Archive for September, 2008

Labour’s End . . .

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

 Been a while since my last post. I’ve had the flu, or something like it; and to paraphrase the line by Tommy Lee Jones’ sheriff in No Country for Old Men (book and film version – the film used much of the book’s dialogue), if it wasn’t the flu it will do until the flu comes along.
We are living through a strange rerun of the end of the John Major years. By 1995 the entire British political system thought that – barring some Falklands-style intervention in the political process – Major would lose the next election. As this thought took hold of the media in this country, the media transmitted it to the electorate. Not by programmes saying ‘He’s gonna lose’ but by changes in the way the political actors and events are interpreted and presented. Crudely, once the media think you are a plonker (for whatever reason) you are doomed. Your perceived plonker status will be transmitted, no matter how hard the boys and girls in the media try to be ‘balanced and objective’ (those that try to; of course many don’t bother). And, as important, no matter how well you are doing objectively. It happened to Major and Ken Clarke, who were doing rather well economically by 1997, and it has happened to Gordon Brown. And there is nothing he can do about it. Not even going on TV and doing a Princess Di-type confessional interview and bleeding all over the studio would make any difference. Nor would a sudden economic recovery. Gordon is done, cooked.
But of course he can’t or won’t admit this, the Labour Party has neither the will to remove him nor a more plausible leader, and thus is just going to drift into the next election knowing it will lose. The only unknown is how bad will the loss be. It could be devastating. The party has almost no active members left and is being kept afloat by a handful of rich individuals and some trade unions who cannot face the reality of what Labour has become. A massive defeat might just kill it off completely. And major parties do die: look at the pre Lib-Dem Liberal Party.
If the Labour Party ceased to be a meaningful entity it is just possible that British politics would realign along the really important divisions between national and international orientation. We are in the curious position in which no meaningful section of any of the major parties is willing to articulate the wishes of the substantial chunk of the British electorate which does not want globalisation and all that entails – basically lots of foreigners, lots of foreign ownership of what were once British-owned businesses, and increasing poverty for the indigenous poor as their share of the resources is diluted by the presence of the incomers. The only parties willing to stare down this road are marginal: the BNP and UKIP. (The same thing is true of America, of course, where there is no meaningful nationalist-isolationist-America first party.) But the present party political system in this country makes the formation of new parties difficult and expensive. So my guess is we will simply carry-on much as before, with a rump Labour Party left in the Commons, a larger Lib-Dem party becoming the effective opposition, both locally and nationally, and the needs and wishes of the urban English poor – and we are talking about England, really: the Scots and Welsh are going their own ways – abandoned, unwanted economically and impotent politically.