Don’t Confuse Voting With Politics

swpOn a recent anti-austerity rally in Norwich some of the protesters had posters saying ‘Get The Tories Out!’. It was good in one way – many of the people passing stopped and asked why we were calling to ‘get them out’ when we had just voted to ‘get them in’. I totally agreed with them so it lead to some good conversations.

On the other hand I had many disagreements many people, both before and after the election, who did not like my criticism of the Labour party.

To me this shows a widely misheld conception on how politics works. It is has very little to do with the muppet show in Parliament.

We can make change without going through the ‘political process’. For example many improvements in working conditions and wages have been won through strike action. Campaigns against retailers who exploit labour in developing countries has some effect in improving conditions for the workers1. Such campaigns may only have limited effect, but this is not because the tactic is necessarily wrong but because there are not enough people involved. By the way I am not supporting any particular campaign or saying this is what people should do – it is just an example.

When it comes to the government it is important to think about how various policies come about. It is not that politicians sit around and think ‘wouldn’t it be nice if…’. Often the policies come from various lobbying groups or through media campaigns of large corporations and other vested interests – which is why things are often changed in the interest of the rich and powerful rather than the ‘99%’.

They Are Frightened Of Us

However the biggest fear of the rich and powerful is not some outside threat – be it Russia or Nazi Germany – but their own people. For example:

  • It was the Tories that actually scrapped the Poll Tax after the British public refused to accept it. We did not have to wait until the election and ‘hope’ that Labour would reverse the unpopular tax.
  • It was the Tories who brought in universal votes for women in 1928 (although votes for propertied women over 30 was brought in by the Liberals in 1918).
  • The Labour Party won the election in 1945 and were the party that brought in the NHS and other welfare reforms. However, every major party had the establishment of the NHS in their manifestos2.

Voting Can Change Things

If and only if, we make enough fuss then a political party may promise to do something about it in their manifesto. If we are really lucky they may even stick to their promise. For example the Labour Party’s policy on zero hour contracts or non-domicile tax concessions. If they were really committed to it they could have done something about it when they were in power. However, it is better than nothing even if it was in an attempt to grab a couple of more votes.

However, the Labour Party listens more to the rich and powerful than the interest of most people. Remember that it was the Labour Party who instigated the recent round of cuts and austerity and were promising to implement cuts deeper than Margaret Thatcher in the 2010 election3. Tory chancellor George Osborne only continued and increased the same policy. In the recent election Labour were also promising yet more cuts4.

In the recent election the Labour Party could have hammered the Tories on the economyand austerity. Was it because they were scared of Cameron or (more likely) they were scared of the rich and powerful and the media that they control?


1 For example Labour Behind the Label (http://www.labourbehindthelabel.org/)

2 See the manifestos:
Conservative: (http://www.politicsresources.net/area/uk/man/con45.htm)
Labour: (http://www.politicsresources.net/area/uk/man/lab45.htm)
Liberal: (http://www.politicsresources.net/area/uk/man/lib45.htm)

3 Alistair Darling: we will cut deeper than Margaret Thatcher, The Guardian March 2010, (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2010/mar/25/alistair-darling-cut-deeper-margaret-thatcher)

4 Ed Balls forced to admit Labour could cut £5billion in first year of Government, The Telegraph, January 2015 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/11326446/Ed-Balls-forced-to-admit-Labour-could-cut-5billion-in-first-year-of-Government.html)

5 How can Labour say it didn’t crash the economy, Simon Wren-Lewis, 4 April 2015 (http://mainlymacro.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/how-can-labour-say-it-didnt-crash.html)

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