The bright side of the UK election result

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It’s bad news that the British Conservatives will be ruling for another five years.

But the good news is that the parties campaigning on the strongest left platforms, the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Greens, both picked up a lot more votes.

The SNP sweep of the Scottish seats owed much to its opposition to the austerity policies championed by both Labour and the Tories. Also popular was the SNP’s rejection of the Tory/Labour plan to spend $30 billion replacing the Trident nuclear submarine fleet. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon made it clear that “Trident was a fundamental issue for the SNP so we would never be in any formal deal with a Labour government that is going to renew Trident.”

Richard Seymour noted the contrast between SNP and Labour policies, as follows:

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“While Labour tailed the Tories on austerity, while they imitated Tory language on welfare, while they copied the UK Independence Party on immigration, the SNP defended a simple, civilized position: no austerity, stop demonizing people on welfare, and welcome immigrants.”

The Greens also rejected austerity policies and opposed Trident. The Green campaign was successful in quadrupling both the Green vote and the Green membership. Sitting Green MP Caroline Lucas added 10% to her vote in Brighton Pavilion. Although the Greens didn’t win a second seat some of their candidates did very well, such was Darren Hall in Bristol West who picked up 27% of the vote.

The Greens have now renewed their call for proportional representation after receiving 1,157,613 votes, but only one seat.

Stuck in a First Past the Post electoral mode, Labour can’t even recognise its allies. It shot itself in the foot by rejecting any post-election arrangement with the SNP when it was obvious that without the SNP MPs on board (as they were prepared to be) Labour wouldn’t have the numbers to rule.

Labour’s Ed Miliband blamed the SNP vote on a “surge of nationalism” when, as Alex Thomson has pointed out, “They [the SNP] barely campaigned on it. Referendum and independence were only in the debate because it is often all the English establishment seems able to see.” The secret of the SNP success was its more left-wing social and economic policies.

Labour will also continue to lose votes to the Greens, whose progressive policies are attractive to many traditional Labour voters. The Greens prioritised six themes: a free, publicly provided NHS; a fair economy addressing inequality; secure, affordable housing; quality education with no university tuition fees; addressing climate change by replacing fossil-fuel generated energy with renewables; and better transport including returning the railways to public hands.

It has been good to hear that the SNP and the Greens (along with the Plaid Cymru MPs in Wales) have been campaigning together on issues for some time. This progressive combination will now be the strongest challengers – politically – to the damaging policies of the new Tory government.

12 COMMENTS

  1. The SNP didnt just win because they are anti austerity and anti tory, scotland has always been very left and very pro europe – its a very different country to its southern neighbour.

    A big part of theyre win is because of the work they have done since the referendum on scottish independance. The election was a huge win for scotland (with respect to nationalism).

    I believe there was a swing to the right precisely because of fears of most english people that a vote for labour would put the SNP in a position of great power over the rest of the UK – unthinkable that a party which wants to pull out of the union is able to wield such power over the union which it abhors.

    For the future there must be some federal style accomodation with scotland where the political systems are separated for all except Union issues only, that will maintain economic linkages and allow nationalism to fade as the dominant political issue in scotland, to the more day to day social and political concerns of most political systems.

    • I don’t know why the Scots didn’t ask for the English opinion on independence

      The English hate the Scots as much as the Scots hate the English.

  2. The irony here is that the thought of a Labour SNP arrangement scared off a large proportion of the voters who voted accordingly and ensured a Conservative victory. By decimating Labour in Scotland they managed to engineer the exact opposite result to what they wanted.

    • Not correct JC, SNP want independance or at worst federalism, the best result for them was to wipe the slate clean north of the border and somehow engineer a Conservative victory south – they did both. Now they can spend the next 5 years blaming england for all the stuff scots detest all the while moving the country towards the inevitable separation (politically at least). A great result for all scottish patriots, a sobering lesson for progressives – you alienate the centre at your own risk.

    • I can’t see the logic of that. SNP’s triumph in Scotland didn’t really affect the result of the election as a whole. Labour and Lib Dem seats were being swapped for SNP seats, they would all of been opposition seats either way.
      I reckon it was England that sunk Labour. The Lib Dem vote collapsed but Labour actually gained little of it, with a few exceptions. Then there was UKIP. UKIP was forecast to hurt the Tories but in fact it ended up costing Labour some seats that they should have won because the swinging vote went to UKIP instead of Labour and allowed the Tories to sneak ahead.
      There was some evidence that tactical voting was quite prevalent in the election. The Greens can sit back and rue how unfair the UK FPP voting system is. They increased their vote nationwide impressively but still have only one seat to show for all their efforts.
      In their excitement of having their Tory mates win again. The British MSM seem to have overlooked one important point: The Tory majority is only 5, very small really. It only takes one or two rogue MPs to create many problems for the Tory government and history tells us that is quite likely to happen.

  3. UKIP also picked up quite a lot of votes (more than twice the number that SNP got) yet only got one seat, same as the Greens

    • Note also that UKIP had quite a lot of the disaffected labour vote from the N of England (so-called “Red_UKIP” )

  4. Thanks Keith for a bit of good news that came out of this election.
    I always appreciate your contributions here.

    For me, there is very little to celebrate here with the same ole pro war; buddies to the US and corporate elite ; perpetual war team getting back into power. Business as usual. Sad for the planet and for the poor and for the middle east countries. I feel for the London renters and first time London home buyers. Consider listening to Max Keiser for a broader and trusted financial perspective on this election.

  5. I sincerely wish I shared Keith’s conclusions.
    Whilst showing an increase compared to NZ and many European countries the Green vote is very small, While Keith is correct in identifying a leaning towards social consciousness in Scotland it is debatable whether the SNP holds any answers. Indeed even most neutral analysts are of the opinion that SNP spending promises are unrealistic in light of probable revenue.
    The conservatives and their fellow travellers in NZ etcetera are winning by default as the alternatives are either pale imitations (e.g. UK New Labour, NZ Labour) and / or have no vision that is both inspiring and credible. Sadly it is becoming apparent that only disaster will break this existential deadlock.

  6. The Greens prioritised six themes: a free, publicly provided NHS; a fair economy addressing inequality; secure, affordable housing; quality education with no university tuition fees; addressing climate change by replacing fossil-fuel generated energy with renewables; and better transport including returning the railways to public hands.

    This should be a left-leaning list of Labour Party aspirations. This is what I got out and voted for in Lange’s ’84 election. Time for NZ Labour to wake up and smell the trade aid coffee beans percolating before the next election here. (Apols for mixed metaphors). The clue is “L” – “L” for left and “L” for Labour – it’s not rocket science!

  7. In my view, twice now Labour have screwed up the chance of government because it fails to see it’s friends. The Lib Dems were more than happy to partner up with Labour last time round but Gordon Brown couldn’t contemplate sharing power.

  8. The UK will now suffer further, as we are, with National in power. You are right Blake – this is yet another step backwards for the poor old planet.

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