I’m now at the “oh God why did I ever think this was a good idea” stage in the house flitting process, and am sitting here surrounded by packing cases and piles of assorted stuff all over the floor, under which – somewhere – is hiding a roll of parcel tape. It’s hiding on purpose, because it’s malevolent. The guy in Gordon’s Supplies, Lies and Trussing shop where I bought it swore blind that it was really good and would do exactly what I wanted, so it was only my own fault for believing a vow. See when someone tells you it’s a done deal, it means you’ve been done.
So what with arguing with recalcitrant packing tape, choosing wallpaper, spending hours on the phone to the electricity company, and packing stuff away – I’ve not really been keeping abreast of political developments of late or had much time to update the blog. But you don’t need to pay close attention to realise just how much trouble all three of the main Westminster parties are in. It’s a bit like watching an overhyped boxer fighting to the death with a plastic spatula, and the spatula is winning.
The simultaneous descent of all three main parties into direpute is quite a remarkable achievement in a First Past the Post electoral system where distaste for one party generally results in strengthening one of the others. But that’s just how rubbish our current crop of party leaders are – they’ve even broken a political system that was designed so that one or other of them would be in power for perpetuity, with or without the occasional Lib Dem dangleberry – they cling on so persistently. And it’s all the more remarkable when you consider that this is a system that was set up to cope with chinless wonders with stiff upper lips who never needed a spoon because they were already born with silver ones preinstalled in their gobs.
The Lib Dem conference was still going on for most of the week, although no one noticed. I think it was still going on yesterday, but like 99.99% of the population I couldn’t be bothered to find out. The remaining 0.01% is related to a Lib Dem MP and hears about it whether they like it or not. Usually not.
Meanwhile the realisation is dawning within the upper reaches of the British Labour hierarchy that in Ed Miliband they really did pick a plasticene Wallace as party leader but Ed Balls comes nowhere close to Grommit the dog in competence or likeability. With opinion poll ratings showing that Labour has thrown away its previous lead in the polls, it’s looking highly unlikely that the party will become the largest party in the next parliament, never mind the government.
The Tories on the other hand had a “good” conference. “Good” in this instance being defined as tearing up the European Human Rights treaty, tax cuts for the better off, putting a great big English votes for English laws fly in the devolution jam, and sawing off the legs of people on benefits so that golf club members in Surrey can run them down in a golf cart. This has made the Tories more popular with people who have Death Race 2000 on DVD and aspire to the membership of golf clubs in Surrey.
However the Tory feel good bounce, achieved by using a disabled person as a springboard, has been splattered due to a by-election in the previously Tory seat of Clacton which fell to UKIP and give the purple faced right wing populists their first directly elected MP. Douglas Carswell won with an embarrassingly large 60% of all votes cast. It was one of the biggest swings to any party since in decades. Nigel Farage, who permanently wears the smug expression of a late developer who has just discovered masturbation and thinks he’s got a special secret no one else knows, is going to have to buy in a bulk order of paper towels from the cash and carry.
Tory rumblings of discontent with Davie’s leadership were already rumbling before Clacton. Now the pressure on the Tories to tack even further to the right is going to be intense, and we can expect a lot more in the way of “fairness for England” as an excuse to delay Scottish devolution, and hyping up the anti-Europe rhetoric.
Labour’s woes have also taken on a deep purplish hue. The other by-election on Thursday was in the Heywood and Middleton constituency in Manchester. It was supposedly a safe Labour seat, as recently as 2001 Labour took 57.7% of all votes cast. But UKIP came within a tickle of making Nigel have to go and get a new supply of tissues again, and reduced Labour’s majority to just 617. A whole swathe of Labour seats in England suddenly became as vulnerable as a baw hair in a Brazilian waxing salon. There’s those plastic spatulas again. Turn out was a pathetically low 36%. There’s no apathy like British Labour engendered apathy. It’s one of the few things they’re very good at.
Although Labour held on to the seat, in some ways the result in Heywood was worse for them. In Clacton Douglas Carswell was the sitting MP before he switched to UKIP. He was, apparently, popular locally. I know. Go figure. No I don’t get it either, but there ye go. He had an established presence in the seat. Like one of those dents on your favourite chair that’s shaped itself into the perfect shape of your bum. In Clacton Carswell was the right arse. But in Heywood UKIP came from nowhere, and almost succeeded in planking their arse very firmly on a sofa that Labour has always thought it was its divine right to get on expenses from John Lewis.
Meanwhile in Scotland, British Labour is in a whole different set of bother. Those of you who voted Yes can go “muwahahahaha” at this juncture, like an evil supervillain. Go on, you know you want to. I’ve been practising my special “told you so” smug look.
The Lib Dems avoided humiliation, but only by securing the sole rights to ignominy, disgrace, and mortification. And made a strong bid for ridicule too, but were only saved by there being so much ridicule to go around these days. In Clacton they managed a paltry 483 votes, and a lost deposit of £500. They would have been better off bribing 483 voters a quid each and then they’d still have had enough left over for a curry.
UKIP have now proven that they can take votes from both Labour and the Tories, and the Lib Dems have been consigned to oblivion. They’ve done this because of rather than despite of the fact that they have no policies besides getting out of Europe, kicking Scotland, and hating immigrants. They’re the party for people who hate politicians, but who don’t have any real consensus yet on what they want to do about it.
That’s where Scotland is way ahead of the game. There is a whole ferment of ideas and new projects amongst the 45. Scotland is slowly reaching towards a new consensus on how this country should be governed, and who it should be governed for. They look to what’s happening down south, and many of those who voted No are now having “oh God why did I ever think this was a good idea” moments of their own.
We’re in for some very choppy waters along the way, but the current weak and discredited condition of the parties and institutions of the UK means that an organised mass movement can gain huge concessions. And we’ve had a two year long education in organising ourselves.
Sorry there have not been as many new posts of late, but until the flitting is done and dusted updates and new entries are going to be a bit erratic.