Monday, May 11, 2015

#GE2015: Picking Up The Pieces

To be honest, I haven't really liked any part of this election. It was about opportunism, from beginning to end. Frankly, Great Britain now has the government it deserves. A party of opportunism for a land of opportunism. Not opportunity. Opportunism.

Ed Miliband wasn't wrong. He looked at the Great Recession. Saw austerity was coming. Had a gander at history. And firmly positioned the Labour Party as the vehicle for resentment towards both.

Ed is an economist. He ain't stupid. He knew that the economy would improve. After down, the only way up is ... well ... up. He leapt ahead. And took advantage of his opportunity by getting some digs in at the pain the Tories were inflicting, and then trotted out his message. Yeah. The economy is improving. But not for everyone. Let's make this a One Nation recovery. And by the way, we should all hate predatory capitalism.

His approach was, actually, a textbook response to history repeating itself. The only problem was that he underestimated the ruthless selfishness of the British people. As I have written elsewhere, once the economy stabilized - no more than that - and folks felt more comfortable about their immediate job prospects, they abandoned any pretense of being concerned about the welfare of others.

Blame it on the 'me' generation. TV reality shows. Rampant consumerism. Whatever the cause, the net result was that this election was always going to be about folks voting for their own self-interest. And that meant, gimme a job, gimme a house, gimme lolly, and keep as far away as possible from me anything that might interfere with that, namely immigrants, Europe, tax, other people's welfare, and especially the Scots.

I don't mind saying I was surprised. But it became clear to me, especially at the end of last year, that altruism was dead, at least for this election. People might - might - start thinking thoughts about, well, what about others, what about cost of living, what about predators, they might just start thinking about that the next election or the one after. But for the immediate election of 2015, folks actually wanted the very things Ed was campaigning against.

The people want non-dom unfeeling billionaires. Because they run the likes of Boots, which gives the people jobs and cheap pharmaceuticals. The people want a Tory government, because it will slash and burn the things that get in the way of what the people want, right now.

And therein lies the actual future for Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

As usual, a lot of guff is being spoken by opportunists in the Labour Party. Let's get a few things clear. Folks do not immediately want more socialism. Ed offered a little. It was rejected. Folks don't want a return to Blairism. Are we all forgetting the BBC Question Time when Ed was eviscerated primarily for not apologizing for Blairism?

So, what is needed? Hate to say this. But, time. Ed's message was basically right. Just find someone who can eat a bacon butty to deliver it. And then wait for the British people either to hurt enough or feel safe enough to want to start feeling altruistic again. 2025 sounds about right to me.

As for the LibDems. Not so easy. History will evidence that Nick Clegg and his cohorts delivered a tremendous service to the UK. They kept check on the ravages that necessarily accompany the medicine required when a country goes on a thirty-year debt binge.

But, in the meantime, for all their opportunism, the people of Great Britain wanted to hurt someone. They wanted to take out their anger for their own excess, their dashed expectations of Blair, the humiliation suffered at the hands of Tory medicine, they wanted to lash out at someone. And the LibDems were in the line of fire.

Bottom line? You can't rebuild overnight, or even over the course of a couple of elections, when you've lost all your big guns, and you're reduced to a rump of eight MP's.

It took decades for the LibDems to win each of the 57 Parliamentary constituencies they represented before this recent election. Decades of painstaking door-knocking, issue-campaigning, council seat winning. For sure, all that work remains. The council representation is there. But the national party, the national message is gone.

The whole point of coalition, for the LibDems, aside from responding to the national need, was to build national credibility by creating a whole phalanx of big guns with ministerial experience. The biggest guns just got wiped out. And you're not going to see the likes of Vince Cable tramping streets for five years to get back.

So, even though the Liberal machine still exists in all of its former constituencies, it will take decades to find new candidates of Parliamentary and ministerial caliber. And the hard work of national credibility essentially starts from scratch. I think an estimate of about 50 years to make a comeback is about right.

Which leaves the Tories in the driving seat for at least a couple more elections. Which makes me less than happy. And I'm a Tory! I want a party to be in power because people want it there. Not because there is no alternative.

And, on the subject of opportunism, don't go blaming the Tories for anything. Yes, they ran a negative campaign. But, the British people bought it. And they did so because of their own naked opportunism.

And don't think you get off lightly because you voted for someone other than a Tory. Aside from the Liberal Democrats (maybe), there is not one serious political party in Great Britain that is not founded upon opportunism at the moment. For why? Because we are a greedy electorate, with no or little concern for others.

Without for one moment thinking of the consequences for other people, we want, we need, gimme, can I have. We vote Tory because we want a tax cut. We vote UKIP because we want rid of immigrants. We vote Labour for a tad more child benefit. We vote Green because we want a wind farm, even if it is an eyesore for those who live near it. We vote SNP because we want rid of the hated English.

All politics at the moment is opportunistic. And it is merely a knee-jerk response to our own opportunism. We have no-one to blame but ourselves. If we want better government, we must first become better people.