General Election night: 09:20 – Is Scotland to blame? And: throwing sand in the works

I know it’s not the General Election “night” any more, but the title offers a nice symmetry with the title of my last blog post.  I have slept a little, and now I’ve seen the results so far.  And given the Conservative position this morning, it is actually dark, dark night…

I want to make two brief comments before I go to work.

Don’t blame Scotland for the Tories getting in

The BBC is reporting the numbers as follows: 630 of 650 constituencies have results in, and of these:

  • 315 Conservative
  • 228 Labour
  • 56 Scottish National Party
  • 8 Liberal Democrat
  • 8 Democratic Unionist Party
  • 4 Sinn Fein
  • 3 Plaid Cymru
  • 3 Social Democratic & Labour Party
  • 2 Ulster Unionist Party
  • 1 UKIP
  • 1 Green Party

One very simple point to be made here: no Labour supporter should be blaming Scotland for voting SNP – that is not what has caused the Labour vote to collapse.  Even if every single person in Scotland had voted Labour, resulting in 59 ‘red’ seats, that would still only result in them having 281 seats, and the Conservatives would still be way ahead.  England needed to vote Labour to defeat the Tories – and it did not do so.

The votes in the two countries, as I wrote in the middle of the night, highlight that these are two different countries:

The Labour party in England, as the only larger party that can claim to be anywhere near the left (even though it is mostly centre-right – and that is the problem), needs to undergo radical rethinking.  All of us can help with this – I suspect it is not something the Labour party can do on its own.  But it needs to be open to listening to others, and that is not something that it is particularly good at.  However, it’s to be hoped that the removal of arch-Blairites like Murphy, Balls et al, will help in this regard.

We have to resist: we have to throw sand in the works

But more generally, now is not the time for despair.  We need to defend key areas in addition to opposing Trident (weapons that most of us reject): attacks on education, health, the poor, disabled, people of colour, the environment, wildlife and more will increase in viciousness and intensity with a second Conservative term in office – and we need to work fast and purposefully. A Conservative majority, as now seems inevitable, will mean devastating attacks in all these areas.  Every opportunity to throw sand in the works at Westminster needs to be supported if it will help defend those who are at the margins, regardless of the party doing the throwing.  We need to rely on our MPs to do what they can at Westminster (and I have faith in the SNP’s MPs and many Labour MPs to do precisely that).  If you have a Labour MP and are in doubt about their willingness to do this (a lot of them are pretty right-wing), you have to start writing, telephoning, meeting them – this is a representative democracy, and they need to represent you.  If you are unfortunate enough to have a Conservative MP, you need to make it clear they are not speaking in your name – that is a harder and more dreary task, but find solidarity networks to support you, if need be online (downside: it’s harder to share cake online…!).

But we also need to do more: we need to throw sand in the works as engaged citizens: we have no other choice.  As good democrats we can accept the outcome of the election (even though it’s a democratic travesty – see the Electoral Reform Society’s campaign against First Past The Post), but we can still oppose everything the Tories do.  We need to do this for the whole of the UK, though it might be easier in Scotland, as Jonathon Shafi suggested:

We must not throw sand in the works for the sake of it, however, but to hinder and stifle the harm that the Conservatives will do to those who are least able to defend themselves.  Cameron once talked about ‘the big society’ – forget that, we know it was a lie.  What we need is a hugely engaged civil society, and it needs to count, it needs to make itself heard.  If you object to Conservative policy, now is the time to show it.  That means us: me, you, our colleagues, friends and family.

We need to be informed – and if you’re as sick of much of the mainstream press as I am, look out for good alternative sources such as Ekklesia, CommonSpace and others.

If you’re not yet in a political party, a trade union, an activist group… now is the time to join.

Now is the time to engage. Don’t delay.  If you are in any doubt about the urgency behind this, here are two key issues that demand engagement:

  • RedNorthUK‘s Twitter feed details stories of people who have died as a result of Tory cuts to social security (though this morning their feed is mostly angry commentary on the election outcome – scroll down if need be);
  • The Detention Forum campaigns on asylum seekers and immigration, and highlights deaths and injuries and more for people in detention.

I don’t think it’s too extreme to say that the Tories’ policies are quite simply killing people, and we have to stop them.

Now is the time.  And it’s up to us.  Just us.  There is nobody else.