In 2010 after the resignation of Gordon Brown, I was first aware of the pandemonium that followed that was the election of the next Labour leader. There was drama, family feud, vilification, public display of underlying fragmentation in the Labour Party, which finally resulted in a disheartened brother leaving mainstream politics and moving to the USA, the other disgruntled opponent losing the plot and ending up losing his seat, and the victor was the least suitable candidate to win the public mandate. However, the theatrics that ensued Labour’s loss in 2010 election proved that emotions are running high, and all the candidates were trying to convince the Labour supporters and unions that they can turn the tide in the next election. The election process is not a clinical nodding or ayes of the cunning politicians, who are protecting the interests of their peers and businesses that represent the top 1% echelon of the socio-economic strata. A Tory process of selection — although sleek and efficient, it accentuates the disregard of the democratic process and the leader almost emerges when the former has served his time. However, coming to 2015, the landslide loss for Labour necessitated the selection of a phenomenal leader; yet, the party hurled itself into a state of uproar, revolt and public mockery. An utter farce — that’s how the 2015 leadership election can be described as.
2015 will be marked as the darkest hours of Labour’s existence. During the previous five years, the then leader Ed Miliband failed to steer the party to a coherent goal and set up an election strategy from his ascension to the helm. Mr Miliband has been very sporadic in his policymaking — in the beginning, he was a staunch supporter of unionism, then he distanced himself from them, then around the end of 2013, he finally started to shape a common goal which was radical, but it left no time to reach out to public and show the results. Labour has been decimated due to the dichotomy in its policy. Always a Labour stronghold, Scotland, coming to terms with the referendum and a consensus on the need for nationalistic decentralised governance, saw SNP as a much suitable party to represent Scottish interests in Westminster. On the other hand, England, with its inherently supercilious and royalist conservative majority, saw nothing offered by Labour that the Conservatives didn’t, and Tories were better placed to protect their wealth, as well as present a robust leadership that promotes a sense of security and stability to the unsure voters. Labour, on the other hand, could not take the bait from SNP to ally with them in Scotland in fear of losing English votes; yet they could not be bold enough to swing the party towards left, offering British public some tangible benefits away from the clasps of capitalist consumerist vision that Tories have projected. By the time Ed Miliband stood on the election debates, Labour had already reduced to a party offering toned down version of the Tory manifesto. Late radical changes were brought in but that was too late to prove to the general public how they are going to deliver what they promised.
After the humiliating defeat in 2015 general election, whilst the Tories recorded the biggest singular majority in many decades, Labour was looking at being completely wiped out of Midlands and South of England, as shown in the image below:
The party lost all Scottish seats as well, but in this game of dominos, it is all about English votes, the reason will be explained in later sections. To win the English votes back, Labour needed a recovery programme focussed towards regaining people’s faith in the party and demonstrate through various council elections, a successful illustration of their proposals being implemented. In sports, after a heavy loss, teams are known to regroup, reshuffle, reflect on the negatives as well as things that went well. A similar SWOT analysis was necessary for the party, to rebuild the party’s credibility to the general public. To make it all happen, Labour needed a charismatic character on the top, who would steer the party to this long-term goal. What happened in reality — would question Labour’s credibility to its staunchest supporters.
Following Ed Miliband’s departure the first person to throw his hat into the fray was Chuka Umunna, a young energetic upshot, who I once met at a local Labour Party meeting, but soon as he expressed his intention to run for the top spot, the Tory-led media went on a frenzy trying to delve into his private life. Although a committed Blairite, whose views are not much different from the Conservative party anyway, Mr Umunna could have been an ideal choice for Labour leader as he seemed to have the potential and the necessary leadership skills to run the party. However, under the media scrutiny of his private life including his partner, he shied away from the leadership election. In one way, one might have respect for him to prioritise the privacy of his family over career; on the other hand, living in Britain, under the focus of an obnoxiously interfering media, if that was the choice he would make every time, perhaps it was time to rethink his future as a politician. During the early days leading towards the election, this series of events around Chuka Umunna showed that he is still not ready to pick up the leadership baton yet, but he certainly possesses the qualities of an innate leader, so this will not be the last time we saw of him.
The next two candidates who showed their willingness for the Labour leadership was not unexpected. Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper both registered their names about the same time. After Ed Miliband resigned, and Ed Balls lost his seat, Andy Burnham was the next most senior leadership figure in the Labour Party after Harriet Harman, who, it seems, is happy to spend rest of her political career as the deputy chief after every election, when Labour has lost and the leaders elected. Andy stood in the 2010 leadership election as well but under the heavyweights like the Miliband brothers and Mr Balls, he was deemed as a minnow. 2015, on the contrary, saw a complete turnaround of events, where he would be considered the frontrunner for the position. Yvette Cooper, the next candidate, has also been serving Labour for a long time including cabinet roles in power as well as in the shadow cabinet. If Mr Burnham is the most obvious male candidate for the role, Ms Cooper would have been the natural first choice to be the first woman leader of the Labour Party. The inclusion of Liz Kendall was, in a way, surprising, as like Mr Umunna, she is a young candidate and not been in the highlight much. These three candidates seemed to be the trio running for the Labour leadership, who the millions of Labour Party and union members needed to choose from. Then all on a sudden, a sixty-something gentleman entered the stage, very late during the leadership discussions, and took Britain in a storm. Jeremy Corbyn changed power equations in the Labour headquarters and laid bare the internal fissures within the Party.
Before Jeremy came to the equation, looking at the candidates, contesting to be running the party, showed one commonality. All three of them, running for election, share the same background, which one is accustomed to seeing in a Tory candidate. All of them are educated at Oxford or Cambridge, all of them are neo-Thatcherites and with no union background. I used to be a Labour supporter myself and during the days of Miliband’s directionless strategies, I cancelled my membership with a view that the £5 membership money could be better spent given to a charity. However, if I were to choose a leader for the party in the election amongst these three, I would probably have chosen none. I have expressed this view many times and strongly believe that Labour has lost its appeal to the public as they are too concerned about what the Conservatives are doing and decided not to propose anything drastically different. In this process, not only are they alienating the hard-working bottom 50% of the population, they have not been able to swing votes from Tory voters either. This is a result of the present Labour policy, which at best, is sitting on the fence between the two categorically distinct strata of society and hence does not appeal to either. To prevent Labour lose its identity and electability forever, they needed a complete policy reshuffle, in a way, a “Robin Hood” government, that would finally put the priority to most of the working-class population, not the 1% on the top, whose life doesn’t depend on the election anyway. It needed more spending in infrastructure, NHS and social housing, raise tax rates for higher earners and the corporates, reduce spends on defence and in the end, stop funding the Royal family to cut down on deficits. Burnham, Cooper and Kendall cannot certainly make this happen as they have not been accustomed to the fiery Labour leadership following the footsteps of Late Tony Benn and Michael Foot. Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, has seen them from close and heading towards the end of his political career, he will not be limited by myopic personal career aspirations, as the other three would. Jeremy Corbyn, as he entered the leadership arena at a later stage, was best poised to pick up the baton and sort the party straight. Some rejoiced at the idea, including me, but many others saw red.
And indeed they saw red, metaphorically, as the political views of Mr Corbyn in reshaping Labour is much radical, and the media was not late branding him left wing. Jeremy Corbyn’s pledges so far, if he were to win the leadership race, are groundbreaking, not just for the Labour Party, but looking forward towards 2020, for Britain. From repealing the decentralisation clauses to the proposal of reopening closed mines, to a cap in maximum wage for higher earners, Jeremy Corbyn’s strategies have been seen as anti-market; but it has been hailed by many for the same reason as well. The scathing attack has ensued, not just from the Conservative media, but also from the Media mainly backing Labour such as The Mirror, Guardian and Independent, since Mr Corbyn’s policies don’t belong to any school of political thought known to the British public in the recent era. The Labour backing media branded him a Commie, and refrain from voting him as it would reduce Labour to a pressure group rather than a political party. Mr Corbyn’s image was projected as an activist than a political leader. However, media’s closeness with the Blairite faction of the Labour Party is well known, and one can remember how the majority of the Labour frontbenchers were ordered by Harriet Herman not to oppose the Tory budget, and most of them followed the order. SNP opposed the bill vociferously and demanded after such a callous show by Labour that SNP should be allowed to sit at the opposition. Remembering that incident, Labour would soon cease to exist as a political party with such dismal performance and utter disregard to people’s trust who voted the MPs in power.
However, a lot of people were able to read between the lines how media represented Jeremy Corbyn and what he truly stood for. Also, media launching an all-out attack on Mr Corbyn clarified another fact — the opposition doesn’t want him in power as they are afraid of him. Corbyn became a phenomenon over time. Labour Party have seen an unprecedented rise in the leading applications and affiliations; the numbers were so high that they had to scrutinise the applicants’ profiles to assess if they are real or just joining to vote Jeremy Corbyn with more sinister intent. Watching the news reports showed an interesting observation, whilst Burnham, Cooper, Kendall trio managed to gather middle to old aged die-hard section of the population, Mr Corbyn on the contrary, attracted masses of youth — his platform for popularity could aptly be attributed to social media, as the rest failed to delve into social media. Opinion polls showed Jeremy Corbyn winning the race by a long way, even if considering the alternative vote system.
It’s not just the young people — termed by the likes of The Mirror, as the Tory trolls or anarchists, but the supports from unions that added a new dimension to Jeremy Corbyn’s chances to win the election. At the time of writing this article, Unison, Britain’s largest union endorsed Mr Corbyn as the next leader. Considering Labour election is voted by the party as well as the union members, this backing will sway a large number of voters towards Jeremy Corbyn, who previously saw himself as a mere outsider. The union has long disagreed with the Labour leader since the party policy distanced itself from the interests of the unions such as pay rise, job security etc. Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper has no good relations with the unions either. Therefore, even if Mr Corbyn does not win the election in September against all odds, the newly elected leader will have a difficult time negotiating terms with unions, as Labour’s biggest source of revenue, and hence its working capital, is the unions they are backed by.
From an unknown nobody to the front runner for the Labour leadership role — the journey for Jeremy Corbyn has not been very easy, especially when the likes of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling weighed in their opinion against the election of Mr Corbyn. It is shameful and shambolic how the senior Labour frontbenchers jumped on the bandwagon criticising Jeremy Corbyn and vowed to oppose in case he was elected. During its desperate existential struggle, what Labour could not afford to do is show its internal differences and feud to the general public, and they have just done that —perhaps losing more potential voters. With his political career only spanning London, it made even harder to win the support of the rest of England due to obvious public indignation against London in all spheres of British life. Some MPs already vowing rebellion from the day he was elected as the Labour leader if it were to happen. The Daily Mirror correspondent Paul Routledge suggested Andy Burnham should be voted for he wears a tie and white shirt, is clean-shaven and telegenic. The sensationalist reporting which was a characteristic of the right-wing media has infiltrated and contaminated the reporting on the liberal spectrum of British news reporting as well. Labour opponent,s in their bid to stop Mr Corbyn, tried to put far stricter acceptance criteria for the unprecedented wave of new applications. Guardian and Independent, on the contrary, reported views for and against the future of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn regime. With the time of the election fast approaching, the attacks are becoming fiercer, such as the anti-Semitism charges/links which are the additional distractions Mr Corbyn is presently having to defend.
With my wholehearted wishes to Jeremy Corbyn, let’s go back to the first principle of Communist government, which the harbingers, the Soviets union, have flouted more time than anyone else — and it’s about the fact that no person is greater than the party. Whoever wins the election on the 12th September, all supporters can claim in unison, that Labour needed a complete makeover — what it stands for, which part of the population they are representing. However, to identify the problem with Labour today, we need to delve into the British psyche, which has been evolving since the Norman invasion. During the industrial revolution and colonial expansion, the phenomenal growth seen by the country placed it to one of the most influential countries in the world. Since the Second World War, Britain remained one of the permanent members of the G5 and one of the countries synonymous with soft power in recent times, but the world geopolitics changed shift from the barrel of the gun to the banks and economies. Britain remained one of the biggest military powers but the swing of the global economical vortex has already shifted to the East. Nevertheless, British psyche still believes that they are part of the empire where the sun never sets. Blighted with this misconception, the majority of the British public is still an avid Royalist and seemingly possess, perhaps inadvertently in cases, a selfish vainglorious conservative mindset. From the onset of the Whigs to present Labour, a larger number of supporters are still perhaps disgruntled Conservatives. Also, there is the second category of people, who likes to think they are Labour, as having a benevolent socialist image makes them feel good about life in general, but their social, political, governance views rest at the opposite spectrum from an ideal Labour perspective.
The question of ideal Labour itself is dubious. Where do the Labour party stand in the political spectrum? Are they right at the centre, centre-left or centre-right? How much could the party push itself towards the left to attain the optimum balance for maximum votes? These questions are hard to answer but one thing is obvious — making the party a replica of moderated Tory policies would make the party look like a bunch of Tory Zombies, regurgitating Conservative policies in a pretty humanitarian wrapper. It is unlikely that by doing so, Labour will swing back enough Conservative votes to win the next election. Sadly enough, this vacuous premise is exactly what all three Labour leaders hopefuls but Jeremy Corbyn, are basing their proposed recovery on. It is even childish to see that these three are talking about selective voting to members to eliminate Mr Corbyn. The Labour Party that saw phenomenal leaders over the ages and play a strong opposition, is now truly reduced to a rubble of an undemocratic collection of factions.
However, amid the fan frenzy for Jeremy Corbyn, one still needs to ask questions on his credibility as the future Labour leader. Mr Corbyn has been a vociferous member of parliament involved in a plethora of activities that are more of activism, such as nuclear disarmament, recognition of Palestine etc. One begs the question, what suddenly inspired Mr Corbyn to stand in for Labour leadership. Is there an ulterior motive behind the decision to stand for the top spot? Once elected, Mr Corbyn will still have to prove to the British public that what he spoke of, will be transformed into action. It needs a different set of skills to lead a country of nearly 70 million from leading an opposition with fiery criticism of the ruling party. Jeremy Corbyn is ideal for the latter, but will he be effective enough for the PM? Does this mean he will have to forego some of his genuine flairs or on the other side of the scale, withstand tremendous capitalist market forces — as recently observed for Greece — if he decides to take British economy a left twist? Also, the Tory biased media, apart from a few sporadic reports, have been very quiet on Labour, on the way to be led by a pro-left politician. So is the Conservative Party spokespersons, they are very reticent on this issue. Perhaps they are quietly rejoicing the dogfight at Labour camp and perhaps secretly selecting the cabinet for 2020, assuming a Corbyn win will push the quasi-conservative British population farther away from Labour, and Tories might even widen their lead. The same could be said about the hundreds of thousands of membership applicants — are they all passionate Labour supporters or just activists voting for Corbyn or worse, Tory trolls thinking of sabotaging Labour, thinking a Corbyn win would deliver a coup de grace to a Labour doom. On the contrary, trying to be over-cautious, would alienate thousands of genuine potential future Party workers/ volunteers/ leaders with an alternative view on how the party would shape in future.
With an eye to the 2020 election, Labour has mountains to climb. It’s not easy to predict what Mr Corbyn will do as the leader, nor prescribe a policy that would please all. The first step would be to set the pace for the party and the boundary conditions — extremities for the extent of policies. To simplify, if Labour wants to take a lurch towards left, keeping abreast with the ground realities, such as a Bolshevik Revolution will not take the party anywhere, so develop the party strategy to what extent they will be pro-Left. At the same time, on some issues like spending cuts, if the Party had to take some stand, set up limits towards the right as well — how much the government would make the working class lose out. The first step would then spell out the cluster of the population the Party will stand up for. A left bias will mean the working class people will benefit more from the economy than the large market Giants and conglomerates. Considering 50% of the population belongs to this category, there should be no doubt about rewarding the poor and hard-done public by taxing the rich. Maintaining my stand that British, predominantly English population is pro-Conservative, this is the section of the public, where left-wing policies will be challenged most. In the beginning, I mentioned that the effect of Scottish votes will be discussed later. The proposition of adopting policies more towards left — as much they might be abhorred in England; at Scotland, the same policies will imply more power to Scottish people, less governance from Westminster. Labour may need to assess having a coalition with the SNP rather than fighting them in Scotland.
The next stage would be to create a vision, a set of core policies that a Labour government will be able to deliver if they won the election in 2020. Defence spending will need to be cut down, and the Trident programme, which has proven so far as the holy grail of the defence ministry with no specific outcome yet, will need to be abandoned. More social housings are needed to be built, which was put to a stop by Thatcher. In infrastructure, promises to open mines may seem a bit far fetched, but if feasible, that will produce more local resources. Projects like HS2 and the third runway at Heathrow will all need to be pursued as started by the Tories, though keeping in mind the environmental concerns. Reducing the national debt will be a sour point as everybody will be interested to see the proposal coming out from the Corbyn camp. It is difficult to explain to a person that a reduction in this debt will have no significant impact on their life or the country in general regardless of the measures adopted. In terms of achieving some degree of the budget surplus to meet the debts, the revenue will have to come from the businesses and rich 1% of the population, who amass the majority of national wealth. A cap on highest salary and bonus, the higher tax rate for the rich, a more stratified tax regime for the public and introduction of mansion tax — these will all result in wiping out the stark differences in people’s lifestyles. If elected, Labour should legislate the living wage in all areas in the UK to become the minimum wage. The above measures, although seemingly helping the bottom 50% of the population immensely, will face fierce criticism from the Tories as well as the market. The UK will continue to be one of the biggest business hubs in Europe, but there will be a heightened mistrust between the government and the businesses, making businesses to look for other tax havens like Gibraltar, Cayman Islands. Privatisation of the government sectors will need to be prevented, at the same time bringing the ones already privatised back under the aegis of the nationalised industry would tantamount turning the clock backwards and may prove retrogressive. From the farce caused by the east coast mainline tender, it is clear that the benefits of privatising the railways have not outweighed the drawbacks. The party will have to be more lenient on immigration as well, moving away from tainting all migrants in the same colour. On one hand, admittedly the immigration rules will have to be more flexible for applicants from all countries, Britain should also do more to take migrants coming from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan — rather than the shameful stance taken by Teresa May and the Tory government in general. Unrest in the world, after all, can be traced back to the Cold War, and colonialism before that. Another aspect that Labour failed to grasp in recent times is the multiculturalism — the minorities do not want to be patronised, they understand the differences in custom, culture and values in present British society and keen to lead their lives acknowledging the differences and enrich the country along the process. Labour’s laughable and fake championing of minorities has not only failed to convince the minorities but also alienated the White British working-class voters. There are many more ideas that Labour can project as a progressive political party, but this essay is not intended to become a Labour Party manifesto. However, one thing the newly elected leader will need to improve upon is its relationship with unions. In recent years, the more the neo-Thatcherite leaders ascended to the leadership role, the relationship between the party and the unions soured. If Mr Corbyn is elected, under his leadership, the party will have to be more understanding of the issues pursued by unions and back them up more rather than show the present tendency of disowning them yet enjoy running big campaigns with union donations, who are the biggest contributor to Labour’s funds.
Based on the foundation formed with these multitude of visions, that need to be radically different from the shadow Tory manifesto the party seems to be working to, it will then be up to all Labour MPs/Councillors/Party workers to adhere to that vision and work as one party towards achieving that target of winning the 2020 election. Although councillors do not have much power these days, small positive steps will have a lasting effect on people’s minds. At the same time, being too ambitious with the socialist agenda will prove difficult to achieve, and this will only result in further public despair. We can refer SMART targets — Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound — all these targets will need to be achieved before the election campaigns begin. This is where the emotion will have to give way to logic and realise that in this day and age, it is not possible to change a country overnight.
Looking from a socialism perspective, communism is not the only way to achieve an equal society, and the old model is now proven dysfunctional. Also, to make communism work, all countries will need to implement it at the same time, which is impossible. In today’s world of Interconnected markets, where the market forces are unfortunately more dominant than the governments, a move too radical would destroy the government as well as the party, as seen to have happened for Syriza in Greece. It’s a question of having a radical curriculum spanning much longer than five-year spurts but effecting small but positive changes, staying within the vices of the Capitalism, yet using the market to benefit the people left behind.
To conclude, 2015 has been the most harrowing year for the Labour Party and the ordeal is not over yet. Following the biggest election defeat, when it seemed that things couldn’t get any worse, the party headed to a precipitous low with the most divisive leader election so far. At least, the party supporters could thank Mr Corbyn, who helped bring this internal feud out in the open. So, when the leadership election is over, the Labour will need to regroup and act as one party, trying to bring the entire Britain together, creating a fair living standard for the poorest and make the richest realise, that if their wealth was built on exploitation of the rest, it becomes a social responsibility to share their wealth to uplift the lives explored. To make this happen, Labour will have to be more upcoming than the Fabian society counterparts would want to, as Capitalism is moving at a much faster pace. Jeremy Corbyn instilled a fresh breath of new air into the stifling bureaucratic outfit that Labour has become. Remembering an unforgettable line from V for vendetta “Anarchy wears two faces-both creators and destroyer, thus destroyers topple empires, make a canvas of clean rubble where creators can then build a better world. Rubble, once achieved, makes further ruin’s means irrelevant. Away with our destroyers! They have no place in our better world. But let us raise a toast to all our bombers, all our bastards, most unlovely and most unforgivable. Let’s drink their health and then meet with them no more”. This is why Labour needs someone like Mr Corbyn today, to shake the party up, clear up the clutter—the impasse Labour has hit, to show the party it’s true North following footsteps of Michael Foot, Tony Benn or Eric Hobsbawm. A win in 2020 is still a far-fetched dream, but a Corbyn win will certainly set Labour in the right path…
On the eve of the UK general elections 2015, I hoped a much-awaited Labour-led coalition government after five years’ dismal rule by the Conservatives. Eight hours later, that hope was shattered by a Tory majority. All the myths, predictions, analyses were proved wrong, including many hypotheses I had drawn in the past on British politics and its future. Being a dress down day at work, I wore a t-shirt with a bold statement, which showed the flag of the UK with a skull at the background. In my opinion, nothing better summarised the outcomes of the general election than that t-shirt, the coming five years will be tarnished with disaster, despair, poverty, death. This is an attempt to analyse the build-up to the election and its aftermath with a historical and social context.
Campaign and fallacies in 2010 elections
Although the Conservative agenda always circles around championing the individual excellence, which is the cornerstone of the capitalist world-view, in practice, this meant further inequality in an already fragmented Britain. In 2010, the coalition came in power due to the follies of Blair government in the Iraq war, as well as widespread mass hysteria regarding migrant workers from EEA taking over jobs from British working class. During the 2010 elections, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats also blamed the previous Labour government of excessive spending, resulting in increased national debt, as well as of a slow recovery from the recession of 2008. Also, the fiscal policy adopted by the then Labour government to recover from the recession was in direct contrast with the capitalist ethos of monetary corrections, and it was apparent to common British voters that Labour spent a lot of money, and in the way, lost its credibility to run the country to the road of recovery.
It was only after the election was won that the devious and untrue nature of the Tory campaign, backed by the Rupert Murdoch funded British media were becoming clear. The economic recovery in the entire western world has been sluggish, and Britain was no exception. The recuperation of the German economy was cited many times during the election campaigns, but the recovery came through the fiscal reforms, by making people spend their way out of the recession, not by introducing cuts. Labour tried the same method as well, but was only let down by the British public due to risk-averseness and not taking the incentives offered by the government. Also, the national debt that was proved to be another downfall for Labour, it was proved that the national debt inherited by Labour government at the end of John Major government was already high, but the media represented the figures as though the debt was incurred only during the Labour regime.
Synopsis on Tory rule 2010-2015
Although the Lib-Dems were part of the government, and they attempted to implement several policies they have pledged for before the 2010 election, it was clear from the outset that the Conservatives will start the austerity and cuts to social services straight away. It was evident when within a year in the government, the highest earners’ income tax was lowered to 45% from 50% that the previous Labour government introduced. If this was not a clear indication of which sector of the population the government is protecting, nothing ever would. Not only benefiting the higher earners — be it through tax reductions or offering tax havens to non-domiciles, it did not stop there. The working class has been squeezed through a reduction of the child relief thresholds or proposing to increase the working age. NHS saw further privatisation whilst the practices were to be controlled by a trust, redundancies for nurses and stretching the already stressed system to its breaking point. During the previous Labour regime, a maximum time limit was set for the consultants to offer treatment to their patients within three months from the first appointment. Under the Tory rule, these time limits were disbanded, hence achieving a saving in the running cost, but at the expense of patients’ health and recovery. Then came the damned bedroom tax rule. Admittedly benefits were there, but no exceptions were allowed, hence leaving people with a disability needing carers paying for the extra rooms or move to a house where there would be no room for carers to stay. In the educational sector, struggling schools were bullied into becoming Academies, managing their budget or be threatened to stop all funding. Between 2010 and 2015, the employment sector has improved, but this was more attributable to the recovery of the global economy rather than a positive contribution from the government. Thus time will be remembered for the much-maligned Back to work scheme where people without work have been encouraged to go and work for employers without any form of payment, hence, effectively working for free.
The ultimate evidence of Tory connivance and their cronies and the extent of corruption in media, governance and juridical system during the Conservative regime was brought into daylight in the News of the world controversy. Andy Coulson, who worked closely with David Cameron was the prime suspect of the phone-hacking scandal and was jailed, but News of the World being a Tory mouthpiece, the involvement of the phone hacking during the previous general election was exposed. The same goes for the acquittal of Rebekah Brooks, who was a close friend of David Cameron as well. News of the world went out of publication, but the full extent of Tory involvement in the phone hacking is yet to be known.
From these and numerous other similar examples, a general observation was evident; the Tory regime had paved the path for big businesses and staunch Tory benefactors to increase their wealth, whilst punishing the rest of the 99% of the population. The number of food banks opened has been quadrupled, poor people got poorer, heading towards a precipice.
The only unambiguously praiseworthy action taken by the previous Conservative government was the legalisation of gay marriage amidst scathing criticism from Tory backbenchers through insistence from David Cameron.
Nationalism and Britain
With the financial interest of the 1% top earners ring-fenced, the Tories have then managed, not only to distract the downtrodden 99% from their woes, but they did it so discretely that it left the nation divided into many fragments. On one side, there was the vilification of the poor working class, often referred as “feckless”, and on the other side, they have created a red herring in the form of EEA migrant workers and the concept of all minimum wage roles going to the foreign workers. This second ploy led to thriving many right-wing nationalist parties, mainly UKIP. In 2014, Britain was swept by a spate of nationalism, first, during the Scottish referendum, and then later in the celebration of the centenary of the First World War. Scottish referendum not only affected Scotland, but the dichotomy also resulted in strong nationalist sentiments at the south side of Hadrian’s wall as well. The Scots were divided in opinion almost equally between Yes and No for an independent Scotland and finally managed to stay within the UK by a whisker, as the uncertainty of being outside the aegis of UK and EU outweighed the hopes to break free of the shackles from the controls of Westminster. However, this instigated a strong feeling of Scottish nationalism as a large number of people, who voted No only did so to think of their immediate financial situation, despite the urge of breaking were felt strongly. On the other hand, the big brother England felt a different sense of nationalism, the English nationalism, whereby the public saw Scotland as an appendage to the English state, a partisan and not contributing to the government by an equal proportion. The view of the intelligentsia may have weighed up or down the benefits of gaining independence from the situation, the public opinion hovered around seceding from the Scottish union, and “let then grovel back to us for funds in six months”. This was a situation reasonably reaped by the nationalist right-wing parties and the popularity soared for then and UKIP became a major threat in realising Labour’s aspiration of forming a government. Although the UKIP policies would have sent the nation teetering back, the white working-class that saw Labour as their saviour from Tory atrocities so far, saw a change of heart as UKIP offered them more tangible benefits — no foreigners taking jobs, cheap beer, no EU.
The Labour opposition
The Lib-Dems were almost out of the fray the day they joined the coalition government as the long-standing supporters felt compromised from their anti-Conservative position. Hence, it was only down to the Labour to oust the coalition-led government, unlike in 2010, when Lib-Dems proved to be a potent adversary to the incumbent. Labour’s ascent since the failure in 2010 was not smooth, within months from the election, the leadership vote became a fierce encounter between Miliband brothers, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and others. Then a Labour member, I voted Ed over David expecting his trade union background would prove more belligerence in character than the suave Blairite David. On Ed’s election saw the Miliband brotherhood broken, and it took a long time for Ed to gain credibility amongst Labour’s most loyal supporters, let alone winning over the Conservative voters. Personally, with my left-wing visions, I saw Labour gradually becoming a quasi-Tory entity, especially during London mayoral elections — the policy offerings were not different enough to sway the voters, and I gradually became disillusioned during the mid-term of the Tory government. Then came 2013, as Ed Miliband delivered his most fiery speech since the ascension to leadership, and the Labour proposed the most ground-breaking proposals — the bring back taxing the highest earners at higher rate, increase inheritance tax, or the free rein of energy companies and create a new bank from British Investments — offering the most radical changes to the British economy and governance. A clear lurch towards left, and then everybody was anxious — the capitalist market, the investors, Tory British media, and the government. Some argue that that’s what the Conservatives always wanted, a left-wing Labour so they can oppose it with the old communist line of attack. Ed Miliband was immediately branded Red Ed, and it was not a contest between Conservatives versus Labour any more; all other stakeholders to be affected by the Labour government weighed in. Labour’s popularity soared as they won council elections by a large margin, but the English nationalism element in the British psyche saw many votes poached by the UKIP. People were swayed, but the stigma of immigration and Eastern European workers still haunted Labour, as did their propensity to support minorities, with the horrid details of Lee Rigby’s murder or the recent rise of ISIS still alive in people’s memories, they didn’t trust Islam, nor Labour as the mouthpiece for minorities and equality. With the UK fragmented from various counts, it was important to launch an election campaign that offers some dividends to all such segments, for a re-unified country and government. Treading on eggshells, Labour had to offer a proposal alluring all segment of voters, and what interest one faction would drive another away from them, keeping a knife-edge balance on its election campaign.
Election campaigns 2015
The election campaign started with the usual hype in the media and the Middle-class and the casual indifference from the working class. 2015 was going to be the year of the women, with Nicola Sturgeon of SNP, Nicola Bennett of Green Party and Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru took the centre stage. Only one clear winner was emerging from the first debate, and it was Nicola Sturgeon. With a clear Scotland-centric agenda and some policies veered away from the safe grounds of central left or central right, SNP already offered something for the Scottish people that would have been a part of Labour’s agenda. This should have raised alarms on Labour policymakers, as it would have when Nick Clegg stole the show during 2010 debates; and last-minute alterations were needed to offer equally bold policies to steer the Scottish nationalist votes back towards Labour. Instead, seeing the election results of the previous year, Labour leadership trod on the side of caution and published a manifesto that, without the Labour logo, is hard to guess which party they were from due to its lack of USP. All the hard work over two years, all the hopes it kindled in the minds of the followers were all undone in a moment of hesitation and panic. The legitimacy of the Labour election campaign was hard to make credit due to the leadership issues, but the poor manifesto possibly alienated the voters willing to change their view. Labour’s stand on immigration, austerity, debt, spends on defence especially trident, sustainability, employment and social security failed to convince the British working class that they can offer a star government capable of resolving all the hardships the families face by the Tory regime. In issues like the environment, SNP in Scotland and Green Party across the UK took much more firm position than Labour and it perhaps disillusioned the environmentalist lobby, which makes a large proportion when the election results will show that Green emerges as the fourth largest party in the UK. Similarly in governance, SNP proposed reforms that were expected fro Labour, and even they were identical in areas, a Labour vote meant devolving power to Westminster whilst an SNP vote would see the poets and policies staying at Holyrood and being implemented in Scotland. If it were not for the female trio, ration debate would have been a lacklustre event as none of the other parties manages to set themselves apart, excluding the conflagrating opinions by Nigel Farage. From that respect, David Cameron has been the most consistent and credible contender, backed by the continuous vilification of Ed Miliband in the Tory biased media and the Conservative election campaign, arguably funded by the wealthy Tory donors, with a possible return of favours following the election triumph. The Conservatives have even featured themselves as working for people’s party, but the basis for such incredulous claims was not established, as was the fact with no details on funding cuts but showing additional investments based on these funding cuts.
Poll result Analyses
At 10 PM on the election day, the exit poll figures on BBC were surprising, and with the benefit of hindsight, analysts with political astuteness should have guessed such an outcome if the trends were followed in recent months and their reason was not clouded by feelings. The exit poll results were pretty devastating for all parties except Tories but people kept their heads high. By the following morning, it was all over, the Conservatives even improved the exit poll predictions, even though not by a large amount, but significant enough to provide absolute majority to form a government without a coalition. The geographical division of seats was even more interesting and thought-provoking. Whilst in 2010, all Scotland was painted red, Labour lost almost all the seats in Scotland. Wales was still a Labour majority but looking at England, the picture was catastrophic. Barring some spots of red in North of England, and London and Birmingham, Labour was obliterated everywhere. The reds have lost their appeal to Scottish people as they did to the English population. Lib-Dems were decimated, the much hype about UKIP was proven to be non-existent, but a trend was clear — the sweep of nationalism on both sides of the Scottish Border. The SNP emerged as the strongest party to lead and defend Scottish interest whereas, for England, fear and greed have swung the election in the favour of Conservatives.
In my opinion, there are no better weapons for winning the election than hunger and fear. With the number is homeless destitute persons on the rise, and all the austerity measures in place, it was a simple deduction that the people would want to see the tides change, they want this desperate time to be over. But two factors prevented the full effect of hunger factor to be reflected in the results. Due to Lib-dem interjections, the Tory austerity measures were not as severe as if would have been had they won the absolute majority in 2010. Also, the average voters hovering around 70% mark, perhaps the worst affected part of the population was not interested in taking part of the election when the food for the next day has to be thought of — change in government wouldn’t change that fact overnight. And then there was the fear factor. Evolution of mythology is a proof that we want to know what we are afraid of; and this gave rise to millions of various depiction of monsters, ghosts, demons. In this election, fear was instilled in the voters’ psyche, a fear without shape or form, presented with the back up of data. From the fateful day in 2013 at Labour Party conference, the capitalist biased media has been trying to infuse fear in the minds of English population — be it direct demonising on the tabloids or subtle connotations in The Telegraph — media made it a private vendetta against Labour and its leadership. They feared. They feared of a liberal centre-left government would spell doom for the Conservatives, give voice to the Tory backbenchers already questioning the leadership of Cameron, a regrouped Conservative party will have long roads of reform. Amongst the people feared were the big businesses and Tory donors, whose tax evasion and preferential treatment would have come to a halt as well. The media turned this fear into a fear that the working class could relate to, hence the reasons were changed to immigration, jobs, economic reform, whereby keeping the facts clouded under vague predictions did help Tories turning the public against Labour’s ethos. Britain’s ageing population also meant that there is a huge Conservative royalist support base, who would see the large changes as a threat to the state, and anarchy in the development. Looking at election result, this fear of unknown and unseen regime that is purported to stop all businesses working, open doors to all EU workers, harbour radical Islamists under the name of ethical treatment, let EU interfere in all interim governance matters — threats of a communist state, has driven the voters especially in England, where people chose to opt for the incumbent. Looking at the possible results with a proportional representation system makes the situation grimmer with UKIP winning 82 seats based on its number of votes polled. This is a failure of the mainstream political parties when the popularity of right-wing parties like UKIP soars up, which is a real threat to unbalance the British society, its rich multiculturalism and liberal values. Too much was and will be said about Labour policy ignoring English voters as well as the middle class, but if Conservative approach to tackle challenges faced by the middle class is more acceptable by the society than Labour’s, this must be a major concern on society’s view on politics, ethics and governance. It’s not that Labour failed to rise to the expectations of the British public, it was rather the public became risk-averse on the prospect of radical reform to the political system, which is essential to avoid the society heading towards a state of static inertia. In the beginning, I mentioned that the results proved some of my views on the electorate wrong. I assumed that since 2010, a trend was created that all future governments will be a coalition and no party will be able to meet the demands of every different combination of factions. The results showed I was wrong. However, the Conservatives seem to take no risk in terms of targeting its agenda biased towards its biggest support base — English middle class. And this is where Labour failed, as they put more focus on the UK as a collective identity than to be populist. This is where my second hypothesis went wrong. I expected the British electorate to be progressive, embracing the new values and changes, but it turned out that the public was anything but that entity. This is a protectionist, risk-averse, myopic state that people would rather want to be a part of.
On the other side, Labour’s failure and rise of SNP in Scotland were shocking but imminent, the leadership must have felt the change in the tide. The referendum on Scotland left the Scots divided on opinion but unified them under the same Scottish flag, realise the potential of a political party fighting for the priorities for Scotland and its people. A very regional approach, contrary to a one UK concept, but limiting the target audience helped SNP secure the record number of seats, leaving all other mainstream parties almost obliterated in Scotland.
The aftermath of the election results
As an immediate aftermath of dismal performance by all major parties but Conservatives, there was a public outrage amongst party backbenchers to remove the leadership. First to step down was Nick Clegg, who, with the decision to join the coalition in 2010 had already done political hara-kiri to the reputation and trust for Liberal Democrats, yet managed five years of reflected glory being in the shadows of David Cameron. Ed Miliband followed suit during the midday when he took the full responsibility for Labour’s calamitous results. It was a gracious speech, delivered in his typical automaton fashion, eyes hardly lifting off his notes. But his eyes said it all — looking beyond the vacant stare, there stood ask struggling to control his emotions, perhaps hundreds of questions were going through his mind but without any answers. And finally, in a very dramatical manner Nigel Farage cast his resignation as promised, but gave a hint that until August when he might even be re-elected because without him, UKIP had no identity. With all three leaders of main opposition parties resigned, UK is a dangerous situation, as nothing is stopping Tories spearheading with their harsh cuts and other measures of austerity before even the oppositions have regrouped and chosen their leaders. It’s not only the leadership that pushed the parties on the back foot but also the party stalwarts, who would have led the opposition during parliament question hours, have fallen as well in their bid to win a seat at the House of Commons. A first Tory majority government in 18 years, brings bitter memories from the Thatcher era. The government is hardly going to be working for people’s party as it preached to be, and the austerities will be brought about straight away. This will be an advantage being incumbent, as Cameron once claimed business as usual from the first day. The Conservatives have also got Boris Johnson elected as an MP from a safe seat; doldrums in the other parties will give Boris to settle down fast and pave his way to possibly become the next Tory party leader after 2020. The 2010-15 reign might not be classed as the worst the Conservatives could be, that period has paved the way for a more stricter, hardline Tory rule, breaking up the British society into further class divisions. This will also give them time to achieve an agreement with Bruxelles on the issue of EU referendum. The situation on the other side of the fence is getting worse. Labour leadership elections have always been fraught with fierce rivalry amongst candidates, exposing the internal fissures in the party. The MPs already declaring their willingness to stand up for the leadership position is similar to, as someone aptly put, taking jewellery off the dying relatives. The ex-leaders have been too prompt to criticise Miliband as the leader but failed to acknowledge the fact that Labour lost the election due to their Thatcherist compromises in the party command. Adding further woes, Allan Sugar resigned from Labour membership. I am not personally as much concerned with this at one level, because in the end, he is a businessman, trying to make a profit, which Labour policy curbed. His defection, however, is crucial for the party as the election is now won outside the leaders’ debate and speech, or the candidates knocking on the doors of the voters, it is a battleground for business houses, media, and to fight fire with fire Labour does need funding, and they have lost a valuable donor. I still hope they don’t grovel back to him once the new leader is elected, trying to compromise policies for funding. However, all in not bleak and gloomy in this crucial juncture of British politics. Green Party has evolved substantially and nearly annexed Lib-Dems in proportional representation analyses, showing a growing trend for the future general voters to choose more radical liberal and social reforms orientated parties. This is also a period with the highest number of female MPs. And the most unifying news, in the end, BNP which has been in the surge during last general election is obliterated from the arena of British politics, proving a point that people don’t tolerate the right-wing politics, and the fate of UKIP will follow the same trend, it’s just a matter of when.
Future of British Politics
The next five years of Tory rule will be earmarked for its atrocities on the lowest strata of the population. The food banks will be on overdrive, more people will be homeless, further cuts will drive struggling families to fall apart or into desperation, cuts will continue to happen in all public services — stretching them further to the breaking point. The NHS, although promised to be ring-fenced, will see longer working hours in the name of providing better service, yet without any extra resource. Zero hour contracts will be the only way one can secure s job, thus making it impossible to have a stable income when companies can exploit the system. The Labour will still have another bloody leadership battle, and the leader will either face the challenge of going back to neo-Labour coined by Tony Blair or continue the work Ed Miliband has started. A politically pragmatic move would be a more centrist Labour to win trust fro working class across the UK, before going into more radical socialist reform, although that long-term goal should be set from the day the leader is elected, so the party works towards the same goal as they have in 2015, but with more caution keeping in mind that British population is still not mature enough to embrace the reforms Labour was proposing to bring about.
This brings to the conclusion, a look at the future of British politics. More crucial questions to be raised, that parties like Greens and SNP already started to ask, such as the future if the trident programme — why is this still being funded, which goes back to the question of fear again. A nuclear Armageddon is an American ploy used since the cold-war era which they need as the biggest arms dealer in the world. Questions need to be raised on the relevance of House of Lords, with their pompous red ornate seats, and the hereditary peerage. Also the relevance of the Royal family and the monarchy. Free the Queen, rest of them will probably still live their life as celebrities, but what relevance is there of their role on British politics than just the term constitutional monarchy? What does the royal goodwill tours achieve that the businesses and politicians can’t? It is reassuring to find that the Buckingham Palace has to run on its budget, nevertheless this is a huge outlay when the government is trying to claw back every penny being wasted, what is more important 500 NHS nurses/policemen/public service operatives or a bunch of people leading a lavish lifestyle on public money without any contribution to the economy. We are too quick to use terms like feckless scroungers on poor people, but the family supposedly at the helm of this “constitutional monarchy” (sounds as mouthy and vain as balderdash and hobgoblin) are no different either. There is so a public outcry for stopping foreign aid and immigration. Contrary to popular belief, foreign aid merely constitutes a minimal percentage of the nation spending, and a country with a long and dark history of colonialism should rather start by looking at the past before blaming all developing/ undeveloped nations for the misery of the Britons. Apart from all these contentious questions, a close look is needed on the electoral system as well, firstly to encourage and as the next stage penalise people for not voting. The role of media in making the nation is also questionable. At present, there are the tabloids, crude and distasteful cheap tack, yet the working class have not rejected this type of populist reporting. On the other hand, the broadsheet newspapers retained their snobbish reporting only targeted at the business leaders, academicians, bureaucrats and similar higher echelons on the social strata. The extreme bias between the Labour and Tory orientated newspapers are nauseating, where one news would be reported in completely different tones. Media will have to be liberal, arguably it is the fourth estate, but rather than snide and vitriolic attacks on anyone with a different perspective, the space for constructive criticism needs to be created, and media’s role during the election should be of an unbiased adjudicator, challenging ideas of all political parties and praising for changes for a better future. Also, the election mechanism starting from using electronic voting machines to the dissolution of first past the post system — a lot needs changing and this will be a pithy challenge on any party running the government. Liberal parties will have to find the solution and convince the British public that the changes are essential to living in a synergistic compassionate world of tomorrow — expecting this from Tories would only result in frustration and desperation as they are only interested in culling foxes and the poorest of the poor into extinction.