Little men, what now?


So, it was "no" after all. It wasn't a surprise, although it was a disappointment. And the post-mortems begin now, with the media busy asking "what now for the Left?".

On the face of it, a good question. But the question we should be asking is "what now for the Right?". It's not being asked by anyone and attempts to ask the question directly to the Tories in the aftermath of the elections and referendum have been answered with one line: "it's a major defeat for Labour". They've said this so often that even the left-wing press have bought this lie. The BBC, trying so hard to be neutral that it tipped over into being anti-AV, have also bought the lie; as the AV result came in, a stupid (but sadly off-camera so I don't know who she was) BBC reporter poked a microphone at Ed Miliband and said "You've staked your reputation on this result, haven't you?". Well, the Tories have been saying that – Ed hasn't. He never staked his reputation on it. But the BBC have bought the lie.

Make no mistake, Labour could have done better at the elections – but only if the Tories had done worse. The collapse of the Liberal vote benefited the SNP in Scotland (Labour's share held, but the swing from the Liberals to the Nats overwhelmed them); it benefited Labour in Wales and the north of England; and it benefited the Tories in the south of England. This is all pretty normal and is exactly what happened when voters deserted the SDP/Liberal Alliance during the damaging and protracted merger negotiations of the late 1980s.

We don't really need to worry about Labour – they're holding their own, given it's just over a year since they lost power nationally (it took them 18 years to be in this position last time; it took the Tories 13; a year and 'holding your own'? Not bad at all). We do need to worry about the Tories: the collapse of the Liberal vote and their victory in the AV referendum has convinced them they have a mandate for what they plan to do next. The Liberals, in disarray, won't be willing or able to stop them, either.

So, what's next for the right? Well, first up, AV is gone, but the other half of the Act is still there and in law – the gerrymandering of the constituencies. On the face of it, making all constituencies equal sounds a very good idea. In practice, it's impossible as natural boundaries prevent it. The way round that is to ignore the natural boundaries, creating weird constituencies with nothing in common, like the proposed Mersey Riverside cross-river constituency taking in areas of Wallasey and Liverpool, two towns that hate each other. To make this work, the Boundary Commission has been told to stop the in-depth, neutral public enquiries it makes and to start rubber-stamping constituencies with equal electorates as proposed by the local parties. The party with the strongest local organisation will get to choose. And that party is always the Conservative Party. This means that, barring a miracle, the Tories will win the next election.

Next is the long-promised reform of local government (an unrepresentative mess) and the House of Lords (ditto). This is being presented as the Tories' gift to Nick Clegg, something for him to do to while away the long, long hours alone in his office. The problem is that most of the Tories are perfectly happy with local government and the Lords, especially since Cameron flooded the upper chamber with Tory peers last year. Already, the Taxpayers' Alliance-run NO2AV campaign have said that the "no" vote is not only "a ringing endorsement of First Past The Post" (it isn't) but also the vote was "a rejection of Lords and local government reform" (how could it possibly be?). Reform simply isn't going to happen.

Then, the Right owe Rupert Murdoch a favour. He has been allowed to takeover BSkyB, creating a media monolith that will be competition-proof. After the next election, the BBC is doomed (so the sucking-up to the present government was pointless, Mr Thompson), as another favour to Cameron's preferred Christmas dining partner.

Often mooted in private is a cherished Tory goal of further trades union 'reform'. The plan, so far as it has spread outside of the pages of the Sunday Telegraph, is throw so many hurdles in the way of any strike – principally by making it punishingly expensive for the union involved – as to make them impossible. Couple that with a rollback of working conditions improvements, a hold on the minimum wage (plus new exemptions for any industry that calls for them loudly enough) and a drastic cutback in the workplace powers of the Health and Safety Executive and we're soon to lose most of our rights as workers.

Finally, there will be a slow drift back to the regressive, repressive social legislation of the 1980s. Already the Tories have let Nadine "Nutjub" Dorries test the water with a Ten Minute Rule Bill designed to stop girls getting useful sex education and instead be taught to keep their knickers on. This is the start of something; whilst pressure groups have been seeking to make sex education inclusive of gay and lesbian interests (coz, like, we're born gay, we don't develop it like back acne in our late teens), the Tories are looking at cutting it back. They've accepted that we shouldn't see same-sex kisses before the watershed. We have bigoted 'faith' schools decrying homosexuality to their impressionable charges and a growing trend of young gay people killing themselves. These things are all inter-related. And the Right is seeking to make it worse.

This is a centre-left country. We've been a centre-left country since the Second World War. The British people have always been fundamentally 'conservative' when it comes to public social matters, but they've started getting more liberal – indeed libertarian – over the past 15 years. The Brits have a sense of fair play and like seeing that everyone gets an equal go. This is what the Tories want to change, not least so that everyone will properly know their place.

This is what the Right will do next. And what will you do to stop it?

One comment

  1. There is nothing we can do to stop it. Even thinking about it is a complete waste of time and energy. We do not live in a democracy.

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