UK Punishment Elections: The Empty Mainstream and Ghost Parties

UK Election 2024: The emptiness of the mainstream, punishment elections and ghost parties

The UK is experiencing a turbulent, messy, argumentative election contest. One where the main players and institutions seem unsure of themselves; their place in the world; their relevance – and moreover their ability to govern and present policies and ideas. Dani Garavelli summed up the SNP’s record in office in The Guardian saying that the party has ‘talked the talk without walking the walk and took its supporters for granted’ – in terms of its centre-left rhetoric and the disjuncture between that and reality.

Whatever the final election result it looks certain that the Labour Party will be elected with a sizeable majority. The Conservatives will be decisively rejected, the right split by the rise of Farage’s Reform; while in Scotland the dominant governing party for close on two decades, the SNP experiences, a significant reversal of fortunes.

This raises many questions – including the nature of Starmer’s Labour project; the direction of the Conservatives after the election and further lurch to the right; the nature of the Farage project and attempt to realign the forces of the right, and what happens to the SNP as it suffers a loss of direction and downturn in its fortunes.

Underpinning all of this are bigger challenges that are overcoming mainstream politics everywhere. The broken UK economic model since the 2008 banking crash, and the falling living standards and real wages for the vast majority that exist alongside grotesque levels of wealth, inequality and poverty, in one of the world’s richest economies. Add to that the tyranny of corporate power and finance capitalism and the climate emergency, which mainstream politics has conspicuously turned its back on addressing in any meaningful way.

The Labour Party under Keir Starmer are defined by their limited agenda. Their iron-will discipline offers as few hostages to fortune as possible to the Tories and right-wing media. This brilliant and frustrating stance, which has worked in opposition and is working in this campaign, will be completely unsuited to government

Nowhere in the Western world are the centre-left and social democracy in rude health. Look at the shellacking that the German SPD and French left received in the recent European elections, or the shrivelled state of the once all-powerful Swedish Social Democrats.

British Labour have addressed this by buying into fiscal conservatism and combining it with a social conservatism motivated by nervousness at how the right have weaponised ‘culture war’ issues. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves is outdoing Gordon Brown’s ‘Iron Chancellor’ period and invoking the spectre of the classical economic orthodoxy of Labour’s Philip Snowden – Ramsay MacDonald’s Chancellor in the 1929-31 Labour Government and the Great Depression of 1929 who clung to balancing the books as the economy crashed.

The Conservative Party’s historic mission through most of the 20th century has been to be the party of power and to act as a moderating force against the more extreme forces of the right. This compact began to break down in the 1980s and in the era of high Thatcherism.

Following on in the latest period of Tory ascendancy, and more so post-Brexit, the Tories have broken free of many of their traditional moorings and shifted dramatically to the right. This is clear not just on immigration, but in their cavalier approach to the rule of law and international obligations, and willingness to consider the UK leaving the European Court of Human Rights. This right-wing rachet is now working at an accelerated speed destroying what is left of the old Tory Party with senior Tories such as Suella Braverman and Jacob Rees-Mogg openly appeasing Nigel Farage to come to some kind of understanding on the right.

The Power of Ghost Parties: The Case of Reform UK

2024 should be less understood as a repeat of the 1993 Canadian Conservative wipe-out and more a reverse 1983. Then Michael Foot’s Labour fought an inept, amateur campaign and struggled to retain second place in votes and see off the challenge of the new third force: the Liberal-SDP Alliance. At one late point the polls crossed and Labour fell into third place, but such was Labour’s residual loyalty in places that it held onto second place narrowly: a result which gave the party breathing space to recover.

The Tories are now fighting for their political lives to retain second place against Farage’s Reform. There is a high chance as in 1983 that the polls will cross again at some point, and while the Tories may still finish second in votes they lack the same residual loyalty that Labour had 40 years ago. Politics is more transient and individualist in its loyalties, and the Tory floor is lower than Labour all those years ago.

The phenomenon of Reform UK is worth noting. It is not a real political party; it is a private company owned 53% by Farage and 33% by Tice. It has no real members, no policy making or democratic structures; hence Farage could unilaterally announce he was returning as leader last week with no debate. 

Reform are a ghost party and political force with no policies and presence which by virtue of the power of Nigel Farage strikes terror into the Tories. But as a ghost and chimera it is more powerful, because it cannot be held accountable and scrutinised in the way that conventional parties are. The late Mark Fisher described this as ‘the agency of the virtual’ – the ability to affect things rather than altering reality directly; taken to its logical conclusion it can be observed of political parties that existence is a bit old school and significantly over-rated.

Punishment Politics and the Conservative Party

This contest is at its core a punishment election. A contest where voters want to reek vengeance on the Tories as brutally and unambiguously as possible. Voters have stopped listening to Tory mendacity and their brazen lies as they attempt to explain 14 years of decline, disaster and division, and have no time for Sunak’s never-ending list of future promises. Voters have tuned out and want them punished, humiliated and as far from power as possible.

The 2024 election has a powerful popular sentiment animating it for all the unedifying nature of the day-to-day campaign. This is the potency and emotion of anti-Tory feeling running through the country. This can be seen in the debacle of the Tory campaign; the rise of Labour; tactical voting aiding the Lib Dems, and even part of the rationale of the Farage-Tice Reform UK strategy wanting to inflict maximum damage on the Tories.

This makes this, with all its limitations, a watershed election which could be as impactful as those other seismic post-war contests: 1945, 1979 and 1997. In each of these occasions there was more of a positive shift to the winning party: Labour in 1945 and 1997; the Conservatives in 1979.

Today the rejection of the governing Conservatives is shaping the election and is off the scale compared to the reverses of previous governing parties – the Tories in 1945 and 1997 and Labour in 1979. Two of these three elections involved a changing of the guard in the ideological environment – binning the inter-war assumptions of laissez faire economics and indifference to unemployment and poverty in 1945; then overturning the post-war settlement in 1979. So far 2024 looks more like 1997, but the election is being held against the backdrop of the collapse of the economic and social order which has framed UK politics post-1979.

Change is coming to Scotland

Something profound is going on in Scotland. The era of SNP dominance is over just as the Labour era of hegemony ended previously. The SNP are not in a good place, have no obvious cut-through themes, and no obviously positive story to tell after 17 years in government and no plausible vision on independence.

The SNP’s leadership is all over the place in this election; John Swinney and Stephen Flynn have been trying to row back on the party’s official policy of asserting that winning a majority of seats is a mandate to open negotiations for independence with Westminster. This policy was never going anywhere only, having been devised to keep as many pro-independence voters with the SNP as possible under challenge from Labour. But this is a dishonest, undeliverable, anti-democratic policy, and at its heart, anti-self-determination, daring to overturn the 2014 indyref with an election mandate.

The SNP’s senior figures have belatedly recognised the folly of this. They have taken cognisance that if you make the election about independence and experience a severe setback, this has consequences for the cause of independence. Hence, Swinney and Flynn as well as others have been trying to downplay and even deny this policy. This dose of reality is a bit late in the day.

The corporate capture of the public sphere 

The tailwinds and storms currently raging across the globe turning assumptions and institutions upside down – economically, culturally or geo-politically – barely get a reference in the UK election. There is no chance of a return to normalcy under Keir Starmer’s Labour because the fissures and faultlines domestically and internationally are so powerful. Some on the centre-left yearn for a return to the managed, ordered society of the Britain of 1945-75 defined by a ‘post-war consensus’ whether across the UK or in an independent Scotland. This is not possible because the kind of UK society and international order it was built upon (managed currencies, exchange controls, the Cold War) has gone forever.

One way that politics and public discourse is being transformed in the UK and developed capitalist societies is the changing nature of the public sphere by new actors and platforms. A major factor in this, as well as the retreat from traditional and legacy media, is the reconfiguration of societies with an enormous and unprecedented (in recent times) concentration of wealth. Finance capitalism, dark monies, deregulation and weak governance has created a new generation of self-styled ‘masters of the universe’, who assume a divine right to shape democracy – and humanity – to their interests.

Such individuals have funded the likes of GB News in the UK and a host of TV and radio platforms in the US and elsewhere which have increasingly deep political influence. They have contributed to a coarser and harsher, partisan public conversation; one where contentious statements, disinformation and conspiracy theories are allowed free reign. Think Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was ‘stolen’; or the outlandish assertions that COVID, lockdown and the vaccine were all ploys at global control by elites.

This trajectory will continue for the foreseeable future as old assumptions about media and media consumption decline. There is a predictable prospect across the West of seeing a financially well-resourced insurgent hard right media attack some of the basic tenets of what we used to think made up society – multi-culturalism, the need for a welfare state, respect for the rule of law, and international treaties and obligations.

The public sphere in the UK and elsewhere is now even more corroded and controlled by the forces of corporate capital. Take one recent controversy: Baillie Gifford’s withdrawal from sponsoring book festivals after the campaign by Fossil Free Books. Such are the difficult times we live in for arts and culture funding that many leading cultural figures jumped to the defence of Baillie Gifford – having been put in an impossible bind.

Yet in too many public discussions the wider picture of corporate capture is never aired, or the backdrop of the closure of culture described eloquently by Mark Fisher in 2015 – ‘Self-educated working-class culture generated some of the best comedy, music and literature in modern British history. The last 30 years have seen the bourgeoisie take over not only business and politics, but also entertainment and culture’. Instead we have witnessed, in the words of academic Jeremy Gilbert, the ‘unlimited accumulation of capital for the sole benefit of capitalists’ and its consequences.

How does politics cope with such huge challenges? The answer is not to be found in the response of mainstream politics in this Westminster election. Nor the slightly less broken and tainted version on show in the devolved Scottish Parliament. A similar picture can be found across most of the Western world and advanced capitalist societies.

Today’s Labour Party has little creative, original or radical to say about the scale of challenges faced by the UK and the world. Yet it is too easy to just blithely dismiss Labour without understanding why the party has ended up in this position: forever attacked by a partisan right-wing press, faced by a Tory Party which until now has shown a historic desire to win, and imbued by the experience of regular defeat. All this means that the party has a nervousness about how to put together a nationwide coalition which can withstand incessant Tory and media attacks – not just in an election but over years.

A similar judgement can be made of the SNP and Scottish independence. The limits of what passes for social democracy and the politics of a broadly progressive nationalism have been left exposed for all to see: ‘a defensive social democracy at best combined with a self-congratulatory nationalism have been our kudos for too long’ said a SNP senior adviser to me a while back noting that such a politics was fast running out of treadmill; and so it has proven.

The future has been decided – unless we act

None of these fundamentals are being touched upon by the UK election, but that is to be expected. Westminster politics has long been a pantomime exercise in theatre, drama and emptiness. But the inconvenient truth is that Scottish politics has for too long fallen prey to believing it is fundamentally different when it isn’t.

The political traditions and practices which define Westminster and Holyrood and all that orbit them are broken, threadbare and hollowed out. Yet as this becomes more apparent, we are confronted with huge challenges – the barbarians at the gate representing the hard and far-right, the runaway nature of zombie capitalism, the nature of climate catastrophe, and the corporate capture of the public sphere and even the very notion of ‘the public’ itself.

As we come to the end of this Tory era, some commentators have some degree of hope, Will Hutton writing at the end of This Time No Mistakes: How to Remake Britain that: ‘We can rebuild an attractive country with an uniquely dynamic, purpose-driven capitalism grounded in an economic philosophy that recognises the interdependence of the private and public spheres’ all ‘underwritten by a vibrant social contract.’ None of which addresses the nature of the British state and capitalism, the weakness of any challenges to them, and the absence of UK-wide agency.

Timid social democracy, bourgeois nationalism, or mild-mannered green politics are inadequate for present times. This at least needs recognition before a politics and practice of resistance and transformation can have any prospect. We need to start with a degree of honesty about the emptiness of the politics around us: challenging the mainstream while addressing the unsustainable economic and social order it is clinging to as the wreckage and damage mounts all around.

Reviving a ‘little Britain’ of 1945-75 or our own Scottish version of it are diversions and illusions; we will have to face our own ghosts and fairy tales and dare to start imagining a different post-neoliberal and even post-capitalist world. If we do not do so on what passes for the left, the forces of the virulent right have a bleak, dark future they are already preparing to impose on us.


Comments (35)

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  1. Daniel Raphael says:

    Excellent analysis–and a warning.

  2. Hugh McShane says:

    I’m avoiding clifftop, after reading this!

  3. SleepingDog says:

    Take care not to blithely dismiss Labour’s 1983 Manifesto, which prime characteristics were surely honesty, ethics and democracy, by the standard prevailing, rather than ineptness or amateurishness. There were a lot of other factors at the time (Jingoistic Falklands fever, Michael Foot’s lack of appeal to the superficial and frivolous, hostile vested interests) that make flippant characterisations worthless.
    The electorate are free to choose self-pleasing myths, believe smears and lies, ignorant hard reality and inconvenient truths if they wish, of course. That is electoral democracy. The most damaging conclusion would be to assume that lies always win. This has never been proved.

    Of course, with nuclear disarmament, you generally have to rely on the ethics of your human fighting force, not the paramount rulers.

    1. 240612 says:

      The electorate is of course frustratingly free to choose and believe stuff of which you (and any other who suffers the cursed conceit of being ‘right’) disapprove as ‘self-pleasing myths’, ‘lies’, and ‘smears’. That’s the great thing about democracy; it aggregates all our various individual opinions and prejudices (‘truths’) into the latest expression (a ‘snapshot’ if you like) of the general or collective will of society.

      BTW Irrespective of how much you approved of Labour’s 1984 election manifesto as ‘honest’, ‘ethical’, and ‘democratic’, the electorate generally didn’t go for, which is all that matters; it didn’t express our collective democratic will at the time.

  4. Stevie says:

    Really appreciated this excellent commentary by Gerry.

    His analysis and conclusions have an accuracy and depth that lend to the current hopelessness of our political economy. I still rue that following the defeat in the independence referendum the activist Yes movement flooded to empower the SNP to continue a sort of “politics as usual” at a time we desperately needed a response to politics and notions of democracy and equality failing us all terribly.

    The SNP, Labour and other nominally social democrat political entities around the world have set their stalls to defend a very obviously broken and crises driven late capitalism against the right who bring a simple chauvinism that has truth at its heart – politics is broken, no one trusts it to fix things. On this kernel of critical truth, like the National Front in the 1970’s, modern fascists offer hatred, blame, racism, and a libertarian core of tearing down government, which all too conveniently aligns with billionaires who can no longer use a sham democracy to legitimate their obscene wealth and power. The calculus of the super rich and corporate world seems to be that if inequality can’t be justified politically then the right will now defend and support it by smashing our ability to change it through government. To this energises new fascism social democrats respond by asserting to all that “the system isn’t broken” and they sound just as delusional as a Trump fan worshipping their MAGA Jesus. We need a restorative left politics that makes sense in our lives right now, not a defence of what has already failed us.

    So I 100% agree with Gerry’s conclusion that we must firstly reject and address the failures of our mainstream politics, before reforging a proper democratic and radical response to the crises and challenges of the 21st century.

    1. 240612 says:

      We certainly need more democracy, fit for the purpose of aggregating our various diverse and sometimes conflicting truths into an expression of a collective general will. If we had that, everything else would follow.

      But, of course, you don’t want that, do you, Steve? You want everyone else to assimilate to your ‘white’ cultural norms rather than integrate our various differences within a single multicultural nation.

  5. Roland Chaplain says:

    Choice: crash the global fossil fuel controlled global economy plus the capitalism you describe so brutally and accept maybe 2 billion mostly urban deaths (Art Berman – Planet:Critical) OR continue with corrupted economics and politics and accept 3 to 5C levels of global warming by the end of the century with an even greater number of deaths but spread over a much longer period of time (not to mention incalculable damage to nature).
    Faced with such a challenge it sure flags up just how much of a charade all of the politics we’re having to live with has become. At least you and I have an SNP candidate locally in Tracey Little who isn’t a career politician and I believe will stand up for our local victims of centuries of asset stripping of Scotland.

  6. florian albert says:

    ‘We will have to face our own ghosts and fairy tales’

    As a stalwart of Scotland’s progressive left for as long as I can remember, can Gerry Hassan tell us what ‘ghosts and fairy tales’ he and the Scottish progressive left have to face ?
    I would find this more enlightening than yet another denunciation of the the Tories and Westminister.

    1. Satan says:

      With left-wing politics in Scotland reduced to the Green Party, who are now full-on corporate capitalists, I think left-wingers face existential questions rather than magical realism questions. The SSP can’t even get a councillor elected and have the where-with-all to put up two GE candidates. They are as irrelevant as the Scottish Family Party and the Alba Party. As far as I can make out, their current strategy is mostly concerned with proving to people that they exist.

      1. 240616 says:

        ‘Left-wing politics’ has not been reduced to the Green Party. Left-wing politics transcends party politics; it’s any formal or informal activism that challenges and/or subverts the status quo/establishment/whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised in a polity. Left-wing activism is alive and well and living in various guises all over these islands. It’s also so disparate and diverse as to resist reduction to any particular ideology or programme for government.

    2. Gerry Hassan says:

      If you read or even had a quick look at my 2014 book written in the run-up to the indyref: Caledonian Dreaming: The Quest for a Different Scotland you would find laid out the detailed critique you are looking for.

      If lays out across several chapters in depth an examination of the limits of progressive Scotland, its conceits & consequences which flow from this, and asserts that any radical or even substantive politics has to challenge these illusions and what I would regard as deliberate deceptions.

      This critique in book form was widely discussed when published and widely reviewed. Hope that helps you.

      1. florian albert says:

        Thanks. It was interesting to walk back to the 2014 campaign.
        I agree with most of your analysis of the weakness of Progressive Scotland.

        A decade on, much of your analysis reads like an obituary. The ‘Third Scotland’, which you hoped would help transform the country, has remained peripheral.
        Two particular weaknesses have contributed to this.
        The groups you mention were, and are, overwhelmingly middle class and disconnected from what is left of the traditional working class. When R I S E tried to make a connection in this role in 2016, it failed totally.
        The progressive left has no economic programme which will appeal to ‘left behind’ Scotland.
        We are left with a zombie progressive left which, at Holyrood, threw itself enthusiastically behind a law on trans self-identification. This law has led to political changes in Scotland which are ‘not necessarily to the advantage’ of progressive Scotland.

        This morning, The Times reports that house prices in Scotland are increasing at four times the rate of England. This is a disaster for Scotland but it is very good news for huge section of the population, very many of whom would view themselves as progressives.

  7. Wul says:

    So where is the Left’s response to ordinary people with “concerns about immigration”?

    Farage, Tories (& now Starmer) have used fear of the “other” to propel their success. It is quite normal for people to feel unsettled when there’s a sudden increase in foreigners in their community. The far-right have welcomed people who are worried, whose communities are bereft of good public housing and services, and made them feel included, welcomed, legitimate. The Left told them “STFU & stop being racist”.

    There needs to be a strong, reassuring message and aligned policy from the left to address these fears. Otherwise the game’s a bogie. Because brown people ain’t going away in the UK. The world is changing (has changed). 1950 ain’t coming back.

    The Left needs to strongly state that:
    We need immigrants. They make a valuable contribution to out society. People are all the same. There are going to be a lot more coming soon. It will be OK. Public infrastructure will be modernised, increased, meet all housing needs, massive investment in the NHS. Growth only happens after government infrastructure investment. We CAN afford it ( because government creates money). Access to the global market means accepting “global” people here. The world is burning (some of it our fault) and everyone is going to suffer a great deal of inconvenience. etc etc.

    In other words a real, honest, true response that treats the population with respect and as adults and tells the real “hard truths”. And tells the right-wing media to go f**k itself. Strongly, bluntly and courageously.

    Any politician who can’t stand up and demolish the Tories and Starmer’s lies and cowardice isn’t worth the candle, or a vote.

    1. Satan says:

      There is a argument that immigration is driven by neoliberal corporate greed, a great many immigrants are exploited in order to depress wages for manual workers, and skilled immigrants are stripping desperately needed skills from the global south. It’s a global phenomenon. The likes of the Polish economy is booming, so in the UK we are mostly talking about Indians, Nigerians, Hong Kongers, Pakistanis, and Ukrainians (if you are concerned about asylum seekers, in the UK the majority of them are Albanian, but asylum seekers are a small part of UK immigration).

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @Wul, but if our society is dependent on (younger, skilled/trained or desperate to work) immigrants, doesn’t this suggest there is something unhealthy about our society, and we would be better trying to fix that than rely on outside resources? We can still absorb incomers while doing so, but isn’t this just pushing the underlying problems a few years into the future? Whether that is skill shortages, a cultural disdain for certain types of labour tied in with a preference for socially-useless or actively-harmful jobs, an unsustainable and suboptimal cultural trend for warehousing old people, an economic system that generates ill health, or whatever.

      Under the circumstances, I don’t think a low birth rate is such a problem if the world is overpopulated by humans already.

      1. Wul says:

        The sane, rational response to your point ( and Santa’s) would be to increase the minimum wage in the UK and improve working conditions and contracts (scrap zero-hours) , so that these jobs become attractive to people who already live here.

        I would agree that our current neo-liberal system allows jobs and businesses that are not actually viable to exist and flourish. The workers are consumed, as is the host market. I would put e.g. Amazon in this category; delivering goods for free at ridiculously low cost is only possible due to desperate workers and an extractive tax regime that depletes the host country. Likewise some of the care sector, which consumes it’s workers’ well-being. In-work benefits paid by the state are subsidising a “business” model that is unsustainable and harmful.

        The “cure” would be to shift the power back to workers interests and away from exploiting corporations greed. Also, to have massive foreign aid programmes which support viable economies in those countries that people are escaping from. IMO.

        1. 240612 says:

          Trouble is, Wul, we’ve low levels of unemployment, thanks mainly to the relative cheapness of labour generally in our economy; so we need to import more to meet our overall demand. Increasing wages won’t solve the underlying problem, which is that we simply don’t have enough labour to supply the demand for it.

          We need to increase the labour supply; and to do that, we need to attract migration (i.e. the flow of labour) both into and within these islands.

          1. Satan says:

            Wait ’till you go to Aberdeen – much of it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, presumably because no-one wants to live in Aberdeen unless they are getting seriously paid for it, or they don’t have the where-with-all to leave. I can’t blame them.

          2. 240612 says:

            @ Satan
            I had my ICD fitted in Aberdeen a couple of years ago. It’s a fine city.

        2. Satan says:

          Jobs like Diliverooists and care home staff (with the exception of the NHS) pay quite a lot more than £11.44 / hour. The British (nearly all of us) are seriously rich when you use the UK government’s definition of poverty to us and other countries, and we want to sit in an office in front of a computer, and get dinner delivered to the door by a Bengali. It’s global corporate exploitation. Even in Russia,which is a lot poorer, manual workers tend to be Tajik or Chinese.

      2. Niemand says:

        The problem with a low birth rate in a world where we live much longer than we used to is the economy fails and young people suffer even more and fall further behind in living standards and /or older people have to work till they drop (literally). Workers and institutions that rely on provision for young people (nurseries, schools, universities etc) will go to the wall as well. There are lots of negative consequences and I agree that migration should only be part of the solution as it clearly causes a host of its own problems.

        I agree that this is contradicted by the problem of over-population in the world generally, but there must be a happy medium (and is Scotland over-populated?). Countries like South Korea’s birth rate is so low (less than 1) they are looking at a very dire situation in the next decade or so.

  8. SleepingDog says:

    The neoliberal view of elections is that they offer a (constrained, market-supporting) menu for the electorate. A consumer choice, where the voter tests the candidate or party options. But what if the real test was of the voter? What about voter accountability, responsibility? One of the odd things about representative democracy is that the right to vote is not matched by a duty to vote responsibly. Perhaps media coverage could focus on that question for a change.

  9. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    “There is no chance of a return to normalcy under Keir Starmer’s Labour” – what a stupid statement! What is ‘normal’? Thatcherite neoliberalism and increasing disenchantment with politicians has been the norm for almost 50 years, since James Callaghan’s Cambridge Union speech.

    What is lacking from Labour is as you eventually hint at is a different narrative to articulate what many want the hegemony to be – a sense of community in which people are valued and in which there is an equitable distribution of resources, rights and powers to all. It used to go by the term ‘socialism’. Starmer has declared himself to be a ‘socialist’ who is also so PATRIOTIC that he stands in front of two flags and admires Margaret Thatcher.

    Bodger Broon during his hapless Premiership was unwilling to bring himself to deliver such a narrative, but did not want to upset the editor of the Daily Mail and Rupert Murcdoch. Broon, biographer of Maxton, knew the narrative but chose not to state it explicitly – cowardice or choice? The Bodger wanted, in the words of Tom Nairn to be ‘The Bard of Britishness’.

    A huge swathe of the population know the narrative they want as many opinion polls since Jeremy Corbyn was leader of Labour and expressed them.

    1. 240612 says:

      And yet, in the only poll that mattered, the broadest swathe rejected the narrative that Jeremy Corbyn expressed. And it certainly seems that, in forthcoming poll on July 4th, the biggest swathe is going to endorse the one that Keir Starmer’s expressing.

    2. florian albert says:

      You refer to a ‘sense of community . . . in which there is an equitable distribution of resources, rights and powers.’

      The problem here is that, in unequal Scotland, those who have more than their fair share are determined to keep it. The recent upsurge in inflation demonstrated this brutally, with (relatively) privileged professional groups going on strike to protect/regain their material advantage.

      1. 240612 says:

        Yeah, but there are different conceptions of ‘fairness’. For some, a fair distribution of wealth would be according to deserts, in which case such meritorious differentials of reward as you point to ought be maintained; for others, a fair distribution would consist in share and share alike, in which case maintaining any sort of differential of reward would be wrong; for others still, a fair distribution would be according to need rather than desert, in which case an equitable distribution of income would be a redistribution that ensures that everyone has enough to live on.

        What counts as an equitable distribution of wealth is relative on the theory of distributive justice to which you subscribe. Everyone believes that the nation’s wealth should be distributed fairly, but not everyone shares the same idea of what ‘fairly’ means.

  10. Niemand says:

    Good article Gerry but given all that you have said the obvious question is who are you going to vote for / what party do you recommend? Or do you think people should turn their backs?

    1. 240612 says:

      Or don’t vote for any party brand. Vote instead for the candidate you’d prefer to represent you in the UK Parliament, which is the purpose of the election after all.

      1. Niemand says:

        It is true some people vote on that basis but I suspect most don’t (I don’t) maybe because at a GE any candidate is so much part of a party’s machine that their autonomy is limited plus voting for a candidate where you can be pretty sure their party won’t be elected to govern means their powers become very limited indeed.

        But maybe in the case of being thoroughly uninspired by any party but still wanting to vote would lead to more careful scrutiny of individual candidates and a vote on that basis.

        1. 240612 says:

          I always vote non-ideologically in local, national, and supranational elections for the candidate I’d prefer to represent me in the council or parliament for which it’s being held. Sometimes, that’s the guy at the bottom of every ballot paper: ‘None of the Above’.

          1. Niemand says:

            I could never do that because I have a deeper interest in who is in power at Westminster as that will have the biggest overall effect on my life, not just in policy but in a kind of bigger sense of who represents the country.

          2. 240614 says:

            Yes, but my vote makes an almost negligible difference to which party will command a majority of seats in the UK parliament. The difference it makes to deciding who’s going to represent me and my fellow constituents in that parliament is at least mathematically less negligible.

          3. Niemand says:

            Hmm, but couldn’t everyone say that? Isn’t this how it works – a cumulative effect in that everyone’s negligible vote adds up to something tangible in terms of who forms the government?

            I know in safe seats you could argue it makes no difference but if everyone thought that, it would no longer be safe. And in marginal seats it really could make a difference.

            But I agree up to a point and is an argument for PR.

          4. 240615 says:

            Indeed, everyone could and perhaps should say that: that the end of democracy is to produce a general will, with the general will expressed being the cumulative effect of every individual vote cast, however negligible that individual vote might be in itself; that democracy is not about getting what we individually want or any majority of individuals wants, but about reflecting in all its nuances and contradictions what we all collectively want.

  11. philmac says:

    Excellent article.

    Yet depressing.
    The SNP have let themselves and us down.
    Fear of loss of control and power.
    It seemed obvious, post indy ref, that an umbrella Yes-party was the way forwards for Scotland.
    Sadly fear ruled the day and the political-silos were maintained.
    Whoever thought that a husband and wife team was a good look too……more Ceaucescu(s) than the pluralism we needed.

    But now, what a mess!
    Neo-liberalism, rabid capitalism and political ego are literally killing us.

    I would posit a question…..are politicians actually helpfu?
    As they continue to cede power to multinationals, sell off the country bit by bit and snuggle up to the establishment.

    We were promised land reform, left policies and independence.

    Instead we got the uber-industrialisation of the land, more food banks, a motorhome and massive roaming-data charges.

    PS also why continue the charade of Westminster…….what’s the point.

    It’s all thoroughly depressing.

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