I went to see a David Hare play called 'The Absence of War', a play that I found thought provoking and remarkably relevant given the events of 7th & 8th May. The play is David Hare's imagining of the 1992 Election where, in reality, the Kinnock led Labour party went into the election expecting to gain a majority only to be beaten by John Major's conservatives.
The central theme of Hare's play was his Labour Leader's efforts to make Labour 'electable', something that, at that time, was clearly not the case and, in the light of our most recent election, Labour need to consider the same issue today.
What differentiates Labour from Conservatives today, in a world where Labour's original and traditional constituency, the 'working class', has all but disappeared? Obviously, most people still belong to the 'working class' because they still work but, in the post-Thatcher world, the idea of an oppressed 'working class' is no longer relevant. Working people have been encouraged to believe that they work not for some exploitative employer but for themselves. Their work is therefore seen as an aspirational effort on their own behalf rather than an exploited effort on behalf of others.
So Labour need to find a connection with the electorate which reflects the new realities of a post-industrial society (where consumerism is now the opium of the masses). In this new reality, if people are unhappy they are free to spend their way out of unhappiness. They don't see that their unhappiness is a function of oppression and therefore they don't have any motivation to move against their oppressors. (As opposed to the Scottish electorate who clearly decided to vote against the oppression of a Westminster administration.)
The Conservatives scored a surprise victory because they proposed that Labour/SNP presented a real threat to the 'haves' in society. As expressed in this election campaign, conservatism is about greed, venality and fear - fear of loss (of personal wealth), fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of anything or anyone which can be characterised as a threat. The conservatives' hiring of Lynton Crosby, was done with the specific intention of making the 'haves' afraid, and it seems to have been hugely successful.
Quoting Lynton Crosby, "At its absolute simplest, a campaign is simply finding out who will decide the outcome……… where they are, what matters to them, and how do you reach them?" Have a look at Lynton Crosby's ideas here. Crosby (and Rove before him) ignores those sectors of the electorate who have already made up their minds and focuses instead on undecided or swing voters with the intention of energising them with fear.
Lynton Crosby took the basics of Carl Rove's playbook, recognising and exploiting 'wedge issues', and applied them to the UK Election with devastating results. In comparison, Labour floundered about trying, and failing, to differentiate themselves from the Conservatives. Labour failed to recognise that they operate in an entirely new political and social environment where, rather than dealing with 'top-down' issues, they need to operate from the bottom, upwards. Where the Conservatives exploit fear, Labour needs to exploit decency. Where the Conservatives exploit greed, Labour needs to exploit fairness. Where Conservatism speaks to the worst in people, Labour needs to speak to the best and Ed Milliband wasn't up to the job.
The election result was a surprise because, at root, the swing voters who were influenced by Lynton Crosby's strategy are fundamentally ashamed of voting conservative and therefore don't and won't admit it, certainly not to pollsters. They know that conservatism has become synonymous with greed and self-interest and they are so ashamed that they embrace such values so easily that they can only admit it in the privacy of the voting booth.
If Labour is to find a relevance in this changed world, they need to give expression to society's need for decency and fairness and give ordinary people the chance to see that expressed in practice. 'Be Afraid' clearly trumped a 'Better Plan for a Better Future'.
8 May 2015
I believed the polls which all suggested that we were heading for a well-hung parliament with Conservatives and Labour in some sort of rough balance but without an overall majority and with the minor parties being able to exert significant influence through deal-making. And I believed that until around 11pm last night when the first exit poll suggested that the Conservatives might gain a working majority. Not quite what I had hoped for or what I had been told to expect.
That exit poll proved to be correct and this morning see the Conservative party with a tiny majority which I suspect will be very effective given that there is no chance that the opposition parties will find enough common ground to cause the Conservatives any serious trouble. So we can look forward to another 5 years of cuts to public services, privatisation of the public sector, zero-hours contracts, promotion of the interests of the private sector over the public, and the promotion of the interests of capital over all others.
So, the beatings will continue until morale improves.
Nigel Farage passed comment on the disparity between the UKIP share of the vote (12.8%) and the seats it gained (1) compared to the SNP share of the vote (3.8%) and the number of seats gained (56).
The graph below illustrates his point.
Based upon their share of the votes cast, UKIP would have gained the frightening total of 82 seats whereas the SNP would be down to 31. Although I don't agree with much of what Farage says, he does have a point.
Posted by niall connolly at 11:45
7 May 2015
Today's Guardian, May 7th 2015, carries a very interesting piece by Seamus Milne which suggests that the Conservatives have a rather different strategy up their sleeve should the Election not go the way they would wish.
Where I have always understood that, in the case of a hung parliament, any party which can assemble an effective coalition of 323 or more MPs can form the next Government, Milne suggests that the Tories, facing a more fragmented vote across 7 or more parties, will now suggest that it is only the individual party with the most MPs that has any legitimate right to form a coalition.
And given the remarkable media support that the Conservatives have managed to assemble, should they actually seek to deploy this strategy, we will witness an serious assault on the democratic process, led by media interests who reflect the concerns of a wealthy and tiny minority in our society.
As I have said previously, the wealthy and powerful in society have far less need of representation than do the rest of us, yet it is they who manipulate the process, through their proxies, to strengthen their grip on the levers of power.
At a time when diversity in political opinion seems to be increasing and when there could be a better chance of compromise, the Tories may well be plotting a course towards an even more extremist future.
Posted by niall connolly at 09:48
5 May 2015
Our democracy may be the only one we have but it sucks. For the last couple of weeks our revered politicians have been running around the country telling us how much they care about what we think. They tell us how much they want our votes. They tell us how much they share our concerns and worries. And everywhere in this shit-storm of verbal diarrhoea there are 'red-lines'. This is as far as I'll go and no further! Its non-negotiable! Its my red line! What utter bollocks.
After Friday, and once the horse-trading is over, they'll scarper back to Westminster and we won't hear from any of them for another 5 years. They'll do what politicians do, which is that they'll bend us, the electorate, over for their pay-masters. Yes, that's right, the politicians fuck us first then their pay-masters fuck us, followed by anyone else with enough influence. Its rather like the 'Jimmy Savile' scenario but on an industrial scale, if that is possible.
Its a brilliant system if you happen to be Bernie Ecclestone or Roman Abramovich or any number of Sheiks but not too hot if you happen to be anywhere near the bottom of the pile.
That's what so weird about our electoral system, it delivers for the very people who absolutely don't need representation. For the people who actually need representation it does close to fuck all.
Which is why I remain part of the 'none of the above'.
Posted by niall connolly at 23:32
30 March 2015
….and I'm already turned off. Cameron slags-off Milliband, Milliband slags-off Cameron, Clegg tries to present himself and the LibDems as some sort of moderating force (if they can get into another coalition), the SNP are sitting back enjoying the fun and Farage has yet to show his hand.
Its difficult to judge the various opposition and minor parties because they don't have any record to judge against but I found it amusing to hear Cameron say that, in the next Conservative administration, they would ensure that the NHS is fully staffed. Obviously it begs the question that, if that is such a priority, why didn't they achieve it in the current (soon to be recent) parliament?
I'm also amused to hear the Conservatives repeating their biggest lie which is that the last Labour administration brought about the 'Age of Austerity'. Forgive me for saying it but wasn't it the banks and the lenders who took most western economies to the brink of disaster and did I hear any politicians warning of the potential disaster ahead? No. So whilst I see them all as being complicit, the Conservatives are the most hypocritical given that the 'interests of capital' are their prime focus and also their paymasters.
So, when it comes time for me to put my cross on the ballot paper I will be voting for 'none of the above'. Some might say that it is my duty to vote by voting for my chosen party but if none of them represent the values and aspirations that I embrace, why should I not express that view?
It is the fundamental failure of our democratic process that there is no option to express dissatisfaction because, in voting for any of the parties under the current system, the voter simply legitimises the status quo. Not a good situation if you want real change.
Posted by niall connolly at 09:35
16 February 2015
The Green Party is gaining a voice and it may just be that 'austerity' rather than the environment is the issue that is making them attractive. Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Greens, was talking on the radio a few days ago about their opposition to 'austerity' and it seems to be a theme which links minor parties in advance of the election.
It will be interesting to see where Farage stands on the issue and that raises the spectre of my worst nightmare where the Conservatives remain in power with the support of UKIP, the unspeakable in support of the unspeakable.
Posted by niall connolly at 09:53