Sunday, May 06, 2012

Anti-Austerity Feeling Wins Pale Reflection In UK Local Elections

Nick Clegg's Lib Dems face possible extinction after another electoral drubbing
The Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties of the United Kingdom coalition government won just 47% of the vote between them at Thursday's local elections, losing a total of thirteen councils and seven hundred and forty one councillors. On a turnout of less than a third, it could be said that a mere 16% of the electorate explicitly backed the austerity agenda.

The Friday Guardian editorial found itself at a loss to explain how "Twelve years ago, however, when the local polls last sank to this level of turnout, the economy was booming and New Labour commanded the scene unchallenged". Whereas "Now, the economy is in recession for the second time in three years and times are hard. There is much to complain about[...]Yet more than two-thirds of voters decided not to take part."

What the Guardian cannot say, of course, is that the political class is despised by wide layers of the population. This is nothing to do with them merely being "fed up", as the paper mildly put it. On the contrary, many seethe with anger at the current, rapidly decaying state of official politics, but can see little to no difference between three main parties committed to enriching the already filthy rich, and attacking the poorest.

In the absence of any established alternative, much of the 'protest vote' undeservedly went to Labour - a party equally tied to the elite, and who on a local level are equally responsible for imposing the cuts demanded by international finance. But even then, they only managed to bring in the votes of 12% of the electorate - a miserable total for any historically significant political party.

Despite the hopes that some aliied to the trade union bureaucracy nursed following George Galloway's March by-election victory, there was little movement to the nominally anti-cuts candidates. Galloway's Respect made some headway in Bradford, but it seems likely his own celebrity was the leverage needed to get his candidates an audience. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition picked up a couple of seats, and their average share of the vote was enough to keep their deposits. Overall however, Labour voters failed to abandon the party in large enough numbers for TUSC to make much headway.

As for the Greens, they made modest gains, winning 34 seats - an increase of eleven. Again, the Greens are largely seen as an 'anti-cuts' protest party, despite the fact that they are implementing huge cuts in Brighton and Hove - the only council they control.

It seems many Conservative voters switched allegiance to the euro-sceptic United Kingdom Independence Party. This reflects tensions in the Eurozone, and anger over continued UK contributions to bailout funds for bankers based on the continent, rather than the City of London. In the wake of this, many media commentators have called for Prime Minister David Cameron to discipline his traditionally more Europhile coalition partners.

The total electoral wipeout of the British National Party and other neo-fascist groupings was certainly something to cheer. However, the collapse of their suited dreams will mean some elements may see themselves as have nothing to lose, and may well throw in their lot with the booted English/Scottish/Welsh Defence Leagues, Infidels, and Casuals.

In London, foppish Tory toff Boris Johnson decisively beat Labour's so-called 'left' Ken Livingstone, with a majority only slightly smaller than in 2008. While some of Livingstone's supporters berated 'stupid' Londoners for his defeat on social networks, the numbers demonstrate that Johnson is far more popular than his own party, and Livingstone is far less popular than his. In the final analysis, Livingstone lost because Londoners have already have eight years of him between 2000 and 2008, and he did nothing to live up to the 'Red Ken' label in that time. With Livingstone having been handily rejected four years ago, it was something of an insult for Labour to put him up again.

Ultimately, these elections will change little more than the personnel implementing austerity. Despite the massive anti-austerity, anti-elite sentiment in the general population, the overwhelming majority of the 2012 intake from all parties will do their best to cut working class living standards in their respective areas.
Post a Comment

Disqus for Infantile Disorder