FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The British Election Result

So fell spin doctor par excellence Alastair Campbell on the BBC’s commentary regarding the exit poll from the broadcaster. The temperature in various party rooms wasn’t quite right either. According to the Beeb’s prediction, the Tories would be increasing their numbers to 316 seats, with Labour getting a reduced 239 when all the results would be in. Another prediction then followed: the conservatives would be able to govern in their own right, heaving past the majority line. Others suggested that the exit poll was “incredible” and “unbelievable”, a sort of forecast from distant Narnia. Treat it with “caution”, claimed the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.

The attempt to “splinter” the conservative bloc from the UK Independence Party side did not materialise. Having ridden a wave of anti-European and anti-immigration protest, the conservative attempt to chew some of that fat from the reactionary side of politics may have neutralised what seemed to be an ominous threat. Poundland Powellism may not have yielded Nigel Farage the numbers he wants, but UKIP has left a large, and very persistent stain of suspicion on the landscape.

The splintering did take place, though it assumed the form of a withering devastation for Labour in Scotland at the hands of the lady deemed the “Tartan Terror”. Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander was butchered in the vote, as was Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader. Sturgeon will be thrilled, with the Scottish nationalists posed to become the third largest power bloc at Westminster.

The Liberal Democrats, the ill-fated coalition partners of the Tory party, were given a predictable mauling by an unforgiving electorate, with an outcome that will probably yield it eight seats. It had held 57. Its former leader, Charles Kennedy, lost his seat to the SNP in Ross, Skye and Lochaber. Business secretary Vince Cable lost Twickenham, a seat he has held since 1997. Lynne Featherstone was defeated in Honsey and Wood Green. Party veteran Paddy Ashdown, having promised to eat his hat at the exit poll result, will have to do just that.

Cleaning out was taking place in other quarters. The headline grabbing George Galloway, the leader of Respect, who had been reported to the police for sending out information on an exit poll before the vote was concluded, lost his Bradford West seat to Labour.

The election did have its fair share of observations before counting. There was the usual British wonder at queues. A note on the Guardian blog observed: “Democracy in action. Twitter users have posted pictures of long queues outside polling stations up and down the country – a sign of decent turnout or just bad organisation? Here’s hoping it’s the former.”

Well, it was a form of democracy, even if was hollowed out and qualified. “Face it my beloved Britons,” claimed Pablo Guimón, UK correspondent for El País, “you’ve got a weird electoral system. You might think it’s normal that the Greens could get 10% of the vote and just one seat, while the SNP might end up with 4% of the vote and 50 seats. But it’s not. Even if it does stop Ukip.”

What, then, did this election signify? In the optimistic analysis from Josh Allen in Jacobin Magazine, it proved that there was, in fact, a generative response to austerity and conservatism in Britain. “The coalition government’s austerity agenda has fertilized an entire ecosystem of activism that is focused on providing a sustained challenge to neoliberalism, market fundamentalism, and ultimately, capital itself.” That challenge will evidently have to continue.

There were the usual eccentric entries posing with variously serious agendas, though these only registered as mild tremors on what was a gradual return to British traditionalism. The “Give Me Back Elmo” Party ambushed Prime Minister David Cameron at a polling station in Oxfordshire with little effect. The party’s platform speaks of every child’s “right to a Father” and halting “the discrimination against Fathers in the secretive, gender bias family courts and end the emotional child abuse.”

A notable fact through this entire campaign was the political inking out of Labour’s Miliband, a sort of erasure from history, be it by slander or good old satire. He was bullied into rubbery confusion by presenter Jeremy Paxman, who treated him as part git and part geek. He was excoriated at every turn. Each public relations exercise looked like an attempt to attain tenure in clumsiness and moronic hilarity. The press proved unforgiving.

The response from British media outlets to Miliband’s Chatham House speech on foreign policy was a near zero. This suggested much, if only because Miliband expressed no room, let alone interest, in holding a referendum on Europe and Britain’s links. “The threat of an in/out referendum on an arbitrary year timetable, no clear goals for [the Tories’] proposed European renegotiation, no strategy for achieving it… poses a serious risk to Britain’s position in the world.” Such sensibility will get you punished.

One premise, followed with stubborn sleep-walking conviction, has been an insistence that a succeeding coalition government would be impossible. Coalitions are the venereal disease of the establishment – a result of ill-thought through comingling that produces strange offspring. Neither Labour nor the Tories were countenancing that – a distressing unnatural form of government for the traditionalists, because it seems to the political sages that voters do get it wrong. For the Tories, this has paid off. For Labour, it has been fatal. After this election, the fans of coalitions and opponents of rampant majority politics will have to wait for another time.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Craig Collins
Why Did Socialism Fail?
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposal Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail