Friday, February 22, 2019

Stuck in the Middle

Yeah, I know: all sorts of things have been going on in the news this week, yet all I've been talking about here are the differing shades of green marketed as 'BR Standard Green', people attacking big cats and ignoring my birthday.  The thing is that I've just become so weary of the circus that politics, both in the UK and elsewhere, has become of late.  I'm tired of everyone being outraged at everything.  I'm tired of being shouted at all the time.  A retreat into the trivial has come as a welcome relief.  It's not as if I've abandoned politics entirely: there's been a straight run of six political stories over at The Sleaze.  Nevertheless, I feel that I should say something in relation to the so called 'Independent Group' of MPs which has emerged from a number of defections from the two main parties.  First up, no, they don't have to resign their seats and face by-elections.  Under our current electoral system, voters, strictly speaking, are voting to elect a representative, not of a political party, but of an individual who will represent them in the next parliament.  The political affiliation of said representative is, constitutionally speaking, irrelevant.

Equally irrelevant is the fact that instant opinion polls are supposedly showing that this group is attracting significant voter support.  Well, this tends to be the case with these breakaway, self-described 'centrist' political groupings.  In their initial stages, at least.  Right now, they have no actual policies, no ideology, (I know some would say that's a good thing, but, in reality a non-ideological political entity is an impossibility - without a coherent ideology to bind them together it will always be impossible for them to articulate any kind of meaningful policies), they are defined simply by what they are not.  So, at the moment, they can be all things to all voters.  Eventually, however, they will be forced to issue a manifesto in which they will have to articulate some kind of policies.  At which point they will start to alienate potential supporters.  Possibly in very large numbers.  Moreover, like all attempts to start 'new' political parties, they will find themselves frustrated by our first-past-the-post electoral system.  Let's not forget that, despite racking up not insignificant percentages of votes at the 2015 general election, UKIP couldn't translate that into any parliamentary seats at all, while the Greens could only muster a single seat.

Furthermore, unlike the SDP back in the eighties, this 'Independent Group' so far includes nobody inspirational.  It has no natural charismatic leaders, nor anybody who looks as if they can provide it  any intellectual underpinnings.  They are characterised by what they are against, rather than what they are for - other than a nostalgia for the economics of austerity.  Something, which the Tories discovered at the 2017 general election, has fallen out of favour with the wider electorate.  The ex-Tories in the group profess disgust and disillusionment at their former party's social policies - which they happily and uncritically supported at the time.  The ex-Labour members claim not to like the alleged anti-semitism in the party, its stance on Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.  Yet they were the one's who destroyed Ed Miliband's chances if becoming PM by insisting on an adherence to 'austerity-lite' economic policies in the 2015 manifesto, paving the way for Corbyn.  That said, the vindictiveness and vitriol of various Labour activists toward the breakaway MPs doesn't help the situation.  It simply appears to justify the reasons for them leaving.  Let's not forget that the right and centre of the party tolerated the left's (and particularly Corbyn's) obstructionism (on matters of 'principle') for decades, yet now the boot is on the other foot, Corbyn's supporters are proving to be completely intolerant of differing views.  Nowadays, anybody daring to criticise Corbyn is denounced as a 'Blairite', a 'Centrist' or simply some kind of right wing extremist.

But none of that really justifies the establishment of this breakaway group - they seem entirely self serving and, in the long run, all they will most likely do is ensure another Tory electoral victory by splitting the anti-Tory vote.  The situation might be different with a stronger Labour leader - Corbyn's acolytes really must accept that he is weak and ineffective.  It isn't the party's adoption of supposedly left wing policies which bother many of us, but rather a leadership which clearly incapable of translating them into electoral victory.  Something which Corbyn has in common with May is an inability to actually face and resolve problems by actually making tough decisions about them.  Instead, both seem to prefer to do nothing, hoping that either a resolution will present itself without their intervention, or the problem will simply go away.  It's all very reminiscent of Stanley Baldwin, one of this country's worst Prime Ministers, whose policy was seemingly to always do nothing as if he were to make a decision to do something, it might be the wrong decision.  Is it any wonder we are hurtling toward disaster?  I think I'll go back to the trivia now.

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