I can't say that I have caught election fever. I will vote, & I am interested in who stands and where, but that's about it. I think we will get a Labour majority of less than 100, the Lib Dems will get over 100 MPs (as people get sick of the New Lab/Same Old Con Punch & Judy show we will suffer in the media in the next 3 weeks) and the Tories will lose more seats from the Lib Dems than they will gain from Labour. With a bit of luck, Tory leader Michael Howard (the Gollum of British politics: "Am I going to be Slinker or Stinker today, my preciousss? Nassty wickkked illegal immigrantss, just like my old dad, gollum, gollum") will lose his seat in Folkestone, since the Lib Dem/Lab vote there exceeded his by 3,000 or so last time.
I live in a Lib Dem/Lab marginal, which, like most inner city constituencies, has seen the Conservative vote collapse over the years. The Labour candidate is avowedly anti-war, so I did think voting Labour for 5 mins, but I will probably vote Green. I have been asked more than once why I don't become a Green. I like a lot of their policies, but I'm put off by the
The Day After Tomorrow
world view of many Greens. I am old enough to remember back in the 1970s scientists telling us that the New Ice Age was on us. Now we are going to fry to death apparently. Myself, I have read enough articles in the past few years, which are
press releases from Exxon/BP/Shell etc, which say that the world's climate is largely in the hands of the Sun, its heat and its spots. So things like the Kyoto protocol won't make much difference in changing the world's temperatures. Apparently Airstrip One has done a good job in cutting carbon emissions over the last 20 years or so. Well if you close most of your factories, coal mines and metal works down, you are going to cut pollution! I remember Mrs Thatcher back in the late 1980s going on about how "We are the true friends of the environment", so I am slightly cynical about useful idiots of big business saying they want to save the trees. Aspects of Green thought at this level remind me a bit of the more revolutionary forms of anarchism/socialism. That is, there is a moral case against the present system (eg socialists rail against unemployment under capitalism; greens attack the pollution caused by industry): but this case is underpinned by a belief/hope that all these various phenomenon will lead to the system's collapse (ie capitalist/industrial society will fall apart as a result of an accumulation of these various moral failings).
Despite all this, I'm 99% certain I am going to vote Green!. They opposed both the war against Iraq and the way the EU is going (I'm very much a
NEITHER WASHINGTON NOR BRUSSELS
type), oppose fox hunting (which is very much the English version of whale hunting: "how dare those things eat all those fish/chickens?"), nuclear power & vivisection. On the other they support recycling, public transport & workers co-ops. Maybe all this makes me a petit bourgeois liberal/socialist. Ho hum, it will be a cross I'll have to bear!
We would have had socialism long ago if it wasn't for the socialists. George Bernard Shaw.
Unless the member of the Stalin Society (it does exist!) who stood for the Socialist Labour Party in Brent East at the 2001 General Election and September 2003 bye-election turns up again this time, there will be no avowedly socialist candidates standing here at the coming General Election. There is the Labour Party of course, but there are probably as many avowed socialists in the Green Party as there in Labour these days. Of course, to those who treat the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph & Daily Express as fonts of all knowledge, the Labour Party is STILL "THE SOCIALISTS", which I find an extremely quaint notion. Indeed for the more deranged Tory Party faithful, Blair is probably still regarded as a Communist, and Britain as half-way to the gulag. However worked up I get, I try NEVER to compare anything in mainstream political life here with Nazi Germany, Hitler, Stalin or the Soviet Union. It is rhetorical overkill of the worst sort. My stock answer to people who compare the rule of New Labour to Communism: go and do five years hard labour in a North Korean labour camp, and get a sense of perspective!
Back to socialism in the real world. There are very few left, and most like making fools of themselves. There are also the proverbial 57 varieties. I was just reading before I started typing that the United Socialist Party (THAT'S a name which embodies the triumph of hope over experience), a Liverpool based group, has just split up, and won't be standing any candidates at the coming election.
There are lots of reasons why most socialists outside the Labour Party in England don't seem to get very far. However, the main subjective factor is the Socialist Workers Party, which is very much like Voltaire's characterisation of the Holy Roman Empire ie neither are Socialist/Holy- Workers/Roman- Party/Empire. I have met a few SWPers, and I heard a few tales, but I will leave that until next time.