Sunday, 18 May 2008

Wishful Thinking?

In a blog I posted in January I predicted - wished? - that Gordon Brown would implode, and that there would be a General Election by May.

I was wrong. Things didn't move as fast as I'd have liked. He looks beat, but he's going to hang on for a while. Instead, May will see the Crewe and Nantwich bye-election, which is in turn seen as a test of his viability to continue. Tens of ministers and Labour MPs are being bussed in to get their vote out, which is a sign that Labour is going to lose. And - as if the party hasn't sunk far enough this past few years - the local Labour Party literature says that 'the Tories want to stop foreign nationals being given Identity Cards'; so here we have Labour finally, desperately and despicably, playing the race card, exploiting base fears - as they well know, the Tories want to stop everybody having an ID card - in a bid to retain power.

I can't understand how anybody with an ounce of decency would vote for a party that endorses this sort of low politics, especially as many Labour voters have, over the years, rightly hated the Tories for pulling similar stunts. But some have said to me 'Labour is all we can vote for - you don't want the Tories in, do you?'. And it's a fair point. I hate the Tories.

But here's a thought. Those of us vague lefties, who like to think we support progressive, enlightened politics, supported New Labour because we thought 'they' were vaguely on 'our' side. In turn, they have managed to

* prosecute an illegal, unjust war, and kill hundreds of thousands of people.
* finance NHS, education and housing services by enabling private companies to run them, thus piling up crippling public debt for the future.
* brought in ID cards, and are now using subterfuge and disgraceful underhand means to implement it (see the No2ID link on the left for the full story).
* Legislate to bring in extended incarceration for 'suspected terrorists', a move that takes our legal system back to the Dark Ages.
* Garnered the cheapest of tabloid headlines by reclassifying cannabis - against all of the expert advice, and regardless of the criminal, social and financial costs of doing so.
* Brought in a punitive legal structure - , hundreds more laws, ASBOs, 'tougher sentencing' and the like - which means we lock up more of our population than any other European nation.
* And now, as I mention, are whipping up scare stories about foreigners.

So my question is: would us 'progressives' - indeed, would the UK population - have allowed the Tories to have achieved the above, were they in power? Could they have got away with this litany of horrors? Or, more pertinently, could they get away with it if returned to power?

My tentative answer is 'no', and this is based on the fact they they never achieved any of them when in power; Thatcher mooted ID cards, but couldn't even get it past her own backbenchers; Major started PFI, but faced too much opposition from the unions and the general public to push it through to the extent that Labour has done; Thatcher did, yes, prosecute a war, but it was arguably justified, and she would certainly never have had the backing to invade a country and attempt to impose democracy on it; Michael Howard proclaimed 'prison works', and was widely derided for it, but was not in actualite as 'tough' as he claimed to be; they tried playing the race card, and all right-thinking people moved away from them in their droves, to the point where they have now moved 'to the left' on this issue.

And so on; my point is that, if the Tories are in power, the wilder elements of their thinking are reined in, and a great coalition of interest bodies, unions, think tanks, and a majority of the population are able to check, and to an extent manage, their policies. When Labour are in, the closeness to power of some of these bodies, alongside the split in the 'progressives' as to whether we should focus on the 'bigger picture' - 'at least it's not the Tories' - and not split over individual policies, means that ever more right wing policies are followed.

So, am I saying that, if we want a more 'left' society, that we should hope that the Tories get in; indeed, that we should vote for them, knowing that if they get in there are enough of us - on the 'progressive side' - to ensure that they can't move too far right; or at least not as far right as new Labour is? Maybe, I am. Sticks in my craw to say it though...


thomas said...

I'm sorry but I won't vote for the Tories in order to get a more leftwing society... The London of Mayor election was one of the few I'm actually eligible for and I certainly didn't vote for that Boris Johnson (even though apparently I've got lookalike potential... (um, huh?)). We'll see whether it will result in a more leftwing London society, I very much doubt it...

thomas said...

p.s. you should argue for proportional representation (so a vote for, say, the Green party wouldn't be a lost vote in a general election), not to vote for the Tories, IMO

Johnny2 said...

I'm possibly up for proportional representation - depending on the system chosen - but under the present system I would quite like a hung parliament (which is a bit like some forms of PR anyway...).