Have you decided how to cast your vote on Thursday? Will it really make any difference?
The 2015 general election actually presents the UK with a greater opportunity for real change at national level than any in recent history. After decades of the two-and-a-half party system, this year there are four parties (Conservative, Labour, SNP and the Liberal Democrats) which stand a genuine chance of having a significant role in government during the next parliament.
But the paradox for an individual voter deciding what to do with their ballot paper is still the same: for the vast majority, it will have no effect. The reality is that 90% of the 650 seats up for grabs on Thursday are safe seats, with such a big majority that the conclusion is foregone. The election will be decided by the results in the remaining marginals, where the 2010 results and the polls are so close that there’s a real chance of seats changing hands. So unless you live in one of the small number of marginal constituencies, your vote is effectively pointless.
It gets worse. Even in marginal seats, the winner is likely to end up with a lead of certainly hundreds, perhaps even a few thousand, votes. The chances of a seat being won by one vote are vanishingly small. On the rare occasion that the candidates’ results are within even a few tens of each other, they’ll demand a recount, and when recounts have occurred, the results have changed by several votes each time. In other words, your vote is smaller than the margin of error.
Labour is currently undergoing an ideological crisis, similar to the one the Conservative party went through between its overwhelming defeat in 1997, and the election of David Cameron as leader at the end of 2005. It has no idea what it stands for or how to persuade people to vote for it. It is haemorrhaging its core working class voters to apathy, UKIP or worse. Its leader, Ed Miliband, is a catastrophe: vilified as a union puppet by right-wing commentators, but simultaneously, completely incapable of speaking for working people or earning their trust and confidence. The fact that Labour sympathisers now wistfully imagine how much better things would have been if David Miliband had won the leadership – even though the criticisms of Ed (out-of-touch, middle-class, London, Oxbridge, career politician / policy wonk with unfortunate ties to the Blair/Brown years) apply equally well to David – shows how poor and uninspiring the potential Labour leadership pool is.
The existential plight Labour now finds itself in is a direct result of its long period of electoral failure in the ’80s, followed by its resurgence under Tony Blair in the ’90s. Continue reading →
In the 1960s, Harvard sociologist Daniel Bell declared the ‘end of ideology’. The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had been a time of big, competing ideas about how to organise human society, but these were exhausted; centrist free-market democracy had won.
The concept took a few decades to come to fruition. The world was still divided by the Cold War, a real and dangerous instantiation of competing ideologies. Even within UK politics, ideology was still alive in the 1980s, when Thatcherite free-market economics faced off against a diverse but identifiable left wing, comprising a mixture of militant Trotskyists, restless unions and mainstream social democrats.
In the 1990s, Bell’s prediction was proven correct by global events, with the USSR swept away and replaced by free market democracy. It was further vindicated within British politics later in the decade, with Tony Blair’s reform of the Labour party. By dropping Clause IV from the party’s constitution, its commitment to an ideology of nationalisation was removed, and the party was rebranded as ‘New Labour’, a centrist free-market party occupying roughly the same political territory as moderate Conservatives.