06 May 2008
A Realignment In British Politics?
A realignment is taking place in British politics, and it is now just possible to see the outlines of how that reshaped political landscape will look. That a realignment is taking place is beyond doubt; the Nu-Labour strategy of treating the working class with contempt because they have nowhere else to go, whilst competing with the Tories for the votes of the aspiring lower-middle-class, was always doomed to fail in the long run because it was based upon two flawed premises.
The first was that the new voters that Labour attracted would become party identifiers, and thus many would stick with the party come what may. This was always a forlorn hope, but the brutal truth that Blair's new voters were always mere political consumers who could be tempted away by other brands only became clear on the 1st May when Labour finished third in the polls.
The second flawed premise was that the working class would remain loyal to the party because they had no other political home. Nobody seemed to have considered seriously the idea that the working class could start to treat the Labour Party with the same contempt that the party had shown to them. Working class turnout at elections has declined steadily since 1997 and the recent local elections have only accelerated that trend.
The point here is that Labour has now broken its tribal link to the working class voter. People who were never particularly interested in politics, but who voted Labour because they identified with it as being the party of their interests, no longer do so. That link cannot be repaired, and that vote is now but a memory.
A decline in voter turnout is often a sign that a realignment is on the way, but these recent elections also saw the beginnings of a new working class party's formation, especially in South Wales.
In places like Merthyr Tydfil, where the Labour vote used to be weighed and not counted, the party suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of so-called independents. Of course these independents are nothing of the kind: they are the old, South Wales Labour Party regulars who can no longer stomach New Labour and its agenda. It is to be expected that those figures will sooner rather than later give themselves a name and constitute themselves as a party. When that happens, other groups and individuals in the major cities of Northern England and Scotland can be expected to sign up.
The final shape of politics would probably see the Tories remaining as the voice of the middle class, employed in the private sector. The rump of the Labour Party can be expected to join the Liberal-Democrats to form a centre left party that draws its support from the public sector Polyocracy.
The new working class party can be expected to draw on the support of the 5.3 million people in Britain who earn less than $6.67 an hour. These are the people who do the shit jobs, for the shit wages, for the shit gaffers - the people who are boycotting Labour because it no longer even pretends to care about their interests. If we add to that the couple of million who are either unemployed, long term sick or bringing up children on state handouts, then we have a natural constituency for this party of over nine million people - and that is before the party starts offering economic security policies to other groups.
The key to this new party's success would lie in sane and sensible policies that appeal to the working class. It is time to start ignoring the lifestyle issues that have so dominated debate over the past decade. The party needs policies that will put economic security for it people first, second and third on the agenda. Everything else is mere hogwash.