This will be my last word on politics for the foreseeable future. Today is unspeakably grim. As it stands, I see absolutely no silver lining so, as I said it was in my pre-election blog, I am writing my thoughts down as self help therapy then I’m going to do everything I can to let them go.
I think about my political values & beliefs every day, in a way I imagine some people consider their religious faith. Certain aspects of what I believe are set in concrete, other elements of my political views can sway slightly one way or another. None of the opinions I hold & express are lightly held. Certainly many of the people I consider to be my closest friends have told me at one time or another that the fact I hold, & care about, the political beliefs I do is one of my better qualities (one of the very few). Today those beliefs, those things in our society I care so deeply about, have been given the most almighty kicking. I should stress this isn’t about tribalism, this isn’t about The Labour Party, this is about the place where we live. It’s about just how much worse our country could become for those on the bottom few rungs of the ladder. £12bn in welfare cuts, bedroom tax stays, zero hour contracts stay & what on earth will the NHS look like in 5 years. 5 years!!
Although I’m not out pounding the pavements, knocking doors & leafleting. Although I’m not actively & physically involved, I still find political campaigns gruelling. They take an emotional toll. I watch hours of television every day, listen to hours of radio, read umpteen newspaper articles. Almost all of them sending my anger & frustration levels through the roof. Then there is social media. So many pointless debates & arguments. No one in the history of Twitter has ever won an argument. No one has ever tweeted, “Actually, I’ve changed my mind, you’re right”, they just keep arguing round & round in a circle until, as Godwins Law has it, someone calls someone a Nazi. So after absorbing the independence referendum & now the General Election I am broken. I’ve no arguments left in me. I just want to express my thoughts here & then shut up & keep my own counsel.
The Labour Party. I wrote in my last blog a brief summary of where I thought the party had gone wrong over at least a decade in Scotland & in last few years nationally. I’d add this, certainly as I sit here today I think Labour went into this election with the right manifesto. I think it struck the right balance between the centre left (where Labour needs to win votes in the South) & a good way further left (which they need to appeal to the North Of England & Scotland). The failing, to my mind, is Ed Miliband & the Labour campaign only really won my full-throated support in the last 2 months & I’m a fairly easy target. Really I should have been on board 2 years ago. They should have been cutting through a lot deeper 2 months ago with winning support of less likely voters. I’ll not go into the reasons for losing Scotland – I’m sure there will be many, many books written on that topic in months & years to come.
As for The Labour Party from now, I have very grave fears of what comes next. We now face another months long leadership election like 2010. I suspect that this one will be particularly brutal. The battle lines have started to be drawn this morning. A great deal of people inside, & outside, the party think it should go further left & become a true socialist party again. They think that will get the working class fully behind them & win back support in Scotland. Perhaps they’re right. Perhaps that’s where I stand, fundamentally. Perhaps. There are also a great deal of people that feel the party should move back towards the centre-left ground of New Labour because they feel that’s where they can win elections from because they can win more votes from the Tories in the South. I also think that’s possibly a sensible pragmatic point of view. I often wonder how New Labour’s legacy would be perceived if it didn’t have the catastrophic disaster of the Iraq War hanging round it’s neck. Whether a new Labour leader could risk trying to take Labour to the centre-left is debatable because that would present a real threat of losing the support of the Unite union (plus the funding it provides) which in turn would likely mean the formation of a new party further to the left (with the funding Labour had lost). If there were two parties on the left of the political spectrum splitting the left vote then neither party could challenge the Tories effectively. I think what Labour really needs is a strong unifying leader (preferably a woman, in my view – it is time Labour had a female leader) however I’m not sure I see a suitable candidate. I dearly hope someone proves me wrong. Grave fears, little optimism, as it stands.
And so to Scotland. I found it really, really difficult to watch SNP politicians & supporters celebrate last night while it already looked obvious to me that we were heading towards a Tory majority government. I personally called it as Tory majority rather than just the largest party at half 1, a good while before the first Scottish seat was declared. I understand that if you support a party, have campaigned for a party, then when your candidate wins then there is cause for celebration but where has it left Scotland in the House Of Commons now? I’d argue absolutely nowhere. The Tories have known for years they don’t need votes in Scotland to form the government. The SNP can holler & rabble rouse from the opposition back benches but the Tories have a majority, they don’t need the SNP’s 56 votes. The SNP’s influence in Parliament is zero. Remember all those great things the LibDems achieved in Westminster before 2010 with a similar number of MPs? No, me neither. All the SNP have achieved in reality is they have wiped out Labour in Scotland & have absolutely no doubt they have handed the Tories a majority government. Pretty much the only thing the Tories campaigned on was the fear of a Labour/SNP coalition. That is the single biggest issue that decided this election. That is what swung the target seats to the Tories in the south. That is why Miliband ruled out any deal with the SNP – so many SNP supporters cried foul on that, strategic suicide they said – guess what, he was right, they were wrong. But fair play, people get to vote for the party they choose, that’s democracy however they/we all have to live with the consequences. They’ll blame Labour (same as the Tories/red tories/not left wing enough) but Labour offered their most left wing manifesto since 1983 – they weren’t interested. They say Labour just don’t get it without ever explaining what “it” is. I think I know what “it” is, they want Labour to back independence. It’s the be all & end all. Labour can’t & won’t do that. It’s important to note that a minimum of 50% of the Scottish population still don’t want independence. Labour has to respect that, it would be nice at some point if “the 45” could too.
Where does the independence issue stand today? Support since the referendum for independence hasn’t moved much. So no one in the SNP will be calling for it in the next few months. I’d wager that the SNP will put it in their 2016 manifesto for the Scottish Parliament but not outright, I think there will be a proviso that if the UK votes to leave the EU in the 2017 referendum then that will trigger a 2nd independence referendum. Realistically that would mean it would take place in 2018 at the earliest. If UK votes to stay in EU then it won’t happen. Either way, Scotland isn’t escaping 5 years of the Tories. We’re certainly all in it together now. Maybe 5 years of the Tories will strengthen support for independence. Maybe something will change with SNP support over next 5 years. 5 years is a long time in politics, an eternity. So today, I don’t think independence is any closer than it was yesterday. There will be more powers for the Scottish Parliament though. The extra powers may even be quite considerable but I wouldn’t underestimate the appetite of many within the Tory Party to stitch Scotland up. They may even offer Full Fiscal Autonomy – which it is widely accepted would be terrible for Scotland right now – David Davis & Boris Johnson have already spoken in favour of it today. If it were me, I’d much prefer to deal with a Labour Government if I were in Scotland. I said it a lot through the campaign, careful what you wish for. My view was always, if you were a Yes voter, vote Labour in the general election then give them a kicking in the Scottish elections next year – a referendum could still have been in the SNP manifesto and the SNP would have a better hand if they were dealing with a UK Labour Government with something to lose in Scotland.
And here we are. 5 years. 5 fucking years. I watched in a state of shock last night & I cried this morning. Undoubtedly this is one of the worst days of my life. My son was 3 when the Tories came back to power & now they’ll stay there until he’s at least 13. That in itself breaks my heart. The city I live in has been one of the hardest hit over the last 5 years of Tory austerity & now it will be hit again for another 5 years. We needed a Labour government & we weren’t alone. On some level I feel the country I live in rejected me last night & the country where I was born & grew up rejected me too. Hull voted Labour. Thank you Hull. I am proud to call you home.
People, politicians, have spoken today about fighting back. I’m not there yet. I am beaten & I am broken. I just want to stand back. No more debates. No more arguments. I just want to concentrate on the things that I can always rely on, my son & my football team.
I promised on Facebook that you wouldn’t hear anything about politics from me again. I mostly stand by that, after this. Maybe I’ll become vocal again before the 2017 EU Referendum. Nothing political until then. I’m out.