Well, today’s the day and I’ve done all that I can. At 7:55 this morning I placed my vote for Labour candidate, Steve McCabe, here in Selly Oak and all I can do now is sit back and wait until the wee small hours to see if this country is as stupid as I fear it might be.
Walking around the constituency yesterday, the signs were good – lots of Labour posters, a couple of Lib Dem ones, and only two for local Tory, Nigel Dawkins; one of which was in the window of a cafe which also boasted posters for the Lib Dems and the Christian Party – so not exactly a ringing endorsement.
But I still fear the results around the rest of the country. The media coverage of the entire campaign has been disgusting, and with the preponderance of Cameron-slanted Murdoch outputs all across the nation – not only in the papers, but in the all-too-common big screen TVs found at train stations and supermarkets constantly churning out partisan SKY News – I worry for how many people might have bought into a plainly false narrative of a “failed” Labour Party, a “long-shot” Liberal Democrats and the unquestionable right to rule of the anointed Conservatives.
The absolute burying of Gordon Brown across all media has been truly astounding. There are plenty of things to hold Brown accountable for, but inane things like his supposed temper, his social awkwardness, his non-telegenic appearance, his unlikability, etc, are not one of them. From day one he has been made the scapegoat for problems arguably out of his control, and the media – too lazy to report the intricacies of things like a global financial crisis or their own involvement in Labour’s unpopular wars – have latched on to the simplistic idea that if we just cleared the decks and started again then everything would work out ok.
Brown and New Labour have done some terrible things to this country – but everything terrible they have done is right out of the Conservative Party playbook too: they are the failings of power, not of party. The failings of a pseudo-democratic system that always puts the elite interests of a small but powerful minority over the interests of the many, whoever has the keys to Number 10.
Importantly though, because of where the Labour Party splits ideologically from the Conservatives – if only in the minds of the voters who hold it to account – it is restrained in how much it can ignore the needs of its regular citizens whilst pursuing those unchanging elite power goals, and so small but significant steps of social progress are made along the way: a minimum wage here, a Sure Start programme there… The Conservative Party, however, have no such need to appease the masses when they take control. They are a selfish party for selfish people, built on an openly selfish platform. When they take money away from the poor, or shut down schools and sell-off hospitals – there is no safety-net of accountability there, only the open declaration that this is what they were always going to do. They are the party of business, of greed, of “you’re on your own” responsibility, of disregard for those who can’t, or won’t, help themselves. They are the party that closest resembles the elite interests of the truly powerful in our country – the rich – and as such, the same pattern continues to repeat itself throughout our electoral history:
An elite, right-wing party – in this case, The Conservatives – start off in power. The rich get what they want, but eventually the people get pissed off and threaten to revolt, so a party of the left is formed to funnel the public’s righteous anger into something neutered and less threatening to the accepted social order. That party – in this case, Labour – then win an election and help to redistribute wealth a little and make things fairer for the disgruntled citizens (whilst never straying too far from the underlying power goals of any government to promote elite interests above all else). Eventually though, the failings of that party at creating any real change becomes clear to all those who hoped they would be much more radical than they are, and with that disillusionment comes loss of support. Meanwhile, those who have benefitted from the redistribution and advantages provided by the left-leaning party during its time in power begin to identify with the rich people they had previously despised. They begin to decide that maybe it’s time for lower taxes, that there’s maybe too much regulation and “political correctness”, and that it’s time to go back to a “less complicated” era of governance, where a person isn’t “punished” for doing well. Labour are discredited, the Conservatives are painted as the only alternative, and before you know it they have taken back the throne…until the next time the people threaten revolt and the whole cycle begins again.
For some reason we never seem to get into the stage of actual progression following the restoration of order after a destructive Conservative rule. When our progressive leaders let us down for not being progressive enough, we are told to look backwards again, not forwards.
A few days ago, some pundit or another thought they were being smart when they countered Gordon Brown’s claim that there “is an anti-Conservative majority in this country” with the argument that, if that is true, then it must also be true that there is an anti-Labour majority here too. All Brown was doing, so this pundit said, was taking the polling numbers for Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters and plotting them together against the solitary Tory figure, but he called that tactic into question as it could work in all three directions and was a blatant straw man.
This, to me, showed a fundamental misunderstanding of political ideology within contemporary political debate because, undoubtedly, Brown was right and the pundit was wrong.
There is a distinctively anti-Tory majority in this country that is not the same as the arguable anti-Labour or anti-Lib Dem majority one could extrapolate from the exact same polls, because both Labour and Liberal Democrat support comes from a place of shared progressive values, no matter how different the proposals of each individual party as to how best to manifest those progressive left-leaning values in practice, whereas the Tories are alone in popular support for regressive, right-wing thinking. Taking today’s Harris poll, for example, with the Tories on 35%, Labour on 29% and the Liberal Democrats on 27% – although it does seem like the Tories have the majority, when you look at the poll in terms of ideology, then it is clear that 56% of the country oppose the hard-line right-wing agenda of the Conservatives. This is important stuff, yet the media have been more concerned with pathetic character assassinations and sound-bites than in delving any further into the true nature of what we, as citizens, really want.
There is so much more I want to say about this but no doubt it will form a continuing theme of critique in the commentaries to come once we get the election results in the morning. Even in the most optimistic and partisan polls, the Tories are looking hard-pressed to find an outright and undisputable majority right now, and with one in four voters apparently still undecided as of this morning – not to mention the effects that increased turnout and a huge surge in youth voting will have on the polls – it is still really anybody’s guess as to who will win come ten o’clock tonight.
Like I said at the start: I’ve done all I can. There’s nothing left now but the waiting…