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The end of ideology?

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The end of ideology? Empty The end of ideology?

Post by Chas Peeps Wed Dec 17, 2014 12:09 am

Back in the late 80’s or early 90’s, New Internationalist Magazine ran a front cover headline and cover article with the title of this post. At the time, I shrugged it off and convinced myself that post Thatcher, there remained a very big divide between the Labour and Conservative Parties. It became increasingly clear that with John Smith’s death in 1994, Tony Blair took the steps necessary to move the Labour Party into the upper right (right / authoritarian or neo-liberal) quadrant of the political spectrum  and that is where it has remained through 13 years of Labour government and the past five years of Conservative Liberal Democrat coalition government.

Politics is another manifestation of the inherent tribalism of humanity others being religion, race, sporting allegiance etc. This shows itself when supporters of a political party continue to adhere to its values and doctrines, even after it has so clearly moved from the left side of the spectrum to the right since the leftward zenith of Michael Foot’s Labour Party of 1983.

Notably, all three governing parties of the past 35 years have occupied the right of the spectrum, a new ‘consensus’ has ruled the country for one and a half generations.

Of course, tribal followers of each party will strongly protest their differences just as different brands of soap powder from the same manufacturer compete for shelf space and market share to give the consumer false product choice.

What are the major areas of consensus?

EU membership

Military action overseas in pursuit of ‘national interests’

Regressive flat rate sales tax (VAT)

Privatisation of state industries / services

Restrictive trade union legislation

Payment of tuition fees through student loans for further education

Protection of the independent school sector

Taxpayer subsidy of poverty pay via in-work benefits

Toleration of rigged markets

Nuclear power



More road building

Tax breaks for global corporations

Voluntary rather than compulsory pensions


Light touch regulation for the City of London


Sovereignty of the House of Commons


Micro management of education, health etc by Westminster / Whitehall

MP’s salaries / expenses / pensions

And so on……..

When you see a list this long, it makes you wonder what they actually DISAGREE on. Their manifestos are real works of art, trying to convince people that their differences are chasms rather than just a different shade of mood music.

It is true that the Conservative Party has been at war with itself for years on the issue of the EU but only because the ‘grass roots’ supporters and workers want to be out of the EU whilst the big business party funders desperately want to stay in it for the Single Market. UKIP is now pulling hard at the longstanding wound in the Conservative Party’s flank.

Anthony Horowitz was on Question Time some time ago and he confirmed he thinks of himself as on the right. However, he demonstrated great independence of thought missing in the monoculture that is our political ruling elite. He demanded to know why, with the UK on the verge of bankruptcy following the global banking crisis and bailout, nothing in expenditure terms was beyond consideration for its savings potential. He gave the example of Trident’s replacement emphasising that in an ideal world he may want to keep it but purely and simply could the UK afford it? At an estimated £130 billion replacement cost including the submarines, he argued that surely a full ranging debate needs to take place on this and similar issues of national importance.

There are clearly other massive ‘elephants in the room’ which have risen above really challenging political debate.

This ‘consensus’ has been protected by the first past the post system of Westminster elections which favours the ‘big two’ parties, claiming to give the best chance of electing a clear winner in general elections (the ‘our turn to govern’ argument). As political opinion in the UK has fragmented, smaller parties have increased in number and grown in strength and the number of marginal seats that actually decide who wins an election have roughly halved since 1955, the democratic deficit is becoming very serious. We now have the worst of all worlds where first past the post makes millions of votes effectively worthless and others (swing votes in marginal seats) like gold dust. All main political parties policies are designed to attract the swing votes in the marginal seats and this causes policies to converge and move to the right where the demographic of the typical swing voter resides. At the same time that the system effectively disenfranchises millions of voters, it also no longer guarantees a clear election result, as the 2010 election showed.

Ironically, for example, it is far more likely that the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) will have far more power and more ability to form a coalition with Labour than the Green Party even though the Greens will probably receive more votes than the SNP throughout the UK. For anyone interested in democracy, this has to be an intolerable and indefensible state of affairs. Similarly UKIP, a party of the hard right and anti EU, is highly unlikely to win any more seats than recently defected MP’s in the General Election even though their poll ratings are currently very significant.

There is increasing evidence of rising support for the SNP (following the collapse of Labour Party support in Scotland post referendum) and the Green Party, both of whom are significantly to the left of centre, unlike Labour which lies to the right. If we had a system of proportional representation for Westminster elections, all parties could stop chasing swing voters in marginals alone and could start chasing swing voters in every single Parliamentary constituency. I believe this would result in the liberation of every political party, its members and supporters and would give us a reflection of the diverse range of political opinion that exists in the UK rather than the straight jacket of the consensus list above. Under the current electoral system, the left and hard right are both effectively disenfranchised except in Scotland where the SNP have gained directly at Labour’s cost. Interesting and unpredictable times ahead but maybe we should just be happy with ‘interesting’.
Chas Peeps
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Post by oftenwrong Wed Dec 17, 2014 5:02 pm

All well and true, but as a condition of entering into coalition with the Tories in 2010, the Lib Dems demanded a vote on Proportional Representation, which they got, and were royally shafted by Cameron in the traditional Tory manner.  For Westminster to adopt PR may require an Act of God, or at least a surprising Election of mainly splinter groups next May.

The fundamental problem seems to be the lack of a written UK Constitution, particularly as we did sign the Treaty of Lisbon which would appear to over-ride any of the following  ....

The constitution of the United Kingdom is the sum of laws and principles that make up the body politic of the United Kingdom. It concerns both the relationship between the individual and the state, and the functioning of the legislature, the executive and judiciary. Unlike many other nations, the UK has no single constitutional document. This is sometimes expressed by stating that it has an uncodified or "unwritten" constitution. Much of the British constitution is embodied in written documents, within statutes, court judgements, works of authority and treaties. The constitution has other unwritten sources, including parliamentary constitutional conventions.


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Post by Ivan Wed Dec 17, 2014 6:48 pm

oftenwrong wrote:-
the Lib Dems demanded a vote on Proportional Representation, which they got
They didn't get it. We had a referendum on the Alternative Vote, a fudge which satisfied neither those who like the FPTP lottery or those who want fair representation via PR. But yes, you're right, Cameron shafted the Lib Dems, broke his promise and campaigned to keep FPTP, the system which the Tories love but still complain about when 36% of the votes only gives them 47% of the seats in Parliament.

The Lib Dems, when back in the wilderness for another century, having failed to learn lessons from the way the old Liberal Party was shafted by the Tories after the First World War, might reflect on this limerick:-

There was a young lady of Riga,
Who rode with a smile on a tiger.
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside
And the smile on the face of the tiger.
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Post by Chas Peeps Wed Dec 17, 2014 7:44 pm

I like the Limerick Ivan! Yes, quite - the Lib Dems were done up like kippers by the Tory sharks on the PR issue. They built a whole political ideology around electoral reform and for the brief moment they had the leverage to get it they flunked. A once in a four generation chance as you say. Halley's Comet appears more often....
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