Over the Christmas period, I had the unusual experience of being asked to speak with the Burgess Hill Labour Party about why I don’t believe a Green vote splits the left. With the rising profile of the Greens due to controversy of their proposed exclusion from the upcoming leaders’ debates and Sadiq Khan’s appointment to deal with the ‘threat’ posed to Labour by the Green Party, it seemed a germaine subject, but it was quite a difficult sell. Burgess Hill Labour party is a branch of Labour that behaves as if Tony Blair never happened and I am all the more sympathetic towards them for it, but when I hear members of the radical left talk about fighting their corner within the Labour party, I begin to despair at the state of political discourse in this country.
Let’s begin with an exploration of democratic theory. The Downs’ model of voting behaviour holds that political parties within a representative democratic system will seek to align themselves around the ‘median voter’ in order to maximise their vote share. Many academics have argued that this is indicative of a fundamental problem in representative democracy; that it is, by its very nature, undemocratic.
reporters talking about ‘the centre ground’ as if it is a strategic objective; a target to be acquired in a military manoeuvre.
In such a system, political parties are part of a competing class of self-interested bodies; no longer seeking to advocate a specific point of view or represent specific communities, but interested in their own ascent to power. This is something that infects our political discourse, with reporters talking about ‘the centre ground’ as if it is a strategic objective; a target to be acquired in a military manoeuvre. When parties dare to present even a mildly ideological point of view they are slammed as extremists, hardliners or ‘out of touch’. We live in a political culture that worships the mythical ‘median voter’ and we elect governments who are first and foremost interested in power and defeating their opposing party.
A political system where the median voter is treated as the hallowed ground doesn’t just fail to represent specific sections of society; it fails to represent anybody.
The tragic part of all of this is that the median voter doesn’t exist. We know this to be true from our daily lives; the social world is full of intersecting ideas and viewpoints, constantly developing through argument, deliberation and collaboration. Political parties, alongside the media, decide what the aggregate opinions of the country are and present us with bland manifestos, devoid of inspiration or ambition. We don’t get to choose what the sum total of our views is; our compromises are chosen for us. A political system where the median voter is treated as the hallowed ground doesn’t just fail to represent specific sections of society; it fails to represent anybody.
When all of this is considered, then there is neither a reason to view a vote for Labour as a vote for the left nor to view a vote for the Greens as an attempt to split the left. The left are a group of wonderful, frustrating, idealistic, and compassionate people, concerned with fundamentally changing institutions in order to bring about a fairer, more equitable society. Labour ceased to be part of that long ago and the more we on the left vote for them, the more complacent they will become and the more our views will be dismissed as extremist.
The Tories have now, for the most part, abandoned social conservatism in favour of some weird kind of neo-Thatcherite libertarianism.
There is always the fear, of course, that voting for a party that represents our views will lead a Conservative government and to that I say this: the Labour Party now is more right-wing than it was in 1997, it is wedded to the ideology of neo-liberal capitalism and will continue to move further to the right with every passing election if we keep voting for it. The Tories have now, for the most part, abandoned social conservatism in favour of some weird kind of neo-Thatcherite libertarianism. There is not one policy Labour have proposed that convinces me that the country will be any worse under the Conservatives than it will be under them.
Red or Blue, if you vote Labour you will get a Tory government.
9 thoughts on “ON SPLITTING THE LEFT”
Are Labour anymore part of the Left?
I think there needs to be a wake up call in Labour.
The Labour leadership has been utterly spineless in the face of the deepest loss in living standards for a century.
The fact they are for this program speaks volumes.
Regardless of political postering or bullshit justifications you cannot escape this.
This is not a good omen for the future.
In fact both main parties social base and level of electoral support has been failing for decades. In the 1950s they were mass parties which corned nearly all the votes during times of high voter turnout.
The Labour Party now cannot be described as a vibrant mass party nor does it get the same level of votes that it once did.
It is even possible that should Labour win and implement more cuts they will end up like PASOK in Greece or as they did in the 1930s.
When they collapsed after implementing cuts during the Great Depression.
In fact every careerist within Labour should look up their predecessors of the 1930s.
Who smashed the organisation up before leaving it and ended up broken people
Ramsey Macdonald anyone?
The anger building up at the base of society against austerity as it deepens is important. In a recent youGov survey two thirds of people in the UK are against more austerity and there are many signs showing that working people are fast reaching the point where they have no more to give. Where sacrifices can no longer be made without a dramatic drop in living standards.
For example, the amount of personal debt and rise in payday loans has skyrocketed through the roof. I was very shocked this January when half my workmates had to use payday loans, food banks to survive and get through that month.
The Labour leadership rightly talk about a cost of living crisis but their solution is more austerity.
That doesn’t make any sense.
In fact that seems like a recipe for political suicide.
I’m afraid you’re at it again with that trite “slightly less nasty” epithet. It may be in your political interest to ignore the fact that the GE in May will see the biggest ideological and public service investment and provision gap between the Tories and Labour there’s ever been but it doesn’t make it any less true.
You might not think there’s much difference between a Tory or Labour govt but the thousands of people hit by the bedroom tax, tens of thousands of people in shit, low paid work now relying on housing benefit, the families of the scores of mental health patients who’ve taken their own lives and the 4000 kids being fed out of food banks in Norwich have certainly noticed the difference. All Tory phenomena, every single one that Labour has plans to address.None of which a single vote for the Greens will affect (except negatively by reducing the chances of getting rid of these utter, callous bastards).
I also am heartily sick of the holier than thou posturing of your party and movement as some kind of alternative to ‘ the man’. You’re not – you’re just another vote chasing political party with really only one principle at your core – like the Lib Dems before you, to advance your political prospects at the expense of the main social democratic party.
As ever with Green Party activists, you ignore the real world track record of your party and sister parties but you all follow the same trajectory – realos vs fundis, mangos vs watermelons with the braying, public school educated electoral realists winning every time.
That’s why in Norwich and Norfolk you don’t baulk at blaming Labour locally for hundreds of millions of the self same kind of local authority cuts that your own council in Brighton is having forced on it. Brighton cuts you got elected claiming you would resist (but which two thirds of your national conference then mandated) and Norfolk County Council cuts you campaigned against and then voted for. As I said, only one real principle – make Labour look bad.
It’s total student union politicking, middle class wankery, manifesto on the back of a fag packet bullshit. So lighten up on the piety, eh?
So, were you planning on addressing my point? I didn’t really see an answer in all that waffle.
Blimey, and your original article doesn’t count as “waffle”?! You really don’t respond very well to being challenged do you? I could (and have) driven a bus through the numerous questionable assertions and omissions in your original puff piece about the glorious plans of the Green Party.
The reason you “don’t see an answer” is because you’ve still got your blinkers on, are still obsessively focusing on the Labour Party and refuse to see any problems whatsoever with your own party.
• You are very mistaken if you really think that voting Labour achieves the same outcome as voting Tory (see one million examples elsewhere in this thread)
• The next election is not a choice between a nasty Tory govt and a slightly less nasty Labour govt. If you think that, you quite clearly haven’t got any empathy or real concern for the real-life issues facing ordinary people or the planet.
• Your party says radical sounding stuff about ‘neo-liberalism’ and ‘structural inequality’ but the track record of your party and sister parties clearly shows that all goes out of the window when you have a sniff of power. Politics is about much more than just a list of great sounding aims and policies (ask Left Unity).
• Even if anyone can believe for one moment you’ll actually do anything you say you will, you are running a fool’s errand in that you have no realistic or credible way of getting from where we are now to where you’d like to be. Just a few examples from your back of a fag packet policies:
– Citizens Income: actually makes the poorest worse off and would mean either massive cuts elsewhere in public spending or a huge increase in economic growth (both of which you claim you oppose)
– Import controls: would either mean leaving the EU (which you say you’re in favour of) or massive fines from the EU (money you’d rather spend on something else)
– Education: you want to end compulsory education for 4-7 year olds (which all the evidence says would massively increase the inequality you’re supposedly so against) but somehow it’s still going to be ok for individual parents to choose to send their 4-7 year olds to schools? Yep, all of the people on the council estates in Norwich will be putting their pennies in a jar so they can send their kids to Steiner school…
You say you’re going to get rid of ‘competitive’ school league tables but just replace them with making it compulsory to publicise the results of the ‘value added” by a school to the local community (who, no doubt, will continue to move house into the ‘right’ catchment areas on the basis of that information). Bye, bye league tables! Hello exactly the same outcome!
The Green Party want Parent Councils at individual schools to have full control over the curriculum, timetable, policy on exclusion/inclusion etc. That’s a bloody Free School! (which you claim to oppose, of course).
Once again, all based on no educational evidence and playing to the sharp elbowed demands of your middle class membership and support
And this one tells me everything you really need to know about the real values of your party – you want to increase the number of state run boarding schools to better “reflect the diversity of education”. That’s a ‘thing’?! WTF?
• Labour once again has practical plans to fundamentally shift the balance of economic power from the few at the top who own, rent and finance economic activity to the many who actually create their wealth and sustain the economy by actually doing the work (paid/unpaid, private sector/public sector).
Have you not noticed our commitments to a higher minimum wage and actually enforcing it, the Living Wage, ending the exploitation of zero hour contracts, making sure interns get paid, giving agency workers the same rights as employees, restoring fair access to industrial tribunals and actually making it illegal to exploit workers by taking on replacements for the same job?
Unlike New Labour, we also will work to reduce absolute inequality and continue the massive advances Labour historically has made in combating poverty.
However, none of that will cut any ice with you because it’s not a ‘fundamental’ enough ‘commitment’ to changing ‘structures’ – so therefore you will keep saying Labour is just the same as the Tories.
You don’t grasp the basic fact that unless ‘we’ on the left actually get to run stuff instead of the Tories then none of your theoretical objections or aims count for anything. Another five years of these Tory fuckers (possibly goaded on in coalition by UKIP and nutjob unionists) and what will be left for ‘us’ to build on? And how many millions more lives will be lived in penury and insecurity? But hey, you’ll personally feel a bit smug about ‘voted for your values’, your party might have saved a few deposits and still have it’s one MP so that’ll be alright then, won’t it?
You are a very aggressive man.
The track record of Labour in power is only slightly better than that of the Tories. See: PFI, bedroom tax for private tenants, deregulation of the financial sector, introduction of tuition fees, failure to renationalise transport and utilities. Don’t even get me started on the neo-imperialism of the Iraq War.
This is not about a feeling of smugness, but about a key principle of democracy. If you support neo-liberal capitalism then you are not a party of the left, and you are not entitled to my vote.
If you could say anything that would convince me otherwise then you would have said it by now, so put down your brief on the Green party from Labour central office and go back to campaigning for impotent reformism.
Aw, come off it – this meme which runs “the Tories and Labour are the same” is self-serving, myopic and utterly out-of-touch fourth party spin.
I look at the Greens list of policies and nod my head at practically everyone of them – but I’m voting Labour for very, very good reasons.
I’m standing together with ten million or so other Labour voters to stop the Tories slashing spending on public services to 1930s levels, finishing off our NHS, allowing schools to be bought and sold and run for profit, condemning millions of working people to perpetual low paid work with decreasing employment rights and reversing practically ever single environmental advance that’s been made since 1997.
I’m not voting Green again because the track record shows that they say one thing and then do another – perpetually sustaining neo-liberal administrations in preference to supporting the social democratic left (Germany, Ireland, Leeds) and wooden-headedly standing candidates in constituencies where their presence will contribute to a UKIP victory (Great Yarmouth, Thurrock, Southampton Itchen) or fail to join the rest of the left in challenging actual fascists (the Greens stood in Barking when everyone else was trying to stop the BNP).
Some things are far, far more important than a personal sense of piety when you leave the polling station.
On the key issues of the social and economic structure of this country Labour and the Tories are the same. Both support social hierarchy, neo-liberal capitalism and austerity. If we’re voting Labour just because they are going to be a slightly less nasty party than the Tories, then there’s a clear democratic problem.
I am afraid that I have to agree with this
I think this is just brilliant. With a 100 days to go before the 2015 general election, there could not be a clearer explanation of why you should NOT vote Labour, and fall for their election strategy which is – vote for us, we might be rotten, but the Tories are worse” – and why you should vote for what you believe in.