It has been some time since I posted anything on my blog. This is not for lack of issues to discuss and debate or questions to ask. But rather a sense that there are so many issues it becomes difficult to focus on those that are the most important. I also have a feeling that, in the scale of things, what I have to say pales into insignificance and irrelevance. Blogging, like ranting at the TV news, can sometimes feel like a form of self-indulgence or merely a therapeutic exercise with little useful purpose than self abuse (the BNP web-site - Northants Patriot - tends towards this position!).
But 2010 is almost upon us and it seems an opportune moment to say something – even if it is a banal “Happy New Year” or its equivalent. So I will say it: “Happy New Year” to all those who take the time to visit my blog! Well that’s over with… I can now indulge myself once again so here goes:
So what awaits us in 2010? Well, there will be a general election shortly – and an important question is who should we support or vote for (if anyone)?
Labour has clearly come to the end of its long reign that started off with so much hope that things might radically change after the dismal and repressive Thatcher years. This hope all but died in the fires and devastation that became the illegal invasion of Iraq (and continues now in Afghanistan?). It also died as “New” Labour blindly followed many of the prescriptions that were set in train under the Thatcher years – the privatisation of public services, the freeing up of the market, particularly in the finance sector, and the growing disparity between rich and poor – not only in the UK but across the world. It finally died in the bush fire of the collapsing global financial “free” markets (and, for a time at least, nearly saw the collapse of capitalism as we know it!) – to be rescued by the very antipathy of free markets and private enterprise – global state intervention. Yet we are always informed there is “no money” to eliminate poverty or tackle climate change – but if someone wants a war somewhere, or the banks are in trouble, there is an endless pot of cash. What hypocrisy!
As we enter 2010, and despite the evidence that it doesn’t work, we can expect free market, “keep the state off my back”, ideologies to reassert themselves in new and more aggressive forms. A tsunami of cuts in public services, increased attacks on public sector staff’s conditions of service, and higher taxes on those least able to pay is now expected – whichever political party wins the election (although they will be worse under the Tories – make no mistake!). But the traditional parties are still playing the same old games, reflecting the same old discredited ideologies and economic policies of the past – to the benefit of those most culpable for the financial and economic crisis (and growing environmental one as well), but least likely to share proportionately and fairly in “bearing the pain” as "difficult decisions" are made.
So, returning to my original question (sorry for the rant – but I needed to get it off my chest!): who do we support and/or vote for in the general election?
As an “independent socialist” I have often despaired of the possibility of a real “left” alternative. There have been moments when it seemed possible that a truly progressive, cross-party, inclusive, left agenda might emerge. But unfortunately these have always ended in sectarianism and “my party first” attitudes. As someone who passionately believes in justice, human rights, equality, global responsibility, environmental/green issues, I have been hopeful of a coalition of forces emerging that come from all of these (and other progressive) traditions. A coalition that people, like me, might work for and vote for in a positive display of hope – not negatively in order to keep those "nasty Tories" out. But such new, radical, progressive, politics seems further away than ever.
At a national level the Socialist Party, in alliance with the Communist Party, has come together with some trade union leaders in a “united front”. But this has been a top-down project to date, with little imagination and (especially during the Euro-election this year) provides only a backward-looking, negative, objectively reactionary, political position (“No2EU” is hardly an inspiring slogan!). Such a narrow alliance may have some potential in the future but its current political, ideological and community base needs to be substantially wider and democratically engaged. I see no real evidence that this will grab my imagination, or even my passive protest vote, at the general election – but I live in hope.
Then we have the Green Party which has, in the past, promised so much (and I must confess I have voted for them in several elections over the years) but delivered so little - particularly at a local level and in the UK - with a failure (again) of imagination to recognise the potential for alliances with wider political formations. There message, again quite unattractive, has been “vote for me, we have all the answers” – just like all the other mainstream political parties. No real hope here then... but potential?
Is it possible to break out of these narrow sectional interests, to bring people and left/progressive parties together around some shared values (and some shared solutions as well), to engage in a long-term project to transform British society in a new direction and break the mould of the two (or nearly three) party domination of British politics?
A litmus test of such a long-term possibility may be what happens in the Northampton South constituency in the general election. Tony Clarke (County and Borough Councillor and ex-Labour MP) is possibly standing as an independent candidate. He has a track record of progressive politics. He is committed to equality, fairness, social justice, environmentalism, internationalism, community engagement and activism. He is the sort of candidate that could act as a focus for uniting progressives, not only in Northampton, but across Northamptonshire. He could pose a serious threat to the established parties and might actually win. The question is: can all progressive/left/green activists and parties agree to support him? Can we build a non-sectarian progressive coalition to support Tony in this election?
I am sure there will be things to disagree about. I am sure I do not agree with everything that Tony believes in or says, but this is not the point. A victory for Tony in the general election (which will be very hard to achieve - so let’s not get too excited or delusional), or even a significant vote, would be immensely important for the whole progressive left – it potentially shows what can be done and what might be possible. It would show that we can come together and work together – despite our differences – united around what we can agree about whist respecting our differences! It also might give us something which is sadly lacking –a positive political alternative to what we have now.
This is my small hope for 2010 in the face of some really big problems. Is it yours too?