In the UK, us left-wingers were dealt a devastating blow last week with the election of a Conservative government for the next 5 years. The proverbial dust has settled, but is this little more than glitter on a turd? I hope not, and here are my reasons for being positive.
1. Far-right party UKIP had their MPs halved to 1.
2. The Liberal Democrats were punished for betraying the left in facilitating what was effectively a previous Conservative government, losing 90% of their MPs. This shows that despite the gross inadequacies of our electoral system, voters are still able to punish parties for getting things badly wrong. It also shows that the electorate take promises seriously, and hence aren’t just focused on ‘the greater good’.
3. The rise in votes for anti-cuts parties like the Greens, and especially the electoral success of the Scottish National Party, will push the Labour Party to the left.
4. The Conservative majority is quite small, so if they tried to do anything very controversial it would only take rebellion from a small number (around 10) of their own MPs for the other parties to defeat them.
5. More people are being encouraged to get involved with democracy outside of elections, pushing for change via activism rather than the ballot box. This is part of a wider awakening that the traditional politics of parties and elections is outdated in our digital age, and that people need to create their own democratic structures through which grass-roots change can occur. One fulcrum of this movement is the People’s Assembly Against Austerity. But nowhere is this more important than in tackling climate change, and this perhaps best expressed in the Transition Towns Network.
6. Best of all, there is more support than ever for electoral reform. This was true even before the election, but with the around 2/3 of people who voted for parties other than the Conservatives shocked at the result, this issue is really coming to a head.
Here are a couple more positives from my more small state/free market friendly comrade Daniel Llewellyn. He’s talking about the new Conservative government’s policies:
7. “Small state policies put money back in normal peoples pockets and create a greater impetus for human activity in general to create net wealth surplus. I’m looking forward to the £12,500 lower income tax band and the £50,000 top rate.”
[All left wingers can agree that the state should be no larger than it needs to be- that is just a platitude, but we can view this period in our history as the state undergoing a purge which despite being damaging to public services in the short term (until a more left wing government comes to power), should improve efficiency in the long run. Also, more low earners are going to be taken out of income tax altogether. – Peter]
8. “Carefully designed incentives in NHS could plausibly improve outcomes despite the horror that tycoons will profit. Free for all at the point of delivery remains a manifesto promise and is unequivocally the most important thing. Being a top electoral issue, they’ll put a lot of effort into getting it right. Markets work (sometimes).”
[In other words, although we are going to see an increase in marketisation and private companies working within the NHS, it’s unlikely that the health service would be privitised as a whole and replaced by a system we have to pay for. – Peter]