I know that Craig Murray is disappointed that he didn’t do better in the Norwich North by-election, but to scoop up almost 1,000 votes and come ahead of the BNP after only three weeks of campaigning on a skewed playing field is surely cause for congratulation.
We are at a turning point in British politics. The Blair-Brown New Labour project has lost its magic and many people who voted for it repeatedly since 1997 no longer believe in its empty promises. Its failure to effectively correct most of what has gone wrong during the past year in our economy and our political culture is damningly obvious. Clearly a majority of voters want fundamental changes to the way we are governed, but the lack of any clear lead from the two biggest parties despite the massive display of public anger caused the voters to stay at home in large numbers on this occasion.
Because of this abstention factor the Conservatives won the seat comfortably but they also dropped some 2000 votes on their 2005 general election score, so they have no cause to feel cock-a-hoop. They have still to convince a vital segment of the electorate that they are worth turning to at the impending general election. Given our unjust first-past-the-post system (which needless to say they support) they will probably win a majority of seats but not of votes. Those of us who want proportional representation may wish – as we always do – for a hung parliament which will give the Liberal Democrats leverage, but such slender hopes of a fluke outcome are not the proper road to giving the electorate what it is entitled to – a fair voting system. The opposition of the two large parties, and their record of broken promises on the issue, speaks volumes about their unfitness to govern.
But far more than electoral reform and a clean-up of MPs’ expenses is needed to restore public confidence in the political system, now at its lowest ebb that I can recall in 60 years of observing politics. We are living in extraordinary times; the danger is that for many younger people who have known little else and whose memories don’t stretch back beyond the 1990s the current low and dishonest state of politics will become the norm.
The euphoria of New Labour’s victory in 1997 already seems a world away. The prospect we were offered by the beaming Tony Blair amidst chants of “things can only get better” of more openness and honesty in politics turned out to be a mirage. In almost no time Mr Squeaky-Clean was in front of the TV cameras glibly assuring us that he was “a pretty straight kind of guy” after allegations of advertising rule- bending in favour of a large Labour Party donor had emerged. His performance had eerie echoes of President Nixon’s tear-jerking Watergate TV appearance cuddling the family pooch.
This was merely a banal prelude to the post-9/11 nightmare: Blair’s spineless cosying up to the most right-wing bellicose US administration since the Second World War; his insouciant brushing aside of at least a million marchers against British participation in the illegal invasion of Iraq; sexed up dodgy dossiers; the outing and consequent suicide of a decent and loyal public servant, Dr David Kelly; sofa government that largely by-passed a docile cabinet; endless intrigue and media spin by the Mephistophelian Alastair Campbell…..Even worse, the trashing of many of our centuries-old hard won civil liberties which used to be the proud boast of our democracy but which didn’t weigh in the balance against a largely spurious ‘war on terror’. And the torrent of unnecessarily restrictive legislation and petty rules and regulations imposed upon us by this government and its local minions would make the most hardened Stalinist apparatchik green with envy.
All this alienated many, though not all, of New Labour’s supporters, many of whom heaved a sigh of relief when the egregious Blair was at last displaced by the glowering, Heathcliffian Brown who promised to bring his much-vaunted moral compass to bear upon the nation’s discontents. After all the blunders and misjudgements of the past year, it is amazing that this tin-eared man still affects to believe that the nation needs him. It does – like a hole in the head.
But the only likely alternative doesn’t look all that much more convincing. Cameron, Osborne and co. are a lacklustre lot, and the only experienced ex-cabinet minister among them, Kenneth Clarke, is at odds with the party policy over Europe.
So it’s no wonder that far from having switched off from politics more and more people are too angry to participate while the current rotten system prevails. Thousands of independent-minded people are deeply concerned about this country’s future and are looking for a new deal. How that is to materialise, and whether the varied bunch of dissenters who want to trigger it off can combine convincingly enough to rally significant voter support, remains to be seen. But the darkest night comes before the dawn, and the first rustlings of significant change are audibly in the air. Now is the time for all good folk to come to the aid, not of the party, but of the country.