Phew! That’s a relief. I’m living in the nice, anti-austerity part of our island. Hopefully this means that if I get terminal cancer, I won’t have Ian Duncan Smith hammering on the door demanding I put in a few shifts at Tesco to pay my way off this mortal coil.
But most of you poor beggars aren’t in Scotland. You’re stuck in the Keep-Calm-And-Carry-On, Let-Them-Eat-Cupcakes, Floggings-Will-Continue-Until-Morale-Improves part of Britain. Your only hope is that the rump of the left can get its act together in time to stop your oxygen being flogged to Albion Breathing Solutions plc (registered office Guernsey).
The left can do this. I suspect they won’t, but they can. Of course, it’s no longer any of my business, me being a rabid, dangerous, anti-English (and yet curiously English sounding…) Scot Nat. However, I don’t want to see you lot coughing your last in the workhouse, so I’d like to think that Labour can shape up. If I were one of their bigwigs I might be thinking the following…
1. Give Ed a break. Yes, Labour’s weird electoral maths meant the wrong man became leader. Maybe even he himself realised that. But once there, he fought hard and fair, with good intentions, in the face of vicious and childish personal abuse. It would be nice to hear someone say that instead of ransacking his corpse, like the ghoulish Mandelson and his own brother have been. He was a good man, who tried, but failed. We’ve all been there. Basic courtesy, please, instead of merciless retrospective character assassination – that’s the Tories’ job. It’s water under the bridge and shows no dignity.
2. Labour didn’t hand the Tories a majority. Nor did the SNP for that matter. It was swathes of Lib Dems in the English shires that did the real damage. Why? We may never fathom. If they didn’t like coalition, logic says they should have headed left. If they were happy with the coalition they could have stayed put. Yet it seems sufficient of them were Jockophobic and disloyal enough to drift right and surrender their heartlands to the Tories. Thus, Labour was never in play in the constituencies that ultimately handed the Tories their majority. It could have offset this elsewhere, maybe, but who saw the Tories cannibalising their coalition partners so effectively?
3. Labour are not to blame for the fact that voters loved the look of Osborne’s Deficit Chic and bought into Duncan Smith’s game of Pin The Blame On The Scrounger. Maybe a more effective explanation of this graph and this graph could have swayed a few, but it wouldn’t have been enough. Deep down, many people like to think there are thieving workshy scumbags in our midst and can’t help but admire the ultra-rich. This is not Labour’s shame but theirs. To paraphrase the 20th century political philosopher William Joel, don’t go changing to try and please them. Tell the truth and keep your conscience clean.
4. The Tories hold within them the seeds of their own destruction. The top brass are ruthless, cunning, schooled to lead. But the joy of the Tories is the nutter fringes. Not even Cameron can overcome that. Some Europhobic hotheads might do for them over the In/Out Referendum, but personally, I’m relishing one of the Cabinet’s more power-crazed ideologues (my money is on Gove or IDS) overreaching themselves and instigating this government’s Poll Tax. Cue civil unrest, government meltdown etc. One strategy is to watch them do it and be around to pick up the pieces of the British public that is left.
5. Talk of a return to New Labour is 20th century thinking. A little bit right or a little bit left, it doesn’t matter. It’s old school tinkering at the edges. We are in different territory now. No one can speak for the entire country any more. No Tony Blair figure is going to come along to capture the public mood. There are about seventeen public moods. Labour need a dirty pragmatist, someone with flexibility and wiles to negotiate this new structure, not just a haircut and smile for the Home Counties dinner party set.
6. The left should be gearing up for the country being pulled apart, see the tide of change and get ahead of it. The United Kingdom is already over. It is just a matter of how and when the decree nisi comes through. Remember the North stayed loyal in this election and is going to need a voice more than ever, lest it fall into the crack when the tectonic plates of Scotland and the City move apart. Who is going to speak for them (and industrial Wales and working class London) in the Great Constitutional Upheaval? Not Chuka Umunna.
7. Appointing someone with the purpose of winning the 2020 election is pointless and premature. We are in faster, interconnected times when things can and do spiral quickly. There may not even be a 2020 election. Even if there is, it might not be First Past The Post, there might only be the rump of the UK voting in it, and who knows what parties will be contesting it – maybe even the Return Us To Europe party? Labour need the right man or woman for those battles first and foremost. If they see those out and still exist, 2020’ll be a doddle.
8. Labour can no longer do this alone. There is too big a battle, and, as if we needed reminding, England has demonstrated how frighteningly Conservative it is. Labour are badly needed to represent the working (and now workless) class and always have been. That is their duty. There are other parties of the left – I’m looking at the Greens – who can take care of the rest. A Labour-led North and a Green-led South does not sound a bad idea to me, but it’ll need imagination, co-operation and guts to make that a reality.
Imagination, co-operation and guts – Labour had them once, I’m sure.