Skip to main content
A Magazine for

What's Left?: If the game is fixed, change the rules

870 1580390098
House of Commons seats after 2019 General Election. Credit: Karamu-kun (Wikimedia Commons).

The results of the 2019 election are even worse than they appear.

Despite austerity, welfare reform, Brexit and climate change, we have again elected an extreme right-wing government that controls both mainstream and social media. Unless we do something radically different, we face another ten years of Tory rule.

Johnson and Cummings did what politicians and their advisors are supposed to do: understand the conditions for success and act accordingly. They built the biggest coalition of support they could by offering Brexiteers exactly what they wanted. The fact that Brexit will damage the economy is irrelevant. Austerity has already damaged the economy, yet the Conservatives pay no price for this. The public's frame of reference is the media, not reality.

The Left had comforted itself in the hope that media bias could be overcome by the creative use of social media. But it turns out that the Right can use money to lie and control social media with no negative consequences.

The biggest mistake that the Labour Party could make now is to carry on playing by the rules of a political system that is so fixed against it. We will be encouraged to believe that the political complexion of the party's next leader is the crucial issue, but again this is irrelevant. Labour will lose as many votes as it gains, whether to the Left or the Right.

No single party is likely to defeat the Right in the next 20 years

This is not 1981; there will be no SDP. This is not 1997; there will be no new New Labour. The Liberal Democrats are not going to sweep into power. The Labour Party will once again struggle to gain over 40% of the vote. The Green Party will not replace Labour as the natural home of the Left. Nationalist parties will gain more support, but they cannot win a majority in Westminster. No single party is likely to defeat the Right in the next 20 years.

But the fact that each progressive party is potentially doomed to irrelevance should be a source of power for the Left. If progressive politicians start to be genuinely political and think about the possibilities created by this crisis then there are several strategies worth developing.

If I were Labour leader I'd start by offering other parties an electoral pact based on the introduction of proportional representation and the right of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to secede from the union. This would be a prize which most progressive parties would sacrifice a lot to achieve. Even if the offer was rejected it would position Labour as a party with vision beyond its own interests.

I would create a unity shadow government to organise collective resistance to the Johnson-Cummings government and to demonstrate that coalition government is feasible and attractive. Johnson's vanity means he will not want to face a united opposition, so it could have some political impact, especially on the issue of climate change.

I would establish constitutional conventions to develop a new constitution for the countries of the UK. These could meet over three years and create a new written constitution based on human rights, with no House of Lords, devolution and a fair economic settlement, and much greater citizen participation and control at every level. All of this could be introduced after the success of a new progressive alliance at the next general election.

I am not the leader of the Labour Party, but as a citizen of Sheffield and Yorkshire I think there are lots of opportunities to create local change that shows what can be done. Anyone else up for creating a progressive alliance for Sheffield?

Next article in issue 143

Related articles

Our Dave

Local illustrator channels creativity into writing and self-publishes feline fiction to support The Sheffield Cats Shelter during the pandemic.