General Election 2015 Is Socialism Dead?

After an initial period of apathy I kind of got into the general election campaign. Lifelong leftie, to varying degrees, I got behind Ed Miliband and became a Milifan. I read all the articles, posted supportive items on social media and quite enjoyed the coverage enlivened as usual by the irrepressible Michael Crick on Channel 4 News.

I liked the way the Labour Party had swung a bit more to the Left. I was taken with the idea of more taxation of the super rich and rent control in the big cities seemed a good answer to our housing crisis. I warmed to Ed who became like a geeky superhero who could save the World, well the UK anyway.

Come the evening of the election I stayed up late to watch the first results roll in. When the exit poll came out I was gutted. It seemed the sound campaign of the Labour Party had counted for nothing. Feeling more than a little deflated I went to bed.

The next morning I woke at six and listened to the radio. I checked my Twitter feed. It was worse than I thought. We were heading for a Tory majority government, not even a hung Parliament to hope for. I felt shock. I felt even more horror at the fact that the Scots had got virtually unanimously behind the SNP bar South Edinburgh where I used to live. The horror! The horror!

I couldn’t think straight for a few days. I couldn’t believe it had happened. I was living in a country that was completely alien to me. I couldn’t analyse the reasons. I am not sure I can yet but I’ll try.

It seemed the electorate wanted to give the Lib Dems a bloody nose. I don’t blame them for that. Everyone thought they would be a brake on the more rabid Tory policies which they weren’t. Nobody could forgive them for tuition fees. Fair enough. However, their votes didn’t go to the Labour Party but the Tories. This I am not sure I understand. Then I did. The papers (Murdoch) stoked up fear of a Labour/SNP coalition. Nicola Sturgeon was painted as some great threat to Britain. Miliband would be in thrall to the SNP berserker hordes. Terrified by this they swung to the Conservatives. And then some. So I understand but I find it difficult to forgive.

The Tories provide a strong economy everyone says. Well maybe though it doesn’t seem that strong from where I’m standing. So most people must feel reasonably well off. So they vote for stability. They vote essentially for themselves. Fine. If the Conservatives were a centre right, fiscally sound compassionate party this would all be dandy. But they aren’t. Where I can’t stomach them is in the social policies. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t suffer from their policies. My husband is in the higher tax bracket. We will actually be better off under the Tories. But neither of us voted for them. Why? It’s the lack of care. The Tories have cut welfare not for economic reasons but for ideological ones. The bedroom tax is an outrage from people who have more than one house. The disabled are attacked. The terminally ill are found fit to work. This smacks purely and simply of Nazism to me and I cannot vote for it just because I will be a few pounds better off. If you can how do you live with yourself? The Tory agenda is to dismantle the NHS and the Welfare State. Who knows if any one of us may need these one day? Even if we don’t don’t we have basic human decency and think that those that do should have them? I live in true Tory blue East Anglia. I look at my neighbours with wonder. What sort of people are they? Don’t they believe in all the things our grandparents fought for? Don’t they believe in libraries and the Arts? Is money everything?

As a lifelong socialist I begin to doubt it even myself. It’s been tried all over the world and mostly failed, delivering poverty to many and repressive regimes. There must be another way. Is centre right politics the only future? If it is I still could never vote Conservative. I will not vote for social division and massive inequality, scapegoating of the poor and the disabled, demonising of the unemployed and an ever growing North South divide. We are returning to Victorian values. Go and read some Dickens to see what lies in the future.

I don’t know what to suggest but the Labour Party has some hard choices to make. Perhaps it should become more Left and embrace truly socially democratic progressive policies. Would the middle Englanders buy this? I am not sure. Should they go back to the centre ground? Choose from the Tories or the almost Tories. This won’t work either as the Tories will always do Toryism better.

Maybe revolution is the only answer. Sweep all the rot away, the snouts in the trough, the fiddling, the paedophile cover ups, the house flipping cynicism.

I don’t know.

I do know that I am close to despair and inconsolably sad about the future of humanity. We really don’t seem to care about anything other than ourselves and our families. There is no longer any such thing as society. How incredibly sad.

Oh and the Scots, the Scots… well I’ll blog about them another day.


Book Review. Richard Flanagan The Narrow Road to the Deep North

This is a masterpiece of a book. Perhaps it is too long. Other than that it is perfect. The prose is delicate, sometimes exquisite, never flinching. The atmosphere is of endless sadness: human cruelty, futility, the desolation of mood pinpricked only by small acts of kindness of the few.

The story follows an Australian doctor, Dorrigo Evans, during the Second World War who finds himself a prisoner of war looking after the men building the Thailand to Burma railway for the Japanese. The mid section describing this is brutally described and very hard to read. He thinks often of his short-lived love affair with another man’s wife. The final section describes the aftermath as the war ends and the soldiers go home. Dorrigo’s life is empty in spite of family and material and professional success. There is something empty inside. There is some attempt to get into the mind of the Japanese and Korean guards, to understand how they could do such horrific things for their Emperor sun king.

If you are looking for an easy read this book is not it. If you are looking for the truth it might just be. It took me a long time to read not because I wasn’t enjoying it but because sometimes it was too hard to take.