by Stuart Davies
Until recently I think most of us thought we lived in a fairly homogenous, liberal democracy.
Last Thursday’s election changed that, didn’t it?
Since then I’ve had 101 conversations, each a variation of “We’re all doomed.”
I will not give in to the voice of despair. I’m reminded of some advice I was once given in the face of a catastrophe which was, “nothing is ever as good or as bad as it first seems.”
The narrative we really need is one of hope. If you look for it, it’s there.
Yes, the Tories have a majority, the first they’ve had for 18 years. But it’s a poor one. That spells trouble. Cameron is now beholden to the same backbench “bastards” that scuppered John Major in 1992.
There is a massive rift in the Tory ranks between pro and anti Europe. This time, with pressure from Ukip and the promise of an in/out referendum, this will more than likely erupt into an all out civil war within the party.
This government could fail within two years. Another election may not be that far away.
And, yes, the Union between Scotland and England is fatally damaged. Instead of focusing on that, let’s look at how a defeat can turn to victory. The SNP have done pretty well out of all this – haven’t they?
Any election is a snapshot of one day, it is not the end game. The progressive viewpoint is still the majority once you add up all those Labour, SNP, Green, Plaid and Lib Dem votes. The Conservatives didn’t win. They just didn’t lose as badly as everyone else.
The Tories gained a marginal majority with the slightest of increases on their 2010 vote (+0.8). Just five seats clear of the required 326.
It’s not what you would call a vote of confidence in favour of austerity – so let’s stop accusing the English electorate of being idiots. Even if some of them are.
The left needs to see that the next 5 years is not a done deal. We have a weak government drunk on self belief and blind to its own weaknesses. It’s in hock to too many competing voices on its own back bench. It has more opposition in the house than ever before.
The next five years may not be the 2000AD comic strip we’re all expecting.
One thing we have to own is that, outside London, in Labour’s traditional heartlands voters have given up on the red flag and started looking elsewhere, why?
Let’s look North of the border, where Labour were effectively gutted by an SNP who could claim to be an authentic left of centre party – a party of the left with a professional air of competence and an identity that’s not dependent on pandering to London voters.
Scotland’s ‘Yes’ campaign was narrowly defeated in the referendum – but then the SNP regrouped. They used their defeat to rebuild and can now justifiably lay claim to all of Scotland.
As for Scottish Labour, it has become nothing more than a branch office of Westminster, which was toxic in a country awash with renewed national pride.
The result is that the electoral map of the UK has changed in a way that’s not been seen in this country for 100 years.
If only the regions could learn from that confidence and pride.
In the run up to the General Election, Ed Miliband was caught between the heath and a hardplace.
Nicola Sturgeon had everything to gain and David Cameron knew Scotland was already lost to the Tories years ago. He could afford to play loose and fast with the union, raising the fear of northern marauders storming Westminster, resigned to the knowledge there were no votes for the Conservatives north of the border anyway.
Poor Ed had nothing left but to react to tabloid fearmongering, ruling out a coalition for fear of alienating English voters. As a result he came across as condescending to Scottish voters and incompetent to the English.
Barring a miracle of Lazarus proportions the union is now effectively dead. So, let’s mourn and move on.
A united front
Despite all the difficulties ahead and the failures of Labour in the last election the progressive majority still stands. We just have to find someone to vote for. Someone who can speak for us.
I can’t stand Tony Blair but at least he could communicate. I liked Ed Miliband – but he was a walking Public Relations nightmare.
When expediency combines with principle, as it did in Scotland for the SNP and for Labour in 1997, people follow you.
The left in this country need to look at what voters want and what they want is a progressive agenda. The SNP has proven that.
Those who oppose the conservative world view of London imposed austerity need to do as the Yes campaign did in Scotland; remain calm, assess what happened and plan carefully. Then and only then, should they act.
Don’t look back
There’s a lot of anger out there right now. What we don’t want to do is react with despair and for that despair to turn into violence. To do so will only strengthen the Tory hold on the electorate.
The left of centre need to take that energy and understand what happened, what’s changed and then build a progressive coalition that will challenge the story we are being fed.
It can be done – one heart and one mind at a time.
To paraphrase Gramsci, the road to victory is a long march through the minds of friends, co-workers and family. They are the people who need to be influenced, not ministers in parliament.
There is a progressive coalition of red and green out there waiting to be formed.
I am no longer a Labour voter, but I believe that Labour could lead a coalition if it wanted to.
As much as Left Unity and The People’s Assembly represent that to those who are already politically engaged – Labour is still our only hope in parliament. It needs to get out and start talking to real people. It needs to engage with everyone who voted for change – and with the other parties that stand for it.
The voters are out there. They are just not in the board rooms of London management consultancy firms. They are in the South West, the North, Wales and still in Scotland.
They are simply looking for someone to vote for.
We need to look for reasons to hope in what people want; to give them more power and control over their lives, an agenda that speaks of hope not fear and promises a place in the world that rewards everyone.
We need to make politicians listen.
As individuals we need to evangelise this message so that the parties respond and in the next election voters may hear a message that isn’t dominated by fear.
The next election can be won or lost outside the M25 by those with the courage to choose hope.