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:
“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.