UK: Election 2015: The Horror
By Matt Carr
May 08, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - I didn’t stay up to watch the
nightmare unfold last night. The exit polls filled me with such shock,
outrage, and disgust that I knew my blood pressure wouldn’t be able to cope with
it. After eleven o’clock there was no way I was going to spend any more time in
the company of Michael Gove and Andrew Neil and the endlessly cheery and upbeat
BBC journalists with their gimmicky nausea-inducing BBC graphics showing the
House of Commons filled with virtual reality politicians.
I have never been impressed by Miliband either before the
campaign or during it, but the things that this government have done – and which
it promises to do – have been so brutal, so dishonest and so horrendous, that I
believed that even an electorate that too often seems all too willing to believe
anything and accept anything could not give the Tories a mandate. Regardless of
the coming Labour meltdown in Scotland, I thought there would be a close result
overall, possibly a narrow Labour victory and most likely a hung parliament that
would have stymied the Tories and forced Miliband into some kind of progressive,
After all, you don’t need to be particularly radical to think
that proposals like abolishing non-dom status or imposing an energy freeze might
appeal even to people whose political passions are as lukewarm as the Labour
Party leadership’s, especially when compared with the prospect of five more
years of a government poised to introduce the most savage cuts to social welfare
since the 1930s. But nope, even those little social democratic sweeties
couldn’t bring the electorate round. Instead British – I mean English – voters
chose to reward one of the most vicious rightwing governments in British history
with a near majority.
It’s a result that was made possible by a sheeplike,
frightened and rancorous population that appears increasingly disposed to
believe all the lies that it is told by its vile newspapers. It is an
irrational, stupid and fearful vote by an electorate that doesn’t even recognize
its own self-interest, let alone the interests of others, that has abandoned
any commitment to even the most elementary principles of social justice; that
didn’t couldn’t even see that Miliband’s tepid, focus-group-manufactured One
Nation ‘fairness’ was still preferable to the dismal social cruelty that the
government has already inflicted and which is certain to intensify in the next
In doing so the English have demonstrated extraordinary
political cowardice. Lacking the gumption to challenge the powerful, they have
preferred to elect a government that victimizes the powerless. This is a
population that prefers to doff the cap than bite the hand that it thinks feeds;
that expresses its digusts with politicians by voting in the worst of them; that
drapes itself in the Union Jack and doffs its collective hat to its masters in
the hope that it can be like them; that would rather blame the Scots who want
to fight austerity than fight it themselves.
I know that this vote doesn’t represent majority opinion
either in England or in the UK as a whole; the British voting system ensures
that few votes ever do. But the Tories have so far picked up some 30 percent of
the vote share. Equally alarmingly, UKip have gained more than 3 million votes
even though they have so far only won one seat, and they even managed to
increase their vote share in Wales by ten percent.
So we are witnessing an extraordinary disaster for the
majority of the population that is not and never will be Conservative, and a
catastrophe for the Labour Party in particular. Now as Ed Miliband prepares to
depart, the Blairites are sharpening their knives, and there are rumours that
David Miliband is flying back to the country. So Miliband will be replaced by
Miliband, and they wonder why so few people were convinced by Labour.
Miliband has said that his party was ‘overwhelmed’ by a ‘surge
of nationalism’ in Scotland. This is rubbish. Labour could still have won even
without the seats it lost to the SNP. Miliband’s pseudo-explanation doesn’t
explain why that ‘surge’ took place, or what it was in the SNP’s ‘nationalism’
that led so many former Labour voters in Scotland came to regard Labour as ‘Red
Even in Gordon Brown’s constituency, the SNP won with with a
10,000 swing. So much for the big clunking fist who ‘saved the union.’ Labour’s
fate was clearly sealed in Scotland long before the election, through years of
taking its electorate for granted and through its alliance with the Tories over
the referendum campaign. But even during this campaign Nicola Sturgeon
continually put forward the idea of a ‘progressive anti-austerity alliance’ on
both sides of the border, which Miliband continually rejected.
What a coward and what a fool. Instead he tried to convince
the electorate that Labour was the party of social justice, even as he remained
committed to an austerity programme of unspecified cuts that was essentially a
‘softer’ version of what the Tories were already planning. He tried to please
all the people and ended up pleasing very few of them. He didn’t convince
left-leaning voters that he would ‘change the way the country is run’ and he
didn’t convince those who already believe in Tory economic ‘competence’ that he
could run it more effeciently.
In the end the head boy failed to become PM. He failed to
offer a convincing, compelling and inspiring vision of the future to counter the
Tories’ crude but effective choice between ‘stability’ and ‘chaos’ or the notion
that Labour would damage the fledgling ‘recovery’ that is already faltering.
This message was rammed relentlessly home by the rightwing press and even by the
Independent, which declared itself in favour of Tory/Lib Dem ‘stability.
The Cameron/Crosby team didn’t just convince a timid
electorate that the status quo was better than the future that Labour was
offering; they also appealed directly to English nationalism, with a ‘Vote
Labour – Get Sturgeon/Salmond’ mantra that will always have traction in a
country that always believes it is being unfairly treated and taken advantage of
by foreigners of some kind or another, even if those ‘foreigners’ are Scots.
Whatever you think of the SNP’s ability to deliver on its
social democratic credentials, its appeal to the Scots electorate is clearly
based on very different premises than the beligerent, rancorous, flagwaving,
royal baby worshipping, foreigner-hating nativism that is driving English
nationalism in its current manifestation.
In Scotland, ‘nationalism’ produced a movement in which a
20-year-old student can overturn a Labour majority of 16,000 in Paisley and
Renfrewshire South. In her victory speech Mhairi Black promised that she would
fight to end austerity cuts that are hurting communities ‘ both north and south
of the border.’
God only knows what might have happened if we had had more
people of her age and with her passion and commitment down here in darkest
England. Black, and the voters who elected her, have been inspired by a new
and postive vision of Scotland’s collective future to take a gigantic leap into
the political unknown. Here we have the rancid pseudo-rebellion of Ukip, and a
population that is too terrified of its own shadow to abandon a spurious
‘stability’ which promises nothing but the demise of many of the things that it
claims to hold dear.
Ironically, voters who may have seen a Tory mandate as a vote
for the Union may have helped to bring its demise closer, since it is difficult
to imagine how a government like this can keep the Scots on board, when Cameron
and his gang of millionaires set about imposing the next swathe of cuts in a
country where they no longer hold any mandate at all.
There were some consolations in this debacle; the
well-deserved humiliation of the Lib Dems, whose opportunism and ambition for
power did so much to make this outcome possible, by keeping in place a
government that should never have made it out of 2010. There will hopefully,
be the defeat of Nigel Farage in South Thanet.
But these are small crumbs of schadenfreude that cannot
compensate for the monumental disaster for progressive politics that took place
yesterday. Maybe something positive will come from it. But right now I can’t
think what it can be. And I feel ashamed of my country and disgusted with it.
Matt Carr is a writer and journalist, living in Derbyshire