Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon didn’t have the guts to knock Gordon Brown out of Downing Street, and he survives again to lead to New Labour to eventual election disaster in May. No surprises there. David Miliband fails to act, the party screams blue murder about fractiousness so close to a general election and everyone goes on as they were. But this didn’t come from nowhere – they all know Brown is going to destroy them, whatever else the spineless two may have said on camera last night. What they didn’t have, and what noone else in the party is offering (at this stage) is new thinking. Extreme neoliberalism is the order of the day, be it Peter Mandelson, Harriet Harman, Jack Straw, Ed Balls, Miliband (either of them I suspect) or any of the other non-entities who would have to carry the can for the next five months, and it is that which is poisoning politics more than anything else, regardless of the nominal advantage it’s giving governments around the world to do as they please most of the time.
No doubt we’ll see more of this as May approaches and the campaign continues to become more urgent. Brown could have been secure by winning on his terms in 2007, but as we know now he’s not a natural (or effective) leader and couldn’t even make that decision. We do deserve better, but while our electoral system remains first-past-the-post I don’t see that happening any time soon.
Tory blogger Iain Dale has posted a letter from former Home Secretary Charles Clarke which says:
In Parliament and elsewhere an overwhelming majority of Labour opinion believes that in this position Labour’s chances would be significantly improved if Gordon Brown were to stand down.
Over Christmas there have been signs that this strength of opinion is understood in the Cabinet. The New Year will be the time to ensure that the overwhelming feeling which does exist is turned into the action which brings about the necessary change. The price of failure is just too high.
Doing nothing now may seem the easiest option. But Labour should learn from the Tories, who have had many whole decades in power: political parties need the killer instinct to hold on to office. David Cameron’s Conservatives are relying on Labour failing to learn that lesson.
From the beginning of 2010 we need a renewed Labour Party which can offer the people of Britain a genuine and positive choice at the ballot box.
It’s a potent argument, but one which sadly ignores a number of key realities. Sure it would be ideal if Brown were to stand down. Even his successes become failures, but under his watch we’ve also seen the database state and our growing surveillance society grow now almost out of our ability to control; we’ve seen economic disaster and an impotence to change the arrogant behaviour which would allow it to happen again. We’ve seen Brown’s government walk away from Copenhagen with precious little, and massive (and growing) inconsistencies in its attitudes towards the ‘green economy’. We’ve seen the expenses scandal break, with only platitudes and vague promises for the reform our political system needs. And let’s not forget how Brown’s government bends to whatever corporate will offers the best luxury holidays. I’ve already written about the draconian Digital Economy Bill. Would replacing Brown fix the political carnage from these failures?
We need to look at the alternatives: David Miliband, Ed Balls, Peter Mandelson (he’d find a way), Jack Straw, James Purnell, Harriet Harman, Jon Cruddas, Ed Miliband – who out of that bunch would actually do things differently? I believe the electorate’s disinterest in voting for Brown is entirely down to his failure to represent the wishes of the huge swathes of them not considered ‘swing voters’ in marginal constituencies. That would mean an end to the neoconservative adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would mean an end to the doomed belief that marketisation solves the problems in public services. It would mean ending the paranoia which Brown (after Blair) has set in motion between voters and not relying on databases and police batons to further the interests of the state. It would demand an honest voting system, which reflected the will of the majority not a flitty minority. Cruddas? Maybe. Ed Miliband? Barely anyone knows him. The rest? Where is the rallying cry for a return to ideology and an end to neoliberal economics? No, I’m not hearing it either.
They can replace Brown if they like but the ideas which the electorate knows it needs (which aren’t right wing ideas by the way) simply aren’t coming forward.
The German general election may be under a week away, but Germany’s young people have already started to vote, and they’ve voting for the Pirate Party in huge numbers:
The youth organization U18 aims to promote political awareness among the German youth and traditionally they hold their own election prior to that of the adults. This year the Pirate Party was one of the surprising winners.
This Friday more than 120,000 youngsters cast their votes at one of the U18 voting booths. Of these, a massive 8.72% voted for the Pirate Party that currently holds one seat in the German Parliament.
The result of this election is encouraging for the Pirates, who already had a great run at the European election earlier this year where they surpassed some of the established local parties in some districts.
“The outcome of this election shows us that young people recognize the importance of ‘having a vote’,” Pirate Party Charmain Jens Seipenbusch said. “The fact that many of them have chosen us, shows that young people find it important to defend their civil rights and that the Pirates tackle the crucial issues of the 21st century.”
The ‘real’ German federal election is scheduled for 27 September, and the Pirate Party hopes to gain a few dozen seats in the German Parliament so they can do something about increased Internet censorship and abuses of copyright by multi-billion dollar companies.
It remains to be seen whether they’ll actually win a few dozen seats or not, but the generational appeal of the Pirates is clear, at least in Germany. It’s an interesting trend to observe, whilst the Pirate Party UK continues to grow and find ways of differentiating itself from the other, smaller liberal parties:
We are not a party of careerist politicians like Labour or the Conservatives, who parachute in favoured candidates into their safest seats, irrespective of the fact that their candidate has hardly any connection with the people they are supposed to represent. Even the Greens have gone down that route, by handing their most winnable seat to their party leader. Unlike other parties with established hierarchies, PPUK needs popular and charismatic individuals to step forward, and not wait to be approached. Individuals with the skills, passion and commitment to convey the importance of pirate politics to a sometimes sceptical world cannot afford to wait for the party to find them or wait for a process to officially pick candidates, as we will only know where to fight based on the data we have. Likely candidates need to make themselves known and to come to the fore now, and to do so by building the local teams of supporters.
Britain however has a significant hurdle for the Pirate Party UK to overcome: the-first-past-the-post voting system. Germany has a proportional system which allows for the views of young people meaningfully to be represented; the same is not true in the UK. If young people in the UK really want their votes to start counting they’re going to have to start supporting campaigns like Vote for a Change, and insist that the voting system in the UK is changed to a truly proportional one, not simply an alternative vote system, which would retain most of the same flaws in representing votes meaningfully. Quite possibly very good news indeed for the Piratenpartei; the Pirate Party UK however has a far more complicated mountain to climb, and needs to pick its political battles with disproportionate consideration.
(via Glyn Moody)