Monday, June 08, 2009

The morning after the night before

Feeling a little calmer today, so enough with the personal nonsense. Instead, let's talk about the hysteria of the past week's political scene. As at least one other blogger has pointed out, most of the cabinet ministers who resigned last week were heavily implicated in the expenses scandal, and have managed to neatly sidestep further investigation by magically shifting the blame onto Brown. They say it's lonely at the top - how right they are. Not that Brown is a stellar leader by any means, but it is disappointing how willing most of the media is to automatically take the resigning cabinet ministers' accusations against him at face value without questioning what's in it for them. End result, Labour goes into public meltdown and the baying for Brown's blood continues. Do I think he should step down? No. But an election held reasonably soon does seem unavoidable for reasons we'll get to later.

Lest we forget, the Tories have also been badly hit by the expenses inquiry, although their status as opposition has allowed them to point the finger at Labour when its resignations reached Cabinet level. Nevertheless, the timing of the expenses revelations and the subsequent resignations within both parties made all mainstream politicians look like chancers and crooks, which certainly doesn't help in the run-up to local and EU elections during times of economic strife.

I would venture to propose, therefore, that the advances made by UKIP and the BNP last night are not entirely shocking! Crushing, disappointing and disturbing, yes, but not unexpected. The fact that many of Labour's lost votes went to these fringe parties and not to the other mainstream parties is an indictment of the mainstream's shortsightedness in failing to campaign sufficiently against the far right. It is also a depressingly predictable confirmation of which way people vote when the money stops flowing, not only in Britain but around Europe as well. The rise of Geert Wilders' ultra-nationalist Freedom Party in the Netherlands is particularly worrying. It's difficult to know, however, how much of the far right's success last night was due to increasing support as opposed to general voter apathy: according to the BBC, just 43% of the European electorate bothered to turn up at the polls for this election, compared with 62% in 1979.

Back in Britain, the dismal turnout for the EU vote, Labour's mauling in the local elections, the incessant bad press, the crumbling cabinet and--most importantly-- the growing antipathy of the electorate, all point to one course of action: calling a general election. We have officially reached the point where waiting a few extra months will not help. Labour will lose, and badly, whether an election is held tomorrow or in six months' time. Norm understands. The point is, the longer it waits, the worse its loss will be, and the harder it will be to repair the damage. If an election is held soon, it will be unavoidably humiliating, but in the long run it will preserve the few threads of credibility that the party has left. In opposition, they can regroup, choose a new leader, develop new ideas from the ground up, and--eventually-- win back the confidence of the working class.


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