Vote for change?

Vote for change?

The Solidarity Federation look at the upcoming UK general election.

It’s election season again. It’s a time of photo-ops and promises, manifestos and controversies. But behind the endless announcements, allegations and denials, is anything really at stake? After 13 years of Labour government, many people want a change. The economy on which Gordon Brown staked his reputation as Chancellor has nosedived on his watch as Prime Minister.

It’s true that Labour can’t be singled out for blame for the recession. Its underlying causes stem from the very nature of capitalist economies and their tendency to boom and bust. However having boasted of ‘no more boom and bust’, Brown certainly has egg on his face.

Labour’s only serious rivals are David Cameron’s Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats largely exist to persuade voters the British system offers more meaningful choice than the US two-party system, while fringe parties like the Greens and the BNP function as a protest vote for left and right respectively. So what do the Tories have to offer?

Many commentators have remarked that David Cameron seems to have modelled himself on a young Tony Blair, and much like Blair’s New Labour project the Tories are like all opposition parties promoting themselves as the party of change. However on the face of it there is little between the two main parties.

Gone are the days when there was at least a semblance of ideological difference between parties. We now have ‘post-political politics’, where parties compete how best to manage the society which is taken as the natural order of things. Consequently, an economic crisis stemming from a very specific growth-driven, profit-led system and deregulated banking has been treated as a natural disaster.

Thus the main spats between Labour and Conservatives have centred on the technicalities of when and not if to take the axe to public services, impose pay freezes and cut benefits for the unemployed and vulnerable. Groups of economists have publicly lined up behind each party, and so the election becomes a ‘choice’ between whether we want massive cuts or… massive cuts, a few months later.

Labour’s position is that the cuts must be gradual but severe, with public expenditure cut by up to 13% over three years. This they argue is necessary so that the supposed economic recovery can continue. However the Tories say this is too slow. While agreeing on the extent of the cuts, they say government spending must be slashed sooner so as to avoid a Greek-style debt crisis.

But what is taken for granted by both parties is more revealing than where they differ. Both parties assert that the economy is recovering. But while bankers' bonuses have already returned in all their six-figure glory, most those workers thrown out of work by the recession are still scraping by on £64/week dole and home repossessions have reached record levels.

Both parties assert that cuts to public services, wages and benefits are inevitable. But it’s conveniently forgotten that the rich-poor divide has been growing for decades and that in Britain today the richest 5% of the population own 60% of the wealth. The real choices are those we won’t be allowed to make at the ballot box. Whoever gets in, the result is already in: ordinary people will be made to pay for a crisis we didn’t create.

With so little real choice on offer at the ballot box, is it any surprise that election turnout continues to fall? The independent Power Inquiry notes “widely shared concern over declining electoral turnout” and seeks “to reverse the trend.” But workers have already been bypassing the political process altogether. A string of strikes and occupations have successfully fought pay cuts and improved redundancy terms, and there looks to be more of the same on the horizon.

Judging by Labour’s remarkable achievement of creating over 4,000 new laws in their time in office, perhaps there’s truth in the cynic’s saying that ‘if voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.’

Article taken from the Spring 2010 issue of Catalyst, the free newspaper of the Solidarity Federation.

Posted By

Joseph Kay
Apr 12 2010 15:36


Attached files


Yorkie Bar
Apr 17 2010 14:42
Labour’s only serious rivals are David Cameron’s Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats largely exist to persuade voters the British system offers more meaningful choice than the US two-party system,

How true is this, really? While it's pretty likely that the Lib Dems are going to come out trailing far behind the Tories and Labour, they will probably end up in government in the likely event of a hung parliament.

Of course, the Lib Dems have nothing to offer the working class either, and are just as keen to take the axe to public services - but given their posturing as 'the real alternative' and their apparent upswing in popularity, they need to be dealt with a bit more thoroughly than they have been in this article.

Other than that, good piece.


Yorkie Bar
Apr 17 2010 19:22
FB wrote:
I honestly find it hard to see the Lib Dems as a serious political entity even if they did well on TV this week.

That's not really my point - the idea of this piece (if I've got it right) is to disabuse workers of the idea that voting for a politician, of any stripe, will really change anything. Whether the Lib Dems are "a serious political entity" or not, given that about one in five workers (apparently) reckon they have the right ideas, it's worth making the effort to explain why they are not a better option than Labour or the Tories.

And actually, while the Lib Dems are certainly a minor political player, they do have a role in politics beyond lending credibility to the electoral system by acting as a third party. In the event of a hung parliament it'll be up to the Lib Dems to decide whether we get a Tory government or a Labour one. It's all pretty irrelevant anyway, but it doesn't look good when you're saying "oh, they're only a protest vote, they'll never get in" when actually there's a good chance they will, if only through shameless horse-trading.


Apr 17 2010 21:22

I think it's important to analyze particular parties for their shittiness, at least superficially, otherwise you might come off as dogmatic.

Apr 18 2010 15:43

"I honestly find it hard to see the Lib Dems as a serious political entity" - I see your point here, but it is ever so slightly ironic when you consider the size of the class struggle anarchist organisations. tongue

Apr 26 2010 09:56

Would preventing others from voting be proper direct action in boycotting our faux-democracy, or a similar oppressive action as the electoral system in the first place?

Apr 26 2010 11:43


"Labour’s only serious rivals are David Cameron’s Conservatives" is true, because there aren't enough swing seats for the Lib Dems to form a government. The best they can possibly do is become the receiving partner in a LibLab coalition government.

Unfortunately, the only way to get Labour out of government is a massive swing to the tories and an overall win for the Cameron government, or a very significant swing to the tories and a LibCon coalition.

Apr 26 2010 12:03

I listened to a couple of podcasts about the English election at work on Sunday morning. The comentators seemed to be getting really excited about Nick Clegg. In a way it reminded me of when Sky first got the football, and there was live football every week on TV, which for younger readers used to be limited to the FA cup final and internationals. The Sky presenters hyped up ever match as if it were a classic. Unfortunately, they all weren't. Football tends to be like that. Football fans aren't stupid though and we all knew before hand that there are lots of turgid matchs along with the classics.

It is the same impresion I get with all the talk about this election. It seems like the pundits are trying to excite people about the political equivilant of Wolves Vs. Portsmouth on a wet weekday evening. Before the TV debates they were talking about a turn out of just over 40%.

Do people believe that all of this hype will drag more people to the polls?


Apr 26 2010 12:19

Ok then, here are my predictions for what they are worth. I think Labour will win the most seats followed by the Tories with the LibDems in third place. After the election Labour will form a coalition with the aliberals with Brown as PM. I don't think the popular vote really matters. To continue the football analogy, you win matches by scoring more goals than the other team, not by having more 'shots on target'.

Of course, if I am completly wrong I will blame the fact that I live in another continent.


Apr 26 2010 14:07
Normally, I'd agree about the popular vote, as it's never been a factor in the past, but whileIt might just be electioneering (and I have no faith in his principles to stick by what he says!) but Clegg is pretty emphatic that they won't "prop up" any party who doesn't win the popular vote.

I think that actually this statement is going to come back to haunt him. I have read what he actually said and he was saying that he wouldn't support a third placed labour party. Nevertheless labour will hammer him on this and the line will be "a vote for Nick is a vote for the Tories".

Also, given that they have campaigned on Labour being an utter failure and there needing to be a radical change - while Labour are more natural allies to Lib Dems - that being seen as propping up a failed regime would be medium-term political suicide.

I don't think that propping up the Tories offers him much either.

Also, I think that any increase in turn-out obviously favours Labour.


Apr 26 2010 18:51
Would preventing others from voting be proper direct action in boycotting our faux-democracy, or a similar oppressive action as the electoral system in the first place?

Arguing to other people that they shouldn't vote is fine (and what we're already doing), trying to physically stop other people from would be massively counter-productive. The problem isn't the act of voting itself, but the mentality that allows government to continue, and stopping other people from being able to vote wouldn't challenge that mentality, it'd just piss them off.

Apr 28 2010 16:43

"Also, I think that any increase in turn-out obviously favours Labour."


Apr 28 2010 19:10

In recent elections in France the turn out in some working class areas was down to about 30%. This is what the bourgeoisie are concerned about and the Clegg phenomenon seems - its difficult to see beyond the hype - to have generated greater interest. The campaign is overwhelming in Britain.
I remember reading some time ago that the election result in Britain was predicated on some one hundred thousand votes in key seats. Has anyone seen anything about this?

May 10 2010 17:33

exactly, Clegg-mania was always going to collapse once people got to the ballot box and realised we have a first past the post system.

Yorkie Bar
May 10 2010 20:44

What surprises me is Cameron coming out with this referendum offer - seems like a wholly unwarranted concession from his point of view. It's not like he really needs the Lib Dems all that badly, surely?

May 11 2010 06:37

Yes but many politicians are egomaniacial and power hungry.

Yorkie Bar
May 11 2010 15:56

I think he could have got the Lib Dems on side without it, though - he's pretty much the only show in town, they don't really have any other options.

My guess would be that he sweetened the deal to try and help Nick Clegg get the coalition past the membership.

May 11 2010 16:29

J, without something the Lib Dems could have teamed up with Labour

Yorkie Bar
May 11 2010 16:55

That would never have been viable, surely? Even between them they don't have a majority, and that coalition would be so obviously illegitimate that it would be hugely unpopular. That's why half the labour party started mouthing off during the talks, because it was so obviously going to kill their party if they tried to pull it off.

Mike Harman
May 11 2010 17:37

Yeah a labour/lib dem coalition you can see lasting a few months, being unmanageable as a minority, then the tories getting a full majority in a new general election within 12-18 months and staying in for ages.

Tory/lib dem could still get rocky if lib dem back benchers leave or misbehave, and then Labour with a new leader might even get back in if there was an election in 2-4 years, after which the worst of the austerity measure have already been fought and implemented, people who voted for the lib dems because they hate the tories but couldn't stomach voting for Labour switch back again, etc. etc. Lib Dems might even split or have defections to labour as well, at least if it's a proper coalition as opposed to just an agreement.

Glad I'm not the only person with guilty-pleasure election watching issues...

Yorkie Bar
May 11 2010 18:18

Yeah, the spectacle of political power is pretty entertaining.

Of course, the *real* reasons why the Lib-Con pact is going through were summarised quite succinctly in a recent Blog post on the Times-

Martin Waller, of our business desk, reports: "Sterling jumped almost a cent to $1.4888 against the dollar, up from a level of $1.4800 when the markets opened (on the back of good industrial production figures).

"It then soared later in the day as signs of a political agreement between the Tories and Lib Dems emerged, ending the day at a session high of $1.5001. The euro fell 1.5 per cent.

Chris Redfern, a dealer at Moneycorp, the foreign exchange provider, said as the market closed: 'We are currently looking at three possibilities: talks of a Lib-Lab coalition might be over, the Conservatives and Liberals might be announcing a partnership and Gordon Brown might be officially stepping down tonight.

"'We saw sterling gain 1 cent against the dollar as Labour sources reported that talks between the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats had broken down.'"