Saturday, 8 May 2010

UK elections: cuts coming whoever forms government

UK elections have resulted in a hung parliament, with no party having a majority of seats.

As expected Labour was badly punished. The Tories (or Conservative Party, the UK’s version of National) are now the biggest party in parliament, but are not as far ahead of Labour as they would have hoped.

The third party, the Liberal Democrats who many expected to make a breakthrough this election and even beat Labour, had a comparatively small increase in votes. But they will most likely choose which of the other two parties will lead the next government.

Results for the smaller parties have been mixed. The Green Party leader Caroline Lucas won Brighton Pavilion, their first seat in the UK parliament.

Caroline Lucas
Photo from Rikki @

But Respect’s George Galloway failed to get back in. Respect’s other great hope, Salma Yaqoob came a close second in Birmingham Hall Green. Everywhere else Respect and the various socialist candidates did very poorly, with results comparable to those of the Alliance, Workers Party or RAM here.

The Nazi British National party failed to win a seat, but still won half a million votes across the country.

What to make of the results?

I read this as a rejection of Labour, the Tories and the Liberals – none of them were able to win a majority in parliament, which is very unusual in a first past the post system.

Is this connected to the fact that they all support the same unpopular neo-liberal economic policies, and are therefore unable to offer a real alternative to the economic crisis?

Since 1997 Labour, led by former PM Tony Blair and his economics minister, now prime minister Gordon Brown, ripped up what remained of Labour’s social democratic traditions and embraced the neo-liberal free market policies of Margaret Thatcher’s Tories. To symbolise this change they renamed their party “New Labour”.

They part-privatised schools and hospitals with Private Public Partnerships, gave free reign to the banks and other big business, they scapegoated immigrants, refugees and young people for the social problems their policies caused. They joined with the USA in attacking Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands. New Labour MPs have also been caught taking bribes and committing expense account fraud.

For all this they are rightly hated. But if you hate Labour for being too much like the Tories, how could you vote for the Tories? And what if you know the Liberal Democrats are just as bad, and will go with one of the other too any way?

Some on the left have hoped that Brown would move Labour back to its roots, and this, combined with the fear of what a Tory government would do in the midst of an economic crisis has probably helped Labour’s vote.

Other former Labour voters will simply have voted Tory or Liberal, because they can’t see much difference and thought it was time for a change.

It’s a tragedy that the promise of Respect which won a seat at the last elections in 2005, and the Scottish Socialist Party before it was squandered by infighting. Had those parties remained united they would have been in a good position to put themselves forward as positive left wing alternatives to Labour and the other mainstream parties when the MP’s expense scandal broke and the recession hit.

For more on the election check out these UK blogs:

Lenin’s Tomb’s Election summary calls for  “the working out an emergency coalition against the coming public sector cuts... as soon as possible.”

In Forward to a Labour, Lib-Dem coalition?, Andy Newman at Socialist Unity describes it as “not a bad result compared to what we were fearing.” Although some of the comments on this post are pointless sectarian squabbling Respect, comment 10 by “Pete and Dud” is well worth reading.

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