UK election open thread.

by Harry on May 7, 2015

3 seats in, all Labour in the northeast. Exit polls indicate meltdown for the LDs, but the Tories doing much better than they expected. Also that UKIP will be the third party in England and Wales in terms of votes. Speculate/Enjoy/Analyze away.



Sasha Clarkson 05.07.15 at 11:14 pm

Lib Dem election chief Lord Ashdown told the BBC: “If this exit poll is right I will publicly eat my hat.” Well Panstdown, you pompous sanctimonious adulterous git, I expect that will be another broken Lie-Dem promise – wanker!!!!! (Sorry if I cause offence.)

Of course, it is too early to tell yet, but my guess is the the new government will be weak and short-lived, relying on the heirs of Iain Paisley. Labour did quite well in England, but not well enough. The Scottish Labour party tanked – it’s a terrible party machine up there anyway the worst of old and New Labour.

Karma has overtaken the Lib-Dems, as the history of the 30s and 40s repeats itself. I really hope that Clegg loses, because in my view he is personally the most to blame for his party’s collapse: but the rest of them deserve it too: the two-faced bastards sold their souls for office without power. I actually think they enabled the Tories to be MORE extreme, because the Lib Dems knew in their gutlessness that they were Turkeys who couldn’t afford to vote for early Christmas. The Ucrap balloon is punctured – for now, but never underestimate the power of ignorant xenophobia. If Caroline Lucas gets another Green colleague that will be great! But for once, I’m not staying up to see the agony!

Good night all! :)


Anders 05.07.15 at 11:16 pm

Looks like the traditional media onslaught against Miliband, and the dreaded MediaMacro, have prevailed. The UK’s old media appears to be in rude health right now.


Abbe Faria 05.07.15 at 11:20 pm

“The people of England regards itself as free; but it is grossly mistaken; it is free only during the election of members of parliament. As soon as they are elected, slavery overtakes it, and it is nothing. The use it makes of the short moments of liberty it enjoys shows indeed that it deserves to lose them.”

That pretty much sums up my thoughts on the exit poll.


TM 05.08.15 at 12:24 am

While the Brits voted for the same old again, here’s some real news:

A social democratic landslide in – Alberta!!! Why isn’t this all over the media? (who cares about England anyway…)


Harry b 05.08.15 at 12:36 am

Ashdown did rather hurriedly demand that the hat be made of marzipan


Anderson 05.08.15 at 12:49 am

First Netanyahu. Now this.


basil 05.08.15 at 1:22 am

Even people who don’t think voting counts can be pleased with the outcomes projected for Scotland.


Alan White 05.08.15 at 1:45 am

Hi Harry (fellow UW minion of ALEC)–

I could look stuff up, but I’m interested in your take on the following:

(1) How involved is the Brit electorate (over recent history) as compared with the US in national elections? Here in the US it seems all about motivating the right groups at the right times in the right venues.

(2) How would you rate the effectiveness of ALEC-like private groups in influencing elections in GB (with respect to privatization of education., etc.)? (I know that ALEC has become international in scope, so I’m curious.)

Thanks in advance for any insight. I’m a long-time Anglophile in both philosophy and humor, so I’m into what’s important.


Christopher Phelps 05.08.15 at 1:53 am

1. The exit polls are holding true so far in Scotland, where it’s a clean sweep for SNP over Labour. Gotta love the Scots: affirming for social democracy – shortly after affirming they want to stay in the UK.

2. If they had been joined by English voters, the latter would have turned out better, but “Red Ed” never was red, no matter the tabloids. Russell Brand, promises on tombstones, kitchens upstairs and down: never comfortable in his own skin.

3. Goodbye Cleggers – and good riddance. Tuition fees, remembered.

4. Greens projected to double on two, so imagine what they might do if they obtain a more inspiring leader.

5. Watch UKIP get more press, though.

6. Why the advance polls so discrepant from the results?

Puttering back to bed now.


basil 05.08.15 at 2:02 am

Labour the embrace the City, pro-austerity party, with their immigration mug, edStone and support for murderous adventurism abroad are Nadering the SNP for their defeat.


basil 05.08.15 at 2:06 am

@9, yes, two-kitchens, Oxbridge Ed talks the talk but isn’t ready to rebel against the Downton party.


js. 05.08.15 at 2:23 am

Ugh. So, what happened? Anders @2 makes sense, but would love to hear more insights.


mds 05.08.15 at 3:04 am

So this presumably means that Ed is out, as Labour makes penance for trying yet again to run as the “We can do austerity and budget-balancing too! Just watch us!” party. Whereupon … Ed Balls becomes the new Labour leader? David “The more right-wing” Miliband? Because next time people will finally want warmed-over Tory ideas leavened with more accounting sense, while lacking most of the Tory gleefulness in kicking the filthy poors repeatedly in their faces.

Also, I don’t know if there was any way to thread the needle between “He wants to destroy the Union” and “I will not form a center-left coalition, no matter the price to the nation,” but Miliband seemed especially cack-handed about it. To make it all about me the US, I will quote commenter Murc at Lawyers, Guns, and Money:

I understand why he did it, but Miliband’s threats to the Scottish electorate were shockingly ill-conceived. I don’t know how your typical UK voter weighs things, but speaking for myself, I respond to warnings but not to threats.
By which I mean, if the Democratic Party tells me “You shouldn’t vote Green, it means a Republican will win your district” I will take that seriously. If it tells me “You shouldn’t vote Green because even if they win your district, we will refuse to work with their representative in any way, even if that means Republicans rule” I will goddamn paint myself Green and walk into the voting both [sic] St. Patrick’s Day stylez, because fuck you.

Talking entirely out of my marzipan hat, my outsider sense was that it was probably a lost cause for Labour in Scotland this cycle regardless, but I’m not convinced that it showed the right sort of spine in the face of the poll numbers to declare that he wouldn’t even take under advisement the only possible route to governance. Because they tarred him with SNP-by-association anyway.


harry b 05.08.15 at 3:04 am

Chris, great to hear from you! Greens could do with any leader.
UKIP are unlikely to really move ahead unless Farage wins, in my opinion. They have been so dependent on his charm, and aren;t yet in a position to forge (or farage) ahead without him. SO FUNNY to see you writing Britishisms – the tables have turned somehow. BTW, google ‘Rush Limbaugh bedtime stories’ to see what I’ve been dealing with. Labour lost this when they chose Ed over David. Incredibly stupid decision. Personally I think the SNP and the Tories have colluded to terrify english voters into voting Tory, and this suits them both perfectly.

WHY IS NOBODY TALKING ABOUT THE UKIP VOTERS IN WALES? Who are these people? Is it a weird protest vote, or horrible English immigrants, or a sign of something deeper?

Oh, I see the LibDems held onto their seat in Denmark. What a relief that the SNP didn’t get that one.

Alan: no ALEC in the UK. or anything like it. Basically, there is a post-Thatcherite consensus among the main parties — a stable, somewhat underfunded, welfare state, social liberalism throughout (Tories legalized gay marriage), gradual privatization of schools (started in 1981, gradually increased by every education act since), etc. The question is — what does the extremely high UKIP vote really mean, and that I don’t have a good answer to (and nor do the TV commentators as far as I can tell).


js. 05.08.15 at 3:17 am

My understanding was that Ed Miliband represents the “left wing” of Labour, such as it is these days. Am I wrong about this?


Warren Terra 05.08.15 at 3:17 am

As an American observer from afar – so take this with appropriate discount – I can’t see how anyone could vote Lib Dem after they sold their principles not for a mess of pottage but instead for nothing at all, so far as I can tell. A few Lib Dems got to have fancy stationary for five years, but it’s not clear what if any influence on government they had, while famously betraying their supposed principles. Speaking of which, they should have left the government when the Tories so blatantly shafted them on electoral reform.

As to the projected result: I am saddened but not surprised by the continuing rise of UKIP, and given that (again, from afar) I couldn’t see any evidence of actual, sincere goals from Labour, who don’t really seem to have recovered from the intellectual bankruptcy Blair put them in, I’m also not surprised they may have underperformed at the polls.


Mitch Guthman 05.08.15 at 3:33 am

Christopher Phelps at 9

You say that Scotland’s overwhelming vote for the SNP is “affirming for social democracy – shortly after affirming they want to stay in the UK”. Perhaps that’s what Scotland thought it was doing but it seems to me that the inevitable result of today’s vote is that is secession and a long, lingering death for the social welfare state everywhere in the present day United Kingdom.

I freely confess that I don’t know much about Scotland but it’s difficult to see the logic of voting for the secessionist SNP instead of Labour immediately after voting to remain in the union. If the Scots remain in the union, they’ve probably doomed the social welfare state by keeping in power—with an even larger and more stable majority— a Conservative government that is an implacable foe of everything you say the Scots think they’re voting to keep. Even if the Conservatives keep all of their promises from the referendum—which they won’t—Scotland is neither sufficiently independent nor sufficiently rich to maintain itself as an island even as the social welfare state crumbles everywhere else.

On the other hand, from this point forward, I think it’s going to be increasingly difficult for Scotland to stay in the union. It’s impossible for Labour to get back into government without its Scottish stronghold but, equally, the SNP seems toxic enough in the rest of the UK that I think it would be impossible for them to enter into some kind of arrangement with the SNP. That leaves the SNP in power in Scotland but with everything it’s supposedly pledged to protect under continual threat from the Westminster Parliament that will, in all likelihood, be dominated by a Conservative Party that is utterly opposed to everything the SNP claims to stand for.

I think pressure on Scotland’s more generous social services, education and NHS will force the SNP to call for another vote on secession in the near future and, if today’s vote is an indication, it will win. Yet, it will have cemented in power in its most powerful neighbour and biggest trading partner, a Conservative Party that will see any continued vitality or economic growth in left leaning Scotland as a threat. And the Scots will have effectively alienated and probably destroyed any possible allies in what would remain of the United Kingdom.

My own assessment is that Scotland has basically decided to secede in the near future and has chosen to burn all her bridges behind her. I hear what people are saying about the inadequacy and ineptitude of Scottish Labour but I think this has been a grievous, suicidal error by the Scots. If, as you suggest, the Scottish people thought they were somehow voting to save the social welfare state, then they are idiots.


Bruce Wilder 05.08.15 at 3:55 am

One thing I would be curious about is whether there’s any indication that potential UKIP voters vote tactically to elect Conservatives, where they can.


harry b 05.08.15 at 3:59 am

js — I wouldn’t have said that, no, but its not clear there is a left wing (apart from the far left old-timers — Skinner, McDonnell, etc — and I mean no disrespect, they are terrific people). Ed was chosen over his brother David because it was thought he was to David’s left. But he was less left than he looked and, imho, David was more left wing than he looked — the big differences between them all favoured David (which is why, in fact, a good number of left MPs supported him). It was a bad, bad, decision and they are reaping the consequences of that in England. In Scotland –not so clear, for two decades Labour has been repelling Scottish voters, and it has finally caught up with them, partly (but only partly) due to Camerons’s smart timing of the (very high-risk) referendum. This is the SNP’s high point, but it might be high enough to get them what they want.


harry b 05.08.15 at 4:00 am

Bruce — that’s one of the things that I don’t think the pollsters or commentators have a clue about because I don’t think they really know who (true) UKIP voters are.


Tabasco 05.08.15 at 4:45 am

Nobody not named Tony Blair has led Labour to victory in over 40 years. Blair was an electoral genius. If only he had used his genius for good rather than evil …


RK 05.08.15 at 5:05 am

Tabasco: “Over 40 years”? It hasn’t even been 40 years since James Callaghan was elected in 1976.

By the same token, only two people not named Margaret Thatcher have led the Conservatives to victory in 45 years.


Brett Dunbar 05.08.15 at 5:14 am

Callaghan didn’t win an election. Wilson had won the October 1974 election which was over 40 years ago. After Wilson resigned Callaghan became Labour leader and Prime minister without a general election.


lurker 05.08.15 at 5:14 am

@17, Mitch Gutman
It’s the English, not the Scots, who are giving the Tories a majority.


Harry b 05.08.15 at 5:27 am

Only 4 people have ever led the Labour party to government (including Wilson 4 times, and Blair 3 times).


john c. halasz 05.08.15 at 5:45 am

I dunno. At this point, 1:40 AM EDT, so 6:40 AM GMT, it looks like Lab is -28, Con is +20, LD is -38 and SNP is +49. Looks pretty hung to me, though I don’t know how to guess the remaining tiles on the scraggly map. But the aggregate totals likely will differ from the parliamentary seats. This is part of why I hate electoral politics…


Tabasco 05.08.15 at 5:50 am

Labour has paid a big price in Scotland for opposing Scottish independence. But if Scotland had voted yes and left then, as this election shows, the price would be permanent. England is a Tory like Utah is Republican.


Mitch Guthman 05.08.15 at 5:51 am

Lurker at 24,

I suppose it’s a question of semantics or, perhaps, of perspective whether Labour’s downfall was winning too few seats in England, so that it wouldn’t have needed Scottish votes or failing to successfully appeal to enough Scottish voters. Life’s too short to debate that. From my perspective, it doesn’t matter whether the votes should have come from England or Scotland—only the result matters and that result is a Conservative government that will surely repay Scotland’s irresponsibility a thousand fold.

Here’s how I see it: Scottish voters surely knew (1) that Labour couldn’t win without decisively carrying Scotland and (2) that either Labour or the Tories would be forming the next government. So Scottish voters faced a binary choice in which a vote for anyone other than Labour was perforce a vote for the Conservatives. Regardless of who should’ve done what, the result is surely the same—a Conservative government that will be extremely bad for everyone and that certainly includes Scotland.

Having earlier voted to remain a part of the United Kingdom, Scotland went out of its way in this election to ensure that, henceforth; it would live in the worst of all possible worlds. Scotland has trapped itself in a union that will be run by its worst enemies instead of its only friend. This can only be described as an act of unimaginable stupidity, short sightedness and caprice.


Sandwichman 05.08.15 at 6:02 am

“This can only be described as an act of unimaginable stupidity, short sightedness and caprice.”

Hogwash. If Scotland had elected 57 Labour MPs, there would still be a Tory majority. Why don’t you do some arithmetic?


Mitch Guthman 05.08.15 at 6:05 am

john c. halasz at 26,

You make a good point. We may all of us here (myself included) be overreacting to an exit poll that may not hold up. If I were a religious man, I’d certainly be praying for that. Maybe the best thing right now would be for us all to pray to Joe Pesci.

Nevertheless, as things stand now, I believe that the Tories will have the first go at forming a government and will be able to do so with the aid of the Ulster Unionists and, of course, the deservedly annihilated LibDems, who will probably be happy to settle for keeping their offices and perks and to hell with the country.

Also, it’s hard to see how Labour could form a government at this point. I not sure but I think that they fall short even if they go into coalition with the LibDems. And yet, they’ve very strongly indicated that they won’t join with the SNP no matter what. So, I’m totally at all loss to see any combination of events (except a coalition with the SNP) that could possibly result in a Labour government.


Sandwichman 05.08.15 at 6:12 am

The exit poll appears to be holding up rather well. Updated predictions are now for a possible slim Tory majority. The good news is the Tory’s won’t be able to hide behind the craven Lib-Dems anymore. In my opinion, the L-Ds performed a service as flak-catchers. They got what they deserved.


Tabasco 05.08.15 at 6:13 am

“If Scotland had elected 57 Labour MPs, there would still be a Tory majority.”

True, but without Scottish Labour MPs, the Tories will always be in Government. They are free to torture Scotland for their own amusement, and to the approval of the little Englanders. How is this in Scotland’s interests? William Wallace is not about to walk through that door.


Mitch Guthman 05.08.15 at 6:15 am

Sandwichman at 29,

As I read the results, you’re right that Labour wouldn’t have had a majority even if they’d won every seat in Scotland and the Conservatives had won none. But I think everyone saw going in to this election that no party was going to be able to govern on its own. The point is that if Scotland had gone for Labour, then I think they probably would’ve been able to form a government with the LibDems.

I’ll certainly grant you that Labour didn’t do as well as expected in England and that the English seemed surprisingly pleased with the totally unnecessary suffering they’d endured under the Conservatives. My point is that with Scotland it would’ve been possible to maybe cobble something together with the LibDems and a small, nonthreatening SNP. As things stand now, Labour is finished.


Sandwichman 05.08.15 at 6:21 am

Labour is not finished. Maybe Ed Miliband is finished. But Labour has the second highest number of seats and, at this point in the counting a comparable percentage of the possible vote.


basil 05.08.15 at 6:29 am

An interesting observation about the SNP surge is that it is a vote for an idea, or a set of them, and not for an individual leader. It isn’t either, as was made certain by London, a vote in the hope of winning executive office. The result is a collective politics mobilising for shared goals, not mendacious salesmen pitching hatred or jam at the electorate. I can’t see that Sturgeon is remembered after this result as the genius who delivered an electoral triumph or imagined as the Moses that gets Scotland out of the union.*

I will also remember watching the SNP’s Mhairi Black articulate an anti-war position. The 20 year old university student who unseated Danny Alexander, remembered her involvement in politics starting as a little girl protesting the invasion of Iraq. She spoke against Trident and how wrong it was to be spending billions on weapons of mass destruction.

Doubtless these aren’t the highlights that grownups find rewarding on a day like today. The Nadering of ‘idiots’ in evidence above proposes instead that we’ve arrived at the season for mega-threads on lesser-evilism. As Toynbee in the Guardian made out yesterday some electoral choices, Green, PC, SNP, abstention are ‘criminal’.

* Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP party leader, wasn’t even running for a seat.


Sandwichman 05.08.15 at 6:59 am

Here’s John Milton, from Book II, Of Reformation,

“IT is a work good and prudent to be able to guide one man; of larger extended virtue to order well one house; but to govern a nation piously and justly, which only is to say happily, is for a spirit of the greatest size, and divinest mettle. And certainly of no less a mind, nor of less excellence in another way, were they who, by writing, laid the solid and true foundations of this science, which being of greatest importance to the life of man, yet there is no art that hath been more cankered in her principles, more soiled and slubbered with aphorisming pedantry than the art of policy; and that most, where a man would think should least be, in Christian commonwealths. They teach not, that to govern well, is to train up a nation in true wisdom and virtue, and that which springs from thence, magnanimity (take heed of that), and that which is our beginning, regeneration, and happiest end, likeness to God, which in one word we call godliness; and that this is the true flourishing of a land, other things follow as the shadow does the substance: to teach thus were mere pulpitry to them. This is the masterpiece of a modern politician, how to qualify and mould the sufferance and subjection of the people to the length of that foot that is to tread on their necks; how rapine may serve itself with the fair and honorable pretences of public good; how the puny law may be brought under the wardship and control of lust and will; in which attempt, if they fall short, then must a superficial color of reputation, by all means, direct or indirect, be gotten to wash over the unsightly bruise of honor. To make men governable in this manner, their precepts mainly tend to break a national spirit and courage, by countenancing open riot, luxury, and ignorance, till, having thus disfigured and made men beneath men, as Juno in the fable of Io, they deliver up the poor transformed heifer of the commonwealth to be stung and vexed with the breeze and goad of oppression, under the custody of some Argus with a hundred eyes of jealousy. To be plainer, sir, how to solder, how to stop a leak, how to keep up the floating carcass of a crazy and diseased monarchy or state, betwixt wind and water, swimming still upon her own dead lees, that now is the deep design of a politician.”


JohnD 05.08.15 at 7:05 am

1. It does look like Cameron will be able to continue alone – which means he’ll have to continue depending on his batshit crazy backbenchers. That’s going to be fun for a week or two and then it’s going to get mean. It’ll be even worse when the in/out referendum on the EU turns up which it now must. The joker is the Fixed Term Act which makes it harder to unseat the government, but he still can’t afford many defectors and byelections
2. No British party is going to be willingly involved in a coalition against for a very long time. The Lib Dems got pulverized equally by red and by blue. There’s still very limited acceptance that a party with a fifth of the seats in a coalition can only have a fifth of the say
3. The British electoral system is still ludicrously disproportionate. The Lib dems, UKIP and Greens got around 20% of the vote and virtually no seats. The SNP with 3% got 57.


RoyL 05.08.15 at 7:18 am

The muddling middle Englander voter got scared of a left wing SNP dragging a moderately center left Labour to uncomfortable places, and went for the devil they knew.

That the SNP strategy was to drag Labour far enough Left that that there would be a general English backlash against Scotland that would enable the SNP to finally win that referendum, means that the typical marginal voter probably knew exactly what they were doing. At this point the non UK left should maybe start thinking better of Scottish independence.

Real Social Democracy is not selling in England, but it may just happen in an independent, within the EU, Scotland. I say that as someone with absolutely no emotional investment in the continued existence of the UK.


Christopher Phelps 05.08.15 at 7:25 am

Harry, in the immortal words of Public Enemy, “Yo, bum, RUSH the show.”

To others: In the debates the only vigorous, powerful statements against austerity came from the SNP. Nicola Sturgeon’s appeal was not on nationalism but on social democracy. Labour’s current generation of leaders still fears the defeats of the 1980s and is afraid to seem too left. This misjudged the times and along with a kind of comical hamhandedness – bacon sandwiches and all that – is why the vote went as it did, esp. in Scotland. Bear in mind that even the Tories promised to spend more on the NHS than Labour (phony, phony, phony, yes, but it tells where they sensed voters’ worries lay). Miliband looked like he would at best generate a kinder, gentler austerity. So if you’re angry about Labour’s loss, look to Labour, don’t bash the Scots.


dax 05.08.15 at 7:42 am

The good news is maybe the EU can finally get rid of the UK (or rUK if Scotland then decides to stay).


Igor Belanov 05.08.15 at 7:51 am

Scotland has helped the Tories by giving them a scaremongering campaign against the SNP that has handed them English voters who were encouraged to be frightened of the prospect of the SNP in coalition.

UKIP has also gained to sufficient votes to influence seats, for example Ed Balls lost Morley and Outwood (a complete shithole) largely due to the high UKIP vote. The results also show that Lib Dem voters in previous elections must have been overwhelmingly right-wing- in many cases the Lib Dem dip almost exactly matches the UKIP rise. Not all of this will have been direct, but a large proportion must have been.

Manipulation is the name of the game in conventional party politics, particularly in our ridiculous electoral system. Miliband and particularly Clegg seem to be very poor at this.


JohnD 05.08.15 at 8:19 am

Does anyone know a good site that is showing percentages of votes cast? The BBC doesn’t seem to, which is one of the reasons most Britons don’t realise how stupid the system is.

Also, I don’t think much about UK-wide ideological trends can be read from the SNP win. After all, the DUP got as many seats as the Lib Dems, but no-one is is trying to translate what that means for 16th Century christo-tribalism across the UK.

Finally, it has to be said that the Tories used their millions wisely. They held onto many more marginals than the national swing would suggest


Philip 05.08.15 at 8:33 am

The BBC is showing the percentages and number of seats.


Salem 05.08.15 at 8:41 am


Percentages of votes cast (so far):

Conservatives: 37%
Labour: 31%
UKIP: 13%
Liberal Democrats: 8%
SNP: 5%
Greens: 4%
Plaid Cymru: 1%



iolanthe 05.08.15 at 8:50 am

I think both the Tories and SNP will be very happy with this result.

I think the leaked memo on the SNP’s comment to the French ambassador that they’d prefer a Tory government is completely accurate. The last thing anyone keen on Scots independence wants is a Labour Government that takes the Scots’ concerns about decreased welfare spending seriously. They’d much prefer more austerity from a mean spiritied anti welfare government and “english votes for english laws” to fuel nationalist grievances on both sides of the border.

And for the Tories the effective neutralisation of virtually every Scottish Labour seat just shows how politically valuable the loss of Scotland can be not mention the removal of a welfare addicted political constituency. The only reason that has ever made sense as to why Cameron allowed a referendum he had no obligation whatsoever to allow (see Spain for the best possible alternative treatment of would be separatists – it gets much worse quite quickly when you look elsewhere) and allowing 16 years old to vote is that he wanted rid of them but as leader of the “Conservative and Unionist Party” he could not say so. He must be hoping for another referendum soon and that this time they get the hint and also that the Scots Nats have a slightly better argued case for independence.


guthrie 05.08.15 at 8:52 am

Mitch #33 – it’s rather funny that so few lib dems survive that they couldn’t form a coalition with anybody. The collapse of the new labour vote is quite extraordinary.
I note too that the England turnout was 65.8 but the Scottish one was 71.1%.


Christopher Phelps 05.08.15 at 9:00 am

FT says Miliband to have press conference at noon, probably to step down as leader.


Igor Belanov 05.08.15 at 9:22 am

The sad fact is that Labour could not move any further right economically without making itself completely indistinguishable from the Tories or Lib Dems, so prepare yourself for Phil Woolas style Labour politics, hammering immigrants, ‘hippies’ and the non-working poor.


Igor Belanov 05.08.15 at 9:24 am

Oh, and Labour has done quite well in its safe seats, increasing majorities in the inner cities and old industrial areas. Unfortunately the Tory strategy of polarising the country and demonising the poor has worked only too well elsewhere.


novakant 05.08.15 at 9:26 am

Just a quick look at this tells you how much electoral reform is needed:

… but it’s probably not going to happen now, great! And Scotland will secede from the UK and the rest will secede from the EU and welfare, health and arts funding will be cut …


sanbikinoraion 05.08.15 at 9:26 am

Clegg will go tomorrow, but there’s barely anyone to replace him. Tim Farron is the likeliest, I guess.


Tim Worstall 05.08.15 at 9:39 am

For Harry B:

” The question is — what does the extremely high UKIP vote really mean,”


“Basically, there is a post-Thatcherite consensus among the main parties ”

That a significant portion of the population don’t like that consensus.



Sasha Clarkson 05.08.15 at 9:44 am

I’ve always thought that Paul Mason was one of the best political journalists around. His analysis is sobering, but realistic I’m afraid.

In my view, the problem with the Labour Party was not Ed Miliband, but the poisonous legacy of Blairism, and a Shadow Cabinet full of those only too happy to appease the Tory agenda and Flat-Earth economics. True Ed was too timid at times, but he was elected because he was the choice of grass roots Labour supporters. A Blairite coup is likely to lead to Pasokification and an Engish/Welsh Syrizia.

As for UKIP, Mason says “The Ukip surge clearly came largely from Labour voters – as evidenced by the close shaves Labour had with Ukip in Hartlepool and Heywood and Middleton. … And make no mistake, a significant section of working class labour voters are still not convinced on freedom of movement. That – not Euroscepticism – is what is driving the Ukip vote in the north and in Wales.”

I say this with no joy, but it is going to be very difficult to advocate justice for migrants when economic conditions and housing shortages are still punishing the poor. Punishing the poor is a good strategy to perpetuate an I’m al-right Jack society.


Sasha Clarkson 05.08.15 at 9:50 am

sanbikinoraion @51

Clegg will go – but not far enough. He should follow the example of Jack Profumo, retire from public life and devote himself to good works.

“Shortly after his resignation Profumo began to work as a volunteer cleaning toilets at Toynbee Hall, a charity based in the East End of London…”

In my view Profumo’s sins were peccadillos compared with Clegg’s.


Daragh McDowell 05.08.15 at 9:56 am

At the risk of losing my head as I post it over the parapet, for those indulging in schadenfreude at the end of the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg today, the following question.

a) Please tell me what the alternative governance options following the 2010 general election were, taking into account many senior Labour figures were immediately dismissing a coalition and saying it was time to go into opposition immediately after the vote.

b) The Tories now have an overall majority, and will be able to pass anything they please through the Lords, because dozens of Lib-Con marginals went blue last night. That was most likely due to ‘never again/bastards just wanted offices/this betrayal is personal’ LD voters going elsewhere. Are you happy with that outcome, and does it sound like a constructive use of one’s vote?

c) The Libs were the only party to call for tuition fees to be scrapped in 2010. They didn’t get the political power necessary to do so. Labour introduced fees and raised the cap, with an overall majority after explicitly promising not to in their manifesto. They basically forecast that they would raise them in the 2010 manifesto. How could the LDs have reasonably been expected to change this policy, and why are Labour the morally superior option here?

d) The monstering and shit-throwing at the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg personally has probably ensured that there won’t be another coalition in the UK for the forseeable future. Instead, constitutional reform is farther away than ever, and the future appears to belong to the kind of Labour politician who would regard the abolition of non-dom status as some form of Trotskyism. Are you comfortable with that?

In other words, take a look at 2010, then take a look at now. Happy?


RTWWII 05.08.15 at 9:57 am

Interesting that, despite total collapse of the Lib Dem vote, so little rise in Labour’s share. Where did the former Lib Dems go? I presume few went to UKIP, so are they sticking with Tories or did they simply replace the working class votes that UKIP peeled off Labour? Or something else?


Salem 05.08.15 at 10:02 am

A lot of Lib Dem voters really do appear to have gone to UKIP. They were always more of a protest party than anyone liked to admit. Some of them have gone to Labour, others to the Conservatives.


Curious English Guy 05.08.15 at 10:47 am

Scotland speaks for itself, but can someone explain to me what the results for NI and Wales mean? I mean, there are no big changes, but that’s surprising in itself. Why is it that the UUP is back, and the SDLP is still on its feet, but Alliance disappeared again? And why did Plaid go nowhere?


sanbikinoraion 05.08.15 at 10:50 am

I think LDs have gone Tory, Labour and Green, Tory has picked up some LD but also had some peeled off to UKIP, and Labour has lost to UKIP. I’d be surprised if that many LD votes have switched directly to UKIP.


Val 05.08.15 at 10:59 am

harry b @ 14
“Greens could do with any leader.”

Mitch Guthman @ 17
“the Scottish people … are idiots”

I don’t even live in the UK, but from what I can see, there are two parties which openly supported social justice and opposed austerity, both are led by women, and both increased their vote in this election.

And that’s your response. Labour’s not to blame for its loss, those parties are, and they should get proper leaders in the bargain.

Fuck it. Just fuck it. I’m too drunk to argue it out, but I saw this earlier when I was stone cold sober, and I was furious even then. Guys like you are destroying the left, I honestly wish you would stop claiming to be left.


Sasha Clarkson 05.08.15 at 11:05 am

Daragh @55

a) Please tell me what the alternative governance options following the 2010 general election were

The alternative was to allow a Conservative minority government with a “confidence and supply” deal, but otherwise to vote according to their election promises.

In the end, the Tories played a brilliant long term plan, to trap the Lib-Dems in a coalition, concede nothing of substance except a few cabinet seats and the AV referendum – which was doomed from the beginning. Once the Lib-Dems betrayed most of their voter base, their fate was inevitable. Of course, in many cases the seats they held were Tory Lib-Dem marginals, and thus the collapse in Lib-Dem vote could only benefit the Tories.


Igor Belanov 05.08.15 at 11:08 am

The Lib Dems were a very opportunistic party until Clegg stood on ‘principle’ and entered the government of national disunity. A lot of Lib Dem votes have gone to UKIP outside of London, that’s obvious from the stats. Most seem to have gone to the Tories, evidence of the declaration of war that the middle class and the more bigoted section of the working class have made against the poor and the ‘different’.


kidneystones 05.08.15 at 11:28 am

53: Many, many thanks to Sacha for the perceptive comment, but even more so for the link. If you’re interested in how Labour’s leadership has turned the UK into an upside-down bacon buttie, read it now. Recall that Cameron is roundly loathed. His own political future hung by a thread and he owes his majority to the Wizard of Oz.

I predicted a day or so ago…more of the same! And how, as it turns out. I frankly shudder to think what Cameron’s front bench will look like. The less said on that the better.

The main takeaway on the meager but meaningful dropping to date has yet, to be fully articulated, so I guess it’s up to me: The men blew it, women rule.

The post-election dynamics mean that Nicola and the SNP will have even more power than before. Re: the French Ambassador’s remark that the SNP prefer Cameron, the question is why. Not just because the SNP works better pitted against the Conservatives, but because this particular Conservative, the new PM is also the old PM, the one who made all the promises to Scotland during the Scottish vote, and who now promises to ‘Unite the Kingdom.’ Nicola has already fitted Dave’s testicles to a large industrial size vice and unless the rights and cash spigot starts flowing vigorously and fast, she’s going to demand another referendum even more quickly than she would with Labour in charge. When the SNP claims that the last 24 hours confirms the need for political dissolution but quick, that’s a message that many north of the border will heed. She has Cameron’s word on all those promises that pissed off large sections of the south of the border electorate. She’ll be looking to collect first thing Monday morning, or earlier.

When Dave succumbs, as he will, CR readers will learn quite a bit more about Evans and James, the other two women who rule. As in rule the now leaderless party that just displaced the Lib-Dems. I started following James than a year ago, just to find out if UKIP was really Farage’s one-man band. Here’s Diane eerily mapping out the destruction of the Libdems: and the rise of UKIP after the European elections, should they win.

One UKIP MP is enough to demand that no SNP MPs be allowed to vote on any laws that have a direct impact on England. And since Ed and company managed to ensure that virtually every Scottich MP is an SNP member, Scots won’t be allowed (UKIP will argue) to vote in the UK parliament. Large numbers of already pissed-off Labour supporters outside London will shout: ‘quite right’ and the race for the dissolution of the UK will begin in earnest.

Is there any Labour leader (ideally female), who can win back the center whilst convincing Scots she shares their leftish leanings. Better find one quick. The added bonus in all this is that virtually certain Cameron will decide that bombing the shit out of some third-world country would be an excellent way of bleeding off hostility toward London, the Scots, immigrants, and everyone else.


Daragh McDowell 05.08.15 at 11:32 am


Given the surge in UKIP support in the north, its more likely that LD voters went to Labour, while lots of Labour voters went UKIP. Holds up in the demographics as well – so I think your class based analysis might need another look.


Yep – I think in retrospect that you’re right (except for the ‘betrayal’ stuff which I still think is hyperbolic nonsense). However, if I’m an LD MP in 2010 I’m thinking a) confidence and supply allows Cameron to do a little housekeeping, govern for six months, then call a snap election when Labour is broke and effectively leaderless, claiming the need for strong government due to the scale of the economic emergency etc. b) that the LDs gained votes but lost seats, and unless SOME form of change can be achieved the party is going to remain marginalised and pointless, c) after however many years in politics, now is the chance to DO something, and to show the electorate that we can be something other than a protest party.

In other words, hindsight is 20:20, but at the time coalition and a solid five years to make ones case looked like a good deal.


tomsk 05.08.15 at 11:43 am

I can’t really fathom the depths of confusion that would be needed for someone to vote for the lib dems, become disgruntled with the coalition and therefore switch to voting for UKIP. Presumably a few of these people exist, but what can they have been thinking? Were they simply looking to cast a protest vote against the political mainstream, and don’t care about the actual positions they’re voting for? Did they notice they were switching from a strongly pro-Europe party to one whose signature issue is withdrawal from Europe? If this has really happened on a significant scale it’s baffling.


Salem 05.08.15 at 11:47 am

If the Lib Dems won’t enter coalitions, why do they even exist? They’ve spent the past 35 years (including the Alliance days) saying British politics is broken, we need parties to work together, the compromises of coalitions are nothing to be afraid of, we need to change the electoral system to one that makes coalitions more likely, etc. Then for the first time since 1974 we get a hung parliament, and they won’t brook a coalition? That would also have been suicide, but of a different variety.

They didn’t get “betrayed” over AV, the Conservatives always said they would campaign against it. Their problem was that they had drunk their own Kool-aid, and they genuinely thought that voting reform was popular but just being held back by the large parties, so it would win in a referendum. But I think being out-of-touch with the electorate is a general Lib Dem problem.


Daragh McDowell 05.08.15 at 11:58 am

@Salem – I think you’re exactly right on this, though in fairness, they might also have reasonably expected Labour to campaign for electoral reform (technically a manifesto pledge, IIRC) instead of half-heartedly pretending to and actively sabotaging the vote. I’m also certain that the Tory press’s happy willingness to lie at length to the public about how proportional systems work, and unwillingness to seriously interrogate No2AV’s similarly mendacious campaign helped (I fondly remember No2AVs claim that FPTP was the most used democratic system in the world, which of course included counting such famously representative societies as Uzbekistan).

And trust me – being out of touch with the electorate isn’t an exclusively Lib Dem problem…


Sasha Clarkson 05.08.15 at 11:58 am

I have to say, back in 2010 I saw all this coming. This is a repeat of what happened to the Liberal Party in the 30s and 40s only faster.

Clegg has always been a political dilettante rather than a conviction politician. Others just did mental contortions to convert “Four legs Good – two legs Bad” into “Four legs Good – two legs Better”

“If you supported Labour in 1997 because you wanted fairness, you wanted young people to flourish, you wanted political reform, you wanted the environment protected, or you simply believed in a better future, turn to the Liberal Democrats. We carry the torch of progress now.” Nick Clegg, 23rd September 2009.

“The Lib Dems never were and aren’t a receptacle for left-wing dissatisfaction with the Labour Party. There is no future for that; there never was.” Nick Clegg, 18th September 2010.

In November 2010, Dr Cable made the new Lib-Dem view clear, that the small-print gave them a blank cheque, and their promises to the electorate didn’t matter:

“We didn’t break a promise. We made a commitment in our manifesto, we didn’t win the election. We then entered into a coalition agreement, and it’s the coalition agreement that is binding upon us and which I’m trying to honour.”

The Lib-Dems are done for. Their replacement will come from the Europhile wing of the Tory Party when that splits in a few year’s time!


engels 05.08.15 at 12:01 pm

Feeling grouchy, Daragh?


Igor Belanov 05.08.15 at 12:02 pm


The AV referendum is a prime example of the Lib Dems’ incompetence. For one, they let themselves be pigeonholed into putting forward the weakest form of electoral reform, falling well short of a fair, proportional system and thus hardest to advocate. Secondly, rather than insist on electoral reform as a condition of becoming a coalition partner, they allowed it to be put to a referendum that was bound to be a plebiscite on Nick Clegg’s popularity, which was pretty low by that stage. They basically let the Tories run rings round them in order to pose as saviours of the nation, and this is how they’ve been rewarded.


chris y 05.08.15 at 12:07 pm

And now they’re talking up Andy Burnham. And he may in fact be the best of a bad lot. I’m glad I’m old.


kidneystones 05.08.15 at 12:17 pm

The elephant in the room is the EU question. 55 is right, all coalitions mean the weaker party can only moderate the excesses of the more powerful partner. Not a bad trade-off. If you were unhappy with life under Cameron and the Lib-Dems, you’re unlikely to be happier now. Mercer is right, however, in laying the blame for the mess at Labour’s door.
If you want to see just how delusional an oxbridge journalist and ‘friend of the working man’ can be, check out John Harris ‘meeting with the savages.’ Harris literally smirks:


Salem 05.08.15 at 12:18 pm

“If you supported Labour in 1997 because you wanted fairness, you wanted young people to flourish, you wanted political reform, you wanted the environment protected, or you simply believed in a better future, turn to the Liberal Democrats. We carry the torch of progress now.” Nick Clegg, 23rd September 2009.

“The Lib Dems never were and aren’t a receptacle for left-wing dissatisfaction with the Labour Party. There is no future for that; there never was.” Nick Clegg, 18th September 2010.

Where’s the contradiction between those quotes? The first seems to me to be saying “If you don’t like how Labour have drifted away from their New Labour ideas from 1997, vote for us” – i.e. attacking Labour from the centre-ground, not the left. Now you’re right that the words are squishy enough that if you don’t pay attention to the “in 1997” they could also be interpreted as attacking Labour from the left, but then that was always the Lib Dem strategy – all things to all men.


Daragh McDowell 05.08.15 at 12:27 pm


I fear you may be right, but I also think that you’re being too harsh on Clegg and accepting a narrative of the Lib Dems and their voters that is overly simplistic. I’m left-of-centre but have real issues with how Labour governs, not just what it does. That’s why I’m a Lib Dem.


Given that a) Labour couldn’t, and the Tories wouldn’t offer anything better than AV b) neither party would consent to an electoral system change without a referendum c) such a change would be incredibly difficult to embed or legitimise ABSENT a referendum (its fundamentally changing the way the country’s government is selected after all, I don’t think your criticism holds water.


I am. But I’d rather be grouchy at a Tory majority and sad that one of the few restraints on it has been removed than be the kind of ‘progressive’ whose reaction to today’s result is pure schadenfreude and blame shifting.


Sasha Clarkson 05.08.15 at 12:44 pm

My sympathies Daragh. I was a Liberal for a while in the ’70s, and then a Labour activist for 25 years, often battling the machine. I resigned in the early naughties over Blair’s gerrymandering of the London Mayoral selection. Even as an activist, I was never big on party loyalty. I voted for a Lib-Dem candidate in 2005, but not, I’m glad to say, in 2010.

But Cleggie took self-delusion to a new level. In 2011, according to Auntie Beeb: ‘Clegg has said the Liberal Democrats will “never lose their soul” despite the compromises of coalition.’ You can’t lose what you’ve already sold!


kidneystones 05.08.15 at 12:52 pm

Only hours into the first day of the new Conservative majority the pro-Cameron Mail is talking about Cameron giving full autonomy to Scotland, unless…

“However, Ms Sturgeon is likely to demand much more than just extra spending and will almost certainly battle hard for further devolution of powers to Edinburgh…Ms Sturgeon this morning refused to rule out calling a second referendum after the Scottish elections in 2016.”

Fun times!


MPAVictoria 05.08.15 at 12:55 pm

I was sup uplifted by the NDP win in my old home province on Tuesday. I should have known that expecting two good news elections in one week was too much to ask of the Political Gods.


Daragh McDowell 05.08.15 at 12:57 pm

@Sasha – I share your ‘party loyalty’ stance, and to be honest, struggled to campaign with great enthusiasm in my seat. It’s a Lib-Con marginal so that also made it easier to avoid any soul searching. Again – I’m not into the ‘betrayal’ ‘soul selling’ etc. narrative. Coalition politics is about negotiation and compromise, and the LDs were the minor party. Their role was to be a brake, at best, on the Tories. But still – I’ll admit that I’ve taken a long hard look at Labour if they had had a chance in my seat.


MPAVictoria 05.08.15 at 12:59 pm

“I can’t really fathom the depths of confusion that would be needed for someone to vote for the lib dems, become disgruntled with the coalition and therefore switch to voting for UKIP.”

Most people can’t even tell you the difference between left and right wing. They vote based on gut feelings and the media atmosphere right before an election. Which is why having a hard right wing media is turning into a disaster for left wing politicians.


MPAVictoria 05.08.15 at 1:00 pm

“Coalition politics is about negotiation and compromise, and the LDs were the minor party. Their role was to be a brake, at best, on the Tories. ”

They could have at least approached Labour about a coalition before selling out their souls and the country.


Harry b 05.08.15 at 1:03 pm

Tim Worstall
Yes, I think it means that. But what else does it mean? So, for example, are the UKIP voters (on average) protest voters, or do they REALLY support UKIP (would a bunch of them vote Green in a constituency which a Green might win, eg?); would they vote Tory if the Tories had leaders who weren’t related to Lord Snooty; would they vote for a more populist (not necessarily more leftwing) Labour Party (Phil Woolas style, eg, repulsive as he is). You’re the person who, in a single sentence, made me look at UKIP differently (years ago, on one of these threads), so I’m interested in what you think (actually, I’m always interested in what you think, but yoou know what I mean).


R Cottrell 05.08.15 at 1:10 pm

Perception is all. Ponder the facts behind the fog.
2010 GE
Conservative 10,703,654 seats won 306 % 36.1%
2015 11,207,343 seats won 326 % 36.9%
2010 8,606,517 seats won 258 % 29.%
2015 9,263,774 seats won 230 % 30.5%

Given Labour lost all but one of its Tartan seats, this is a remarkable performance by Milband, who has no need to be ashamed. He should stick it out.

Cameron has what we call a Harold Wilson Majority problem, after the slender 4 that the Labour leader scored in 1964. Cameron has the identical dilemma. He has no natural majority and given the frequency of by-elections in the UK, it will soon seep away. He is dependent on fickle allies such as the Northern Irish Unionists, although as far as the Liberals are concerned, he is now Typhoid Dave, so point in sending the ambulance for Nick Clegg.
Cameron constructed his own strait jacket with the fixed term parliament act, which he will need to suspend when he inevitably slips into a minority over the combined Opposition. British politics are going to be a remarkable balancing act. With the great pledge to hold a referendum on Europe, an atom powered boomerang, the master schemer Cameron is inviting a huge schism in Tory ranks. That is an old story and even Maggie steered well clear. The real fun is yet to come.
Richard Cottrell
Conservative Euro MP 1979-1989


Harry b 05.08.15 at 1:12 pm

Val. Come on. Natalie Bennett has been dreadful — it really has been as if they haven’t had a leader. Frankly, for all that people have said Ed has exceeded expectations, I think the same about Labour. The SNP and Plaid, much as I dislike the SNP, have had by far the most impressive leaders of any of the parties (including UKIP) — and if the election hadn’t been so focused on Scotland I think Plaid would have made real gains. I haven’t followed the Greens internal life but as far as I could see they had a very good leader and replaced her with a second rate one.


Igor Belanov 05.08.15 at 1:15 pm

What annoys me is this idea that only working class people are ‘thick’ enough to support UKIP, and that the middle-classes would never be bigoted enough (despite the fact that they have been the core of most far-right movements). There certainly have been some working-class bigots (often concentrated in certain monocultural areas) who have chosen UKIP, but to try and suggest that a 9% rise in support for UKIP translates to 9% of Labour voters switching to UKIP and an equivalent 9% moving from the Lib Dems to Labour is ridiculous. In many of Labour’s core English constituencies there was a significant rise in the Labour vote, it didn’t just stay static.


Sasha Clarkson 05.08.15 at 1:19 pm

@Daragh The problem is, once you’re on the payroll vote, inside the tent aiming out as it were, you can’t be a brake on anything.

The reason I voted Lib-Dem in 2005 was that our local MP, whom I’d helped select and elect back in 1992, became first a PPS and then a whip. This meant that his allegiance had shifted from his constituents to the executive, and he voted for many things which I knew he didn’t agree with. He changed his loyalty, so I changed mine!

Now, as was even worse in 2005, we have a party having an absolute majority in Parliament with well over 60% of the electorate having voted against them.


TM 05.08.15 at 1:22 pm

The actual winner is UKIP, with a gain of almost 10 percentage points and more that twice as many votes as SNP. Every second voter voted either for Con or UKIP. They can’t say they didn’t get what they ordered.


basil 05.08.15 at 1:32 pm

Harry b, others
What should one be reading that justifies this attention you pay to leadership? Are there really people who say, this is a great platform but I don’t like Natalie Bennett? Voters swung to the SNP on account of Sturgeon’s leadership when she won’t even be in the Commons? Would you credit the rise of Syriza and Podemos to their charismatic leaders?


Ronan(rf) 05.08.15 at 1:38 pm

“Most people can’t even tell you the difference between left and right wing. They vote based on gut feelings and the media atmosphere right before an election. Which is why having a hard right wing media is turning into a disaster for left wing politicians.”

But even if people don’t generally vote on policy or ideologically, it still doesnt make sense for the reasons people do generally vote (identity, interests, history, one big issue etc)
It’s basically saying ‘tuition fees turned me into a racist.’ Or, I used to love Europe before the Lib Dems went into coalition with the Tory’s. It makes no sense. (That first one is a joke btw, I dont actually believe UKIP’s support is all racist)


Salem 05.08.15 at 1:45 pm

What should one be reading that justifies this attention you pay to leadership? Are there really people who say, this is a great platform but I don’t like Natalie Bennett?

Many people’s only information about the minor parties came from the leadership debate, which was a great opportunity for their leaders to get people interested and draw them in. The argument is more that Natalie Bennett didn’t get people excited enough about the Greens that they would read the Greens’ platform in the first place.

That said, I don’t buy it. The Greens got a perfectly respectable share of the vote, and beat the Lib Dems in many areas. They didn’t get close to winning a second seat, but it’s hard to see how a different leader gets them 6000 extra votes in Bristol West, 15000 extra votes in Cambridge, 23000 extra votes in Holborn & St Pancras, or however they did in their other target seats. They’re a geographically dispersed party with a fairly low level of support. That doesn’t translate into lots of seats.


Brett Dunbar 05.08.15 at 1:48 pm

The FTPA has a rather obvious loophole. While it takes two thirds of the members of the Commons to pass a dissolution motion. It only takes a simple majority of those voting to defeat a confidence motion. Like Kohl in 1982 he could call a confidence motion and not attend.

The German Basic Law only permits early elections if the government calls a motion of confidence in itself and loses. The opposition can only call a constructive motion of no-confidence which replaces the Chancellor. Kohl had used such a constructive motion of no-confidence to become Chancellor replacing Schmidt after the FDP left Schmidt’s government. But he had a small majority and therefore wanted early elections, so he deliberately contrived to lose despite his CDU/CSU and FDP coalition actually having the confidence of the Bundestag.


Sasha Clarkson 05.08.15 at 1:50 pm

Harry @83

Plaid has made very little headway in Wales, and came 4th below UKIP in terms of the popular vote. This includes my own constituency, Carmarthen West and South Pembs, which was one a three-way marginal where Plaid once had a realistic chance of taking it. Interestingly, there were far more Plaid than UKIP posters.

One big problem in Wales is that the language issue is poisonously divisive, and usually brushed under the carpet. People often only speak of it behind closed doors. Without this, an SNP style party would have done a lot better.


Daragh McDowell 05.08.15 at 2:06 pm


They had parallel negotiations with Labour about the formation of a coalition government in 2010 despite a) that government probably not having a majority b) large chunks of the Labour PLP (including Balls) all but saying they thought Labour should go opposition instead c) the enormous complications of negotiating effectively with Brown, without any guarantee his replacement wouldn’t pull out or attempt to change the terms of the deal (as they almost certainly would). But – BETRAYAL! SOULS SOLD! ETC!!!!


See this is where I diverge. Theresa May has already announced that pervasive surveillance is in and the Human Rights Act out now that those pesky Lib Dems can’t do anything about it. And if you’re in a party, and signed up to campaign on its manifesto and leadership that carries certain obligations of loyalty, as well as an obligation to say to your constituents ‘sorry, this is for the country, not you.’ Of course, your man could have just been a simple careerist, I don’t know.


MPAVictoria 05.08.15 at 2:13 pm

Daragh they could have left the coalition at anytime and went over and formed a gov’t with Labour. They could also have refused to join in a formal coalition with the Tories and voted against the worst of their excesses.

Instead they sold out their voters and the rest of the country for what exactly? Why defend the indefensible?


Daragh McDowell 05.08.15 at 2:30 pm

@MPA Victoria – “Daragh they could have left the coalition at anytime and went over and formed a gov’t with Labour.”

Yes, because Ed Miliband was super open to that proposal, which wouldn’t have conflicted with his electoral strategy of absorbing disaffected LD voters at ALL! No siree bob.

Also, because apparently at some point during the parliament the 305 combined Lab-Lib seats magically became a majority! (and yes, even with Plaids, Greens, SNPs etc, Tories plus DUP is still about the same size).

And you seem to be under assumption that all governmental work has to pass parliamentary votes. By virtue of BEING IN MINISTRIES the Lib Dems prevented policy changes. See, Home Office, the.

I’m sorry if you think moderating a Tory government and delaying its majority by a good five years is indefensible. I’m sure you’ll hold the same opinions once Theresa May starts listening to everyone’s calls and locking up the homeless, and Chris Grayling decides the notion of ‘right to an attorney’ is too soft on crime, and IDS starts taxing disability welfare.


MPAVictoria 05.08.15 at 2:34 pm

You know you are right! The LibDem strategy was a HUGE success which is why they are riding an electoral wave to powe…..

Oh wait. Nope. Turns out all of their supporters were appalled at the fuckery and voted for other parties. Shocking….


Daragh McDowell 05.08.15 at 2:59 pm


I’m not actually arguing that. I’m arguing with the condemnation of the Lib Dems based on their refusal to consider hypothetical alternative courses that were either a) mathematically impossible b) likely to lead to a Tory majority, just quicker. You haven’t engaged with either of those arguments, you’ve raged against their ‘fuckery’ like many people in places like Bath and Yeovil did, which – whoops! – ended up allowing the Tories to gain a majority on the basis of Lib-Con marginals. You may think that this is a more enlightened and progressive attitude, and that is certainly your right. Me, I’m more of an outcomes person, and due to the emotional reaction of many LD voters (such as yourself I assume?) we’ve gotten the worst outcome possible – a Tory government, with enough of a majority to stay in office, but not enough that Bill Cash and Peter Bone can’t regularly hold Cameron hostage. Awesome.


Sasha Clarkson 05.08.15 at 3:05 pm

“‘sorry, this is for the country, not you.’ “ That’s the platform you were elected on surely? Anything else is usually a dirty deal.

To mix my metaphors, Except for diehard supporters suffering from confirmation bias, the general perception is that the Lib-Dems got nothing from the coalition but (to mix my metaphors) a few fig-leaf crumbs from the table. And otherwise the coalition was the most illiberal anti-poor government in living memory. And it was Lib Dem MPs who enabled this to be so. Presumably most people who voted Lib-Dem in 2010 thought this too, or they wouldn’t have deserted the party.


MPAVictoria 05.08.15 at 3:10 pm

Bingo Sasha. You cannot sellout your voters and then act all surprised when they tell you to fuck off.

/To be clear just a sad Canadian Leftists, not a British voter.


Igor Belanov 05.08.15 at 3:10 pm

Sasha, that might be so except for the fact that many of those Lib Dem lost votes have gone to the Tories. Somewhat illogical, as if you were pleased with the government you would rationally vote Lib Dem again to maintain the coalition, or if you disliked the decision to coalesce then you would surely vote Labour?


engels 05.08.15 at 3:14 pm

the general perception is that the Lib-Dems got nothing from the coalition

Oh wait and see. I’ve a feeling Clegg and friends aren’t going to be lining up at Job Centre Plus any time soon…


TM 05.08.15 at 3:16 pm

72: “all coalitions mean the weaker party can only moderate the excesses of the more powerful partner”

I’m not so sure about this. Why shouldn’t LD have been able to extract significant concessions from the Tories as price of a coalition, especially if these concessions are tied to popular policies? What prevented LD from bargaining hard and rejecting a bad deal? The fear of being punished in an early election? But voters don’t punish a principled stance, time after time they punish a lack of spine. And yet center left politicians never seem to learn.

Btw LD was the smaller partner but not that much – they had 23% of the vote compared to the Tories’ 36%. In Germany, the FDP, with a much smaller voter base, has been permanently in government for almost 30 years as junior partner in several coalitions, thereby wielding significant actual power over the direction of policy. Granted this is in part due to an electoral system far friendlier to smaller parties. Still, the axiom that the smaller coalition partner is always powerless is simply not true.

Question: What did LibDem actually campaign on? What – if any – accomplishments of the last five years did they claim?


Daragh McDowell 05.08.15 at 3:22 pm

Answering the question posed by both TM and Sasha –

They accomplished a lot negatively, by basically keeping the Tories from being utterly batshit on issues like the EU, immigration, deregulation etc. In terms of policies they achieved significant additional education funding, limits on the (Labour initiated and supported) free school programs, and raised the income tax threshold. I think those are all valuable things that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

@MPAVictoria – you may be right, but if your voters seem to think you can magically create a majority with Labour and join them in coalition as you suggested above, it means your voters are incapable of engaging with politics in a rational or coherent manner, and are going to declare you a sellout once they haven’t got their unicorns 20 minutes after you enter office anyway, so whaddyagonnado?


kidneystones 05.08.15 at 3:39 pm

101: Good question. I’m certainly open to the notion that the LD could have won more than they did. I frankly didn’t care for any of them, or their policies as I understood them. I didn’t like Kennedy, or Ming. But no matter how little the LD did get, they must, at times, have frustrated the Conservatives. Then there are the opportunity benefits/costs. Each LD minister means one less Tory. That said, Engels at 100, makes an excellent point. Don’t know if you read Sacha’s link at 53. Had Labour remained pro-Scot, but neutral in their Yes/No vote, it would have been much, much harder for the SNP to knock out Labour in Scotland. That might not have prevented a Cameron victory, but would have left Labour in Scotland something to build on. Forgive me for pointing out that nobody, I think, is suggesting that the weaker partner in a coalition is ‘always powerless.’
In hindsight, the only way for Labour to win was (perhaps) to make the election about the future of the UK and not about the Conservatives. You’ll have noted that Ed’s numbers were the same as Farage’s in one of the last polls, and that UK votes favored UKIP policies over Labour’s 48-12. Embracing Scotland and the poor and offering voters a choice on Europe might have allowed a braver, brighter leadership to stop the SNP and keep disgruntled Labour voters in the fold. The majority of voters want an Australian or Canadian points based immigration system, and the only way that’s going to happen is after Britain leaves the EU. Denying Labour voters a voice in that debate and the chance to vote on the question very likely handed Cameron the majority.


kidneystones 05.08.15 at 3:40 pm

Sorry, should read ‘UK voters favored UKIP policies on immigration over Labour’s 48-12.’


Doug 05.08.15 at 3:47 pm

TM @101 “In Germany, the FDP, with a much smaller voter base, has been permanently in government for almost 30 years as junior partner in several coalitions”

The FDP got wiped out at the federal level in Germany’s 2013 election. It’s not at all clear that they will get back in to the Bundestag in the next one. At present, the FDP is present in 6 of 16 state-level assemblies, with elections scheduled for Hamburg (FDP presence) and Bremen (no FDP presence) in 2015.

The FDP has played a role in just one of the last five national-level coalitions in Germany (Merkel’s second cabinet). Since 1998, there have been two SPD-Green coalitions, two CDU-SPD coalitions, and one CDU-FDP pairing.


max 05.08.15 at 4:00 pm

They accomplished a lot negatively, by basically keeping the Tories from being utterly batshit on issues like the EU, immigration, deregulation etc. In terms of policies they achieved significant additional education funding, limits on the (Labour initiated and supported) free school programs, and raised the income tax threshold. I think those are all valuable things that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Circa 2006: ‘I supported the vote for war against Iraq in 2003 because it was the right thing to do – and look! We got rid of Saddam Hussein and brought democracy to Iraq.’

[‘Lieberman for President!’]


Colin 05.08.15 at 4:19 pm

I would guess that the former Lib Dem voters scattered in all directions (or simply didn’t turn up at all) and UKIP drew support from all parties in England and Wales. UKIP’s support wasn’t especially correlated with areas the Lib Dems were previously strong in, it was spread fairly evenly over a large part of England and Wales, which is why they got so few seats relative to their vote share.

A minor party in a coalition can get squeezed in two ways: there are the voters who think the minor party has ‘sold out’, but also people who are pleased with the coalition’s policies, and think ‘why vote for the fellow travellers when I can vote for the real thing?’ I think Cameron benefited significantly from the latter phenomenon this time, which has turned a number of former LD-Con marginals into very solid Tory seats and masked the loss of Tory voters to UKIP. The net movement in the Tory vote share was close to nil, but that doesn’t tell us how big the gross movements were.


PlutoniumKun 05.08.15 at 4:21 pm

I don’t believe that Labours failure is a simple matter of being too right wing (or, as will be argued by others, too left wing).

It is a simple fact that in a first past the post system with two major parties, the winner will invariably be the one that gets to choose the main battle ground for arguments. By committing itself to austerity-lite, Labour thought it was neutralising that issue. But instead, this made it impossible for them to argue that they could bring significant amounts of more money into the NHS, education, infrastructure (i.e. their chosen battleground). So they inadvertently neutralised their own strong points. In choosing to tactically neutralise a difficult issue for them, they made a terrible strategic error. It made it impossible to turn the election into a referendum on the NHS, etc.

The election therefore became an issue of competence and management. In this situation, generally uncommitted floating voters will invariably swing to ‘the devil they know’. A clever Conservative tactic of scaremongering about the SNP etc., did the rest. I don’t personally believe all the polls were wrong – it does appear to have been a genuine last minute change of heart by a small but crucial element of the electorate.

Ultimately, this reveals one of the key weaknesses of first past the post systems with two main parties. It invariably means elections are decided by a relatively small number of floating voters, usually politically unsophisticated ones. You can see this in US elections and the UK and elsewhere. It is one of many reasons why politics has become so coarsened in those countries.


Mitch Guthman 05.08.15 at 4:39 pm

@ Daragh McDowell,

My memory my be faulty but I don’t remember Nick Clegg ever saying that Labour was his first and best choice as a coalition partners. Or that he’d never accept a coalition with the Conservatives because he refused to put in power a party who need constantly to be restrained from doing evil. The numbers weren’t immutable and a coalition with the Conservatives wasn’t compelled by some kind of natural law.

If there was indeed a strong feeling in the LibDems that the Conservatives were a terrible gang of evil Thatcherite fanatics who would wreak the UK if left to their own devices, why didn’t Nick Clegg simply say that he’d refuse to join with them under any circumstances, come hell or high-water and see how things played out? What would’ve been the harm?

It seems to me that the fundamental problem is that from the moment the Conservatives took power, both Labour and the LibDems seemed pretty happy with what was being done. Labour seemed at times to be even more gung-ho on austerity and reducing the deficit than anybody. Even though the last hours of the election, Labour still couldn’t decide on its identity and instead offered a grab bag of contradictory programs to be carried out in conjunction with continued austerity and a focus on deficit reduction.

@ PlutoniumKun,

I think you’re basically on the money. The one point I would disagree on is that I think it was absolutely necessary for Labour to oppose austerity and have their own white paper on the economy early on. By essentially embracing or at least not vigorously opposing austerity, Labour looked hypocritical when it finally came around to putting some social programs and increased spending on the table, particularly when they insisted that it could reverse the Conservatives draconian cuts and increase spending for the NHS, education and infrastructure even as it would continue on with austerity and deficit reduction.

I thought Labour came of as basically insincere and opportunistic.


Daragh McDowell 05.08.15 at 4:53 pm


As I’ve said above a) unless you can suddenly magic 20 more Labour and Lib Dem MPs in May 2010, the Tories are pretty much the only game in town, especially since much of the Labour party wanted to get on with shoving Brown over the side of the barge and preparing their own electoral comeback b) the harm is that the Tories gain their own majority 6 months later and the argument against the LDs becomes ‘you said coalitions and reform are good, but you refused the opportunity to take it because you didn’t like the partner that the voters chose for you – why should we take you seriously?’


CJColucci 05.08.15 at 5:02 pm

How does it work with prominent individual party members who lose their seats? I’m thinking specifically of Ed Balls and Douglas Alexander, the shadow chancellor and foreign secretary. Do they try again from their current districts in the next election? Are they assigned safer constituencies? (As I understand it, MPs, unlike Congresspersons, don’t have to live i their districts.) Is somebody in a safe seat pensioned off so the big boys can get back in in a special election?


Daragh McDowell 05.08.15 at 5:06 pm


The answer, is, as always ‘it depends.’ Though generally the latter option doesn’t happen, as by-elections in the UK are pretty unpredictable.


kidneystones 05.08.15 at 5:06 pm

107 and 108 are on the mark, but so is 110. Whatever badness resulted from the LD-Coalition, it was on Labour to prepare to govern. Labour failed utterly – the defeat in Scotland alone is on a scale to raise real questions about whether Labour will ever rule again in England, no matter Scotland.

109 ‘I thought Labour came of as basically insincere and opportunistic.’ You might add smug, self-satisfied, and condescending. What strikes me most is the smallness of the ideas, the vision, the individuals, and the politics. Both my grandfathers were working-class and the last thing the average working-class voter wants to hear, especially from a Labour leader, is disdain. Watching the London Labour elite sneer at requests by northern Labour leaders for an opportunity to discuss the EU referendum as ‘pandering to bigotry’ filled me frankly with disbelief. I couldn’t believe such well-educated people could be so profoundly dense. We’re all going to be living with the consequences of this arrogance for some time. There is, sadly, no guarantee that Labour will ever get a chance to form a government in the UK, again.


Salem 05.08.15 at 5:31 pm

Do they try again from their current districts in the next election? Are they assigned safer constituencies? (As I understand it, MPs, unlike Congresspersons, don’t have to live i their districts.) Is somebody in a safe seat pensioned off so the big boys can get back in in a special election?

In the past they would create by-elections by pensioning someone off, but it doesn’t work like that any more. Partly this is because in those days, you had to resign as an MP and fight for re-election on becoming a minister, so immediate post-election by-elections to rescue the big boys (alongside the ministerial ones) weren’t such a big deal. Nowadays it would be seen as taking the electorate for granted, and might well provoke an unpleasant surprise.

There are basically two options. One is fight the next “good enough” seat that crops up in a by-election, which could be anywhere in the country – this is how Macmillan shifted from Stockton to Bromley, for example. The other is wait till the next election. If they wait till the next election, they normally get selected in a safer seat but still in the general vicinity.

But all that is assuming they want to go back into the Commons, which is by no means a given these days. There are a lot of political alternatives.


EB 05.08.15 at 5:47 pm

Can someone explain to me why a Labour-SNP Coalition government was so frightening to Middle England? John Major started in on how the SNP and Labour would destroy the country, and the Murdock press ran with it.

For example, this Guardian feature from Nuneaton was breathtaking:

But…why is a SNP-Labour so scary? What is the SNP going to do, invest in infrastructure? Re-nationalize the railroads? The horror!

Please explain to a non-Brit. Personally, I think it was just monstering and illogical tribalism. The stage was set last autumn during the Scottish Independence referendum.


Ed 05.08.15 at 5:58 pm

I’ve argued Daragh’s case for the Lib Dems before on this site and usually made no headway. But in 2010 it was mostly a question of math, so you think there wouldn’t be much scope for debate. There was also various problems with Gordon Brown as a negotiating partner (not all of them Brown’s fault).

I really do think commentators, and not just here, overestimate the ability of the SNP to be a partner for Labour. Labour is a unionist party that is the main rival of the SNP in Scotland, and until now benefited from being able to elect a large block of MPs from Scotland and controlling much of Scottish local government. The two parties had problems doing deals in the 1970s, when Labour could at least offer devolution. OTOH, the Tories now would only benefit electorally from something like devo-max or even outright Scottish independence, so there is an incentive to help the SNP (note this wasn’t the case before 1987, or even before 1997, when you had prominent Tory leaders representing Scottish constituencies; note also the party flirted with supporting devolution pre-Thatcher).

Also, going into 2010, the public, stated position of the Liberal Democrats was that they thought coalitions of different political parties governing the country was a positive thing, they wanted to change the electoral system so this would happen more often, were willing to go into coalition with anyone, but would prefer the party that won the most seats in Parliament. They did say they preferred Labour in 1997, but had changed that positions at least after Ashdown left. The Liberal Party cooperated with the Tories against Labour at times in the past. People might disagree with these positions, what I am arguing against is that going into coalition with the Tories was some sort of violation of the party’s core principles. Actually either trying to cobble together a Labour-Liberal Democrat-Plaid-SNP-Green coalition or sitting on the sidelines while Cameron formed a minority government (I agree the latter at least would have been feasible) really would have violated what the party had stood for.

One thing though that the election made clear is that the Liberal Democrats and their precursors post Orpington got alot of votes that were sort of protest votes, from voters unhappy with Labour and the Tories and who used the Liberal Democrats as a place to park them. This had already been evident in the paradox of the most pro-EU party doing best in the Southwest, which for awhile according to polls was the countries most anti-EU region (I think this is no longer the case). David Lindsay has argued that if the party actually got proportional representation it would disappear, having no role except as a repository of protest votes under FPTP. I actually think they would continue to exist but poll more along the lines of the 8% that it just polled, in line with what the FDP got in German elections during its heyday, when it was normally part of governing coalitions with the larger German parties.


Ronan(rf) 05.08.15 at 6:13 pm

On a potential EU vote and the SNP ; (1) what do people see as the result of a vote on EU membership ? I guess it’s very difficult to call at this minute and the publics perspective will change as the vote comes nearer, but will the referendum happen and will the UK vote out ? What would that mean for the UK (it might, plausibly, just lead to renogitation of the UK’s place within the EU rather than leaving entirely?)

(2) On the SNP, how does the constitutional issue resolve itself ? At the moment it appears the majority in Scotland want to remain in the Union, but is the split-up inevitable and if not how can you deal with Scottish nationalist sentiment and demands ? Further powers to the Scottish Parliament would surely just continue to insitutionalise the divisions and exacerbate the push towards break up. Is there any long term chance of preventing this ? (and some of the more self interested English arguments, that it would leave England with Tory governments for a generation, seems to no longer be particularly relevant if this is the beginning of the SNP absolutely dominating Scottish politics)


EB 05.08.15 at 6:21 pm

Also, well done to Chris Bertram! His prediction five years ago isn’t so far off.


Ed 05.08.15 at 6:21 pm

If I have the time and interest, I will do a district-by-district analysis to see where the votes shifted. I think this is more reliable than the main alternative, which is to poll supporters of Party X to see if their second choice was Party Y or Party Z, or who they had voted for earlier (as we found out again with this election, voters will readily lie to pollsters).

My preliminary impressions is that turnout was about the same or a little higher than 2010 at 65% or so, which is low for a UK election. The Conservative percentage of the vote was unchanged, and they didn’t get many more votes in terms of raw numbers. Labour actually achieved small increases, as measured by raw vote totals, percentage, or swing from the Conservatives (yes there was a small national swing from the Conservatives to Labour). This was in the face of the Labour collapse in Scotland.

Aside from Scotland and Northern Ireland, the big movements were away from the Liberal Democrats and to UKIP and to a lesser extent the Greens. If my supposition that the Liberal Democrats got alot of protest votes, that scattered when they actually joined a government, is correct then we should be seeing evidence of movement directly from the Liberal Democrats to UKIP, even though you wouldn’t expect this from the platforms of these parties. I think this is more likely than the alternative of Liberal Democrats deciding to support Labour, and many Labour supporters defecting to UKIP. Though I don’t expect a lot of rationality from voters, I simply can’t think of an even semi-plausible reason to vote Lib Dem in 2010 and then Tory in 2015.

I also suspect that there wasn’t alot of movement in the Conservative vote. I think alot of people who normally vote Tory may have considered voting for UKIP, then were convinced to stay with the Tories by the usual last minute scare campaigns. During the campaign, UKIP polled higher and the Tories lower than the final result indicated. This would imply that the movement was to UKIP from the Lib Dems and Labour, with some movement from the Lib Dems and Conservatives to Labour. Obviously there will be lots of places where this worked differently, such as in the two seats where Tory MPs who defected to UKIP were standing.

There also seems to have been gains for Labour in the cities and for the Tories in the countryside. This benefited the Tories who were able to sweep up alot of rural Lib Dem marginals, while Labour can’t squeeze out many more urban or industrial seats. A percentage of 36% of the vote really shouldn’t provide a majority, though Blair got a majority with an even lower percentage of the vote (but I think that particular election was also screwed up). By the way, I haven’t seen much evidence that the Tory government will function much better than the one elected in 1992 did, all the conditions now are the same as then or have actually gotten worse.

I also did not realize and could not really believe that the SNP got a majority of the votes in Scotland. By achieving a majority of the votes and a near sweep of the seats, and the fact that the Tories engineered their last minute surge by basically campaigning against Scotland, the SNP did achieve the political conditions for independence. We have probably seen the last UK general election.


Ed 05.08.15 at 6:28 pm

“On the SNP, how does the constitutional issue resolve itself ? ”

The SNP seems to have gotten a majority of the vote in Scotland. The Tory line at the end of the campaign was on the lines of “vote for us and we will stand up to the pushy Scots, unlike Labour”. In addition, we would normally expect the Tory majority to erode away in the course of parliament due to by-election defeats and defections, and while they can be and will be shored up by the Unionists, the remaining Lib Dem MPs will not be in the mood to do a deal. So a situation where 58 opposition MPs are removed from Parliament completely will be very tempting for the government.

I would expect the government to institute some policy that is unpopular in Scotland, the SNP controlled Scottish government to use this to argue that conditions have changed and a new referendum is necessary, and then to call and win referendum 2. This will be followed by independence, or something like devo-max. I really don’t see any way of avoiding this given the election results. The really unresolved question down the road is how this would affect Northern Ireland, and to a lesser extent Wales.


Salem 05.08.15 at 6:32 pm

I dunno about Scotland, but the EU is pretty clear.

The referendum will happen. But the renegotiation of the UK’s place is going to happen first. This was actually a Conservative commitment for the 2010 election, but due to the coalition didn’t happen*. Basically Cameron will (attempt to) make a deal with the other EU member states to redefine our relationship, and then there will be an in-out referendum – i.e. a choice between Cameron’s renegotiated relationship, or leaving the EU. How much Cameron will be able to achieve is anyone’s guess. It’s already clear that he’ll be able to have “ever closer union” not apply to Britain, but will he be able to get substantive concessions, or only symbolic ones like that? My vague feeling is that Cameron won’t get the most far-reaching notions, like an opt-out from Free Movement of Workers, but he’ll get enough to persuade 3/4 of the parliamentary Conservative Party to campaign to stay in, in which case Britain will remain in the EU. But there’s an, oh, 30% chance that the other member states think that Cameron is bluffing, and just try to fob him off, in which case the Conservatives will campaign for EU exit, and I’d say we have an 80% chance of leaving.

*Perhaps Darragh might cite this as one of the Lib Dems’ achievements?


Ed 05.08.15 at 6:34 pm

Labour has won a majority of the English and Welsh MPs in the past, and if England were independent of the UK there would be less need for latent English nationalism to use the Conservative (and Unionist) Party as a vehicle, so I don’t think the end of the Union would mean Conservative dominance of English politics forever. They could try to get rid of Wales as well, but that would be difficult since there is no independence movement in Wales (Plaid’s focus is support of the Welsh language).

If the Tories were really bold, they would remove England and Wales from both the UK and the EU at the same time. Then they could dominate the politics of the new nation for a generation or two, as its founding party. But I don’t think their leadership is really anti-EU, they just like to use it for dog whistling.


Salem 05.08.15 at 6:46 pm

The Conservative percentage of the vote was unchanged… Labour actually achieved small increases… there was a small national swing from the Conservatives to Labour

No. The Conservatives were up 0.8% of the vote, Labour up 1.4%. Both parties increased, and the swing was from the Lib Dems to both of them.

[There was lots of] movement directly from the Liberal Democrats to UKIP, even though you wouldn’t expect this from the platforms of these parties. I think this is more likely than the alternative of Liberal Democrats deciding to support Labour, and many Labour supporters defecting to UKIP. Though I don’t expect a lot of rationality from voters, I simply can’t think of an even semi-plausible reason to vote Lib Dem in 2010 and then Tory in 2015.

Agreed on the first point. But the second seems contradicted by the facts. Look at all the Lib Dem losses in the South West, where the Lib Dem vote has fallen and the vote of every other party has risen, including the Conservatives. It seems clear that there is no shortage of Lib Dem voters who switched, possibly because they approved of the coalition and didn’t like that the Lib Dems seemed to have one foot outside it at all times.


Mitch Guthman 05.08.15 at 6:46 pm

@ Daragh McDowell,

By no means do I want to minimize Labour’s inanity in the aftermath of the election but he UK really was in uncharted waters so it seems to me that the numbers were pretty much what Nick Clegg chose to make of them. He was under no obligation to make it possible for anybody to form a government and there wouldn’t have been any harm to creating such an impasse if he genuinely thought that the Conservatives were so horrible that the would need a check on their murderous impulses.

I would rather see “no government” in preference to a Conservative government. The most likely outcome would simply be another election. Frankly, the interregnum would probably be the UK’s post-war high point for good governance.

To try and be more clear, if Clegg really thought Cameron and his gang were the Devil, it seems uniquely silly to that that you’re going to put them into power now to stop them from taking power later; just as it seems foolish to choose to put them into government and then devote yourself to constraining their ability to do the awful things you made it possible for them to do.

Having given them power to begin with and then remaining in the coalition rather than trying to bring down the Conservative government makes me question your post-hoc justifications for Clegg’s becoming Cameron’s toady. He was in no way obligated to form a government with any party and there wouldn’t have been any harm to the country had he stood on the principled ground he now claims as a post-hoc justification for remaining in the coalition.


TM 05.08.15 at 6:56 pm

Doug 105: The FDP has recently become more or less obsolete (although as they say Totgesagte leben laenger) but had a pretty good stretch before that. In their heyday (up to the late 90s), the party system had 3 players, then 4. Now things are way more complicated. Nevertheless, they have shown how small players can matter.

Re Labour:

Just when hope and courage are called for, Labour promises bean-counting
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 15th April 2015

Labour’s 1983 manifesto is widely known as the longest suicide note in history. Its 2015 manifesto is the longest till receipt in history. It is costed and funded, ordered and itemised, and will electrify anyone who is aroused by the high wild cry of accountancy.


Mitch Guthman 05.08.15 at 7:03 pm

Salem at 121,

I think you’re basically right. The movement of LibDems to UKIP actually makes perfect sense if you remember that it isn’t one party but really an uneasy amalgam two quite different parties (one liberal and the other centrist) that never had very much in common. It wasn’t a problem when they were just wandering in the wilderness together but the tension deciding whether to remain in a coalition with Cameron reminded them of just how little the two parties agreed on the major issues.


Ed 05.08.15 at 7:11 pm

“The Conservatives were up 0.8% of the vote, Labour up 1.4%. Both parties increased, and the swing was from the Lib Dems to both of them.”

This is partly a technical objection and partly a matter of semantics. But the swing is calculated as the increase in the vote for party A, minus the increase in the vote for party B, divided by two. The concept was invented at a time when two parties accounted for 95% of the votes and the expectation is that if party A’s vote goes up, party B’s will go down. But it works if the votes of both party A and party B go up as in this case: (1.4 – 0.8)/2 = 0.3, so there was a nationwide swing of 0.3% from the Conservatives to Labour. It wasn’t very big, but it was enough that you would normally see the opposite movement of seats from what occurred. And yes, if a party’s vote simply collapses, then there is a “swing” against it to just about everyone.

On the larger point, neither 0.8% or 1.4% are big increases, but 1.4% is bigger than 0.8%. Milliband managed a bigger improvement in the Labour vote totals than he will be given credit for. Over the course of two elections since becoming leader, Cameron has improved the Conservative vote share by about 4.5%.

Mitch, you can’t have “no government” under the UK constitution. The Queen’s actual job is to make sure there is a Prime Minister. If the Liberal Democrats had a “no deals with the Tories” policy in 2010, Gordon Brown would have remained Prime Minister until the inevitable defeat in the House of Commons, after which the Queen would have appointed Cameron. There still would have been a government, in this case a Tory one, which probably would have gained a majority in an election called (before the Fixed Term Parliaments Act) at Cameron’s discretion.


Doug 05.08.15 at 8:02 pm

Salem @119 “But the renegotiation of the UK’s place is going to happen first.”

Is there reason to think that the UK’s 27 European partners want to change the set-up?


Trader Joe 05.08.15 at 8:25 pm

Many thanks to so many for the well informed comments and thoughts about the election. Its nice to read well over 100+ comments where those involved are able to express a range of views both competing and complementary and not have it evolve into a Dems are hopeless, Reps are bigots name-calling game.

I lived in London when Blair was elected and remember the excitement and energy that came with that change after +15 years of Tory leadership…this election doesn’t seem to have much of that, far more of the major parties clinging to their base while the assortment of smaller minority parties carve off different slices of those disatisfied with both majors.

Americans should be jealous of a system that is able to actually elect a diversity of political views – sadly, the U.S. system (at this point) is largely rigged to favor 2 parties and 2 parties only and the lack of spectrum of views that imposes on the electorate.

Thanks again for the thoughtful comments I look forward to many more.


Bruce Wilder 05.08.15 at 8:26 pm

I really don’t know what is so implausible about some former Labour voters moving to UKIP. It makes a lot more sense to me than the notion of LibDems moving in any significant numbers to UKIP.

To me, an interesting question is how many potential UKIP voters were persuaded to vote tactically for the Conservatives.


Ed 05.08.15 at 8:41 pm

I was incorrect on one of my points, after checking the latest updates on the BBC website. The Conservatives have a 12 seat majority, not a 4 seat majority, so it is less likely to disappear over the course of the Parliament, unless they split over Europe as in the 1990s.


rino economist 05.08.15 at 8:56 pm

With apologies to Brecht’s “Die Loesung”:

After the results of the 7th May,
The Guardian Commentariat
Had papers distributed in Corby,
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the Labor Party
And could win it back only by redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
in that case for the Labor Party
to dissolve the people
and elect another?


Mitch Guthman 05.08.15 at 8:56 pm

Ed at 125,

As with most things in this comment thread, I think you are right and generally better informed than me. Nevertheless, I’m not sure that it’s impossible for the UK to be without a government. Again, we’re very much in uncharted waters but I believe that if the PM’s office were vacant through the death or resignation of the incumbent, at the moment the party in government had lost its majority, and no party could form a government, I think it’s a close question whether the Queen could simply appoint but I’m pretty sure that she isn’t obliged appoint one (such as a new leader elected by party of the departed incumbent) if she doesn’t want to. So I think you could have a situation similar to that in Belgium.

As a practical matter, however, you’re right that the UK would still have had a Prime Minister in 2010. In my zeal for making a good debating point, I didn’t chose my words carefully and muddled things up, for which I apologize. Obviously, Gordon Brown would’ve continued as PM until he was replaced (which would have been fine with me).

I think if nobody else had been able to form a government then Gordon Brown would have continued as Prime Minister until the next Queen’s Speech. Then, assuming the Labour Queen’s Speech was voted down, that would have been the equivalent of a “no confidence” vote and I believe at that point there would simply be a new general election, after which the Conservatives might or might not have been able to form a government.

Daragh McDowell at 110,

First, the voters didn’t choose the Conservatives as the Lib Dems partners. They didn’t choose anybody. Nick Clegg choose to hop into bed with the Tories because he and his pals were hot to strut around carrying their little red boxes and get better tables and more obsequious waiters at the The Wolseley.

Second, you’re making an assumption about the inevitability of the Conservatives getting in after the next election and using that assumption to justify a coalition with a partner that your party claims now to have always distrusted and whose entire program was supposedly repugnant. It is not persuasive to me when you claim that the Lib Dems somehow prevented the greater harm of the Conservatives possibly getting into government in six months (through winning a new election) by guaranteeing them almost absolute power today. Frankly, I don’t find that reasoning persuasive and, as I said earlier, I think it’s just a post hoc justification for doing a very shortsighted, stupid thing that turned out to be a disaster for your party and for the UK.


novakant 05.08.15 at 9:28 pm


(sorry, it had to be said, in the interest of closure)


Salem 05.08.15 at 9:52 pm

Is there reason to think that the UK’s 27 European partners want to change the set-up?

As I say, I reckon there’s a maybe 30 per cent chance they tell Cameron to do one. In which case we’re probably leaving the EU.


TM 05.08.15 at 10:13 pm

You think leaving the EU is seriously an option? I find it hard to believe that most of the actual corporate elite think they would benefit from an exit (they may think that threatening to leave benefits them – I don’t think the rest of the EU will go out of their way to suit them).


Sandwichman 05.08.15 at 10:16 pm

novakant @ 131: should that be spelled FCUK?


novakant 05.08.15 at 10:45 pm

lol, Sandwichman

and here’s some consolation:

(well, it made me smile …)


Daragh McDowell 05.08.15 at 10:50 pm

@ Mitch –

Ed more or less made precisely the same argument I would have in response to you. The scenario you’re describing goes something like this – Clegg says ‘we’re backing no-one!’ or ‘We’re backing Labour!’, Brown resigns/loses confidence motion and then resigns, Queen appoints David Cameron as PM (yes, constitutionally she does that and constitutionally there must ALWAYS be a PM, which is why John Prescott was otherwise inexplicably in charge of the country for brief periods during the Blair years, just in case something had to be nuked), Cameron attempts a Queen’s speech, which is voted down and an election is called. Labour fights the election without minimal cash on hand, heavily in debt, and with Gordon Brown as leader, or, at best, a hastily introduced David Miliband who will have had precisely zero time to formulate a policy vision. The Tories are well funded and have a message of ‘we’re in the middle of an economic emergency, Greece is on the verge of sinking the eurozone into another depression, and for some reason we’re having another election because the Libdems are playing spoilers/attempting to shore up an obviously discredited and defeated prime minister.” Meanwhile, every paper in the land bar the Guardian and the Indy paste pictures of rioters in Athens with ‘London next?’ on them for the entire three week campaign.

If you seriously think the outcome of such a contest would be in any doubt, there’s a Nigerian prince I’d like to introduce you to whose in need of some assistance, but the payback will be AMAZING!

“First, the voters didn’t choose the Conservatives as the Lib Dems partners. They didn’t choose anybody. Nick Clegg choose to hop into bed with the Tories because he and his pals were hot to strut around carrying their little red boxes and get better tables and more obsequious waiters at the The Wolseley.”

Leaving aside the de rigeur, and frankly rather juvenile cynicism (seriously – politicians do actually often have some sense of purpose, and if you think that people endure the kind of daily public shit-hosing that frontline politics entails for a better waiter…) again – the only combination of seats that reached more than 323 was LibDem+Con. No amount of pretending the DUP was lining up to support a Lab/LD/Green/Plaid/SNP/Alliance/SDLP/Galloway/UUP Rainbow coalition (not to mention the Labour PLP) changes those numbers.

Finally, I don’t think arguing that ‘we’ll be a restraint on the Tories worst instincts’ translates into ‘we regard the Tories as implacable foes.’ The party promoted coalition as a virtue during the campaign and said that they’d not rule out either party. So cries of ‘betrayal’ don’t cut much ice here either.

The TL:DR – You’ve created an imaginary constitutional process, ignored parliamentary arithmetic and assumed that an immediate election after a hung parliament wouldn’t necessarily result in a Tory majority. And yet you feel justified in accusing others of post facto rationalisations…


Daragh McDowell 05.08.15 at 10:54 pm

@TM – The press barony would benefit greatly from being removed from lots of EU regulations on media, and will heavily promote an exit. And its an issue like immigration in the US – sure corporate America is fine with it, but the right wing have to rile up the proles against SOME form of Other in order to keep them voting GOP. English nationalism and Eurobashing is the Tory equivalent.


Val 05.08.15 at 11:34 pm

Harry b @ 83
I’m Australian, and I haven’t followed the detail of your campaign. However we’ve had two female leaders of left political parties at federal level in recent years (they’re both gone, now, the Greens leader having just resigned and been replaced by a man), and one thing I recognise is the tone of blithe dismissiveness by men – supposedly of the left – when talking about female leaders.

The assumption is that the female leaders in question are so obviously hopeless that it’s not even worth taking the time to discuss them, which is pretty clearly what you were doing.

I really wish that men in privileged positions would take the time to think critically about their behaviour, instead of the reflexive denial that seems so common. I assume you know that women are under-represented in British politics? I think this time they’ve got to just over a quarter of MPs or thereabouts (which is being seen as a great improvement, apparently). Why do you think this is?

If you don’t like the woman as Greens leader, how about taking the time to say why, politely? Treat her with at least that much respect. It’s common to treat one’s political opponents with contempt – rightly or wrongly – but if you are supposedly on the same broad side of politics as someone, it’s not normal to treat them that way, unless they are women, so it appears.


harry b 05.08.15 at 11:59 pm

It was very late at night, and I was in a bad mood (more on that later, if you have the patience to bear with me), and it was an aside. It might well be worth discussing her, but I didn’t want to last night, because the Greens were at the margins of the whole thing. I apologise that it came off as badly as it did. For me, the lack of elaboration corresponded to the marginality of the party.

Fwiw, the main reason I thought she was a failure as a leader was that i) she seemed not to have command of her brief, ii) if she did have command, she failed to display it in the crucial debates and interviews and iii) I knew they had someone (also a woman) who would have done it much better. The consequences were not a huge deal because I doubt, in the circumstances, that anything could have been much different, and I realise that the SNP (whose leader is brilliant, but I can’t stand partly because she is so good, and leads a party that I do not think is on my side at all). and the Tories (whose leader is, well, I find his success completely bemusing) made the running.

I never said it on CT, because it never came up, but I believed at the time that the Labour party sunk themselves when they chose their (now departed) leader (they, too, had someone who could have done it much better, in their case another man, with the same last name). I thought he was hopeless, and was quite as dismissive of him, and was horrified but unsurprised when he (I thought) completely screwed up in the final Question Time.

Similarly, the marginality of PD, whose (female) leader is much more clearly on my side than the Greens, and who I thought was terrific, led me not to say much about them.

All that said, I spent a good deal of time last night looking at blogs and transcripts of radio shows in which people like (and including) Rush Limbaugh (and also including a Nazi website which worshiped adolf hitler) misrepresented me and my views and called for me and the co-author of my book to be shot, and things like that, so maybe I was not in the best state to be generous to anybody. For what its worth, I’ll try to make sure your rebuke has some effect on my thinking and comments.


Marc 05.09.15 at 12:08 am

@141: Perhaps a case as to why she’s good would be a useful one to make?


Rabbie 05.09.15 at 12:39 am

Scotland will not seek independence quickly. Last year’s referendum was hugely uplifting in the way it generated engagement in politics there (turnout in this week’s election was higher in Scotland than in England). But it was also quite traumatic in highlighting divisions in society. Nicola Sturgeon is astute enough not to want to repeat the exercise unless she is guaranteed of success. With the SNP taking protest votes against the Tory racist anti-Scottish scaremongers and Ed’s refusal to consider any sort of alliance with the SNP, Sturgeon knows that some of her new voters are temporary, and don’t support independence. Many were simply making a statement to Cameron and Miliband that if you screw us, we’ll screw you back.

The only “material change” that Nicola Sturgeon describes which would drive a new independence referendum would be UK leaving the EU. Though Cameron let the genie out of the bottle here, this will not happen. Not a snowball’s chance. The money men in the City who ultimately control the Tories, and the newspaper barons who will push the votes the way of the miraculously-newly-pro-EU Cameron after a few minor trinkets are chucked over from Brussels will jointly see to that. Cameron knows which side his bread is buttered on.


kidneystones 05.09.15 at 1:46 am

Working class bigots and austerity light.

I’ve yet to see any Labour leader go public on the damage Milliband’s anti-referendum slurs did to the Labour vote, but here’s a pre-election summary of the problem Labour faced and very much still faces: ” The left in British politics has a proud heritage of enfranchising working class voters and ensuring that working people have a say in how their country is run. It’s a radical tradition that stretches back to the Levellers, through the Chartists, the Suffragettes and the founders of the Labour Party at the turn of the century.
In rejecting a referendum on the EU, Labour have defied this heritage. They are saying that working people cannot be trusted to make a big decision about how the country should be run in the future. They are saying that the elites, the man in Whitehall or the crown placemen know better than the people.
It wasn’t always this way, of course. In the 1970s, it was Labour who were making a principled case that the people should have their say. Michael Foot, a man steeped in the radical tradition said in 1975 that, “this question… will never be settled until the people of this country have had the right to pass judgement on it… we insist that, on a matter of such consequence, only the British people can settle it.”

This clear and cogent critique of Labour’s elitism was penned by David Skelton, a journalist /activist specializing in ‘broadening the Conservatives’ appeal to the working classes.” Six months from now, I expect some pointy-heads to produce a 50,000 word paper saying the same thing. That’s the problem both the LibDems and Labour faced and face. Both had/have to explain why their own voters, supporters and candidates should not be even given the opportunity to vote on an EU referendum. Instead, Ummuna and Milliband adopted a pro-business position certain alienate and insult core Labour voters (from the Guardian, 10 nov 14) The Labour leader is to offer to form a partnership with British business leaders in which a Labour government would guarantee the stability of continued EU membership in return for support for his plans to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. “If I am prime minister I will never risk your businesses, British jobs, British prosperity, by playing political games with our membership of the EU,” he will tell the CBI.”
Two years ago Milliband took the stand that delighted Conservatives, (Guardian 28 Jan 12)

“Ed Miliband risked alienating some voters, and unnerving sections of his own shadow cabinet, when he stood firm on Wednesday, saying he was opposed to an in-out referendum on the terms proposed by David Cameron. The Tories seized on his statement, claiming he was against an in-out referendum, but Miliband’s aides said the party only opposed a referendum now. However, the Conservatives were confident that the Labour leader had made a disastrous political error for which he would pay a price at the next election. Grant Shapps, the Conservative chairman, said: “It’s clear that Labour doesn’t trust the British public to have their say on their country’s future.” But those senior members of the shadow cabinet that would have preferred a clearer pro-referendum line bit their lips, saying the option remained open. Others claimed Cameron would enjoy a short-term hit, but that the speech would not age well. Some senior backbenchers such as Keith Vaz, the home affairs select committee chairman and a former Europe minister, openly called for a referendum but surprisingly few Labour voices called for Miliband to follow Cameron.”

This fundamentally elitist and dishonest position by Milliband did indeed cost Labour the election, along with their disastrous Scotland policy. Cameron and UKIP gleefully pointed out the hypocrisy directly and through surrogates (see above). The working class electorate, ‘anxious about jobs/immigration’ etc. clearly felt their leaders did/do not trust or respect them. We can find well-educated Labour theorists entirely all too willing to characterize working class concerns as rift bigotry. Indeed this contempt for working-class Britain is one the key points upon which Labour and Conservative elites can agree.
The best Labour could do was admit that they ‘got it wrong’ on immigration during their tenure. Refusal to even discuss giving voters a debate/vote on the referendum forced Labour further towards the right, a drift did not go un-noticed in Scotland in the run-up to the 2015 election. (Herald-Scotsman 19 nov 14)

“LABOUR has upped the political ante on immigration by saying that if it won power, EU nationals would have to be in Britain for a full two years before they could claim unemployment benefit.

At present, they only have to wait three months.

Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, unveiled a package of new measures which, she insisted, represented “credible reform” on immigration.

They were announced just 48 hours before the Rochester by-election in Kent, the campaign for which has been dominated by immigration, and which Ukip is strongly tipped to win.

Ms Reeves also said a Labour government would work with other EU countries to limit in-work benefits paid to EU migrants which “can encourage employers to rely on low-cost short-term labour from abroad” and end the “absurdity” of child benefit and child tax credits being claimed for children living in other countries.

“Ukip would have us leave British values of fairness and toleration at the door,” declared Ms Reeves.

“But I also believe we have to listen to the real concerns people have about how immigration is being managed. That’s why I’m setting out a credible three-point plan for reforming our social security system, which was never designed for the levels of migration we are now seeing.” The Lib-Con Coalition has already tightened the rules so EU migrants have to wait three months after arriving in the UK before they can claim child benefit and child tax credits.”

Sorry about the long post, but I hope this sheds some light on how denying voters the right and respect to even discuss the EU referendum without slurs cost and will cost Labour.


Alan White 05.09.15 at 1:49 am


(1) Thanks for your generous replies.

(2) I’m shocked and appalled about the threats. Anyone who has met you knows your generous spirit, your deep reflective take on on just about everything, and your advocacy for just and progressive education.

(3) I’m serving on the UW System Tenure Task Force. I’m mad, and I’m determined.


john c. halasz 05.09.15 at 1:50 am

What’s the PD?


Val 05.09.15 at 1:57 am

Thanks Harry.

Marc @ 143.
It isn’t necessary for me to do that. I am talking about treating her with respect, not whether she is good or bad at her job, which I don’t know enough to comment about.

As you have phrased your comment that way, I’m not expecting you will understand my next point at first reading, but I’ll say it anyway. (I’m not saying that to be patronising, just that when someone challenges our thinking, what they are saying at first may not appear to make sense.) In a context where women are evidently under- represented, it is not necessary to prove the worth or merit of each individual woman, it is necessary to prove that women are not being unfairly treated. Thus the onus is on a person who makes a dismissive comment about a female politician to examine whether he or she is being fair, or is reflecting prevailing social bias.


dsquared 05.09.15 at 2:23 am


People who are voting on the “we hate Plaid” ticket. And, tbh, there’s a lot to dislike (and a lot to like as well, that’s Wales for you). Anyone who feels they might have been shut out of a job due to language policy. Etc etc. Not necessarily all “horrible English immigrants”, there are a lot of multi-generation Welsh who don’t like being told that they’re second class citizens (“Cymro sal”) because they don’t speak the language. In general, nationalists are nationalists, and they can hardly complain about not getting many votes from nationalists of a different nation.

I have no idea whatsoever why anyone would want to claim that Natalie Bennett has been anything other than an embarrassment to the Greens, particularly compared to Caroline Lucas. Val, since you really haven’t been following the campaign, and really don’t know anything about the UK Green Party and its leadership, perhaps you might want to consider taking the option of not expressing strong views in disagreement with people who have. Scolding someone for their views and then admitting that you have no information at all about the subject is the sort of thing that is absolutely toxic to your credibility in the long run.


dsquared 05.09.15 at 2:31 am

I mean seriously, further to this:

If you don’t like the woman as Greens leader, how about taking the time to say why, politely?

It’s a thread about the UK elections. There’s an implicit assumption that anyone reading it or commenting on it is going to have been following the UK elections, and therefore to be aware of, say, the debates and the general performance of the party leaders. This implicit assumption was, apparently, wrong – at least one person has decided to stick their oar in on the basis of no such knowledge at all. But I think I want to resurrect it as a normative judgement – if you’re taking up everyone’s time and bandwidth with your views on the basis of zero information, you’ve got no business lecturing others about “respect” and “politely”.


dsquared 05.09.15 at 2:37 am

By the way, Harry, wtf? Is this all about the family stuff? As always with these things, I am willing to be a witness that you have a reputation worth protecting in England & Wales and that any libellous statements about you have been published there, if need be.


Val 05.09.15 at 2:55 am

There was nothing about the OP that said it was specifically intended for people with expertise in UK politics (unlike a previous post on the subject, which I didn’t comment on). There are definitely some ways in which UK politics is similar to
Australian (not the least being of course the influence right wing spin doctors, my apologies as an Australian for that). I have a quite recent particular interest in the UK Greens because a young friend of mine has taken a campaign position and has been sending info, but I didn’t know about the leadership issue (obviously that’s not the sort of thing she was publicizing). I do have quite a lot of knowledge about the way women are treated in politics, both first hand and academically.

Other than that, feel free to do the ‘shut up you stupid feminist, interfering in things you know nothing about and “scolding” everybody’ thing. Go for it. It’s great for women’s participation in politics and it encourages them to comment on blogs too of course (sarcasm alert).

I agree that what Harry has been subjected to is really unpleasant and I’m sorry to hear about it.


Val 05.09.15 at 3:04 am

And also dsquared, when you work out a perfect way that feminists can complain about the treatment of women in politics, without lecturing or scolding or whining or being victims or ‘playing the gender card’ any of those unpleasant things, please do let me know.

There must be a nice way of doing it, without upsetting anybody, and that’s what we feminists need to learn.


harry b 05.09.15 at 3:12 am

It is about the family stuff, yes. Its really quite weird — and I hasten to add that Adam has had much the worst of it — he just forwarded all the abusive emails he’s had, and they are horrible. We stand accused of wanting to abolish the family and stop people reading bedtime stories to their kids because…. we wrote a book explaining why children have a right to be raised in families and adults should be allowed to read bedtime stories to their kids….. I’ve been trying to compose a CT post about it, but its very hard (for me) to do it without coming off as whiny — and, really, I don’t feel whiny, more bemused (my wife, whom I just told about the people saying we should be shot, is a bit more disturbed I think). And I don’t quite know what point to make — “some people on the internet are horrid, especially when anonymous”?; “Rush Limbaugh can’t read properly”?

My facebook friends (that’s an invitation, Daniel and Val!) can click to the white supremacist site but I do warn you that if it doesn’t make you feel nauseous there’s something wrong with you. Still, all publicity is good publicity, right?


harry b 05.09.15 at 3:18 am

PS, Point fully taken about Plaid, and I have all the same thoughts, but I do like their leader! Aren’t there other ways of opposing them than voting for UKIP? Anyway, I guess, from a distance, just as many of the northern UKIP voters seem different from the southeastern ones, I wondered if the Welsh ones were different again.

My dad’s already done the libel thing. It would, really, be such fun, though, to sue some of these people for libel in the UK!


kidneystones 05.09.15 at 3:23 am

Hi Harry, I can’t imagine your having an easy time of it. I’m not sure if you’re happy with the following quote: “Challenging some of our most commonly held beliefs about the family, Brighouse and Swift explain why a child’s interest in autonomy severely limits parents’ right to shape their children’s values, and why parents have no fundamental right to confer wealth or advantage on their children.”

The quote is from the Barnes & Noble site promoting your book, my italics. Best wishes, really.


basil 05.09.15 at 3:26 am

Thank you Salem. I’m not persuaded that people learn about party platforms through the televised debates. There just isn’t enough to go on there. Each candidate has too small window of opportunity in which to speak and the ‘worm’ suggested Bennett’s presentation provoked a good response in audiences.

Still, I think it unlikely that in a parliamentary – not a presidential – system, with the liberal book-keeping consensus having a profoundly negative effect on millions of families’ welfare and with widespread concerns about climate change, there exist actual people who will not support a platform they otherwise find appealing because it was presented on the telly by a ‘bad leader’? This, especially, for a party that has no chance of getting into executive office?

*Val could look up ‘worm, Natalie Bennett, debate’, or how she was forced to shout because the boys wouldn’t let her have her turn, or that she was said to have ‘won the Challenger’s Debate on Twitter’. She did lose her voice during the campaign period and couldn’t show her working on social housing one night. In a time where presentation and ‘competence’ are more important than notions of justice and fairness that is unforgivable.


dsquared 05.09.15 at 3:29 am

And also dsquared, when you work out a perfect way that feminists can complain about the treatment of women in politics, without lecturing or scolding or whining or being victims or ‘playing the gender card’ any of those unpleasant things, please do let me know.

Sure. But I think it’s a mistake to counsel perfection here when there are clearly big wins that we can achieve with only minor changes to your behaviour. So from now on, maybe whenever you feel like saying:

Fuck it. Just fuck it. I’m too drunk to argue it out, but I saw this earlier when I was stone cold sober, and I was furious even then. Guys like you are destroying the left, I honestly wish you would stop claiming to be left.

then just do a quick check of “hmm, if I later have to admit that I don’t know a single thing about the political leaders I’m talking about, will this look silly?” and if the answer is “yes” then don’t write it.

This isn’t a borderline case. It’s not the sort of thing that John McEnroe used to argue with the umpire about. It’s not got anything to do with feminism or any general political debate and it’s very embarrassing that you’re pretending it has. You just wrote something dumb when you’d had a few – we’ve all done it, but the problems start when the morning comes and you claim it was all justified in the name of the cause. Harry has been extraordinarily polite and kind to you and you really need to be just saying “ah yeah I’m sorry”, not handing out further lectures. As I say, this will kill your credibility more surely than Dutch Elm Disease in the long run.


dsquared 05.09.15 at 3:33 am

Aren’t there other ways of opposing them than voting for UKIP?

Yes and that’s presumably why a Tory got in for Gower (he’s also been a popular local AM, but even so, first in something like a hundred years). My guess is that Welsh UKIP are mainly Tories in weigh-the-vote Labour constituencies having a laugh. Also, ironically, they’ve got a lot more in common than they’d like to admit with the “Not From Round Here” element of Plaid.

(I suppose that what I’m saying here is that this is a crossword puzzle and the answer is “Anti-Polish Racism”. But that can’t be quite right because UKIP Is Definitely Not Racist.)


Val 05.09.15 at 3:41 am

Being drunk was hyperbole, I’d had about three glasses of wine. It was a more ‘complex issue + feeling really cross + having had some wine” – so can’t get into long complex arguments.

Nevertheless, I would put my house on the certainty that I know more about how women are treated in politics than you do, and patronizing me does not make your case any stronger.


Val 05.09.15 at 3:43 am

And I stand by what I said, I am not trying to cover up for drunken nonsense, as you suggest.


Val 05.09.15 at 3:47 am

Basil @ 156
Thank you! It’s not surprising that the whole issue of the Greens leadership is a bit more complex than some people have suggested – ie she is just totally incompetent and it’s obvious, no sexism to see here, let’s move on stuff – but nice to have it confirmed by a thoughtful commenter. I will look that up.


js. 05.09.15 at 3:52 am


I do get your point about women in politics, or otherwise, being summarily dismissed. I really do. But the harry b commented you originally responded to mentioned three women politicians—one of which Harry described as “most impressive” another as “very good” and a third as “second rate”. It does seem more than a little odd to apply the general criticism, which in general is valid, to that particular comment.

harry b @153:

Please do write the post! I think you’d be well within your rights to be more than whiny.


dsquared 05.09.15 at 3:58 am

Nevertheless, I would put my house on the certainty that I know more about how women are treated in politics than you do, and patronizing me does not make your case any stronger.

Please don’t do this to yourself. This isn’t a general issue about how women are treated in politics. It’s a specific issue about this comment.


js. 05.09.15 at 4:01 am

Oops. dsquared makes me realize I missed some of the earlier part of the thread. I had in mind @83 in my last comment.


kidneystones 05.09.15 at 4:50 am

Things to do post 2015 election, and a final post:

Start reading the Scottish press regularly, such as the : . There’s a bumper crop of fine articles from Scottish writers offering the Scots’ perspective. Add to tool bar, search for others. The landscape has clearly changed and the UK/English press has the ideological blinders on. Case in point: <a href="; title "The Guardian's post-election editorial" – navel-gazing, broody, sober, and out-of-touch. The Guardian may have soared internationally, but omitting all mention of the EU referendum in their post-election analysis does not suggest the twits at the top have their fingers on the pulse of the nation(s). Worth a read, if only for the swipe at Ummuna and the instructive experience of seeing just how small and pompous Labour politics can be.


kidneystones 05.09.15 at 4:51 am

Sorry about the html mess. Cheers.


Val 05.09.15 at 5:02 am

Ok this is the part of the comment you are talking about presumably
“Fuck it. Just fuck it. I’m too drunk to argue it out, but I saw this earlier when I was stone cold sober, and I was furious even then. Guys like you are destroying the left, I honestly wish you would stop claiming to be left.”

Ok, that’s vehement and provocative, and I knew it was when I wrote it. I’m happy to apologise to either Harry or Mitch if they are actually “left”, but my sense was that they are what I consider centrist, and also that Harry’s comment was dismissive of the female Greens leader. The interaction between those two things is what I consider to be very complicated, but I can try a bit to explain. However can I just say first that I said that because I want people to get some sense of how deep my anger and despair over what is happening to the left, and particularly to women on the left, is. I knew there was a chance it would evoke moralising, but I also thought there was a chance it might make people think.

So. I’m not sure that in the UK you have Vote Compass, and my access to is blocked at present (something to do with cookies, not something I’ve said!) so I’m not sure if I can explain it properly, but it kind of rates you on a 2×2 grid of social and economic views and rates the parties similarly, so you can see which party is closest to your views. In Australia, of those who take it (ie not a random sample) a high proportion come out close to the Greens, more than would vote that way. That is, they are left on both social and economic issues. I can’t remember exactly where Labor comes out – and it depends on the election eg state or federal and which state etc – but a lot of people who would vote Labor are more “left” than the party (as are a lot of the ALP grass roots members). However a lot of important people in the ALP, especially men, tend to be more centrist or closer to the right (the left has a better record with women in the ALP).

Now ok, this isn’t exactly the same as the UK, but as an interested observer, it looks to me like there are some similarities. Moreover, I think there are men in both the ALP and British Labor who are sympathetic to left and feminist causes, but somehow get caught up in the prevailing orthodoxy.

The net result of this is that these people – power brokers or whatever you want to call them – have an influence that results in Labor/Labour being more centrist (or closer to the right) than the general ‘left’ or their grass roots members are. This not only gives support to the actual right, it also helps in discrediting genuine left positions as being unrealistic or ‘fairies at the bottom of the garden’ (and if you can’t see how the interaction of gender and leftwing views plays out in slurs like that, then it is hopeless even talking to you) and also feeds into right wing media and public debates that portray left wing positions as unrealistic and dangerous.

Finally, saying that some (left) female leaders are good while others are just hopeless and can’t be taken seriously, isn’t really supporting women in politics. It’s conditional and suggests that the men doing the classifying are still the authorities. Again, if that doesn’t make sense to you, then maybe I’m wasting my time trying to talk to you. Maybe, like dsquared, you can just decide I’m just a stupid feminist who got drunk and said stupid things and is now trying to justify them and isn’t worth the waste of bandwidth. I hope not, but this admittedly somewhat simplified explanation is all I can really justify in terms of time at present. When I finish my thesis (if ever), maybe I can do better.


Val 05.09.15 at 5:08 am

“British Labour”, apologies, I know that, I got it right most times.


js. 05.09.15 at 5:20 am


Harry can speak for himself., and I definitely don’t want to speak for him, but this doesn’t at all suggest to me that he’s a “centrist” in the objectionable sense. And he’s written a lot of posts on teaching/education that are incredibly sensitive to gender issues. Again, your general point is right, but the target was ill-chosen.


basil 05.09.15 at 5:31 am

Thank you Val, for bravely pushing back.

I did have your previous interventions in mind when I made my initial comment, especially what you’ve said about gendered approaches to politics. For me, the idea of strong effective leadership, the great men of history, is impossible to disconnect from patriarchal conceptions of governance. This lot is committed to its hierarchies.

There’s Have you seen that?


Tabasco 05.09.15 at 5:45 am


The problem with Natalie Bennett’s performance isn’t that was she was a woman playing out of her league, it was that she was an Australian playing out of her league,.

[Backs away slowly]


Val 05.09.15 at 6:01 am

Thanks basil and js, I am happy to apologise to Mitch and Harry if they think I’ve misrepresented them as being centrist when they are really left, but I guess it has to come from them.

I guess a better, and more reasonable way of putting it might have been to say that I think there some influential people in supposedly left parties who are actually blocking left wing progress and I wish they would stop calling themselves left – and to say that Harry and Mitch seem as if they may be in that camp. That would have been much more polite and woukd have given them an opportunity to clarify their positions.

I don’t know really – I had had a few drinks when I wrote it, which is a mistake ( although I at least owned up to it), but as I said I felt furious when I read those first few exchanges earlier in the day, and I was sober then. What can we do about this? I don’t know a lot about UK politics, but there was a clearly a trend for Labour people to blame or criticise SNP or the Greens in the early comments on this post. The reality is though – I’m sure here and it looks the same there – that parties like the SNP and the Greens are standing for things that people actually want and the right wing of Labor/Labour is joining in the game of discrediting them.

I get so fed up. Of course it’s possible to have social housing, decent incomes, and publicly funded health and education. We used to have them, back in the days when we were supposedly poorer! There’s so much nonsense going on, and by supporting it, labor (labour) parties are blocking any real social change.

I read some stuff on Natalie Bennett. She certainly stuffed up the interview on social housing, but she doesn’t actually look like a fool to me. But according to people like dsquared I suppose, my opinion on that doesn’t count for anything. The number of times I have been told by men on CT how stupid I am, you’d think I would have got the message and given up by now.


Val 05.09.15 at 6:05 am

I will reread your post when I am drunk so that I can say some rude things to you. As I am intending to go on a health kick and cut down my drinking, that day may not come for some time, sadly.


Val 05.09.15 at 6:10 am

Not ‘sadly’ because I will be sad not to get drunk, obviously, but sadly because your comment looks like an invitation to some british-oz slanging, and I am sorry to disappoint (not really :) )


Ronan(rf) 05.09.15 at 6:14 am

Val- id assume a majority of posters here have had a few drinks on any given night, in the comments and main posts. I prefer to spin it not as “too drunk to argue”, but “not sober enough not to ” ; ) which might be close enough to my current state.


Ronan(rf) 05.09.15 at 6:32 am

I’d also have to assume John Hollbo’s smoking pcp.


Val 05.09.15 at 6:42 am

Thanks Ronan, but I think I’m more inclined to argue when sober, if anything. Perhaps ‘not sober enough to argue politely’ is more my problem :)

I find it hard to see how anyone, regardless of nationality, could be out of their political depth in a country that just re-elected David Cameron.

(Couldn’t resist, couldn’t resist. And if we re-elect Tony Abbott – heaven forfend – you are welcome to mock me back).


Jim Buck 05.09.15 at 7:04 am

I would appreciate it, Harry b, if you explained yourself—a little. In recent days, I have been attempting to defend you on a facebo0k discussion.


Christopher Phelps 05.09.15 at 8:07 am

This FT article is the best analysis I have seen about how the Tories took it all.


Neville Morley 05.09.15 at 8:52 am

There’s a case to be made that Natalie Bennett suffered a bit from the excellent performances of the two other female leaders, in the debates and in interviews, and in comparison with her predecessor (a lot of Greens still regret that Caroline Lucas stepped down from the leadership to focus on being the Greens’ sole MP). A lot of the commentary was thoroughly sexist, not least because Bennett’s personal style doesn’t fit with conventional expectations of female politicians, but I think there was also a lot of genuine disappointment that she didn’t do a better job in representing the party in the national media – which is surely her main task in a general election. She’s been pretty good, I think, in the party management aspect of the leadership role; indeed, I’d see this as a case for adopting a clearer distinction between that job and the task of embodying the party for election purposes.

I fear that Salem is being over-optimistic in estimating likely outcomes of the EU referendum. Yes, there’s a chance that the other states will call Cameron’s bluff and reject his overtures, but (put in those terms) I think that’s a lot less than 30% – but I think there is a much greater chance that they will simply be unable to offer the sorts of concessions he demands (or that his rabid backbenchers force him to demand), especially if this would require them all to hold referenda on treaty change. If Cameron were willing to go for some symbolic concessions, fine, but he’s now at the mercy of the Europhobic wing who won’t accept anything like that, and too much of the press is virulently anti-Europe for him to escape thorough scrutiny there. British manufacturers will be holding their heads in their hands – but it’s financiers in the City who are the major donors to the Tories these days, and there’s less indication that they will fiercely oppose the idea of Brexit.

This is a major reason for feeling *so* depressed about the election result: this issue was scarcely discussed in the campaign, but we’re now in serious danger of wandering out of Europe and becoming even more of a corrupt tax haven dominated by the City of London than before.


Sasha Clarkson 05.09.15 at 9:10 am

dsquared @159 “My guess is that Welsh UKIP are mainly Tories in weigh-the-vote Labour constituencies having a laugh.”

I think you’re wrong there, and it’s much more serious. Many UKIP voters are often a sort of Lumpenproletariat: the lesser educated lower working class with a sense of grievance, who don’t like foreigners, fear the effects of immigration on housing and wages, etc. They are very susceptible to the snide anti-intellectual rhetoric of the tabloid press. They see the national Labour Party is seen as too poncey for them, ignoring their worries, and resent their votes being taken for granted.

The Gower result was caused by a swing from Labour to UKIP and the collapse of the Lib-Dem vote, as well, perhaps, by a bit of gentrification.

I’m not sure that Gower has ever been a “weigh the vote” constituency in the sense of Blaenau Gwent for example. Look at another, Caerphilly: in 1997, Ron Davies had nearly 70% of the vote for Labour. When elected in 2001, Labour’s Wayne David had 58% of the vote, Plaid 21% and the Tories 11%. Yesterday Wayne David got only 44%; UKIP Came second with 19%, the Tories third with 17% and Plaid 4th with 15%.

Wherever the UKIP vote came from, it wasn’t “Tories having a laugh”. Voting patterns are changing. The Welsh Assembly is seen as possibly necessary, but is not popular. Local Health services, like my local minor injuries unit, have been cut, but we are having new specialist Welsh language unit in a local primary school, generally seen as a white elephant in this very English speaking area. People are adding 2 and 2 together and not liking what they see. Labour’s leadership the Welsh Assembly has, I believe, helped both the Tories and UKIP all over English speaking South Wales. Even in the, far more Welsh, Llanelli, the Tories and UKIP got more than 30% between them yesterday. In fact, on the face of it, there was a Plaid to UKIP swing of 7%!!!


Igor Belanov 05.09.15 at 9:26 am

I honestly think that the tide of xenophobic feeling has been encouraged so much that a referendum on the EU would almost definitely produce a vote for exit. Most Tories that do not positively hate the EU do not care enough to campaign to stay in, and you have to remember that the EU acts as a brake to many of the Tories’ aspirations in the field of curtailing human rights and scrapping health and safety legislation and workers’ rights. The City can cope perfectly well outside of the EU, and would not interfere in a referendum either way. UKIP has just won three million votes. And, despite what Kidney Stones has said on this thread, the issue of the EU has not alienated many Labour voters, a good chunk of whom constantly stick with the party but would vote to leave the EU.


Neville Morley 05.09.15 at 9:29 am

I was going to mention Llanelli, as I have family connections there; a lot of what I would have said has been anticipated by Sasha’s last comment. My sister-in-law was convinced that the vote was actually going to go UKIP’s way, in what a few years ago was becoming a marginal Labour/Plaid constituency (the AM has switched back and forth over the last few elections). At a guess, toxic combination of the usual post-industrial problems, an often complacent Labour establishment and a statistically significant influx of Poles whose numbers and impact then become magnified in the public imagination. For all their recent efforts to broaden base and reach out to non-Welsh speakers, Plaid still seen as too concerned with other issues and too open to immigration as a good thing (perhaps because of their Europhilia).


kidneystones 05.09.15 at 10:00 am

183 I apologize for not being clearer. The argument works on three parts.

1. As you note, many Labour voters would vote to leave the EU, but stuck with the party. Others, however, did not because 2

2. Milliband and his allies decided to stand against an EU referendum and attempted to characterize referendum supporters as bigots and racists. Despite this effort, support for an Australian or Canadian style points based immigration system remained strong, compelling a discussion of an EU exit.

3. Refusing to back away from their reform supporters are bigots and promising to kill any attempt to hold an EU referendum, but faced with growing calls to respond to support a referndum Milliband, Ummuna, and the Lib-Dems embraced some appalling policies – such as denying legal migrants to the UK social service for up to 2 years – and embraced austerity light. See 145.

This ‘blame the poor and penalize the migrants policy from Labour and the Lib-Dems’ received a great deal of coverage in Scotland, allowing the SNP to run against the austerity and anti-immigrant light policies of Labour. Milliband, Ummuna, and company crafted the cudgel which Nicola wielded with such historic efficacy. These dynamics are still in play. Labour is going to have to support a vote on the EU. I stand by my original argument that Labour’s position on the EU referendum propelled the SNP to power in Scotland, redefined Labour as hypocritical and uncaring – a truly remarkable two-fer, and significantly increased the prospects of dissolution of the UK, while actually increasing the chances of a British EU exit. Mind-boggling incompetence all because the toffs at the top don’t trust ordinary voters.


kidneystones 05.09.15 at 10:48 am

To be clear (is such a thing possible?) and close.

1. Labour might have remained neutral during the Scots referendum, stating clearly the deep affection and respect for Scottish culture, contributions on all levels, etc., but emphatically stating that the decision was for Scots alone to make. No support for either side.

2. Labour might have said they would allow a referendum at any time, but that until any change to existing laws occurs migrants deserve all the benefits they are entitled to under existing statutes. Period.

3. By doing neither, Labour created the mess the UK is in now. Non-Scottish Labour voters who defected to other parties did so, it seems, either because they did not support Milliband’s austerity light, or rebelled because they felt Labour elites had little interest in, or sympathy for, their concerns – particularly on immigration, social services planning, and the NHS. As 183, rightly points out, many/most non-Scottish Labour voters remained loyal. Some, however, did not and in such numbers that Labour probably could not have stopped Cameron even with the full support of the SNP. Labour did not need to embrace austerity-light, punish the immigrant. However, as Labour leadership refused to sanction an EU referendum, they buckled under pressure from the right. In doing so, they alienated some of their base in the areas outside Scotland and provided Nicola with all the ammunition she needed to paint a stark contrast between the SNP’s commitment to social welfare, and the cynicism and cowardice of Milliband and company.

I very much want to see Labour succeed and the SNP and the Conservatives to fail. I apoligize, again, for the multiple posts, tortured syntax, and repetition. Cheers.


ZM 05.09.15 at 11:10 am


I will reread your post when I am drunk so that I can say some rude things to you.”

My university’s student charter was pointed out to me , as you are doing a phd your university’s student charter probably applies to you too. I have to try to bear in mind now being a good ambassador for the university in public forums even when people are very impolite or wrong on the internet.


Val 05.09.15 at 11:15 am

Basil @ 171
I kind of want to disengage from this thread to some degree, but did want to respond to what you said about political compass – I’d looked at it before (I think there was a previous discussion here) but had forgotten about it. I’m not completely comfortable with some of its political characterisations (bit over simplified but I guess they have to be somewhat) but it seems to give a coherent picture. Interesting that the Greens are pretty well the only party firmly in the bottom left corner (Plaid is just in). SNP is a little way into the upper section on the authoritarianism – libertarianism axis, but further towards the middle than Labour and well to the left economically. (I of course am in the bottom LH corner!)

I guess you know all this about the parties, but I’m relieved that even though I haven’t followed the UK election in detail, my sense of where those parties stand was ok. However even I was rather shocked at how far to the upper right hand side UK Labour is.

What intrigued me most though was this from the commentary below the chart:
“Labour has its own problems. Despite hopes from the left, the party leadership remains largely attached to the New Labour agenda that took the party to the centre ground in the late 1990s. At that time, around half the population supported the principle of a certain level of wealth redistribution. These days inequality, though greater, is less of an issue in the general shift to the right. Fewer than a third of the voters now believe in a helping hand to the least well-off.”

That’s a very alarming shift, if correct. Do you feel their claims are justified?

This makes me even more determined to push back against people like dsquared. If only a third of British voters now believe in the “helping hand”, and the new Labour agenda contributed to that shift, then the problem is even worse than I thought. I might have been barking up the wrong tree in tagging Harry b as part of right wing Labour (although he did diss Natalie Bennett rather readily, as he has admitted and apologised for, and he certainly seems very opposed to SNP, though I don’t quite understand why), but I don’t think I’m barking up the wrong tree in opposing right wing Labour more generally. I feel that my anger and emotion about the betrayal of left wing values is justified.

(I have to apologise to dsquared on one point though – I said that I hadn’t engaged on the previous thread, but of course I did towards the end, in the shape of my questions and comments from afar, as you mentioned – I was getting mixed up in my threads)


Val 05.09.15 at 11:22 am

ZM @ 187
That particular comment was a joke, as I thought my following comments made clear. Hopefully my university won’t penalise me for making silly jokes on the Internet.

I usually comment under my private email, but it is a bit grey, because I also link to my blog, which is connected to my PhD research. I do try not to be deliberately rude, generally, though it’s questionable certainly whether I was needlessly rude to Harry b and Mitch.


Christopher Phelps 05.09.15 at 11:24 am

Val, keep posting and don’t despair, and do it after two or three glasses of wine.

I don’t concur with Harry that the Plaid leader was very impressive – I thought her worse than Valerie Bennett, actually – but I thought Nicola Sturgeon hands down the best of all in the debates. Cameron was pathetic, Miliband only a little better, and Clegg gave a slickster performance undermined only by the difficulty that not a person in the room believed him any longer.

Sturgeon was best largely because she had conviction in policies of fairness and social provision, but also because of her wry tartness toward Miliband. The press is getting this mostly wrong in the assumption that Miliband was the 1970s, thus failed; he suffered more because he was not sufficiently believable as a deliverer of social democracy, kept pledging fiscal responsibility and all that. If he had been left in content, not just in form, Scotland would not have gone as it did, his base would have been more enthusiastic, etc. That and “leadership,” an ephemeral thing, but something he was hamstrung on as the Tory press succeeded in making him ridiculous. Unfair, but consequential.


Christopher Phelps 05.09.15 at 11:28 am

Oh, and again, the SNP victory was not nationalism, it was left-wing social policy, esp. on NHS and cuts to social spending and the poor.

There’s a great piece on this by a Glasgow filmmaker in this morning’s paper Independent, but I can’t find the link online…


Val 05.09.15 at 11:46 am

Thanks Christopher, and I’d love to see that interview – I’ll see if I can hunt it down via Google. It is good to hear you say that left wing social policy actually contributed to the SNP victory.

(You seem to have got me and Natalie Bennett confused for a moment there. I know we are both Australian, but I would to think – perhaps deludedly – that I could blab my way out of a hostile interview better than she did. Still, everything’s hard when you have a bad cold and your head’s all stuffed up.)


Christopher Phelps 05.09.15 at 12:22 pm

Natalie, Valerie –
it is all a congeries.


Metatone 05.09.15 at 12:28 pm

@Daragh McD I’m sorry it worked out this way, but I have to point out this was predicted by many people (including myself) and the failure of the LD leadership to understand the dangers of their course of action – well it’s hard not to see that as negligent. And it was important to me because I believe a strong LD party is a good thing for Britain. And that such a thing has importance beyond any 5 year spell of limited – let’s be honest – very limited constriction of the Tory agenda.

However, all this is in the past and the battle moves now to the EU referendum. One point for hope is that contra Igor Belanov, I see plenty of City types and other businessmen who need EU membership for their current business model. Yes, they can find a way, but they do have a genuine incentive to at least contribute to a pro-EU campaign.


Metatone 05.09.15 at 12:31 pm

I’ll note that the big shift that Thatcher seems to have been able to produce is a new belief that in order for there to be winners there must also be losers. As such, policies are being put in place to show that losers are getting their “just deserts” – which rather bizarrely seems to work as giving other “aspirational” people the feeling that their chances of winning are being increased…


Christopher Phelps 05.09.15 at 12:37 pm

Here is the Independent piece:

This corresponds to what Neal Ascherson wrote in LRB around the time of the referendum as well.


NickM 05.09.15 at 12:42 pm

It was the most misery-making result for me since 1992. Or 1987 — Thatcher’s bunch of red roses (Labour had just replaced the red flag with a red rose as its emblem); and her “conciliatory” tone of voice (that Jonathan Miller likened to a perfumed fart).

But so much depends on expectations, or on the kind of familiarity that, as R.G. Collingwood put it, breeds not so much contempt as oblivion. Is it just frivolous or Whiggish to console oneself at moments like this with the thought that we aren’t living in Uzbekistan, or for that matter, Tudor England?

Expectations, context, framework assumptions . . . I will find it impossible to suppress my delight if Hillary Clinton wins next year; but I really don’t know if her policies would be even as liberal as David Cameron’s, let alone more so.

Conversely, how likely is it that Nigel Farage as P.M. (now just a thought-experiment, touch wood — though who knows what might follow a Brexit then a Scoxit) would be anything like as bad as Ted Cruz, or Mike Huckabee, as President (genuine if remote possibilities, it seems)? Or even an actually-existing P.M. — Tony Abbott?


LFC 05.09.15 at 1:00 pm

I agree w/ dsquared @158, last paragraph.

I find entirely unacceptable the notion implied by Val that any criticism of a woman political leader comes with a presumption that the criticism is sexist and that the onus is on the person doing the criticizing to rebut that presumption. So if a male politician does a bad job in a debate and I say “that was a bad job,” Val would have no problem with that. But if a female politician does a bad job in a debate and I say “that was a bad job,” Val would say: “Are you really sure you’re not just being sexist?”
And I wd say: “Yes I’m sure.” And Val wd say: “hmmm.”

I’m sorry, but this is funhouse-mirror time. Plus it actually hurts the anti-sexist, equal-treatment case.


Richard M 05.09.15 at 1:08 pm

Dunno if this thread is really the place for Britsplaining 101, but I’ll bite.

First thing is to throw away any nonsense picked up from ‘political compass sites’; the only element of interest such sites have is working out exactly which group set them up to frame the questions and why (spoiler: it’s libertarians).

As soon as the consequences of universal suffrage worked themselves out, you had one party favouring the economic interest of the majority, and one fighting a defensive battle based themselves on cultural issues like nationalism.

The big change from that post-WWII status quo was when Thatcher worked out how to arrange the economy so that the class interests of an electoral plurality mirrored those of the rich. So house prices, individualized pension funds and income tax put together may not actually be larger than wages, but they were more volatile, more directly driven by political decisions.

The numbers added up when you remember the poorest don’t vote, and 40% is a solid majority under multiparty FPTP.

New Labour countered this by _making economics a cultural issue_, bundled in together with opposition to all the old Tory cultural baggage. You are not a good person if you don’t like blacks or gays, or if you don’t pay more in tax to support the poor. Most, if not all, people want to be seen as good, so there’s your majority.

Like Thatcherism, this worked politically until it didn’t, and ended some time after that.

This election shows that Cameron and the Lib Dems (who are the true vanguard of this movement, now fallen in battle for the cause), are not a glitch, but the next stage of the narrative. Drop all the old cultural baggage, hug a polar bear, reintroduce gay marriage. Hold wages constant to neutralise them as a political issue. Demonise the po0r so that supporting them is no virtue.

Make it money-economics versus culture-economics as a single issue, and the money wins as soon as you have enough other reason to think of yourself as a good person.


harry b 05.09.15 at 1:53 pm

I’ve much more sympathy with Natalie Bennett than it sounds — that particular interview could certainly have happened to me, and I wouldn’t have had a clue what to do. The key thing is that it wouldn’t have happened to Caroline Lucas, and seeing that they got all 7 leaders on a stage I was sad that the Greens didn’t have their best representative to outshine the minnows (which is really what I think the leaders of the 3 main parties are/were). I think you have some evidence now, Val, that people with local knowledge interpreted my comment as being about Caroline Lucas more than about Natalie Bennett. But I do regret it. You, of all people, will be glad to know that I’m signing off now to take my 14 year old daughter to her soccer match!!

Jim — I just wrote an irritable response to your fb message, which came out of the blue to me! I hope you read it as being nice and appreciative (it doesn’t sound it, but really I am).

I write what I write, and don’t know how to characterize myself politically (and am cautious, because as people who read my posts know, I am a non-discloser about my politics to my students, generally, and they, unlike Rush Limbaugh, can read), but the fact that I don’t like Plaid but do like their leader, and said nice things about Dennis Skinner are a clue to where I stand, and — Wisconsin spring 2011 posts.


stevenjohnson 05.09.15 at 2:07 pm

Ruth Rendell is no longer with us, sadly. But on the upside it’s now safe to bomb the House of Lords!

All joking aside, the unanswered question hanging over the discussion, in what sense is it bad if the Labor Party goes down the drain? What good is New Labor?


Val 05.09.15 at 2:16 pm

Thanks Harry, I can understand why you don’t want to be too specific about where you stand politically. I would be interested to know though, your thoughts on whether Labour, by shifting to the right, has contributed to a rightward shift in UK politics, and also why you don’t like SNP. (If you have time, after the soccer, and hope you both enjoy the game. My youngest daughter also played soccer, her team competed in a state level match once, v exciting)

I don’t think you (or dsquared) are being polite to me – I think you’re treating me like a fool – but I will try to be polite to you, and hopefully the conversation will get back to a better place. Could I ask you to try a thought experiment? Assume 1) that I’m not a fool, 2) there is something in what I’m saying, and then 3), try to work out what I could possibly be saying that might make sense, even if you don’t fully agree with it.

That would probably be better than just assuming I’m a complete fool living in a funhouse mirror place ( which btw is not an entirely convincing demonstration of your support for women’s right to be treated with respect)


Val 05.09.15 at 2:39 pm

LFC @ 198
Here’s another thought experiment:

I’m a woman of the future, living in an age where women constitute the majority of parliamentarians, as well as CEOs of large companies, media barons, and so on. I live in a multi-party state, and am watching some political parties hold a debate in the lead up to an election. A woman from a party on the same broad ‘side’ of politics as me speaks, and I feel she hasn’t done well. I turn to another woman nearby me, and say ‘that was a bad job’. Then a man also speaks, again not very well, and I turn to my companion and say ‘he’s useless’. You – a man in the same group as us – say ‘I’m sick of hearing male MPs spoken about like that, I don’t think you’re being fair’. And I say ‘of course I am, I treat men and women exactly the same, it’s a pure coincidence that men only make up 25% of MPs, you must be living in funhouse mirror land’. How do you feel?


lurker 05.09.15 at 2:43 pm

@201 (stevenjohnson)
If there’s nothing to take its place, deleting Labour means the Tories will be the government and the UKIP will be the opposition. There are countries with politics like that…


Christopher Phelps 05.09.15 at 3:01 pm

Harry, it’s football, not soccer. Even I know that.


Sasha Clarkson 05.09.15 at 3:12 pm

I agree with Harry completely about Natalie Bennett. She’s very decent, but just nowhere near as good as Caroline Lucas at mastering her brief and communicating with the public. Nicola Sturgeon made a very good impression all over Britain: far better than Alex Salmond whose perceived snide manner offended many outside Scotland, and even some within.

Left blogger Tom Clark dissected Natalie Bennett’s problems earlier in year: brutally frank, but entirely fair in my view. When Caroline Lucas stepped down as Green Leader she did so to give others a higher profile and emphasise that the Greens existed outside Brighton. This was commendable, but it didn’t work out as well as was hoped.


dsquared 05.09.15 at 3:19 pm

This makes me even more determined to push back against people like dsquared.

No. There is no “push back against” here, because I haven’t made any political statement at all. I’m entirely focused on the single issue of comment number 60 in this thread. Whatever your views, whatever your point, it’s credibility-destroying to shoot your mouth off like that.

Or in other words, if you have decided that you are too cross and short of time to get involved in a long argument, and you don’t really know anything about the subject, then:

Guys like you are destroying the left, I honestly wish you would stop claiming to be left.

is not a sensible holding response pending your having time to consider what you really want to say. If, as in comment #202, you want people to assume that you’re not a fool, you have to meet us half way.


dsquared 05.09.15 at 3:33 pm

we are having new specialist Welsh language unit in a local primary school, generally seen as a white elephant in this very English speaking area.

Ahh right. I always underestimate the amount of ressentiment this causes because I’ve never lived in largely non-Welsh speaking parts of Wales. Is the language policy a big deal? My brother lives in a suburb of Swansea but his kids speak Welsh.


Walt 05.09.15 at 3:34 pm

It was when Milliband slipped up and called it “soccer” that cost Labour the election.

Has their been any polling or statistical analysis on the outcome of the election? Most of the commentary I’ve seen by news sources have been of the “the election proves me right on all points” variety. (For example I just read back-to-back articles complaining that Labour was either too left or too right to win. I guess you could argue that they were too right for Scotland and too left for England, but since that would detract from central message of how the author was proven right on all points, neither article went that way.)


Bruce Wilder 05.09.15 at 3:41 pm

Richard M @ 199. Identity politics is what Americans call it, no? Identity without membership or class or commitment. It is why NickM expects to be “delighted” if the Goldwater Girl is elected.

The money politics vs post-modern nationalisms? I look forward to Cameron’s plan to privatise Scotland.


Jim Buck 05.09.15 at 4:11 pm

Jim — I just wrote an irritable response to your fb message, which came out of the blue to me! I hope you read it as being nice and appreciative (it doesn’t sound it, but really I am).

Your reply to me was irritation-free and very useful, Harry. Best regards!


LFC 05.09.15 at 4:14 pm

Val @203
I’ll think about it; perhaps we could find some middle ground. I think there are various ways to try to remedy the continued under-representation of women in elective positions (notwithstanding the gains they’ve made in recent decades), but I’m not sure applying different standards to debates is one of them. I’ll leave it at that.


Sasha Clarkson 05.09.15 at 4:39 pm

dsquared @208 Swansea’s very different from Pembrokeshire. To the north, Swansea valley (Cwm Tawe), Neath Constituency, always had significant number of Welsh speakers, as did Llanelli and much of Carmarthenshire. In fact, it was the Swansea votes which ensured there was a Welsh Assembly, because there was less than a point in it. Pembrokeshire voted no, as did the Cardiff and Newport areas.

The issue isn’t protection of Welsh speaking communities, it the expensive “promotion” of Welsh and compulsory Welsh, but not any other modern foreign language, up to the age of 16 in English speaking communities. Our local secondary school has lost German, and even French is under pressure because of this policy. Eisteddfod day, always around March 1st, was described by my friend’s boy as “the most boring day of the year”. There are a few enthusiasts, but it’s alienating to the rest


Ronan(rf) 05.09.15 at 4:48 pm

What’s the story with the Welsh language , as in ; what percentage of people speak it ? Do they use it on a daily basis ? Do you need it fir govt jobs ? Is it like the gaeltacht in ireland concentrated in certain areas or is it more widespread ? How have the Welsh been so successful (if they have) maintaining the language ? Is it a recent phenomenon or has the language been spoken by a significant amount of the population for generations ?

Sorry if slightly off topic.


bianca steele 05.09.15 at 5:00 pm

This isn’t really an answer to Ronan, and it’s thirty years old, but it’s bemusing to me how many of the issues H. Stuart Hughes covers in his book on 1970s social movements (Sophisticated Rebels), which I finally finished, popped up in this election. You have Greens, Welsh, Social Democracy…


Daragh McDowell 05.09.15 at 5:07 pm

Kidneystones @186 “1. Labour might have remained neutral during the Scots referendum, stating clearly the deep affection and respect for Scottish culture, contributions on all levels, etc., but emphatically stating that the decision was for Scots alone to make. No support for either side.”

And I’m sure that this would have been an entirely uncontroversial decision that would not have resulted in the Tory press telling the entirety of England that Red Ed was an unpatriotic traitor who hates Britain so much he’s literally unwilling to campaign for the Union. I think you’re spot on on the EU referendum point, but not taking a position on Scotland would have been absolute political suicide.

@Metatone – You’ve clearly been vindicated by the outcome, but the point for me is ‘what other viable options were available in 2010 given the electoral outcome?’ I’ve already explained why I don’t think C&S does anything but delay a Tory majority by 6 months or so. And I’m not sure you’ll ultimately be proven right about the ‘slightly restricting’ evaluation either. Civil liberties, for example, seem to have been pretty robustly defended. Theresa May’s briefings thus far have been pretty toe curling. And I can’t be sure but when I saw the chairman of the 1922 committee being interviewed on Sky today he seemed to be halfway tumescent…


Mitch Guthman 05.09.15 at 5:19 pm

I would like to respond briefly to those who have argued that the SNP should be viewed (and supported) based on its support for the social welfare state. The difficulty with looking at their policies in isolation is that the SNP is a nationalist party whose principal objective is an independent Scotland. Everything the party says and does is, understandably, viewed by others in the UK through that prism.

The potential disintegration of the UK is an overarching question and most people outside of Scotland want the union to continue. That’s what made the SNP toxic as a partner for Labour. The fear of such a partnership probably drove down Labour support in key marginals and will sharply limit the SNP’s ability to influence policy in Westminster (assuming that it wants to influence policy as opposed to allowing a rampant Conservative Party to create sufficient hostility in Scotland that a vote for independence is assured).

What is the consequence of an SNP dominated Scotland? Paradoxically, the most likely outcome is to imperil the social welfare state throughout the United Kingdom. At the very moment when Labour is most likely to abandon neoliberalism and at a time when Scotland could have pushed Labour in a better direction, the Scots cannot influence Labour because they are no longer its key stronghold. Likewise, Conservatives can now afford to ignore both Scotland and Labour.

Scottish voters may have wanted to send a message against the Tories but paradoxically, I believe they have inadvertently just aligned themselves as the Conservatives’ greatest source of support. The SNP will actually welcome Conservative attacks on Scotland’s more generous benefits and will use those attacks (and the fact that the Conservatives now probably can’t be dislodged from power for at least a generation) to demonstrate the necessity of a new vote for independence.

And with what probable result? An independent Scotland will almost certainly be forced into the eurozone at a moment when the social welfare state is under ferocious attack by a neoliberal elite. I think it very likely a significant reduction in state funding for education, health care and pensions would be demanded as a condition of entry into the EU, assuming that Spain, France, Italy or some other member state that’s worried about separatism doesn’t outright block Scotland’s entry.


Christopher Phelps 05.09.15 at 5:24 pm

Walt @209 – It appears that exit polling in the UK is fixated on who one voted for, not why one voted as one did.

I suspect it’s not that the electorate had a coherent ideological position, left or right, that it meant to express, in any event, but rather that Labour did not persuade them, north or south of Hadrian’s Wall.


engels 05.09.15 at 5:26 pm

Fwiw not a Green voter but thought Nathalie Bennett was godawful. To be fair to her I think the media establishment’s enthusiasm for trashing her was up there with its bloodlust for Miliband (whom I also didn’t rate). I did rate Sturgeon and Plaid leader very highly. Not to sound like a broken record but they’re both state-educated whereas Bennett is (like Cameron, Clegg, Farage, Blair _and 7% of British population_) ex-public-school. Just putting that out there.


Metatone 05.09.15 at 5:32 pm

@Daragh – under LibDem “robustness” I was stopped at Stratford Tube Station by UK Border Officers and threatened with immediate imprisonment if I didn’t produce my “right to live in the UK.” Since I was born here and have a pretty Yorkshire accent, I presume it was my dark and swarthy face (and my not very expensive M&S suit) that made them pick me out. I sort of think that this isn’t why Uncle Ernie fought with the Desert Rats – but apparently, according to the letter I got back from Nick Clegg, I’m wrong…

Forgive me if I’m less than impressed with the quality of the restraint that the LibDems imposed.


engels 05.09.15 at 5:41 pm

Btw does anyone know what’s going to happen to Miliband’s policy cenotaph now?


Layman 05.09.15 at 5:54 pm

Many of the comments I read hear imply that Scotland is the beneficiary of net positive fiscal transfers – that Scotland’s enhanced social programs are funded by the rest of the UK, and an independent Scotland could not afford them. Is that the case? If so, then to some extent it can’t be the case that SNP was ever a sensible ally for Labour, since their ultimate objectives are incompatible.


Daragh McDowell 05.09.15 at 5:55 pm

@Metatone – That’s absolutely awful, truly. I’ll admit I often forget that being a white male my impressions on the state of civil liberties may be somewhat skewed by personal experience. I’d be interested to see what exactly Clegg wrote back, and under what law the police felt able to do that. Very, very worrying.


JW Mason 05.09.15 at 5:57 pm

I think there are various ways to try to remedy the continued under-representation of women in elective positions (notwithstanding the gains they’ve made in recent decades), but I’m not sure applying different standards to debates is one of them.

The problem with this is that it assumes that different standards are not already being applied, and in particular, that you (and I another men in these debates) have no problem treating men and women identically. In which case, when someone says that we should be more thoughtful about how we talk with and about women, that must be asking for special treatment.

But the reality is — I know for me, and I am sure for you too — we are not immune to the sexism of the larger culture, and we will tend to react differently to male and female speakers in ways that have the effect of excluding women from the conversation. The only way to get away from this is precisely to be extra conscious of how you react to female speakers and, especially, to **listen to women** when they call attention to the different standards that already exist. If we really want to move toward a world where gender is irrelevant in these kinds of public spaces, it doesn’t help to pretend we are already there. Actual equal treatment requires differential effort.


Igor Belanov 05.09.15 at 6:00 pm

I’m also unimpressed by the argument that the Lib Dems had to join the coalition in the form that they did because otherwise the Tories would have won a second election later in 2010.

For one, there was no obligation for them to join the coalition on the terms that they did. Secondly, if the Lib Dems had gone for a ‘confidence and supply’ deal and taken a stand against one of the more unpopular Tory policies and forced an election then the 64% of the population that did not vote Tory in 2010 would probably have appreciated it. Thirdly, there was no reason why they had to tie themselves in the coalition for the full five years in a masochistic attempt to prove how responsible they were.

As it is, I think the Lib Dems decline when confronted with a hung parliament was almost inevitable. Their campaigning had been based on opportunism and protest-based politics for at least 40 years, while their strategy was founded on becoming a dependable coalition partner for any party. In a PR system this strategy could have worked, as a bourgeois liberal party like the German FDP might win enough seats to be part of government for years. As such, I think Clegg’s gamble was that electoral reform would enable them to survive the loss of half their 2010 vote but still win enough seats to be a coalition partner. After the 2011 referendum defeat they were just holding on and hoping for the best, as their usual tactics were no use any more.


NickM 05.09.15 at 6:03 pm

Bruce Wilder@199

I’m genuinely puzzled as to what you mean by “identity politics” here.

I predict some measure of insuppressible delight on my part if Hillary wins — especially in a close contest with, say, Scott Walker — but that doesn’t mean at all that I would on-reflection “identify” with the feeling.

(Incidentally — and again, I’d genuinely like to know — if Barry Goldwater were running next year, would you prefer any of the current probable Republican contenders to him?)

If (in another alternative universe) Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders were to be elected president, my delight would be not only spontaneous but also on-consideration. But so what, you might say. I’m not American and don’t live in the U.S.A. — I’m just indulging in feel-good, right-on, commitment-free-solidarity, internet-internationalism. Is this more like what you mean?

If so, I would have to plead guilty (but not too guilty). I’m a fairly typical hand-wringing Guardian reader, and happy — in a fairly typical hand-wringing sort of way, of course — to “identify” myself as such.

But I still can’t see how either of these applications of the word relate to “identity politics” in its to-me-familiar sense: politics which is framed more in feminist or LGBT or green etc. terms than in class or economic ones.


Christopher Phelps 05.09.15 at 6:08 pm

Mitch, Scots had a referendum a year ago and rejected independence. They did so in all of Scotland with the exception of Glasgow. They then voted for the SNP two days ago, with equal comprehensiveness. Is this a contradiction or about-face? No, they supported the SNP not because it is nationalist or because they’d changed their minds on independence, but because they wanted Scottish values, social values – a strong public sphere, strong social provision, equality of wealth – taken to Westminster.

This outcome might result in a greater degree of devolution or federalism but is very unlikely to result in breakup of the UK. Very, very unlikely.

As for whether it plays into the hands of the Tories, well, the problem with that is it scapegoats Scots for a problem that resides within Labour. Scots watched as New Labour weakened the welfare state, as New Labour endorsed the war in Iraq, as New Labour allowed the NHS to get eroded, as Labour didn’t resist austerity, etc. If Labour wanted to retain the loyalty of Scottish voters, it needed to do so on a real commitment to alter this course. Miliband inched a bit closer to that and had some symbolic “left” qualities but kept making all kinds of signals that he was at best a vacillator rather than a departure from the norm.

Furthermore, there’s a strategic issue here. If Miliband had instead of saying “I won’t make you a deal” to Sturgeon instead pitched, even in the English marginals, the idea that a coalition between Labour and the SNP, far from being some kind of shakedown of the English pocketbook, might be in all of the UK’s mutual interest (I know, a utopian thought since it would involve vision and courage), and that those fearing such a coalition were the bankers in the City, etc., then the whole Tory fear-mongering might have been turned round. Taking that supposed weakness and making it a strength was the only way out of the box the Tories wanted him in. Instead he stayed in the box.

Look to Labour for Labour’s crisis, don’t scapegoat the Scots.


engels 05.09.15 at 6:14 pm

I think we’re going to get to full communism a long time before we get to a world where everyone in the British electorate treats female and male politicians identically in forming their voting preferences. And it’s not clear to me this is a desirable goal – I presume some women prefer women MPs to men at the margins because they’d like to see more women in government, and that’s very healthy.


geo 05.09.15 at 6:17 pm

JW@224: How do these two statements fit together:

In which case, when someone says that we should be more thoughtful about how we talk with and about women, that must be asking for special treatment. — in which you seem to be criticizing the idea that judging fairly and thoughtfully implies “special treatment.”]


Actual equal treatment requires differential effort. — in which you seem to be implying that judging fairly and thoughtfully does imply special treatment. Or perhaps you could differentiate “differential effort” from “special treatment”?

NB – This is not (yet, anyway) a disagreement, just a request for clarification.


Christopher Phelps 05.09.15 at 6:18 pm

Another way to say this is that the national question is not what is at stake here so much as the social question. Those in the political and media establishment, including Miliband in his concession speech, who choose to see it as primarily a manifestation of nationalism, putting the Scots on a plane with UKIP, are obfuscating.


lurker 05.09.15 at 6:25 pm

‘at a time when Scotland could have pushed Labour in a better direction, the Scots cannot influence Labour because they are no longer its key stronghold’ (Mitch Guthman, 217)
If losing all but one of their Scottish seats does not make Labour reconsider their position, then keeping those seats certainly would not have influenced anything. You can either influence or you can give unconditional support, not both.
‘I believe they have inadvertently just aligned themselves as the Conservatives’ greatest source of support.’
Look at the electoral map: the Tories greatest source of support is Middle England. You want to blame someone for Tory victory, the actual Tory voters would be the place to start.


Ed 05.09.15 at 6:38 pm

“Mitch, Scots had a referendum a year ago and rejected independence. They did so in all of Scotland with the exception of Glasgow. They then voted for the SNP two days ago, with equal comprehensiveness. Is this a contradiction or about-face?”

Its neither. Fewer people voted for the SNP this month than voted for independence last year. Turnout for the referendum was higher than for the general election. The SNP technically could have gotten the general election result it did with absolutely no one voting against independence voting for them.

What actually seems to have happened is that they won the independence referendum campaign, they actually got a 45% vote for that on high turnout. Previously, the SNP rarely if ever broke 20% of the Scottish electorate in general elections. They have succeeded in convincing more Scots that their core policy is correct. This then results in more people voting for the party. The point is no, especially given how high profile this issue has become in the last few years, you probably don’t have many unionist SNP supporters (for their “center left policies”) at this point, though I will grant that people often cast their votes for very weird reasons.

One reason we have elections is that electorates can change their minds. While UK voters decided they wanted to stay in the predecessor of the EU pretty decisively in the last referendum on the subject, forty years later there is a good chance they will vote different, which does create a future problem for the government which promised a referendum but would like to stay in the EU.

Having support for independence go from 45% to 50% is not that big a swing, and given the election result and campaign I don’t see how it can go lower during the next parliament.


geo 05.09.15 at 6:39 pm

JW Mason: Please disregard my comment @229. I see what you’re saying, and agree with you: it’s not that we should apply different standards to women’s performance, it’s that we often, or usually, have to try harder to apply the same standards.


engels 05.09.15 at 6:42 pm

In case that’s not clear, I’m not saying women politicians aren’t discriminateed against by men or that this isn’t a problem, just that equal treatment doesn’t seem to me something you can aim for in a general election, as opposed to, say, an academic conference. (And absence of working class politicians might be a rather bigger problem now, at least in numerical terms…)


Christopher Phelps 05.09.15 at 6:47 pm

Ed – A good post, but: I don’t see it as at all persuasive to say this was the same people voting on the same grounds. There were many former Labour voters, who had voted No on independence, who voted SNP here without at all endorsing independence. Note that Nicola Sturgeon in the first leaders’ debate never mentioned independence. That was her stunning breakthrough and it was all on austerity. The current election was not seen as a replay of the independence vote, and plenty voted SNP because they were seeing the election as a referendum on austerity. And because instead of seeing Scottish Labour as a reflection of their interests, they saw it as the stalking horse of English New Labour.


Mitch Guthman 05.09.15 at 7:08 pm

Christopher Phelps at 230,

’m not scapegoating the Scots. Criticizing what I see as a foolish and shortsighted choice by them is not scapegoating. I’m arguing that a vote for the SNP effectively forecloses Scottish influence in Westminster thereby forcing secession as the only way to shield Scotland’s social welfare state from the inevitable attacks by the Conservatives.

I have no idea what the Scots thought they were voting for but I believe that their divorce from influence in Westminster and with the Labour party means that Scotland now has no friends outside its borders and no choice but secession if it means to kept their social welfare state from being dismantled along with the rest of the United Kingdom.

I’m far from a fan of Ed Miliband but I honestly don’t see how he could have joined with the SNP for any purpose, particularly after Nicola Sturgeon’s unguarded remark that she secretly wants a Tory victory as a means of forcing Scotland out of the union. The SNP is simply toxic everywhere outside of Scotland and it’s participation in a national government would be viewed with great suspicion.

After all, the UK is an institution that the SNP doesn’t want Scotland to be a part of and which it ultimately means to destroy. Consequently, it is simply impossible to separate the national and social questions, as you put it. The national question is inextricably bound up with everything that the SNP says or does.

Lurker at 231,

I don’t actually disagree with you. New Labour is a terrible party. It is neither fish nor fowl. I personally think that reveals the hollowness and stupidity of Labour’s transformation into a party of neoliberalism draped in the trappings of the social welfare state. Clearly, we know where the fault for yesterday’s catastrophe lies.

Labour certainly had nothing to offer the Scots. The Scottish version of the social welfare state (which I believe most people in the UK would prefer) is incompatible with Labour’s vision of austerity and deficit reduction. Nevertheless, by returning only SNP members to Westminster, Scotland would seem to have made it more difficult and perhaps impossible for Labour to ever form another government and they have given UK politics a further rightward, albeit inadvertent, push.

Similarly, Labour offered nothing to Middle England. With respect to people here at Crooked Timbers, there are many issues related to social liberalism and migrants that are troubling to Middle England. That wasn’t a problem when Labour offered both economic and social liberalism but the consequence of New Labour’s near total abandonment of economic liberalism coupled with fears about migrants, job security and the ingrained English cultural conservatism is that Labour can’t keep it traditional constituencies left along made inroad in the Tory base.

I appreciate that there were problems in the 60’s and 70’s, but I personally think that Labour should go back to something like “beer and sandwiches” and talking about protecting the economic wellbeing of ordinary people. I think the left parties were foolish to shift to neoliberalism and Labour just paid the price.

Nevertheless, I still believe that the Scots made a poor choice. What they needed was to find a way to exert their influence to shift UK politics to the left and instead they have probably cemented the Conservatives in power for the foreseeable future.


Mitch Guthman 05.09.15 at 7:20 pm

Christopher Phelps at 235,

I think your analysis of why the Scots voted as they did is absolutely correct. Where we disagree is in the likely consequences of the vote. Again, the crucial point is that the nationalist agenda of the SNP makes a vote for them something quite different from a vote for the Greens with a social justice and environmental agenda or, hypothetically, a newly divorced Liberal Party with an anti-austerity agenda.

They may have thought they were participating in a referendum on austerity and New Labour, and returning a solid block of MP’s for another other party would have been seen that way, but by choosing the SNP as the mechanism for the protest, the Scots inevitably and perhaps unintentionally transformed it into something else. I believe that was a serious mistake.


engels 05.09.15 at 7:55 pm

Btw if any of you good folks are in London, Occupy Democracy shut down Whitehall. Not much, but it’s a start.


Sasha Clarkson 05.09.15 at 8:12 pm

@238 Engels Great! :)
(Though it’s Rupert Murdoch’s offices in Canary Wharf I would really like to occupy.)


Daragh McDowell 05.09.15 at 8:36 pm

Igor @225 – The Tories increased their vote share by 0.9% on Thursday, and it was enough to get them over the line, despite Labour increasing its vote in England and being much better resourced, organised and positioned to win power than they were in 2010 under Brown. While many of the 64% might well have been grateful (though it’s a dubious proposition – very few of that group pays close attention to politics in their day to day lives and would simply be dumbfounded that there had to be ANOTHER election because of self-serving politicians etc.) only a small fraction of them would have to defect for the Tories to win. In fact, probably not even that, given that Labour has to work hard to get out its vote in the best of circumstances and would be fighting an election effectively without a leader and without money.


Stephen 05.09.15 at 8:37 pm

RE MS Bennett: Severalpeople have posted links to her dreadful interview with Nick Ferrari, but for those who have not followed them up it might be worth looking at transcript, which shows why you do not have to be a dedicated misogynist to doubt she is fit for her position:

Nick: The third key theme is ‘The Greens will ensure everyone has a secure, affordable place to live. How would that be brought about?
Natalie: A couple of things that we want to focus on. In terms of council housing, we want to build 500,000 new social rent homes.
Nick: Good lord, where would you get the money from for that?
Natalie: Well, what we want to do is fund that particularly by removing tax relief on mortgage interests for private landlords. We have a situation where…
Nick: How much would that bring in?
Natalie: Private landlords at the moment are basically running away with the situation of hugely rising rents while collecting huge amounts of housing benefit.
Nick: How much would that be worth, the mortgage relief for private landlords?
Natalie: “Erm… well… it’s… that’s part of the whole costing.”
Nick: Yes, but how much would that bring? The cost of 500,000 homes, let’s start with that. How much would that be?
Natalie: “Right, well, that’s, erm… you’ve got a total cost… erm… that we’re… that will be spelt out in our manifesto.
Nick: So you don’t know?
Natalie: No, well, err.
Nick: You don’t, ok. So you don’t know how much those homes are going to cost, but the way it’s going to be funded is mortgage relief from private landlords. How much is that worth?
Natalie: Right, well what we’re looking at with the figures here. Erm, what we need to do is actually… uh……… we’re looking at a total spend of £2.7… billion.
Nick: 500,000 homes, £2.7billion? What are they made of, plywood?
Natalie: Erm, basically what we’re talking about is 500,000 new homes and basically each one pound spent on this brings back £2.40…
Nick: Yes, but what is the total cost of 500,000 homes?
Natalie: [Long, long pause] Erm… it’s a cost of £60,000 per home.
Nick: £60,000 per home?
Natalie: Because what we’re talking about is, is the opportunity for…
Nick: That can’t include the land?
Natalie: Well, what we’re talking about is, what we want to see is the possibility of, um, of homes being built…
Nick: That’s not much more than a large conservatory, £60,000. So where’s the land, how are you going to pay for the land?
Natalie: [Even longer pause] Right, well, what we’re, what we’re looking at doing is, is… is basically *cough, cough, cough*
Nick: Are you alright?
Natalie: Yes, sorry, as you can probably hear, I have got a huge cold.
Nick: I’m terribly sorry to hear that.
Natalie: So, so what we need to do is, is social rental homes.
Nick: Right. Still don’t see how you’re going to get this… some at £60,000… you don’t actually know how much this is going to cost, do you?
Natalie: Uh, yes, we’ve got a fully-costed programme which we’ll be releasing, which will be released…
Nick: Shouldn’t you be aware of what that cost will be now?
Natalie: Uh, right, yes. So what we’re talking about is £6billion per year. So the current budget is £1.5billion a year.

Nick: £6billion? That will be attained by taking mortgage relief from private landlords? That’s £6billion-worth is it?
Natalie: And we’re also looking at investing… [long pause]. Yes, well, it’s… we’ve got the fully costed figures here.
Nick: You’ve said that on a couple of occasions. How much does mortgage relief from private landlords bring in then?
Natalie: [Long pause] *cough, cough* Basically, we’re talking about an overall saving of £4.5billion.
Nick: What? Mortgage relief is worth £4.5billion a year?
Natalie: And this is other saving as well, from private landlords as well, we’re looking at housing benefit reforms and what we also want to do is bring in caps on private tenants.
Nick: Yes, do you think you could have perhaps have ginned up on this a bit more Natalie Bennett?


engels 05.09.15 at 9:29 pm

Daragh. Please stop, this is getting embarrassing. Take a break from politics, join the Tories, or take up a new hobby. Anything but this endless torrent of rationalisations and excuses, which even you can’t really believe.

The LibDems lost. They were wiped out. They deserved to lose. They are justifiably hated by a large section of the British electorate whose trust they betrayed. They’re not coming back. Please try to get over it, for your own sake as much as anybody else’s.


Val 05.09.15 at 10:13 pm

Actually I’ve had a glimpse of your politics before, and I think they’re probably worth pushing back against, but no, but in this case it’s your continued refusal to see that if you are genuinely left, then your first response to this election should not be to diss female leaders and attack genuinely left parties as being the cause of the problem.

Both Mitch and Harry have now explained their position and their thoughts on the election, which are obviously more complicated than that. Nevertheless, that was their reaction in the early comments (in Harry’s case, admittedly, a small, but significant, part of it).

So, as I have said above, I am happy to modify what I said above. Final version: right wing Labor/Labour are destroying the left, and I really wish they would stop pretending to be left. (With the added comment that Mitch and Harry sound like right wing Labourites and a request for clarification, but I won’t say that this time as they have already done that).

That would have been the more polite version, sure, but nothing you have said has persuaded me that an occasional shock tactic, to make people think about what they are saying and doing, is a hopelessly bad idea.

“If … you want people to assume that you’re not a fool, you have to meet us half way”.

I don’t think there’s an “us” here, you’re the only person suggesting this as far as I can see. And a large part of the reason seems to be that you don’t understand what I’m saying, or more likely don’t want to – which doesn’t make me the foolish one in encounter.

Sorry to be repetitive, but if a feminist makes a critique and you don’t understand it, you shouldn’t necessarily assume that she’s the fool. I’m not going to talk to you any more because you are determined not to understand me, as far as I can see, but I won’t let you put me off having a voice in public debates. You should seriously understand that the way you have been talking to me probably helps to explain why you often don’t get many women on CT threads.


Daragh McDowell 05.09.15 at 10:56 pm


I’m not a Tory and am as heartbroken by the electoral results as anyone. In fact with the demise of my party, I’m considering joining Labour. The sneering tone of your comment, and the implicit comment that anyone who doesn’t agree with you must be a Tory-in-disguise is pretty common in the party though, and one of the reasons I remained reluctant, even during the periods I had serious doubts about the coalition and the direction of the LibDems generally. And its also a big part of why Labour lost on Thursday.

I’d be very happy to engage on potential alternative choices for the Lib Dems to have made in 2010 which didn’t either a) involve the Tories suddenly deciding to make concessions they clearly were never going to make b) doesn’t involve fantasy coalitions that weren’t ever possible (again – no-one here seems to be ready to acknowledge broad swathes of the Labour PLP WANTED to go into opposition to rebuild after 2010) c) explains how a second 2010 general election could be feasibly won by Labour. They’re not forthcoming here – instead there’s the usual, internecine warfare on the left, including a ludicrous sub-debate about how noting Natalie Bennet’s obvious and manifest flaws as a public politician and thinking that Caroline Lucas would have been a better bet for the party is somehow sexist, and a broad condemnation of much of the working class as ‘bigots.’ Somehow, this does not raise my expectations or hopes for 2020.


Val 05.09.15 at 11:01 pm

I see Tony Blair is calling for Labor to return to the centre

He also says that hard working families should be able to “rise up” and be “better off” but that Labour should pay more attention to inequality than he did. I don’t know if this is a centrist position or just a load of gibberish.

I think the key issues that need to be clarified are: what are they rising up and who are they being better off than? Other people? Or just than they used to be? And is it only hard working families that should be better off (than non hardworking families?) or should everyone be? How is “if you work hard, you deserve to be better off” different from a conservative position? And how is it reconciled with addressing inequality?

Is anyone from the UK prepared to have a go at explaining what Blair is actually calling for? Probably a vain hope, I guess.


Val 05.09.15 at 11:05 pm

“Ludicrous sub-debate” – you know Darragh, this may not have occurred to you, but in spite of being a woman and a feminist, I am also an actual human being and I can read, and the continued spiteful mischaracterisation of what I’m saying by you and others doesn’t impress me at all.


eddie 05.09.15 at 11:06 pm

After the leaders’ debate (the one cameron and clegg could be arsed to turn up for), there was a massive cry from progressives in england and wales; why can’t we vote for nicola?! Then miliband came out with; I’d rather cameron wins than have any progressive influence in government, it turnes all these voters off. For labout, this was electoral suicide and largely account for the disparity between early polling and the exit-poll and the result.

As for the lib-dems, you can argue the toss which way their voters went (hint: most people don’t change their minds, they stay at home). their seats went 2:1 to tories rather than labour. Not one went to ukip.


eddie 05.09.15 at 11:10 pm

Daragh: “I’m considering joining labour.”

For god’s sake, man. Aren’t they suffering enough already? :-D


LFC 05.09.15 at 11:46 pm

engels @221

Btw does anyone know what’s going to happen to Miliband’s policy cenotaph now?

Off the top of my head, the only meaning of “cenotaph” I know is “empty tomb,” which is presumably not what you meant? Is this a (derogatory) Britishism for “personal policy think tank” or something?


Daniel 05.09.15 at 11:53 pm

What’s the story with the Welsh language , as in ; what percentage of people speak it ? Do they use it on a daily basis ? Do you need it fir govt jobs ? Is it like the gaeltacht in ireland concentrated in certain areas or is it more widespread ? How have the Welsh been so successful (if they have) maintaining the language ? Is it a recent phenomenon or has the language been spoken by a significant amount of the population for generations ?

in order: About half the population has at least some ability. More like 20% use it on a daily basis for saying more than “bore da”. There are some government jobs for which it’s preferred, but the only ones for which it’s an absolute requirement are teaching and social work ones where you’d actually need to speak it to do the job. There’s a geographical profile to the language, but it’s nothing like as concentrated as Irish Gaelic. Basically, it’s been the number one priority of the nationalists since forever – Plaid Cymru grew out of the Welsh Language Society, not vice versa. It’s not recent at all – there’s an unbroken literature and chain of use going back to before the Romans.

You should seriously understand that the way you have been talking to me probably helps to explain why you often don’t get many women on CT threads.

Seriously, don’t do this. We actually do ask ourselves this question, all the time, and nobody has ever suggested that “one good way to get more female commenters would be to hold them to a lower standard when it comes to making abusive remarks and derailing comment threads”.


Daniel 05.09.15 at 11:56 pm

Off the top of my head, the only meaning of “cenotaph” I know is “empty tomb,” which is presumably not what you meant? Is this a (derogatory) Britishism for “personal policy think tank” or something?

No, it’s worse than that and it actually kind of eats me up inside to type this to a foreigner. The Labour Party decided to have its five “policy pledges” engraved, by a stonemason, on a ten foot high piece of stone. To show the public that their promises were “carved in stone”. Miliband said that if elected, he would have the stone placed in the garden of Downing Street, to remind him every day. This all happened. There was a press conference in front of the stone and everything. Oh god I’m embarrassed. I presume that the other side of the stone was blank, so it will end up as a counter top in someone’s kitchen, but that is the reference to “Miliband’s Policy Cenotaph”.


LFC 05.10.15 at 12:08 am

Daniel @251
Wow. I’d missed that. Obviously I didn’t follow the campaign closely. (I used to be quite interested in British politics and in a way I still am, but have been occupied w other things lately, I guess.) This gimmick w the stone perhaps sounds like another example of the ‘Americanization’ of UK campaigns, though I can’t recall a US politician ever doing that exactly. (I thought Miliband was an intellectual, son of Ralph, etc? Why would he do something so, what’s the word, kitschy? He thought it would work, I guess.)


Ronan(rf) 05.10.15 at 12:09 am

Thanks Daniel. The last Q was poorly written on my part, what I meant was more along the lines of has it been spoken by a substantial portion of the population consistently across generations or is its current strength part of a more recent revival. Wiki tells me it was a more recent resurgence of interest dating from last 50 years or so?


LFC 05.10.15 at 12:16 am

I suppose a rough U.S. analog might be something like George H.W. Bush’s (i.e. Bush père’s) “read my lips: no new taxes,” a pledge he ended up having to go back on, btw.


kidneystones 05.10.15 at 12:20 am

216 Thanks for this and to everyone for their own very interesting contributions. I think, btw, you’re being rather unfairly savaged for your support of the Lib-Dems. The last thing the left needs is more infighting, especially when the only kind of politics that’s going to reign in Tory excesses will depend very much on setting differences aside. There’s lots, too, to be done at local levels. So, please take your time and decide precisely where you’d like to park.

To respond to your very sensible remark re: neutrality. Two points: hindsight is 20/20. I can say that at our house and in our family politics is a private matter, in that one does not ever ask how another family member voted. Nor do we advocate inside the home. The actual mix tilts left. I never heard a word pro or con from my numerous Scots relations during the vote, nor have I inquired since. Telling others how they should vote seems most unwise in almost all cases, and asking others after the fact is simply rude. Should others wish to volunteer the information – great. I think a very sound critique of the non-Scottish referendum activities can and should be mounted. I’ve read enough of the Scots press this May to understand that Cameron’s promises have very likely done far more damage than good.

As for your remark about “RED ED.” That kind of characterization is a constant, and not conditional on any individual action. As I mentioned, probably too often, Labour politics have become tiny – practiced by feeble, insecure leaders, with far too many individuals at the top lacking courage, vision, and principle – who abandoned the migrants they profess to protect, who don’t trust or like their own base – and who allow themselves to be guided by focus groups and spin-doctors rather than conscience vision and principle.

I find these qualities in many of the contributors here. We all deserve better.


novakant 05.10.15 at 12:34 am


Daragh McDowell 05.10.15 at 1:01 am

@Kidneystones – many thanks for the kind words, and indeed you may be right about the Scottish referendum too – hypotheticals, counterfactuals and all that. Having said that, while it would be the height of rudeness indeed to tell someone how to vote, one-on-one, elections and referendums do involve campaigns. I still don’t see how Labour staying outside the Scottish one would have been anything less than disastrous, given that its becoming clear Cameron’s focus on the SNP was a core element of his majority.


I’d be much more open to considering whether I had mischaracterised your views if you didn’t write “this may not have occurred to you, but in spite of being a woman and a feminist, I am also an actual human being and I can read.” I don’t see how that can be construed in any other way as a snide insinuation that I’m some kind of misogynist because I don’t find your arguments RE: Bennett convincing in the slightest (other than that yes, of course, female politicians face immense challenges their male colleagues don’t) and think that Caroline Lucas was an obviously superior leader.

You might also try spelling my name right.


kidneystones 05.10.15 at 1:38 am

257. Thks. To be clear. I’m not suggesting Labour should have stayed out of the independence vote. Quite the opposite, and apologies for making that clear. I’m talking about a gigantic love-bomb, for want of a better term, directed at all Scots – both those who favored independence and those who did not. Simple respect, trust, and affection – crazy, I know. There are many more ways of participating neutrally, than there if we choose sides – the additional benefit being we don’t provide ammunition which can be used against us. The RED ED articles appeared despite his ‘best’ efforts, and who knows – perhaps they did turn the tide.

That said – I’m still very comfortable with my assessment of Labour’s EU bungling, and its consequences based on what I know now. I’ll cheerfully modify my position as new information surfaces. Kieran’s map of second bests is extremely interesting. We’re sure to learn more soon. Will Labour leaders?


kidneystones 05.10.15 at 2:16 am

Labour’s New Leaders. Just took a quick peruse of major papers. The Mail is crowing, of course, about Labour’s leadership crisis. I’m sure others have a better understanding of the Labour leadership and can something positive to say about those touted to replace Ed. Ummuna is ranked no. 2 after David M., I find very little to admire in either. And they’re followed by list of people I very much want to forget.


Christopher Phelps 05.10.15 at 2:22 am

Mitch, definitely the Scots aren’t going to get social democracy out of all this. Nobody will, but bear in mind that even if all of Labour’s former Scottish seats had not gone over to the SNP Miliband still wouldn’t have had a majority. In other words Labour’s real loss happened in England.

It’s a dismal outcome, no doubt about it, but for me the spirit of the Scots is an inspiration rather than an irritation.


Ronan(rf) 05.10.15 at 2:54 am

Engels from somewhere back up a few comments (can’t find it at the minute) I think you’re half wrong re the public school thing. Wiki says miliband went to a comprehensive and Bennett was from a working class background and won a scholarship to a private school.


Ronan(rf) 05.10.15 at 2:57 am

Are people overstating the leadership aspect a little ? Does it really matter that much when compared to other factors (I’ll leave “other factors” open for the minute)?


Mitch Guthman 05.10.15 at 3:27 am

Christopher Phelps at 260,

You’re certainly right that, as we now know, even a clean sweep of Scotland by Labour wouldn’t have been enough. On the other hand, it seems to me that the overwhelming victory by the SNP changes things strongly in favor of the Tories and probably shifts the overall political center of gravity sharply to the right.

With Scotland as a Labour stronghold, Cameron was very limited in his ability to deal with the movement for Scottish independence. He desperately wanted those forty or so Scottish Labour MP gone from the Westminster parliament and the only way seemed like secession but he couldn’t be seen as facilitating that.

The only way Cameron could win was by being seen as having done everything humanly possible to keep Scotland and it Labour voters but failed through no fault of his own. But now, all the Scottish Labour MP’s are gone and Nicola Sturgeon is his stalking horse. Labour’s power base is gone and the SNP is no threat to him even if Scotland remains in the union because they can’t provide votes or support for Labour because the SNP is toxic everywhere outside of Scotland.

What will be the likely effect on Labour? Scotland provided a big chuck of Labour’s core support and it was pretty much left to center-left members chaffing under the “leadership” of basically centrist New Labor leaders. And they didn’t just vote: they voted in places where they returned Labour MP’s year after year. Now that leftist core is gone, the labour unions are pretty throughly alienated (having been disowned and disrespected by New Labour) and the temptation to shift further right in an effort to appeal to LibDem refugees will be irresistible.

It seems very unlikely that the widely dispersed and badly demoralized non-centrists in England will be in position to resist the call for New Labour move even further into the neoliberal, pro-austerity camp—even though I and may others here think that’s what doomed them in the first place. On the other hand, if Scotland had gone solidly for Labour, the election would have been very, very close and the Conservatives would have a much small, more vulnerable margin for error.

Labour’s loss probably wouldn’t have seemed quite so catastrophic and there would be a strong base of supporters in Scotland pushing for abandonment of the New Labour stupidity and a serious argument that a public abandonment of austerity would allow Labour to hold it core of support and perhaps expand it into key marginals in the next election. Now, there’re just wiped out.

Whether Scotland stays in the union or not, really doesn’t matter to Labour. Left-leaning Scotland is gone and can’t provide any pressure against even more austerity.
identity politics alienates Middle England but since New Labour rejects economic liberalism that once made acceptance of social justice palatable to ordinary Englishmen, where does that leave Labour except to remake itself as a party will keep running right to diminishing returns until, finally, it disappears. That’s a future that I think could have been resisted by a Labour Party that’s supported by a solid red Scotland.


Tom West 05.10.15 at 5:03 am

Two points:
– If Canada’s experience with the Bloc Quebecois is any indication, having the SNP win seats may not be a helpful for Scottish independence in the long term. Being an MP can be pretty comfortable, and a few years from now you will have 56 MPs who may not be quite as eager to get themselves fired from the best job their ever likely to see.

There’s a solid living to be made in voting your conscience and denouncing the government without actually separating.

– It sucks when one realizes the people simply don’t want what you want. I remember the election in Ontario after the voters had given the Progressive Conservatives a majority because they were unhappy with the ruling Liberals. Except unlike previous P.C. administrations, the Mike Harris PCs slashed and burned education, municipalities, etc. with a playbook straight out of the worst of US conservatives.

Now, finally, the voters *knew* what the PCs now stood for, the loathsome agenda of the Mike Harris conservatives was fully exposed. Now there’d be a reckoning.

And the voters gave him a solid second majority.

Man that sucked. I was like those Republicans – “this can’t possibly have happened, everybody *knows* he’s evil.”

Of course, that election, like almost all, was a referendum on the economy, and since the economy was doing alright, it hardly mattered what Harris was doing to the province.


You guys have my condolences.


js. 05.10.15 at 5:05 am

Sorry, I have an unbelievably dumb question: ‘Plaid Cymru’ is pronounced plied (as in “applied”), cumri? I basically have no idea how to pronounce Welsh words/names.


dsquared 05.10.15 at 5:15 am

265: yes


Val 05.10.15 at 5:20 am

Daragh @ 257
I’m getting incredibly tired of this, but I’m not going to give up.

The disagreement between myself and Harry was not over who was a better leader for the Greens. It was about the tone of his comment in this exchange:

Christopher Phelps @ 9
4. Greens projected to double on two, so imagine what they might do if they obtain a more inspiring leader

Harry b @ 14

“Chris, great to hear from you! Greens could do with any leader.”

I took objection to that as needlessly dismissive and disrespectful and after some further discussion, Harry said @ 142:

“… I apologise that it came off as badly as it did.

For what it’s worth, I’ll try to make sure your rebuke has some effect on my thinking and my comments.”

It was an argument about tone and whether his tone was needlessly disrespectful of a female left wing party leader. It was not, and I did not ever intend it to be, an argument about the merits of alternative Greens leaders. It appears that Harry has accepted that, I cannot for the life of me understand why you (and Daniel/dsquared, to whom I am not going to respond, because his arguments are so patently dishonest) need to keep this fight going.

You claim you’re not a misogynist – well why do you need to keep attacking me? What are you trying to prove? What’s it for?

I apologise for getting your name wrong, it was an autocorrect and I didn’t notice it till after I’d posted.


Val 05.10.15 at 5:36 am

And just on the Greens thing – I haven’t followed the UK election very closely, as I said, but I have been involved in politics for both Labor and the Greens here, as variously an adviser, a policy coordinator and a candidate, so I have some practical knowledge. As I understand it, Caroline Lucas stepped down as leader because she wanted to campaign in her electorate, I hope that’s correct? If so, people need to understand that in political parties, and most particularly in small parties without many resources, these decisions have to be made.

Some might think that Caroline Lucas could have done both, but she obviously judged otherwise, and again you have to think of the counter factual. What if she’d judged that staying on as leader was more important than campaigning in her seat, and she’d lost the seat? What is more important for a small party – keeping the seat or having a stronger and more experienced public voice? It’s the sort of question that Greens parties do struggle with, but basically it’s a judgement call, and it’s unlikely that there’s ever a clear right answer. Learning processes, and all that.


js. 05.10.15 at 6:41 am

dsquared, thanks.


Neville Morley 05.10.15 at 8:04 am

@Val #268: absolutely right – and I think most if not all Greens fully accept that decision; there isn’t a demand (that I know of) that Lucas should return as leader so much as regret about what’s been lost in not having her as leader any more. I’d also repeat my view from earlier that Bennett has been a pretty effective leader up until the brutal (and sometimes biased) media scrutiny of the last few months, so her decision to serve out this term and then decide whether to stand again makes a lot of sense for the party.

One utterly pedantic point: in UK terms, Lucas chose to concentrate activities in her constituency rather than her electorate.


Val 05.10.15 at 8:31 am

Thanks Neville, constituency, of course – I was vaguely aware of that, but it didn’t come to mind at the right moment (these pesky words)


Daragh McDowell 05.10.15 at 8:43 am

Val @268

“. It appears that Harry has accepted that, I cannot for the life of me understand why you (and Daniel/dsquared, to whom I am not going to respond, because his arguments are so patently dishonest) need to keep this fight going.

You claim you’re not a misogynist – well why do you need to keep attacking me? What are you trying to prove? What’s it for?”

I made a reference to your argument, in a sentence referencing several other arguments in a post about internecine warfare on the left, and have otherwise largely stayed out of the debate on Natalie Bennett. The fact that you think that this demonstrates a) I am a misogynist, b) have any desire to keep this ‘fight’ going or indeed am attacking you repeatedly c) am attacking you personally because of my hatred of women, doesn’t really persuade me, nor I expect anyone else that your arguments are, at base, more sophisticated than ‘Criticising left-wing woman leader’s performance = sexism.’ Again – this may be supremely emotionally satisfying for you. However, it’s also the kind of attitude which tends to guarantee permanent political irrelevance.

I’m not a misogynist Val, in fact I consider myself insofar as a man can be a feminist. I want more women involved in politics, and am looking forward to supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016, and possibly Yvette Cooper in future as well. But I also will criticise them, harshly if they fuck up as spectacularly as Bennett did on LBC. If you’re not prepared to have allies of that sort in your own efforts to build a more equitable world for men and women, and your first reaction is to call them misogynists, well I think you’re going to find yourself on a very lonely crusade, very quickly.


Sasha Clarkson 05.10.15 at 9:53 am

js@265 it isn’t a dumb question. Welsh pronunciation is a bit difficult to get the hang of to start with – and there are also confusing subtleties.

Firstly “f” is “v”,
“ff” is “f”
“dd” is a voiced “th” as in “this”
“u” is a long “ee”
“i” is as above but slightly shorter – almost indistinguishable
combinations of vowels are always dipthongs.
Double ls “ll” are pronounced “chl” with “ch” as in Bach. That being said, one old Tenby friend of mine pronounces “Llanelli” as “Lanelthy” – but South Pembrokeshire, little England beyond Wales, has its own traditions going back a thousand years or more. Place names and some surnames indicate Viking settlement, eg a village called Freystrop, I guess corrupted from “Freyrstorp” Freyr’s village (or possibly Freya’s).

Different regions have different dialects of Welsh, which is really old British, once spoken from Cornwall to much of Scotland. Aberdeen is not a Gaelic name but a Brythonic/Welsh one.



Sasha Clarkson 05.10.15 at 9:53 am

PS “y” is “uh” :)


Val 05.10.15 at 10:03 am

Daragh @ 272

People like me – evidence driven, fact checking people, who will scroll back through hundreds of comments to locate particular comments, check the context, copy and paste the quotes – are at a huge disadvantage when talking to people like you, who seem to just basically say whatever you feel like saying. But I will try the laborious process of responding to your points:

a) I’ve never called you a misogynist. You claimed @ 257 that I had made “a snide insinuation that I’m [ie you are] some kind of misogynist”, but I didn’t in fact, and I’m not even interested in that particular discussion in this context. The reason I referred to you not being a misogynist in #267 was that I was trying to use your language to get through to you.

b) You referred to a “ludicrous sub-debate” about Natalie Bennett’s flaws etc. As I’m the person who started the debate, I presume you are blaming me for this supposedly ludicrous debate. I’ve already explained to you, pretty clearly I think, that it wasn’t about her flaws but about the dismissive tone in which Harry referred to her. Why don’t you take that on board and admit you were wrong? That would be a good way to end the argument.

c) same as a) – I never said you hated women.

You know these kind of arguments are incredibly boring for people who aren’t involved in them (well actually they’re pretty boring for me too, but I have made a commitment I will argue this through, and not just give up in disgust and walk away, which is what I think most women in this situation would do), so I possibly won’t answer at such length in future, but if you want to be an ally, why not just do that?


Daragh McDowell 05.10.15 at 10:48 am

@Val (and then I’m done)

Here is, copied and pasted, your precise words

“this may not have occurred to you, but in spite of being a woman and a feminist, I am also an actual human being and I can read,”

don’t see that sarcastic aside as indicating anything other than an implication that I am a misogynist (what’s the joke otherwise – that many male feminists assume women are illiterate, or some other species? enlighten me).

As to your argument – your original post very strongly implied that dismissal of Sturgeon and Bennett was based on gender, not performance. I’d be willing to concede you the benefit of the doubt due to you, by your own admission, being a few skins in (though the precise number, etc. seemed to vary with your comments), but then you followed it up with this –

“The assumption is that the female leaders in question are so obviously hopeless that it’s not even worth taking the time to discuss them, which is pretty clearly what you were doing.”

No, he wasn’t. Anyone arguing Sturgeon was a hopeless leader is obviously wrong given the results, and harry b wasn’t doing that. He was arguing it for Bennett, who you argued was being unfairly dismissed despite, by your own admission, not following ‘the detail’ of the campaign (those details being, among other things, the leader of a national party being totally unable to articulate the party’s policy on one of the single most important issues to voters, housing.)

You’ve then followed all this up with a ‘no, no, what I REALLY meant was’ series of posts and a commitment to bore your critics into submission if they don’t accept your original premise and accept how wrong they were to ever question you as the price for being considered an ‘ally.’ If I didn’t know better, I’d be forced to wonder if your entire account wasn’t some form of mischievous sock-puppet being run by the Guido Fawkes team to reinforce the most reactionary stereotypes of the feminist movement. As it stands, the terms of your alliance are not ones I, nor I suspect most people are willing to accept, hence my despair at the ongoing debate.


Jim Buck 05.10.15 at 10:54 am


Sasha Clarkson 05.10.15 at 11:04 am

To get things into perspective about Natalie Bennett: whatever her failings, they were failings of communication/image and not of policy. Her party, and sympathisers like me who voted Labour tactically, have no quarrel with the Green’s platform under her leadership.

Contrast this with Nick Clegg. He is a good public performer, but that made little difference to the Lib-Dems fate because his actions and policies have lost him all credibility, except amongst die-hard supporters – and I know Lib-Dems who stuck with the party but detest Clegg. He was only kept in the Commons by Tory voters deserting their own candidate to keep Labour out.

The Lib-Dems lost about two-thirds of the votes they got in 2010. But this figure flatters them, because outside constituencies where they were the incumbent or the main challenger, they lost far more. In the two Pembrokeshire constituencies they lost over 80% of their vote, coming 6th and 7th behind the Greens in each case. I remember their high point in 1987 when the Liberals got a good third place with 26% of the vote in Pembrokeshire. I was the Labour Press Officer at the time, and we were worried that WE would be pushed into third. The Libs have lost over 90% of their vote here since then, and I doubt there’s any way back.

To get back to the point: either Clegg’s performance was lacking, and/or his message was unconvincing because of his legacy. In either case, Natalie Bennett’s performance was good by comparison!


kidneystones 05.10.15 at 11:05 am

Nicola and Alex seem to be having a bit of a public spat as to what the consequences of the SNP victory actually mean. The Telegraph misses the point, which may lie more in the tone of Nicola’s comments more than anything.

” The SNP proposed increasing departmental spending in its election manifesto and is likely to fight against every Tory cut, as well as pushing for more powers for Scotland. Ms Sturgeon said Mr Cameron would have to go further than the devolution agreed in last year’s Smith Commission and suggested the party will push for Holyrood to get powers to set minimum wage and business taxes. The SNP leader also distanced herself from her predecessor Mr Salmond’s claim that the party’s success at the general election was a “staging post” on the way to independence. “What Alex said – and I don’t think it’s a particularly controversial statement – is that he thinks Scotland will become an independent country. I think Scotland will become an independent country one day. He said he thinks it will be in his lifetime. I hope that’s the case,” Ms Sturgeon said. ”

There’s been some speculation about what the SNP’s spectacular victory actually means to the Scots, and I’d suggest that Nicola is speaking here primarily to her own constituents rather than to the broader public, assuring the Scottish public who did, after all, resoundingly vote NO on independence just last fall, that the wishes of the Scottish public will be respected. As in, the Scottish public currently wants to remain in the UK. Whatever one thinks of Cameron it’s extremely unlikely that he has any desire to enter the history books as the PM who won an election only to see the break-up of the UK. I’m aware that I’m reading a great deal into just a few remarks, but Nicola will have a much sharper understanding of the mood of the Scottish public than just about everyone.


Val 05.10.15 at 11:12 am

@ 276

No Daragh, my comment refers to the fact that you talked about a “ludicrous sub-debate” without actually talking to me or mentioning me. That’s such a common tactic in arguing with feminists – don’t talk to them, or even mention their names, just suggest that what they are saying is so foolish that you’re not even going to engage with it. Seen it before Daragh, ridiculous.

My original comment referred, as I have said before, to the fact that:
a) Harry was completely dismissive of the Greens leader (without even mentioning her name, in fact)
b) Mitch described the Scottish people who had voted for SNP as “idiots”.

I said that people whose initial response to an election result like this is to make the off-the-cuff remarks dissing a female left wing party leader, and describing left wing voters as idiots, are damaging the left and should stop claiming to be left.

Both Harry and Mitch have qualified and clarified their positions since then, and I would no longer call for them to stop describing themselves as left, but I do hope and believe that they might think more carefully about their off-the-cuff reactions in future.

If you (or Daniel/dsquared for that matter) have a problem with that position, then I challenge you: justify why dissing female left wing party leaders and calling left wing voters “idiots”, is a useful and legitimate left response to an election result like this?

Put up or shut up.


Daragh McDowell 05.10.15 at 11:16 am

“To get back to the point: either Clegg’s performance was lacking, and/or his message was unconvincing because of his legacy. In either case, Natalie Bennett’s performance was good by comparison!”

Well we’re not comparing Clegg to Bennett, we’re talking about Bennett on her own merits. And as bad as Clegg did/was – 8 seats is 7 more than one! And not to belabour a point but public presentation is a HUGE part of leading a modern political party – see Miliband, Ed.

As to the Green platform, which I’ve avoided discussing – I stopped reading it once I got to the sections on defence (which, to me, read as a pledge to abolish the armed forces) and international policy, which called for the UK to abolish the UN Security Council… somehow. These are, to put it mildly, extremely silly and unworkable ideas. Along with the ‘we’re happy with Bennet’s leadership internally, even if she’s a terrible public performer’ has convinced me the Greens are simply not serious about working for, and achieving power to implement policy. And if that’s the case, why vote for them?


Daragh McDowell 05.10.15 at 11:22 am


Jesus Christ – I also knocked a number of other ludicrous sub-debates here, which I had no intention of getting engaged in because I thought them ludicrous. This, is apparently sexist. And I’m criticising Bennett because she performed poorly, IMHO, not because of her gender. YOU brought that into it, and keep bringing it into it, and when you get called on it insist you’re not casting ANY aspersions of sexism, no siree-bob!

“I would no longer call for them to stop describing themselves as left”

Good for you. How benevolent of you to grant your assent to people to allow themselves to describe their politics in the manner they see fit.


engels 05.10.15 at 11:46 am

“Engels, from somewhere back up a few comments (can’t find it at the minute) I think you’re half wrong re the public school thing.”

It’s here. I’m not.


kidneystones 05.10.15 at 11:51 am

SNP plans to raise taxes as North Sea oil economy sputters. Some background context to Nicola’s claim to be the new opposition in Westminister, rather than a new and independent country, as Alex would like. I noticed this yesterday, but didn’t think much of it until I read Nicola’s remarks in the Telegraph just now. From Oil and Gas (an industry website). “North Sea Oil Field in Shock – Oil and Gas People sources have today confirmed the surprise news that a North Sea Oil Platform will be shutdown after summer and then decommissioned. Two Senior managers from Fairfield Energy are said to have travelled to the Dunlin platform yesterday in a surprise visit to announce the news to the crew.” A quick search confirms that during the run-up to the May election, the bottom has been falling out of the North Sea oil industry, a fact I was certainly unaware of, with up to 10 percent of jobs disappearing in the not too distant future. Academics studying the impact of a YES vote victory after the Scottish referendum report that collapsing oil revenues mean that a Scotland moving towards independence would now be facing Greece level deficits. Those who argued that the dissolution of the UK is highly unlikely appear to have the better argument. That is not to say that the Scots will not hold another referendum should Cameron hold his promised EU in/out referendum. Nicola’s very sober remark about independence in Salmond’s lifetime strongly suggest, however, that she is not at all confident the Scottish economy will be sufficiently strong to support a Yes vote for Scottish independence in 2017. She will, of course, be doing all she can do blame Scotland’s ills on the Conservatives, but there’s a real glimmer of light for Labour in Scotland, especially if they can push back against the Blairites in England and their efforts to appeal to Conservative voters.


engels 05.10.15 at 11:51 am

“@engels… the sneering tone of your comment… is… also a big part of why Labour lost on Thursday”

Sorry bout dat.


Val 05.10.15 at 12:22 pm

@ 282
This is what I challenged you on:

justify why dissing female left wing party leaders and calling left wing voters “idiots”, is a useful and legitimate left response to an election result like this?

Presumably you can’t. Enough said.


Ronan(rf) 05.10.15 at 12:27 pm

“And not to belabour a point but public presentation is a HUGE part of leading a modern political party”

An aspect of leading the party, but how important when people decide how to vote ? Provisionally and without a huge amount of certainty I’m going to say it features quite far down the list of factors that effect voting behaviour (didn’t the Greens share of the vote rise in this election?)


basil 05.10.15 at 12:45 pm

Thank you. This is expressly what I was getting at but I’m rather inaudible on here. The presidentialization of parliamentary systems wasn’t something I’d imagine CT readers would be colluding in. But liberals are really attached to their hierarchies. It’d be madness to imagine a collective or a political platform that mattered more than its doughty champion.

With Bennett as its shit spokesperson, the Greens have got their highest ever deposit retention, highest vote total ever, tripled their vote share and have more members than the ably led UKIP and LibDems. They also were second or third in more constituencies than ever before.

For this reason, and because what is on here dovetails with nasty anti-Green and anti-Bennett comments through the campaign from across the internet, it’s difficult to imagine UK readers not understanding Val’s intervention. Unless of course…


Sasha Clarkson 05.10.15 at 12:46 pm

Daragh @281 “Well we’re not comparing Clegg to Bennett ….”

Well you might not have been, but I was, because it’s relevant to the election results, and this is an election open thread. Ie YOU don’t decide what it’s about. If we look at the changes in the national vote share as a guide to leadership ability, Nicola Sturgeon and Nigel Farage came top, Cameron, Miliband and Bennett performed positively, although not wonderfully, and Clegg performed abysmally.

Of course, its rather more complex than that but, as a first approximation, it works.


JanieM 05.10.15 at 1:08 pm

You claim you’re not a misogynist – well why do you need to keep attacking me?

Yeah, because the only possible reason anyone ever attacks anyone else around here is because of misogyny. Riiiiiight.

Enough said.

Far more than enough, really.


Ronan(rf) 05.10.15 at 1:14 pm

basil – you have been making that point pretty consistently throughout the thread (I should have registered agreement earlier, but perhaps got sidelined a little on account of the various digressions)
But, do you think ‘leadership’ (or how the public views the candidate) matters that much in a Presidential system (say the US) ? I can imagine it matters somewhat, and more so than it does in this case, but even during the US presidential election would you think things like party platform, the economy, constituency work etc matter considerably more than the personal characteristics of the candidate ?


Ronan(rf) 05.10.15 at 1:16 pm

..that’s not a rhetorical question btw, I’m a bit torn on the topic (I can imagine the candidate matters *more* than a lot of political science seems to imply, just less than the media makes out)


Val 05.10.15 at 1:20 pm

@ 290
What’s this mysterious intervention about? Sounds rather hostile, but it’s not clear why.


Lynne 05.10.15 at 1:41 pm

Since I don’t follow British politics I hadn’t looked at this thread until this morning. My goodness! Val, I am glad you have joined the CT commentariat. Harry, how disturbing that you and your co-author have received death threats. This really sounds awful. I am sorry. I enjoyed the podcast you linked to of his interview.


Collin Street 05.10.15 at 1:44 pm

> (which, to me, read as a pledge to abolish the armed forces)

You seem to like the phrase “read to me as”. Do you often find that things read to you differently to how they read to other people?


Sasha Clarkson 05.10.15 at 1:46 pm

Basil and Ronan: ” liberals are really attached to their hierarchies”

I’m not sure about that at all. Blair and much of the New Labour hierarchy rapidly became very unpopular with the grass roots supporters, even before the Iraq War, because of the contempt with which the membership was treated. Many of us left the party, even if we still mostly voted for its candidates.

Miliband was personally popular amongst active Labour supporters, because they put him there ahead of the party machine favourites. And he responded to criticism by taking it on board, as after the great anger when he allowed himself to be photographed as part of a Sun promotion. But many of the shadow cabinet were and still are regarded as crypto small ‘c’ conservatives by Labour supporters. For example, few will shed tears over the electoral castration (loss of Balls) in Morley and Outwood. And as for Blair and Mandelson, the names have become worse than curse words!


Lynne 05.10.15 at 1:47 pm

Janie, that snark was unworthy of you.


Christopher Phelps 05.10.15 at 1:47 pm

Val, I can see perfectly well why you reacted as you did, but I’ve known Harry a quarter century now (intermittently, but warmly — and though it’s been that long I swear we are both really very young men, certainly the first twenty-five years took a lot longer than the next ones)… Anyway, I was digressing there, but he would’ve made a crack like that about any leader of any gender. Really. As for whether he is “not really left,” well, he’s always loved the idiosyncratic, the cryptic, and the analytic-philosophic, so I would suggest instead seeing him as sui generis.

Now I’d like to personally call on all of you on all sides of that sexism debate to lay down the olive branch. I think Val has played a useful role here in getting us all to consider the gender dimension, and I think we could just leave it at that without requiring everyone to agree with all the points she’s made, but let’s not take whacks at her any more, please. I think we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns. Time to live and let live…


LFC 05.10.15 at 1:59 pm

Re the subthread on Welsh: I don’t really know anything about the language (Sasha C.’s pronunciation primer makes it look very difficult), except I recall that Shaw in one of his prefaces or stage directions says something like “there is no adequate notation for the grave music of good Welsh” (that’s as I recall the phrase, it may be off a bit). Unfortunately, Google seems to return no hits for it and is thus not helpful in tracking down its exact source.


Daniel 05.10.15 at 2:01 pm

I’d also repeat my view from earlier that Bennett has been a pretty effective leader up until the brutal (and sometimes biased) media scrutiny of the last few months

I actually don’t agree with this. In terms of picking out hobbyhorses and oddities from the manifesto, the Greens are a generation behind UKIP. The stuff about alternative medicine is thankfully largely gone, but this time round we had interference in the BBC (to force them to show “educational” programs in prime time), complete deregulation of sex work and forcing football clubs to be owned by co-operatives.

Note that I’m not getting into things like banning Ryanair (which, although extreme in my view, is at least clearly related to Green issues) or abolishing the army (where you do have to have something in a manifesto on defence). These are all things where there was no need to have a policy, but a policy went in that was clearly going to lose votes and just represented someone’s hobby horse.

Also on the subject of hostile media coverage, they frankly don’t know they’re born. Every single racist utterance made by a UKIP candidate got picked up, but if anyone were to spend an afternoon googling the names of Green candidates combined with the word “Zionist”, they would have found some doozies.


Sasha Clarkson 05.10.15 at 2:10 pm

LFC – I learned to pronounce Welsh by singing in a male voice choir – even Cockneys in my local one get the hang after a while. One good thing about Welsh is that spelling to pronunciation is far more consistent than English.

Here’s an example:


Ronan(rf) 05.10.15 at 2:27 pm

I would say my abiding memory of Wales from back in the day was the Welsh language broadcaster S4C which, if I remember corrrectly, was the only non Irish channel we could get on analog TV for a number of years (and which used to show C4 shows at night back in those days)
That and my grandmother’s intermittent jeremiads* against Lloyd George (who was admittedly quite far down the list of historical villains, which was mainly just Fianna Fail leaders, with the exception of Sean Lemass, and (for reasons I cant recall) Tom Jones)

* it was mainly just mischievous trolling on her part so wouldnt say I’m dishonouring her memory bringing up such a thing.


Daniel 05.10.15 at 2:32 pm

(and which used to show C4 shows at night back in those days

it was also (via the ace football show Sgorio) the first British broadcaster to realise that there was value in Serie A broadcasting rights.


Daniel 05.10.15 at 2:35 pm

which isn’t to say that S4C were broadcasting geniuses – they were also the last British broadcaster, by a frankly embarrassing number of years, to realise that professional wrestling (Reslo) had had its day.


Ronan(rf) 05.10.15 at 2:35 pm

You’re right. That’s what I was thinking aswell. (I thought they had preniership rights for a bit,but it was Serie A)


Ronan(rf) 05.10.15 at 2:37 pm

….hence a youthful obsession with Ruud Gullit.


basil 05.10.15 at 2:51 pm

I agree that those ‘compass’ sites aren’t ideal, but pace Richard M, I don’t think they are crafted by libertarians. In answering the questions, one sees that confirming left-liberal assumptions about markets and the state as inescapable can get you to the extreme bottom left corner, i.e. there’s no conception of political choices that aren’t for some idea of the state and capitalism. My sense of it is that even proposals that a parliamentary party, i.e. one that participates in the state like the Greens would put forward are, to put it mildly, etc, too silly to be plotted onto the compass.

But that UK one does reflect my understanding of where pro-war, pro-City, pro-ASBOs and IDs, immigration-mug, British jobs for British workers, burgeoning prison population, tough-on-crime, tough-on-the-causes-of-crime Labour would be. I’d go further than Sasha in his comment above, the likes of Balls, Mandelson, Blair, Reid are proper right-wingers – maybe wet or compassionate or some other modifier but they’d easily fit into Cameron’s party. They certainly don’t subscribe to an egalitarian ideal.

Above, HRC has been name-checked twice to establish left and feminist cred, and David Miliband was proposed as a true left alternative to Red Ed, so I don’t know that such distinctions mean anything any more.

I’ve imagined Blair, Thatcher, Kohl led this presidential turn, but the effect of the presidential leader debates is to entrench it so that notions of first-among-equals are discarded and great media events fore-grounding confidence, charisma and some idea of ‘balls’ are promoted over party platforms.


LFC 05.10.15 at 3:04 pm

Correction to my 299: I think, on second thought, the Shaw quote is about Scots/Scottish, not Welsh, and it may (?) occur somewhere in The Devil’s Disciple (though I don’t have time to check on any of this rt now).

S. Clarkson: thks, planning to listen to yr choir clip when i have a minute later


Neville Morley 05.10.15 at 3:05 pm

@Daniel #300: slightly puzzled by this, as seems to conflate Bennett’s performance in different aspects of role as leader – which is what I was talking about – with the contents of the Green manifesto, which she may have influenced to a degree but certainly didn’t determine. Equally I was talking about way she herself was treated in national media, compared to e.g. Farage, rather than scrutiny of individual candidates on Twitter.


harry b 05.10.15 at 3:12 pm

Christopher — good grief, it has been more than 25 years I now realize. 1988?


Sasha Clarkson 05.10.15 at 3:14 pm

The late great Jake Thackray warned against the cult of leadership in his song “Beware of The Bull”

The hero gets to the microphone, and then:

…”down it comes: slick, slithery pat!
If you must put people on pedestals, wear a big hat.
The tongue he’s got is pure gold, the breast is pure brass,
The feet are pure clay – and watch out for the arse.

Beware of the Bull …. “

The full song is a delight. The words are freely available on the official Jake site, and there is an extant performance by Jake on YouTube. I think it should be made compulsory to play it as the intro to all election broadcasts.


Val 05.10.15 at 3:26 pm

basil, yes I see what you mean about the compass. My particular concern also was their claim about the declining support for social welfare (‘lend a hand’) in the UK.

Christopher @ 298, thank you for your intervention. I was aware that in showing emotion – anger – in my first comment I was likely to evoke some angry responses, but it is good to hear a calming voice.

I’d like to add that though gender is central to my concerns, they aren’t just about gender. There is a set of values and ideas, including egalitarianism, solidarity and environmentalism, which are probably best represented amongst current parties by the Greens. It is very hard to assert these values in the dominant political context of neoliberal, hierarchical, male dominated politics that basil refers to so eloquently, where they are likely to be dismissed as silly at best. Sometimes off hand comments (leaving personalities out of this, and just focusing on comments) can evoke a feeling of despair or rage, when so much hard work in getting these ideas and values taken seriously, seems to be dismissed so cursorily. I just felt that sense of pain and anger when I first read those comments, and later, emboldened by a few glasses of wine, I tried to express them on the page.

No doubt there are people here who will still dismiss me as foolish or worse, but I do know that my feelings are shared by some. In relation to gender, what may seem to men not particularly harsh comments, can be experienced differently by women, who are used to seeing, all the time, in politics and everyday life, women’s views, ideas and experience trivialised, ridiculed or marginalised. An offhand comment can just reinforce how little men seem to care about or understand these issues, even decent or sympathetic men

But as I said, it’s not just about gender, it’s about the marginalisation of a whole set of “left” – genuinely left – ideals, including by those who purport to represent them, in labor parties. Anyway I’m sure that’s enough. It’s really late here, though I’m having trouble sleeping after all this heated exchange, but this will be my last contribution, for tonight anyway.


Christopher Phelps 05.10.15 at 3:28 pm

Harry, yes, though I think we met actually face to face in 1990, right? I won’t belabor in what association, but as I recall it feminism was one of the cardinal principles, one of the two most prominent ones, indeed. But we’re still young, man, I promise. Fifty more years!


Sasha Clarkson 05.10.15 at 3:31 pm

Sorry the embedded link didn’t work, and neither did my attempts at correction. Just google “Jake Thackray The Bull”.


Christopher Phelps 05.10.15 at 3:32 pm

Val, I suspect the values are pretty broadly shared here, it’s just the times are beyond shitty.


Daragh McDowell 05.10.15 at 3:40 pm


That’s a very eloquent comment, and I understand many of your frustrations. However, it would be nice if you would similarly note that people who weren’t impressed by Natalie Bennett’s performance aren’t ‘dissing female leaders’, and that by accusing them of doing so you are giving a strong impression that you think that their criticisms are totally illegitimate and motivated purely by sexism. You say “what may seem to men not particularly harsh comments, can be experienced differently by women” – that goes vice-versa. I really, really do not appreciate being accused of misogyny by someone on the internet who has never even met me, because I don’t rate a political leader they do. And if that was not your intent, then maybe choose your words more carefully in future.

One more point – “But as I said, it’s not just about gender, it’s about the marginalisation of a whole set of “left” – genuinely left – ideals, including by those who purport to represent them, in labor parties.”

People can share a broad set of objectives and differ on how to achieve them, or what the realistic limits of politics are, or any number of issues and still be broadly on the side of the left and social justice. By claiming that there is a ‘genuine’ left (and through comments where you explicitly ask people to stop associating themselves with the left because you disagree with them) you create a strong impression that you consider yourself the arbiter of who gets to sit inside the progressive tent. This is a microcosm of the problem that has been facing progressives in the UK, and hopefully this election catastrophe can convince us all to be a bit more comfortable in bigger tents, because the alternative is irrelevance.


Christopher Phelps 05.10.15 at 3:59 pm

Oh, and Val, you are right that on CT you will find the “pragmatic” left quite strong, but these days I don’t think it works to say they’re not left or get pulled into such metaphysical categories. Me, I’m now casting about to find a way to move to Scotland: Scotch, salmon, social democracy, a lovely lilting accent, and a hearty refusal to do as told, my kind of people. (Anyone hiring, contact me offlist… Hey, you never know.) So as you can see when I said the Greens got more than a million votes at the beginning despite its lacking leadership that was for me a *positive* indicator, as too the SNP vote, of a potential for resistance and renaissance underlying the wretched outcome.


Christopher Phelps 05.10.15 at 4:00 pm

Harry, Cleveland, I think it was.


basil 05.10.15 at 4:21 pm

Ronan @291,
I agree that those other factors are important/play a part, but presidents *claim* a personal mandate to direct affairs as they think best – like a legally constrained and term-limited monarch. They campaign for a personal mandate, can pick almost anyone into their Cabinet, rule against their party’s preferences, etc. Consistent with that logic, I think it makes sense that they are personally scrutinised.

Sasha, Christopher Phelps
Thank you for your contributions. I’ve learnt a lot from you both.

Sasha @296,
I meant to say that liberals are attached to hierarchies. I grant that they don’t like these to be particularly pernicious or restrictive as to who gets to be dominant, but they don’t aspire to equality or flatness. I felt that much of this thread and the concerns about the leadership capabilities of Bennett or Miliband reflected that liberal preference. Thank you for The Bull!


js. 05.10.15 at 5:29 pm

Sasha @273/274:

Thanks so much! That is perfect. (I might need to print it out and hang it up somewhere :) )


dsquared 05.10.15 at 6:09 pm

seems to conflate Bennett’s performance in different aspects of role as leader – which is what I was talking about – with the contents of the Green manifesto, which she may have influenced to a degree but certainly didn’t determine.

But what’s a failure to manage the policy process, if not a failure of leadership? If not something like this, then what are you referring to in saying that she did a good job of party management? Sending the newsletters out on time?


Neville Morley 05.10.15 at 6:41 pm

Define failure – beyond the fact that you don’t like it. Most of the memberhip was satisfied with the outcome of the process (rather than, as in case of e.g. Labour, gritting their teeth about much of it), and it was the basis for substantial increase in votes. Given that Greens are as much a coalition of different views and interests as any other party, seems a reasonable success story to me. I don’t like most of the Tories’ policies, but I don’t then argue on that basis that Cameron must be a bad leader.


Sasha Clarkson 05.10.15 at 6:53 pm

Paul Krugman is scathing. Before the results were out he wrote: “Britain’s election should be a referendum on a failed economic doctrine, but it isn’t, because nobody with influence is challenging transparently false claims and bad ideas. … Labour’s leaders probably know better, but have decided that it’s too hard to overcome the easy appeal of bad economics, especially when most of the British news media report this bad economics as truth.”

This is very relevant to the debate about leadership. When, as in a party like the Greens, people know what they stand for, and there is agreement and cooperation, leadership might not be too important. But the Labour Party was not like that. Ed Miliband, more numerate and more knowledgeable in Economics than the rest of his shadow cabinet, was a prisoner of the New- Labourites within it. I often read the pronouncements of Ed Balls, Tristram Hunt, Rachel Reeves, Chuka Umunna and others, wondering why the Hell they were in the Labour Party at all!

Now the New Labour worms are weaselling out of the woodwork and saying that Ed Miliband lost because he was too left wing, and that the only way for the labour Party to win power is to promise not to do anything worthwhile with it. This is being hyped up by the right wing press who want the Labour Party to be a Tory Party with a red tie to save their plutocratic bacon when the voters get tired of the real thing.

My conclusion is that if you haven’t got the guts to say what you stand for, you cease to stand for anything.

Even had Labour won the election, the New Labour old guard would have obstructed Miliband’s premiership. But Labour lost Scotland, precisely because the Scots did not trust Labour, and preferred, as Paul Mason put it “a form of plebeian national leftism” which was confidently espoused by the SNP. Once this debacle was perceived to be inevitable, we can see in hindsight that Labour’s campaign in England and Wales was fatally undermined. None of this supports the Blairite narrative of course.

My conclusion is that the Labour Party in its present form is done for. Too many members have voted with their feet since the early naughties, and a right wing leader will lose even more members on the ground. In many areas there is nobody left to to number taking duty at polling stations: in my village there were no party reps there at all this time. This would have been unthinkable even 10 years ago.


Christopher Phelps 05.10.15 at 7:08 pm

Spot-on, Sasha, spot-on, and striking that Krugman called it rubbish even prior to the vote.


Christopher Phelps 05.10.15 at 7:54 pm

Oh, and Basil, thanks. Signing off now, probably for another 15 months or whatever my typical CT intervals are…


Bruce Wilder 05.10.15 at 8:26 pm

I have no doubt that Krugman is right about the falsity of austerity as a policy and Ed Miliband’s and Labour’s general leadership failure, in adopting a me-too-but-with-compassion tact vis-a-vis the Conservative agenda.

Still, I think Krugman’s take, though basically right, is notably short on the particulars of why doing the right thing, economically, seems to be such a non-starter politically.

More is involved, I suspect than a liberal penchant for hierarchy or Ed being short a wicket or the foolish obsolescence of a New Labour old guard. Krugman touts stimulus spending as obvious, but doesn’t tackle the questions of spending on what, to wit how the economy should be reformed and restructured.

I wouldn’t want to be the politician, who went after The City, or attempted to enact reforms that reined in their excesses, especially when so much of Britain’s economy depends on the financial sector.


Val 05.10.15 at 11:11 pm

Daragh @ 316
Just for the record, and because I really don’t like being misquoted, I didn’t ever accuse you of misogyny. You made that accusation up.

We have a saying in Australia, I wonder if others have anything similar:

Go to Bunnings*, buy some timber, build yourself a bridge and get over it.

Maybe you could do that about the imaginary misogyny complaint?

* (substitute your local hardware store as required)


LFC 05.11.15 at 2:44 am

1) Watched Sasha’s clip @301; thanks. I guess that would be one way to learn the pronunciation; the next question wd be what does “si hei lwli mabi” mean — don’t worry, not serious, if I were that interested I could look it up.

2) The Shaw quote:
Google has someone referencing it in a discussion site for fans of an American TV show, of all things — I didn’t bother w the context, but went straight for the quote, which is (this is at second hand, but I think it’s right): “There is no literary notation for the grave music of good Scots.” It’s from the prefatory or production notes for Captain Brassbound’s Conversion.


Daragh McDowell 05.11.15 at 6:52 am

You wrote this – “you know Darragh, this may not have occurred to you, but in spite of being a woman and a feminist, I am also an actual human being and I can read”. If you’d like to offer an interpretation of that that ISN’T calling me a misogynist I’d be glad to hear it.

You’ve spent this thread loudly accusing Bennett’s critics of ‘dissing left-wing women’ while admitting you didn’t follow the campaign, attack your opponents motivations at every opportunity then denying you ever did such a thing, and showing magnanimity only to those who tell you you’re fundamentally right while doing your best to drive everyone else out of the debate, even those like Daniel Davies who are fundamentally ON YOUR SIDE OF IT, rather than accept any sort of compromise or even acknowledgement that Bennett’s critics MIGHT be motivated by, say, the LBC interview rather than her gender. And on top of all this you’ve delegated to yourself the duty of declaring what is and isn’t ‘left’, mainly as a means of delegitimising your critics.

Funnily enough, many of the post-mortems of Thursday’s debacle have focused on the alienation of many voters from the Labour party and left-wing politics in general due to perceptions of arrogance, obnoxiousness and obsessive ideological policing on the part of political elites who rush to diminish their concerns as the product of various isms and a general lack of cultural and political enlightenment, and when confronted with people who agree with them on 80% of the issues, damn them as heretics for the remaining 20%.

Val – I, and many others on this thread, made a good faith effort to be generous and extend you an olive branch in order to find some common ground. You responded by slapping it away and doubling down on the defence of the tiny strip of land you occupy as the one true left. If you’re wondering why left-wing politics is so ineffectual and unsuccessful at the moment, I’d take a look at the nearest mirror.


Val 05.11.15 at 7:01 am

@ 329
Sorry Daragh, I guess my last comment wasn’t helpful – oz humour can be a bit blunt at times. I don’t think we are likely to agree on these topics, at least at present, so I guess a bit of live and let live and leave it be for the time being is best.

There’s a lot of argumentative techniques that some men tend to use defensively when arguing with feminists and I think you are using some of them, but maybe you might be receptive to hearing about this at some other time. It doesn’t automatically mean you are a misogynist though.


ZM 05.11.15 at 7:25 am


Val is not under an obligation to compromise or be agreeable, she can just argue her own point.

Australian centre-left politics seems to be more left than UK centre-left politics as we Australians have mentioned a few times before. The Economist Ross Garnaut said we have a fairer type of Neo-liberalism here than in the UK or USA.

And in political arguments you don’t have to be agreeable in Australia as we are more blunt – when our Liberal Prime Minister offended the Malaysian Prime Minister he said

““[The Malaysian Prime Minister] knows we play our politics pretty hard in our country and I think he understood.””


Daragh McDowell 05.11.15 at 7:43 am


Never said she was under any obligation. Just pointed out that branding others sexists and notlefts isn’t a terribly effective means of electoral coalition building, and that implying people are misogynists and then denying you ever said such a thing when you get called on it is nothing more than cowardly bullying.


Daragh McDowell 05.11.15 at 7:45 am

Val – my apologies. I didn’t see your comment at 330 before posting my own at 332. While I still don’t agree with your argument or the way you make it, your graciousness is appreciated, and agreed – lets leave it be for the moment and return to the topic when emotions over the results are less raw.


Sasha Clarkson 05.11.15 at 10:01 am

Bruce @326

You’re right on several points. Krugman does advocate fiscal policy: public investment in infrastructure etc, but he is mainly fighting a battle against US “austerian” ideologists, who want to reduce public spending and entitlements for the common people.

At some point Labour, or a n English Podemos/Syrizia, will have to tackle the City. Finance, and property booms, have a huge distorting effect on the British economy by sucking investment away from the real productive economy. In that sense the City is like an inoperable cancer which is slowly killing the patient, but whose removal would result in instant death. In effect, the City steals a significant part of our living from the rest of the world by rent extraction, meaning that the value of the pound is too high for the productive economy to be truly healthy.

Where to start with these problems? Firstly, the origin of money and the fractional reserve banking system is an elephant in the room which no-one dares discuss. The government isn’t normally allowed to create money out of nothing, but the banks are allowed to do so, and the government pays the banks to do so on its behalf. Perhaps the banks should have to pay the government to create money instead?

Secondly, day trading, these days “microsecond trading”, extracts rent without giving value. It’s mostly gambling on a Keynesian Beauty Contest game. A future Left government should introduce a short term capital gains tax, tapered inversely to the length of time a security has been held. The proceeds could then be used for strategic investment.

The most important thing is to start talking about real economics, not the Flat-Earth economic morality tales which most politicians currently pay court to.

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