Saturday, 9 May 2015


So that was the general election 2015 eh.

It's easy to be pretty woe-is-me about the whole thing, and this idea that a defeat for Labour/the left/basic compassion was snatched from the jaws of what the polls and the maths suggested was going to be a dementedly convoluted sort of victory.

But maaaaaybe 'we' lost the election because we just didn't want it enough.

That's a frustrating thing to say, because the sad fact is that I have my doubts as to how much the average Tory voter really wanted it. I recently moved to the safe Conservative seat of Beckenham at what should have been the height of election fever, and there was none. The incumbent MP doesn't even have a Twitter account, and I never saw a single poster for him; two elderly Tory tellers outside the polling station was the height of the madness. People vote for the status quo, out of tradition, because their lives are okay and they have no problem with the incumbent. And yes, maybe they also vote for perceived 'winners' and because they've been influenced by nasty, unfair political campaigns and gruesome newspaper oligarchs, but they don't, as a rule, do it out of a cackling desire to shaft the vulnerable and make themselves a load of comedy 80s-stye 'wonga'.

But if you're going to unseat the sitting government you need a bit of momentum, and I'm sorry to say that we absolutely failed here. In maybe the last two weeks of what was essentially five years, folk started getting behind Ed Miliband a bit. Before that and as far as I can tell from my own limited circle, there was not a lot of enthusiasm amidst the liberalsphere for him at all: my impression is that people either bought into the rightwing portrait of him as an ineffectual weirdo, or else were still in a grump over New Labour and found it hard to really rouse themselves to work up enthusiasm for a man who – on the surface at least – was exactly the sort of bland southern SPAD that had come to colonise a one-time workers' party.

I'm not saying it wasn't Miliband and Labour's fault that they failed to counter that argument. But really, what did we expect to happen at the end? Five years of nose-holding and moaning and blathering on about things being better in Scotland or half-heartedly flirting with the Greens (DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON FUCKING VOTE SWAPPING), and suddenly people are acting genuinely devastated that the bloke they've been so ambivalent about failed to get in. OH MY GOD, WHY ARE PEOPLE SO SELFISH AND CRUEL, HOW COULD THEY NOT VOTE FOR THAT PERSON WHO I DIDN'T REALLY LIKE OR IN FACT VOTE FOR.

And JFC, everyone on social media who was boring on about how 'it doesn't matter who you vote for, but you must sign up to vote, people died for the right etc' - given that it seems generally that most of you did in fact have certain preferences, then maybe in an age of mass disillusionment with politics it might have at least proved modestly inspirational if you'd stated yours.

I have absolute respect for Green voters and they have every right to be angry at their lack of parliamentary representation compared to percentage of the vote, but to moan that a different political party to the one you support didn't get in is a bit perverse.

As, I think, was 'our' final goal: what we seemed to be working towards was a vague idea of an SNP, LibDem and Green-supported minority government, which is a STUPENDOUSLY wishy-washy thing to have as an aspiration. Obviously hindsight is a fine thing and the Tories were working towards essentially the same idea, and their shock victory constitutes a fairly feeble majority by any pre-2010 measure, but the end result kind of makes a mockery of our definition of victory.

Much as he ultimately failed to deliver, Miliband did seem to start energising people towards the end - if he'd had five years, or two years or six months of being taken that seriously by own nominal supporters, imagine what he might have done.

So what's next? If you voted Green, I think it's pretty simple - decide how into them you in fact are, and if yr serious then commit to them for the long haul, no whining about other parties not doing well enough.

And Labour? AS I SAID IN MY GLORIOUS LAST BLOG, I do tend to think of Labour as a fluctuating nexus of compassion vs the Tories' fluctuating nexus of, erm… (severity?) I believe Labour is better than it simply being the lesser of two evils, and I think that whatever its failings are it can be renewed into a force that can run the country again without losing its moral authority.

Like a few folk I know, I have joined Labour now, partly out of a vague guilt, partly because it gives me a vote on the next leader (I'M SUPER INTO VOTING AT THE MOMENT). This is not the hideous 'I'VE JOINED AND YOU SHOULD TOO' moment of the blog, as I do feel faintly embarrassed by the whole concept and am very doubtful as to whether I'll ever have the gumption to do anything like going door-to-door. But I thought I should get involved somehow. There is so much shit the new leader is going to have to accomplish and so many tribes to reunite, and maybe he or she will fail, maybe Labour is totally fucked and will never win an election again and we're all going to be boiled down into some sort of esoteric rich person food. But I honestly don't think the election that just happened was Labour's best crack at deposing the Tories, and I certainly don't think it was ours.

If there's a silver lining to all this, maybe it's that it galvanises the left into remembering that we'd prefer our lot to be running the country, and that for that to happen we maybe need to actually go out and do something. And I'm not just saying that glibly: at the age of 34, I have only just had my fourth general election, and first that wasn't essentially a referendum on a party that was propelled to power before I was of age.

Let's try and and at least give it all we've got and fail with that before we start feeling too sorry for ourselves. In the words of John Michael Stipe, let's put our heads together and start a new country up.

Monday, 4 May 2015


Was I the first and greatest Milifan?

Possibly, possibly.

Back in the dark days of 2009, some Guardian columnist or other tweeted about what a ballsy job then-environment secretary Ed Miliband was doing at the Copenhagen summit, ensuring that at least a weak resolution was passed after China had tried to kill things totally. So I think because the summit was still on and he was tweeting from it, I followed him, and then I would assume that's what persuaded him he had the support to run for Labour Party leader.

Between the summit and his ascent to the top, though, was the 2010 general election, and I remember being pretty ambivalent about the whole thing. The credit crunch was a bit like *whatever* – I'd lost my job in it, but I blamed not Labour but 1) capitalism 2) a bunch of arseholes in America 3) the Tory-supporting owners of the company I worked for – but generally the party seemed like a knackered, low-budget thirteenth series of a once-scintillating show that had kind of jumped the shark with the Iraq War in the seventh season. David Cameron seemed, I dunno, nice-ish..? - there is zero chance I would ever vote Tory, but it felt like this was a kinder, New Labour-ified version of the nasty party of my youth, and maybe if they did get in it wouldn't be so bad, a much-needed bloody nose for a Labour that needed to re-invent itself.

Oooooobviously it didn't work out like that, though it's hard to see what a better scenario would have been: had Gordon Brown called and won The Election That Never Was, one suspects he'd have steered us through the aftermath of the credit crunch with less suffering than the Tories have inflicted, but it's hard to imagine any sort of appetite for a fifth New Labour term with more recession thrown in. Maybe a Labour-Lib Dem coalition? Fuck knows. Ultimately much as it's fun to cast the Tories as villains it would have been ideal if they had just been nicer while Labour went off to undergo a necessary renewal.

Or is it necessary? I know a number of people who can't really get past the Blair years, which is understandable enough. I was only 16 in '97, but I think clearly part of the grand appeal of New Labour was the romantic shadow of the old Labour that had disappeared five years previously - it did feel like vindication for popular socialism, even though it was no longer a socialist party per se. That is no longer there. So why not vote Green, why not break out of the two party system?

I suppose the conclusion I have recently come to is that maybe we have a two party system because really there are only two major nexuses of worldview out there - 'Tory' and 'Labour' are to a large extent just labels for a doctrine of self-interest and a doctrine of common interest: much as Labour is flawed, I don't think it's really possible to say Labour is inherently flawed. I look at modern politics, and the MPs I admire - Stella Creasy, Gloria de Piero, Tom Watson, Diane Abbott, heck, Ed fucking Miliband – and they're all Labour, and it's hard to believe it's a coincidence. Maybe one day it won't be Labour – gone like the Whigs and Liberals before them – and clearly there will be other parties, especially when there are big additional big ideas at stake (eg, the SNP). But ultimately it'll boil down to a more compassionate party against a less compassionate party, and sometimes the more compassionate party will become tarnished, or blandified, but this isn't 1984, it's not perpetual, things renew and change. Ed Miliband has made me feel a lot better about Labour via a combination of some hard policies I can genuinely get behind enthusiastically, a palpable break from the ickier bits of Labour's recent past, and perhaps surprisingly importantly the impressive way he's weathered a totally hysterical and depressing smear campaign from the Tories and the Tory press. And, of course, the fact is the Tories have done a lot of damage and need to go.

Having moved from the knife edge constituency of Southwark to the safe Tory seat of Beckenham precisely two weeks before the election, my vote is not going to do anything to unsettle incumbent MP Bob Stewart. I will be voting for Labour's Marina Ahmad, who is fucked, basically, but seems like a nice sort. If Bob's majority of 17,784 can be nibbled into - even by only one - then that's something, and if there's one more vote for Labour logged for what looks like an absurd post-election dick-measuring contest then that's something else, and if I'm over my New Labour grump then that's a third thing. So there you go.