By Friday we should know the result of the UK General Election. Polls have shown very little movement for the two main parties, but they have not been the main story this time. In what must be a first, Scotland has figured as the main talking point, causing cognitive dissonance so extreme that the main political parties (Labour, Tory, Lib Dem) are sending out a series of confused and confusing messages (Vote SNP Get Labour, Vote SNP Get Tory, Vote Labour Get SNP etc etc).
Politics since the rise of neoliberalism has seen a steady rise in meaningless messages. Vote for the person you want to drink a beer with, vote for stability, “hard working families“, “change“. Back in the 70s when financier David Rockefeller was freaking out with the rest of the elites over what had happened in the 60s, he set up the Trilateral Commission to study what had went wrong and how to fix it. He got academics from the USA, Europe and Japan to have a think and they produced the Crisis of Democracy. One of the academics involved, Samuel Huntington declared the problem was an “excess of democracy” and the solution was a return to public apathy.
While elites have not been as successful as they might have hoped in eliminating the public from politics, they have created a crisis of democracy in the sense that few people have any faith in the system, whether in the UK or other “Western” governments. And so neither the Tories nor Labour, if the polls are correct, will win an outright majority (326 seats out of 650). And the neoliberal party par excellence, the Liberal Democrats look like they will pay for having gone into coalition with the Tories, few buying their line that they made the last five years more human.
While the UK media, particularly the BBC, spent the past few years talking up the popularity of the far right, anti-immigrant UKIP party, they look like they may not win as big as predicted, their leader Nigel Farage in danger of not gaining his seat.
But – again if polls are correct – the real beneficiaries of the election will be the Scottish National Party who look to go from 6 MPs to anywhere from 20 to 50+. Scotland sends 59 MPs to Westminster, and the majority have always been Labour, which has dominated Scottish politics for almost a century. But since the Blair years, the party has been seen as less and less progressive and the Iraq War was the last straw for many. The Scottish Parliament has meant that the SNP has had the opportunity to govern, and have largely been judged competent, which compared to the machine politics of Scottish Labour is high praise indeed. And the SNP have now positioned themselves as part of a progressive, anti-austerity alliance with Plaid Cymru and the Greens.
The assorted media and political elites have been unable to comprehend what is happening, and have trotted out many of the same scare stories from the Independence Referendum, but have been unable to make much traction with them. While they were pulling in the same direction during the referendum, they’re now attacking each other as well as the threat of the SNP, so their messages have been less consistent. They have wheeled out Gordon Brown, however, who gave a “thunderous”, “barn-storming” speech. What difference it will make to anyone remains to be seen, but journalists liked it.
And of course, embattled Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy was able to get news because he was hectored by some noisy protesters. This was reported by one journalist as “absolute chaos on the streets of Glasgow”; anyone aware of what’s going on in Baltimore might assume this journo has led a rather sheltered existence.
It all seems like deja vu. During the referendum, the fear factor was ratcheted up, and as polling day approached warnings of apocalypse became ever more hysterical. And as we near polling day, dire warnings continue that if we don’t stick with the status quo – either the Con/Dem coalition or Labour in Scotland – everything will fall apart. 1 million people reportedly use foodbanks in the UK, a 19% year upon year increase. The Tories say that they need another five years to finish the job, presumably getting millions more to use foodbanks. The Labour Party’s response is to carve their “pledges” into a tablet of stone. But as Labour’s candidate Lucy Powell points out “I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that the fact he’s carved them into stone means he’s absolutely, you know, not going to break them or anything like that.” One thing is for certain, all the mainstream parties believe “passionately” about something or other.
Despite the warnings that the sky will fall if voters don’t do what they’re told, the people are behaving in an unpredictable fashion. Perhaps the party leaders would do well to take the advice of Bertolt Brecht:
After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?