Socialist Worker

Britain's general election: no winner and no mandate

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2201

Workers prepare to count ballot papers in Lambeth, South London  (Pic: http://www.guysmallman.com/» Guy Smallman )

Workers prepare to count ballot papers in Lambeth, South London (Pic: » Guy Smallman)


IT WAS the election where everyone lost.

Britain’s rulers wanted a stable and strong government in order to implement harsh cuts. They have not achieved it.

After the general election no party has a mandate to impose cuts. None told the truth about the devastation they want to impose, and none won popular backing for their policies.

The Tories expected to win. With over 2.5 million unemployed, a continuing economic crisis, the anger with Labour over so many issues it seemed that the Conservatives would romp home.

David Cameron had bags of money and the tame support of most newspapers.

But he could still not win a majority and took only 36 percent of the vote on a 65 percent turnout—that’s only one in four eligible voters.

The Tories are now going through an internal fight over their failure.

Many party members think Cameron would now be in Number 10 with a substantial majority if he had taken a more right wing position.

One senior Tory frontbencher last weekend said, “Cameron ran his campaign from the back of his Jaguar with a smug, smarmy little clique—people like George Osborne, Oliver Letwin and Michael Gove. He should get rid of all of them. The party will settle for nothing less.”

Another senior and normally loyal Tory MP complained that Cameron’s “Big Society” theme was “complete crap”.

Diluted

The truth is that the election showed the enduring strength of Labourism. In the end a substantial number of working people decided they could not stomach the threat of a Tory government.

Many workers are only too well aware of Labour’s failure. But they feared the Tories more and stuck to Labour rather than the party of the open class enemy.

In what might be called a “Bullingdon Club moment”, they either remembered the Tories before, or saw enough of their gilded candidates this time, to come out and vote for Labour.

Socialist Worker argued before the election that the union link to Labour, although diluted, remained important and separated the party off from the Tories.

We were right.

The unions deployed money and personnel to target key seats. They helped to beat off the Tories but also challenges from the left, such as from George Galloway.

Labour’s vote fell by one million compared to 2005.

But the core class loyalty meant that it remained nearly two million ahead of the Lib Dems and held on to seats that analysts predicted it would lose.

Rochdale, the site of Brown’s “bigotgate” moment and Lib Dem target seat number three, stayed Labour. The expenses scandal defeated Jacqui Smith in Redditch, but Hazel Blears hung on in Salford.

That’s why Labour also won a swathe of councils including Doncaster, Liverpool, Coventry, Oxford, Hartlepool, Islington, Brent, Camden and Waltham Forest. However, in an era of harsh local government cuts the control of these councils may be a poisoned chalice.

It’s also notable that left Labour MPs including John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and Katy Clark did well.

Liberals

The support for Labour squeezed the Lib Dems. In addition Nick Clegg made the serious error of shooting to public prominence early enough for voters to examine what his party actually stood for.

Many people liked the idea of a fresh and different party with cleaner hands and innovative policies.

Instead they found a very traditional party with a posh leader that had policies eerily similar to the other two—and ran away whenever it was challenged over its slightly more radical ideas.

After all the hubbub of “Cleggmania”, the Lib Dems ended up with five fewer seats, and only 1 percent more votes, than in 2005.

The Labour resilience also hit more left wing parties.

But the radical left, and the audience that wants to resist the cuts, is far greater than the number who voted for parties to the left of Labour last week.

There are millions of people—many of them who voted Labour—who support strikes, or who campaign against the Nazis, or are ready to defend education and the health service and local services.

Mobilising those people for a fightback, and for socialist politics, is now vital.


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.