't vote. As I said earlier, I am happy to chat to anyone about politics and if all of us on the left get out of our comfort zone and talked to people we don't agree with, maybe we can convince someone to take action or change their mind. Case in point. Someone I have known for years is quite Conservative in their views and we often disagree on politics but they were genuinely undecided at this election and voted Green for the first time because of the passion I showed for the Green Party. I'm not saying they are a Green Party activist now but I was told how they voted after the election and it genuinely made me happy and I felt that if I could convince just that one person to go from Conservative to Green, what else can I achieve? 

If enough of us fight for what we believe in, things can change. The people on The New Era estate stopped key social housing being sold off to rich US investors. A recent threat of strike action forced the Queen to pay her staff a living wage. It doesn't matter how big or small, every victory counts.

So what I suggest everyone does now is keep active, starting with a very important rally at Parliament Square on Saturday 30th may to defend the Human Rights Act. Already the government seem to be backing down on this. Lets keep the pressure up, not just now, but for the next five years. It's going to be tough, but hopefully it will be even tougher for the Tories when we show them that we won't stand by and let them enact their cruel policies.