For those of us on the left, it’s been a rather disheartening week to say the least. As with many other parts of the country, my local council has now turned a rather nasty shade of blue. As a result, I have now taken to my bed with a large bottle of something strong...
I could be there for quite a while.
Even though the local election results this week were not exactly unexpected, the sheer volume of the Tory swing has been nothing less than devastating to Labour; and coupled with the election of Boris Johnson as Mayor of London, it is going to be increasingly hard to see or imagine just how Gordon Brown can recover in time for the next general election.
In trying to come to terms with this huge shift in public opinion, it only makes matters worse to hear various Labour ministers being trotted out to remind us all that it was not only a ‘very bad night’ for Labour, and that in future they were going to ‘listen more’ to the public.
Time is fast running out for a government already in freefall, and yet they don’t seem to have grasped the basic problem – the fact that due to unpopular government policy and general ineptitude they are losing their core support in the country – those traditional Labour voters who feel so betrayed that they feel compelled to transfer their support. It could be argued that in some cases this was a mid-term protest vote, and that these voters will revert back to their normal voting patterns come the general election. However, it seems more likely that unless drastic action is taken, then these key votes will be lost for the foreseeable future.
There can be no doubt that there are people in this country today who feel betrayed, financially insecure and let down; and one shouldn’t under-estimate the ramifications of long-term Labour voters switching their votes to other parties.
Since 1997, the move by Labour to the centre ground and the attempts to woo Tory voters has left traditional Labour voters wondering where the hell their party has gone to. Regardless of Browns other blunders, the decision to play politics with Cameron and Osbourne, and a misguided attempt to attract floating Tory votes has been a amazing miscalculation; just how many low / middle income, working class voters are ever going to be in the position to worry about the inheritance tax threshold? You ignore your bread and butter support at your peril – the government has been foolish enough to do this, and as a result may well pay the ultimate price in two years time – a return to opposition.
Another, far more worrying result of the shift in support has been the growing support for the far right BNP. Just a few miles north of Worcestershire, (where I live), in Birmingham and the West Midlands, the BNP fielded candidates in many of the contested areas. Upon reading the areas election results, I was shocked and depressed to discover the amount of votes recorded on Thursday. Even though the amount of actual seats won was minimal, in may cases they managed to finish in the top three – more often then not at the expense of the
Lib Dems. This is a very worrying trend, and one that seems to be reverberating throughout various parts of the country. One only has to look the London Assembly elections, where Richard Barnbrook, an odious little fascist, now has a seat. He also managed to attract 69,710 votes in the Mayoral election.
So, where in the community are the BNP gaining this support? With all the will in the world, it would be a far cry to change the disgusting views of the BNP hard core support. What we need to address are those people, possibly supporters of the other three main parties who have perhaps voted BNP for the first time. This takes me back to an earlier point – these are the people who feel so disenfranchised with mainstream politics, that they felt the need to look toward the BNP. As so often seems to be the case at the moment, immigration is obviously key issue to these voters – and from here on in the government and other main parties need to be exlplicitly clear about policy going forward. The debate has for too long now been hijacked by the tabloid and right-wing media – ramped up stories being drip-fed to angry people who are only too ready to accept these stories.
There can be no doubt that the three main parties, both on a local and national level, must now work together to address this problem, by doing all they can to stem the tide of discontent, therefore brining these voters back from the brink. The situation is clear – if those of us in the majority fail to do all that we possibly can to fight the rise of the fascist right, (however slow it might seem); then they will continue their insidious rise in our local communities. Our main parties must now do all they can to counteract the policies and views put forward by the BNP, in the hope of reducing their support. This can only be achieved through honest and open debate, without the need for short-sighted groups and individuals to hard back to the gisgraceful words of Enoch Powell forty years ago.