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Election 2017: Everyone’s a winner?

HOT’s Sean O’ Shea discusses the results of the election, critically reflects on some of the Labour manifesto commitments, and asks if socialism is amongst the winners.

Everyone appeared to be a winner – for a while. The Maybot won by a narrow margin, but failed to gain the ringing endorsement she’d expected with her promise of “strong and stable leadership”. The DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) became an accidental winner, and while receiving no votes this side of the Irish Sea, they may now call the shots in a hung parliament.

Jeremy Corbyn won, in the eyes of his supporters at least, though he didn’t win the keys to 10 Downing Street.

Locally, Amber Rudd won albeit by a whisker (346 votes), but Peter Chowney also won, describing the result as, “the biggest Labour vote in Hastings ever”.

In her thank you letter to constituents, Amber, who was shaken but not stirred into a bout of humility, acknowledged that the result was extremely close, but she nonetheless looked forward to working for the constituency for another five years. Peter on the other hand looked forward to the next election in the very near future.

Amber paid tribute to the other candidates for a well fought campaign, but failed to thank Liberal Party candidate, Nick Perry for helping her to victory.

At the Hastings hustings, Nick didn’t disguise his affection for Amber, and they shared a warm embrace on the platform before taking to their seats. Peter kept his hands in his pockets, which is perhaps the safest place for them in such circumstances. Nicholas Wilson, Independent, who might have been exasperated with Amber after she had ordered the microphone to be removed while he was midway through his speech at the Rye hustings, conducted himself with gentlemanly restraint. He made only a polite retrospective dig about censorship, and repeated his message about the level of corruption endemic in the financial sector particularly the HSBC. This singular message was enthusiastically applauded by what appeared to be a predominantly Labour audience.

As if to explain his public expression of affection for Amber, Nick Perry reminded us that she was a “nice person” though he didn’t agree with her politics. Had he and Peter had a sensible discussion and Nick joined with the Greens in not contesting the seat, Peter would have been home and dry, Amber could have been given a one way ticket back to London, and the local Labour Party could still be guzzling the Prosecco and singing the Red Flag.

Nick and Peter just need to remember that, come the next election; all they have to do is to adhere to their tribalistic ways, eschew any strategic so called “progressive alliances” with the Liberals, and thereby ensure Amber gets her five years, and maybe even replaces the Maybot and becomes Prime Minister herself. Madness you may say. But hey, that’s politics.

What about Mr Zen?

Jeremy was enjoying himself so much he promised to continue campaigning and is reportedly already preparing for a tour of 65 marginal seats. He had some justification for regarding himself as a winner. Against all the odds he had secured 40% of the votes. The forces stacked against him included most of the media and the majority of the parliamentary Labour Party. His obliteration had been forecast. But here he was, rising from the dead, like a latter day Lazarus. Even his staunchest critics felt compelled to confess that they had misjudged him, or at least misjudged his campaigning ability. This, and his appeal to younger voters, was now recognised as his forte.

I suspect that many of his parliamentary colleagues were privately relieved that he wasn’t given the keys to No. 10. I imagine that he was also relieved as, for now at least, he was spared the ultimate burden, and could look forward to his planned trip to Glastonbury.

After all, what would he do were he to become Prime Minister? Aware of the continuing policy contradictions and divisions within his own party might he not be tempted to flee into the back garden at No. 10 and seek refuge amongst the available flora, leaving his ungracious and unruly family to sort out their differences amongst themselves? And who could blame him?

For The Many Not The Few: a modest left of centre manifesto

Jeremy won support for a modest left of centre manifesto, which would bring the country in line with European norms, and address at least some of the prevailing stresses and inequities in the public and private sectors. However, unlike the socialists of the past, Labour was not proposing to nationalise the “commanding heights” of the economy or the top 200 companies, still less abolish private property (1).

The party pledged to raise the top rate of income tax from the current 45% to 50% on earnings over £123,000 (and to reduce the 45% threshold from £150,000 to £80,000 – targeting the top 5% of earners). But this remains below the top rate of 60% under Margaret Thatcher. Corporation tax would rise from 19 % to 26 %, a rate seen as recently as 2011, and far below France’s 33%. Furthermore the party only promises to “consider” a land value tax.

A lifelong pacifist, Jeremy signed off a commitment to renewing the Trident submarine-based nuclear missile programme and to spending at least 2% of GDP on defence. The UK defence industry “is world-leading, and Labour will continue to support development and innovation in this sector”. Some argue that Jeremy was boxed in on defence and had to defer to the stringent democratic decision making process in his own party i.e. do what he was told by the NEC. But, however this might be interpreted, it still leaves him in a contradictory and unsustainable position on this issue.

While stating that it will “reverse the privatisation of the NHS” the manifesto goes on to say that it will “introduce a new legal duty on the Secretary of State and on NHS England to ensure that excess private profits are not made out of the NHS at the expense of patient care”. Some commentators have expressed puzzlement about the need for such a qualification, if the promised “reversal” of privatisation is effectively implemented.

The manifesto states it will reverse the privatisation of Royal Mail, as it is part of the “key national infrastructure”, but the timescale wasn’t specified. Nationalisation of the private rail franchises is planned but only as the current “franchises expire”. Bear in mind that some of these are in place until 2024, with more currently being negotiated.

The manifesto also states, “We will scrap the Conservatives’ Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union…”. However, the party appears as divided as the Tories on this matter and senior Labour politicians continue to vacillate and contradict each other on the opaque question of ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit.

There is a commitment to extend democracy but there is no promise of electoral reform. If there’s even a remote hope of Labour wining an outright majority under the undemocratic first past the post system, they appear to be determined to stick with it, in spite of the widening support for change in the electoral system within the party.

What’s left of socialism?

The 1983 Labour manifesto, The New Hope for Britain, dubbed the longest suicide note in history, included promises to leave the EU, cancel the Trident programme, refuse to deploy US nuclear cruise missiles, abolish the House of Lords and take a much wider range of industries, which had been privatised by Thatcher, back into public ownership.

It is worth reminding ourselves that in 1983 the Labour Party was also committed to bringing about “a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people and their families”.

In the view of some comrades, the 2017 Labour Manifesto falls short of addressing the major structural changes required to heal the ever deepening divisions, inequalities and challenges facing society. From this perspective, as the dust settles on the election, there are still some winners standing; however, neither peace nor socialism is amongst them.

 

Note (1)

Some socialists distinguish between ‘personal property’ and ‘private property’. Put very simply, the former is property you own, use and /or inhabit yourself. The latter refers to the private ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange.

 

SOS

Posted 05:30 Thursday, Jun 22, 2017 In: SOS

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