GE2015 plus 06: it’s my party and i’ll cry if I want to…

Posted: 13 May 2015 in general election 2015, politics
Tags: , ,

OK, let’s get one thing out of the way now – I’m going to retire the “GE2015 plus…” titles. In a bit. Think it would be daft to continue them for much longer, especially since no-one other than extremely junkified politics nerds – among which I count myself, obviously – is counting the days since the election. If this was a new government, then carrying on “GE2015 plus…” through to maybe 100 days might be interesting, but as I suggested yesterday, the one thing this isn’t is a ‘new’ government. So, I’ll keep it going for another few days and then put it out to pasture to stud.

The fallout from the election continues apace, however. While the Lib Dems struggle to find a reason for continuing, their forthcoming leadership contest has taken on the air of a staff meeting for a chocolate teapot factory deciding who’s going to be boss of their new open air fallout shelter. Regarding their plight, one has to laugh; if you don’t you’ll sob tears of sadness. The rules specify that any leadership candidate has to have the support of 10% of the parliamentary party; they now have eight MPs. So, it won’t be hard. No wonder they’re rushing through the election; they’re scared even the candidates will have forgotten what the Lib Dems are otherwise.

As for Labour? Well, this afternoon, they announced their own timetable for a leadership (and deputy leadership) election. Given the electoral system, presumably double maths is the last subject. But nominations formally open in a couple of days, ballot papers go out mid-August with the result to be announced on 12th September, voting actually having ended two days earlier.

And for the first time in my life, I’ll have a vote in the decision to elect a party’s leader and deputy leader. For on Friday, as the election results were still sinking in, I joined a political party. That in itself wouldn’t have shocked my friends. It may have surprised them though; I’ve never been one to tether my politics to a single party; indeed, I’ve said before that whereas my gut goes Tory on the economy, it goes extremely liberal on social issues. But the results so stunned me, so upset me, so saddened me, that I felt I had to do something. So I joined the Labour party. And it was that if anything that would have shocked my friends. Delightedly so, I suspect. But a shock nonetheless. If I had to place myself anywhere on the ‘party political’ map, I’d have said that I fell soundly into the left wing of the Tory Party; I felt comfortable in the area inhabited by Ken Clarke, and before him, people like Peter Walker and Michael Heseltine, politicians like Francis Pym and (Lord) Peter Carrington.

But if last week’s election showed anything, it showed that the left wing of the Tory Party no longer exists, and hasn’t for some time. What senior Conservatives like George Osborne, Philip Hammond and Michael Gove would call the left of the party is in fact what used to be the centre grounding of the party, in itself a mark of how far right Osborne et al have pulled the Tories.

And that party is not only one I cannot support in any way; it’s one that I do not want to be in government. Now, let’s be straight: I’m not calling for the overthrow of the government. Nor am I saying that the election we’ve just had was unfair, either in the voting or the counting. By the means of our ageing electoral system, the people have chosen, a majority Conservative government. It may be that the 2010-2015 election was a mere anomaly. First Past The Post usually gives single party majority governments, and it’s done it once again. If you ignore the opinion polls, history shows us the election result we got was far more likely than a hung parliament.

And for all the discussion pre-election about a government’s legitimacy, under our parliamentary system, all a government needs to be legitimate is the ability to command a majority in the House of Commons. And this government will be able to do that. And while they technically have a majority of 12, the effective majority – since Sinn Fein members don’t take their seats and therefore can’t vote – is 16. And that’s only a shade under what John Major had at the start of his 1992 administration. It’s certainly enough to get through almost everything they want to. The only serious problem they’ll have is over Europe. But that’s a subject for another day, and another blog entry.

So, the government has the legal and moral authority to govern. Yes, more people voted against the government than voted for them. Yes, that’s how it works. If you add in the number of people who could have voted but didn’t, they only got about 25% of the electorate voting for them. Again, yes, that’s how the system works. And those who complain about it better be prepared to show how they protested when their party of choice was elected under the same system if they want their complaints to be taken seriously.

So, yes, the Conservative Party has lost me as even a half-hearted supporter. I’m not suggesting that people who voted Tory are evil, nor that they have no compassion; merely that they were wilfully or otherwise ignorant of the policies the government now seeks to introduce. Because if they voted knowing full well the policies that will noe be put before Parliament, then I honestly don’t know what to say. It’s an old, and usually false, saw to say that “I haven’t left the party, the party left me”, but for me, this government has done that for me. I can’t see how the Tories will move back to the centre-right ground, its natural home I’d venture to suggest, within the next fifteen to twenty years. Which means that it’s Labour for me unless or until they have a policy or party leadership that renders a potential Labour government as toxic to me as the Conservative Party now is.

Sadly, overwhelmingly sadly, history has shown me that’s possible. I just hope it doesn’t happen for a long, long time.

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