Tim at Bloggersheads got it exactly right yesterday.
Tony Blair can't be waited out, or smoked out... he needs to be thrown out.Blair's speech today proves the point just in case anyone was in any doubt. The time for the Labour Party to grow a conscience is long overdue. If this doesn't get sorted out soon the "Thatcher Effect" is going to land the Labour Party back in opposition for a very long time indeed.
I was going to take some notes on Blair's speech but I found it far to irritating to be able to manage that to any useful degree. I did write down one sentence which stuck out for me
Politics is the answer, not terrorism.Terrorism is cleary not the answer to anything and in that respect I agree. There is absolutely no justification for terrorism.
But, at the risk of sounding like a heretic, I think it's becoming increasing clear that British politics in its current form can't provide the answers to our problems either. I'll try to explain what I mean. I don't think that my political views are particularly extreme. On the traditional political scale I'd probably be classed as slightly left of centre. I'm certainly not a hard line leftie and I never have been. So, I'm progressive, a bit liberal, and a bit left of centre. In the UK general election in May I did not have the option to vote for these values in any meaningful way. There were two realistic choices as to who would be the next government, and both support policies to the right of my own position.* There was no vote I could cast which could influence the political landscape in the UK in the way I believe is necessary.
What we currently have in this country is a choice between the right of centre Tories and the right of centre Blairites. Let's not kid ourselves, there are differences between the two parties. Blairism is slighly less awful than Thatcherism but I'd argue there's not that much in it. The gap between the richest and poorest continues to widen at an alarming rate. Can I vote for a party who wishes to address this problem? Well, yes, I could, but it wouldn't achieve anything.
It's an oft quoted statistic that Blair won the last election on a 22% share of those eligible to vote. He says this gives him a mandate because this is more than any of the other parties managed. In a way that makes sense, he should lead the most powerful party. But, a system which gives absolute power to a PM based on the support of less than a quarter of the population is a system which is broken. The opinions of the 78% who did not vote for Blair count for nothing in our system. And of the 22%, how many voted Labour because they worried that Peter Hain's back door might be penetrated by the Tories? How many took advantage of one of Polly's nose pegs? What percentage actively supported Blair at the last election? 20%? 15%? 10%? What kind of mandate is that for authoritarian government?
For me, British democracy has failed. My voice, as well as those of huge numbers of others with similar, and indeed very different, opinions, has become irrelevant. It doesn't matter what I want or what you want either most likely. Unless you're one of the lucky few swing voters who've been targeted as belonging to a key demographic, you can take your opinions and stuff them up your ballot box for all the good they'll do. Our politicians don't care what you think because they don't need to. As long as they can maintain their well oiled sleazy relationship with their swingers, they can stay in power. The rest of us just have to make do as best we can. A few scraps might get thrown our way if we're lucky but nothing more.
And this makes me very angry. It's not like I want to introduce Stalinist five year plans or something, I just want my vote to count. But it doesn't. Do I feel marginalised, frustrated, ignored? Yes, of course I do. Does this situation give me faith in the democratic process of the country I live in? No, it does not. Am I becoming an "extremist"? In a sense, you could say that I am. Will I decide to take up arms against the political system? No, but I do have a hint of an idea as to how someone would arrived at such a decision.**
So, Blair can harp on about how politics is the answer all he wants. The fact is that under Blair, there is less democracy in this country than there has been for a very long time. If he doesn't see that, and more importantly, if he doesn't understand how big a problem it is, then he's even more of an idiot than I had previously thought. And I haven't even mentioned Blair's continuing efforts to stifle dissent and restrict the right to protest. He needs to be got rid of. We need a leader who can face the fact that democracy in this country is in desperate need of reform. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the heir apparent is going to be that leader. Yay for politics.
*In fact even that is misleading. Given the Labour majority going into the election, and the current voting system, there was only ever a choice about the size of the Labour majority. In a very real sense there was only one choice.
** Justifying terrorism, eh? Belmarsh, here I come