Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

Archive for June, 2015|Monthly archive page

CLARION ONLINE SPECIAL – LABOUR LEADERSHIP: the Corbyn Question

In A.Graham, C. Mickleson, C.Spiby, Editorial, O. Adams, T. Chinnick on June 25, 2015 at 1:06 pm

The appearance of left-winger Jeremy Corbyn on the ballot paper for the Leadership of the Labour Party has caused quite a stir. Even our own Editorial Committee at the Clarion cannot agree on a single line of support. But Corbyn presents a unique opportunity at a unique juncture in the history of the modern Labour Party.

Alistair Graham, Editor-in-Chief at the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley Clarion offered the opening shot with his report:

“Suddenly, the contest for the Labour leadership has become more interesting.  With other contenders for the position staking out their positions to the right of centre (even Andy Burnham, it would seem!), we now have a genuine left-wing candidate for leadership. Jeremy Corbyn.

For most of us on the Clarion, Corbyn seems to tick the right boxes. For the record, he’s been MP for Islington North since 1983. He’s a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, and is an active supporter of CND. He also supports animal rights and was a tireless anti-apartheid campaigner. He’s been an active trade unionist – and in his favour, too, is the fact that he’s got the record for submitting the lowest expenses of any MP.

So, what’s not to support?  Well, there’s that hoary old chestnut, the argument that he can’t win the leadership anyway.  A vote for Corbyn would be a wasted vote. Another argument claims that if he did win, it would make Labour “unelectable”. The Socialist message, it seems, does not attract the electorate.  So we have to compromise our own commitments and “play it safe”.  There are also those on the left, but not in the Labour Party, who might argue that it’s all irrelevant anyway.  We need a broad-based, anti-austerity, anti-Tory, coalition to build a campaign to oppose the atrocities committed by the Cameron-Osborne government.

Certainly we need such a campaign, and hopefully the Clarion would be part of it. But wouldn’t it have more impact if it was also backed by the Labour Party and its leader? After all, at the end of the day, if we’re to defeat the Tories it will be at the ballot box. And the only alternative Government under our present voting system would be Labour. Surely we need a government that can phase out “austerity”, re-build the fractured NHS, give us the kind of education that our children (and their parents) deserve, as well as boosting welfare to the levels where it can serve society adequately. If so, we need a Labour government that can act with conviction.

A final thought – those who see themselves as on the left wing of Labour should back their convictions. A sizeable vote for Corbyn would send a message through the Party that the membership wants change. And if Labour has a future in serving the people, change may well be necessary.”

But Forest Anarchist and HOOF secretary, Owen Adams disagrees:

“…while Corbyn might be the nicest, soundest person in the world, he is a lone voice in a party that as a machine supports neoliberalism, refuses to acknowledge or apologise for unleashing massive instability and mass murder on the world from its Iraq misadventure, and is ultimately concerned with “winning” in a rigged parliamentary system no matter what it has to do. I’ve already heard people saying “Oh Corbyn would make Labour unelectable” – which to me sums up why Labour is redundant as a force for positive social change and anything approaching socialism.

All this is a major diversion for what should be going on – mass direct action using whatever means necessary against this massive theft of our public resources by the ruling class. We’re wasting far too much energy looking for a figurehead and flogging the dead horse that is Labour and parliamentary (so-called but not) democracy.

Some people in Cheltenham and Gloucester have formed a non-politically affiliated group called Anti-Austerity Gloucestershire and we’re trying to get off the ground a fighting fund so we can print leaflets – the leaflets will include a hotline number for anyone immediately facing eviction, and the idea is that there is also a telephone tree for people to turn up to block bailiffs. That’s the kind of activity that I would rather focus my energy on, not pursue a long-faded dream of a party that cares a jot about the working class. Of course, I hope Corbynites will also participate!”

Labour member and activist from Monmouth, Tyler Chinnick argues…

“My view is the one derided and mischaracterised by Owen.  I won’t bother refuting the nonsense about Iraq or neo-liberalism but I will say that our ideals are worth absolutely nothing if we are not in a position to implement policy.  For that reason I do not support Jeremy Corbyn because although he is closest to my own views he has no chance of winning.  Labour is redundant as a force for ‘positive social change’ if it is not in power.  Winning elections and becoming the government is what political parties are for.  (According to Owen the very raison d’etre of all political parties makes them illegitimate.)  Also the fact that we have an electoral system Owen disproves of does not make it ‘rigged’.  Our best option in terms of parliamentary politics is to support a candidate who combines left values with the level of pragmatism necessary to win.  So far the candidate who best fulfils this brief is Andy Burnham.

It makes sense that The Clarion should back Corbyn since his politics are closest to our mission statement.  It’s clear though that mine and Owen’s positions are irreconcilable so perhaps the editorial line should reflect the fact that we all share his politics, feel kindly disposed towards him personally and are glad he is on the ballot but that we differ on whether he should be supported or not.”

Clarion Left Inside columnist and the Agent for the Forest’s own Parliamentary candidate for Labour (Steve Parry-Hearn), Carl Spiby added:

“Clarion readers will have read in my column previously that I was of the opinion that Labour had more chance under Andy Burnham than Ed Miliband. But now, since our defeat, Burnham has wandered rightwards chasing votes for the win whatever the cost to Labour principles. I will vote for Corbyn as he is the articulation of everything the Clarion has stood for; of everything we tried to achieve in Steve Parry-Hearn’s campaign; and he stands for what most of the Labour members I know joined Labour for.

But I have also argued that compromise is important too. And it is. That view is still a valid one. And yet here is an opportunity to really see if socialism in our time can win in modern Britain. I doubt if we’ll get another chance – not for a generation at least.”

The Clarion welcomes your views, either via e-mail or on our Facebook page. We even still enjoy a good letter on paper.

OTHER REPORTAGE

HEALTH WATCH: OPEN ALL HOURS?

Cameron’s latest wheeze to try to persuade us that he really cares about the NHS is a scheme to get surgeries throughout England to provide a seven-day a week service for their patients.

Local surgeries are usually the first port of call for those suffering from health problems. They are in the front line, and it’s vital that they can function efficiently.

With surgeries already over-stretched and GPs over-worked, it’s difficult to see how Cameron’s plan can be achieved. It has all the signs of having been scribbled hurriedly on the back of an envelope. Or perhaps thought up in the shower? But Cameron thinks he has the answer. He’s going to recruit 5,000 new doctors to plug the gap.  Or so he claims.

PIE IN THE SKY:

But those in the profession believe that this is just pie in the sky. Dr Chaand Nagpaul is the GP committee chairman of the British Medical Association, and he’s pointed out that the number of doctors working in surgeries is about to plummet as GPs seek to retire – or even look for more congenial work overseas. According to a recent BMA survey, one in three general practitioners intend on leaving within the next five years.

He’s claimed that the Tories are likely to “fail dismally” to fulfil their pledge to recruit 5,000 new doctors – which would have to be over and above those planning to quit the NHS.  “It’s absolutely pointless promising five thousand extra GPs within this Parliament if we lose 10,000 retiring in the same period,” he declared.

Other critics of the Cameron plan have also pointed to the folly of trying to foist it on an NHS that’s been starved of staff and resources.

FRAGMENTATION:

Meanwhile, the carve-up of the NHS continues. There’s been the continuing privatisation of services, and the announcement that Greater Manchester would gain control of its own health budget, under the supervision of an elected mayor – a move described by campaigner John Lister as “the balkanisation of the Service”. There was, of course, no consultation with the public, or those working within the NHS in Manchester. And they’re not exactly happy about it.

Meanwhile, there are siren voices who’ve come up with even more crazy ideas. Francis Maude, for example, would like to see hospitals “opt out” of the NHS and go it alone. Even worse, the US boss of NHS England is a great fan  of the American-style health insurance scheme, which is cash limited – thus leaving the patient  to  top it  up out of his/her own pocket if the cost of the treatment is greater than the insurance cover allows for.

With friends like that in the wings, what chance would the NHS have?

AG

Education Matters: “COLD TERROR”

In R.Richardson on June 25, 2015 at 12:33 pm

As the extent of the Conservative victory became evident, “cold terror” gripped Guardian correspondent Laura McInerny.  Looking at the education pledges in the Conservative manifesto she realised that they might be implemented in full, no longer tempered by input from the Liberal Democrats.

BULLET POINTS:

It’s quite easy – and instructive – to find the Tory Party manifesto on line. The portion dealing with education is fairly brief. What there is (not surprisingly) contrasts markedly with the manifesto brought out by the NUT, which I reviewed in the last issue. There are four main Tory policy points:

  1. Ensure a good primary school place for every child with zero tolerance for failure.
  2. Turn every failing and “coasting” school into an academy, and deliver free schools for parents and communities that want them.
  3. Develop maths, engineering, science and computing skills.
  4. Create three million new apprenticeships and ensure that there is no cap on university places, thus promoting aspiration for all.

The manifesto also sets out what makes a good school:

  • Great teachers
  • Brilliant leadership
  • Rigour in the curriculum
  • Discipline in the classroom
  • Proper exams.

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LISTEN TO TEACHERS:

In contrast, the NUT manifesto begins with “politicians should listen to parents and teachers”. There should be more time for teaching and less testing, “says the NUT. And the power of the local authority, severely compromised by the setting up of academies and free schools, should be restored.

“NUMB SHOCK”:

Laura Mcinerny is of the opinion that the first hundred days of the new Parliament, when Labour is in “numb shock” will be when the Tories will push through radical policies. Michael Gove got his Academies Bill passed less than a week after Labour’s last electoral defeat in 2010.  Although Gove’s replacement, Nicky Morgan, claims to be listening to teachers, she has shown no signs so far of addressing their concerns.

The Conservative manifesto has big gaps. There’s no attempt to tackle the issue of teacher shortage. 40 per cent of qualifying teachers leave within the first year, largely because of excessive workloads. Another factor affecting the problem is the higher than average number of five-year olds about to embark on their school life. With rising school numbers, it’s obvious that with the promised “freeze”, education funding will be inadequate. Indeed, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the “freeze” could amount to a cut in real terms of 12 per cent.

Another factor ignored by the Tories is that the additional costs that schools will face include not only the rise in pupil numbers but also increases in employee National Insurance contributions and pension costs.

At the NUT’s national conference a ballot was held on industrial action in the face of the cuts. It was passed overwhelmingly. A vote was also passed to hold talks with other unions on joint action.  Ian Murch of the NUT warned that a “night of the long knives” was approaching in every school and college as teaching and support staff are cut, as well as a reduction in subjects offered.

MORE FREE SCHOOLS:

The Conservatives have also pledged to open 500 more free schools in the life time of this Parliament. Early legislation is expected to set up a network of eight regional commissioners with powers to intervene in under-performing schools and turn them into academies. “Under-performing” includes schools that are deemed to be “coasting”, i.e. achieving good results but which should be doing better.  The drive is to compel 3,250 schools to become academies in the next five years. No consideration has been given to a Commons education select committee which said that it could detect no link between academisation and a rise in standards.

TESTING, FOR 4-YEAR OLDS:

Another controversial reform is baseline testing for 4-year-olds, which the NUT threatens to boycott. There will be a pilot scheme this September, and then the plan is to run it out nationwide next year.  An article in the Morning Star by Kevin Courtney, deputy General Secretary of the NUT, outlined why these tests are so wrong.

“What vision of education”, he asks, “underpins the idea that you can test a number of basic skills at 4 and use that as a base line to judge the value added by the education process at 7 and then at 11?”  Education is a collaborative process he points out, between teachers and children, where the children explore and attempt to understand the world

Another controversial reform is baseline testing for 4-year-olds, which the NUT threatens to boycott. There will be a pilot scheme this September, and then the plan is to run it out nationwide next year.  An article in the Morning Star by Kevin Courtney, deputy General Secretary of the NUT, outlined why these tests are so wrong.

“What vision of education”, he asks, “underpins the idea that you can test a number of basic skills at 4 and use that as a base line to judge the value added by the education process at 7 and then at 11?”  Education is a collaborative process he points out, between teachers and children, where the children explore and attempt to understand the world around them. There is a real danger that these tests may be used to predict individual children’s “expected progress” – in effect, covert selection whereby a child’s progress is prescribed.

Another adverse outcome will be the pressure on schools and teachers to perform – as has been demonstrated in SATS and other standardised tests. There is inevitably a narrowing of the curriculum and an excessive focus on what is measurable rather that what is important.

CAUSE FOR CONCERN:

On a number of counts, then, the Tory education manifesto gives grave cause for concern. It is difficult to be positive. But I have faith in the good will and dedication of teachers who, in spite of the strictures, do their best to inculcate a spirit of enquiry and excitement in the children they teach.

RUTH RICHARDSON

TV: “1864”- Danish drama, BBC4.

In John Wilmot on June 25, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Like many other viewers. I’ve become rather addicted to “Danish Noir” on the box – but this particular offering on BBC 4 was something a bit different. It looked at the background to the disastrous war between Denmark and Prussia over the disputed territory of Schleswich-Holstein to the south of the Danish mainland. The British Prime Minister at the time, Lord Palmerston, famously declared that only three men really understood what the conflict was all about – “the Prince Consort, who is dead, a German professor who’s gone mad, and I who’ve forgotten all about it.”

The film’s director suggests that it arose as a pernicious example of national hubris – the kind reflected in such phrases as “our manifest destiny”, or “God’s chosen people”. Denmark had chosen to go to war on a wave of nationalist fervour, to claim a victory that it was thought would have made Denmark great again.

Both sides it seems were unprepared for what was to come. A Danish army captain leads his detachment towards the front, only to die of old age as they head south. On the Prussian side, the General in charge is also in his dotage, buoyed up with memories of his part in the war against Napoleon some fifty years previously.  As he leads his men he can’t even remember who they are fighting against.

The central characters are two young brothers who are swept up in the country’s patriotic fervour, and volunteer for the conflict – leaving behind the girl that they both love.

They believe, like most others in Denmark, that they will sweep all before them and give the Prussians a bloody nose (a dissenting voice incidentally is shown in a cameo role for Hans Christian Anderson, who doesn’t really understand what it’s all about).

Needless to say, it doesn’t go well for the Danes. Outnumbered and eventually outmanoeuvred, by the Prussian forces they are forced into ignominious retreat, which finally ends in crushing defeat and the loss of one third of their territory  They are forced to accept that there is no “manifest destiny” involved and the voices of nationalism fall silent.

It’s perhaps no wonder that few outside of Denmark remember the conflict. In 1864 the American civil war was reaching a climax, and for us in Britain the events in the conflict between north and south were rather more central to our interests. But its long term impact was the unification of Germany, the rise of strident nationalism in that country, and two blood-stained world wars. Meanwhile in Denmark, controversies over their war with Prussia and the German Confederation remain a sore point for many.

Incidentally, there’s also a book been published on the war, also titled “1864” (written by Tom Buk-Swienty and published by Profile Books price £8.99)

JOHN WILMOT

REVIEW: What’s important to us – “Get it together”, by Zoe Williams.

In S. Richardson on June 25, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Reviewed by SARAH RICHARDSON

Zoe Williams, a Guardian journalist, has written an interesting new book on current affairs. Its launch was timed to coincide with the run-up to the recent General Election, but it remains relevant in this era of a continued Tory administration.

The book is in the form of a collection of essays about social issues such as housing, education and health. The title given to each chapter is in the form of a controversial question – such as, “Was your education bog standard?” Her prose style is accessible and readable and she gives examples from personal experience. She reminds us that it is up to all of us to decide what we put a value on. For example, it is wrong that people who work with the very young (i.e. childminders) and the very old (health care assistants) are frequently paid less than the minimum wage. Are we saying that pensioners and under-fives are not important?

SHOCKING:

I was lucky enough to hear the author speak recently at a “Q and A” session at the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green, London. She was lively and informed with strong personal politics. She was asked what in the book she felt most strongly about. She said that an area that she was particularly shocked about was the privatisation of children’s services and its implication for Child Protection.

She explained that in the past, Local Authorities were responsible for their own children’s homes. Now many of these have been sold off and run by private companies. When children are taken into care they could be sent hundreds of miles away from their school, community, friends and extended family. This made them more vulnerable and, she argued, made scandals such as the Rotherham child abuse ring more likely to happen with children left isolated from support.

“DO SOMETHING”:

In the final chapter, Williams argues that we need to get involved to change things, be this in a political party, trades union or single issue campaign. She reminds us that collective action is more likely to succeed and less likely to lead to demoralisation of the campaigner. “Do something” seems a good watchword to hold on to when things are as bleak as they are at the moment.

Don’t give up, find the thing you care most about and join a campaign group to support it.

S.R.

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“Get It Together”, by Zoe Williams, is published by Hutchinson; 2015, at £14.99.

the threat to our future: BETTER OFF WITH TTIP? BETTER OFF WITHOUT!

In John Wilmot on June 25, 2015 at 12:04 pm

They like to keep it a secret, but the looming menace of TTIP (short for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) poses a threat to us all.

It’s a concept first unveiled by the American administration back in 2013. This so-called “free trade” deal sounds harmless enough – until you read the small print of course. And those backing it want to keep this as small as possible.

It may “free up” trade, as its supporters claim, but who will benefit? In fact it’s a cunning plan to shift power to transnational capital, freeing up the markets for globalised capitalism (much of it American based of course). The instigators of TTIP want to spread this octopus-like “partnership” first through Canada and then Europe.

WE HAVE BEEN WARNED:

According to Mark Dearn of the charity “War on Want” “TTIP ushers in a massive shift of power to transnational capital. This will lead to job losses, the privatisation of our public services (and the blocking of any attempts at re-nationalisation), the erosion of social health and environmental protections and the eradication of equality before the law through a system of corporate courts for suing states.” (From the Morning Star, April 18th).

When it comes to negotiating the deal, this is in the hands of the EU, acting on behalf of its 28 member states. But as far as we’re concerned in the UK, David Cameron has already given it an enthusiastic welcome. And even the Liberal Democrats (before they were slaughtered in the election) greeted it warmly, claiming that it leave Britain £10 billion a year better off.

The reality will be very, very different. There will be those who’ll get even richer from its implementation, of course, but for ordinary workers, our social services and our social infrastructure, the impact could be dire. Perhaps it’s no wonder that it’s received so little coverage in the mass media. There have been no documentaries on TV or radio, and nothing much in the mass circulation newspapers, leaving any coverage of what’s at stake to what’s become known as “social media”.

Already in Canada there has been repeated legal action to prevent the passing of moratoriums on fracking or revoking patents on drugs with unproven benefits.

But in Europe, the fightback is beginning.  There have been mass petitions (gaining some 1.65 million signatures at the last count), and demonstrators have taken to the streets in protest. Again, there has been little coverage in the UK media.

As Mark Dearn of “War on Want” says,  “we are fighting to retain some control over the fundamentals of our own lives: what we eat, whether corporations can control and profit from our education, healthcare… our working conditions and the ability of democratic government to enact social, health and environmental legislation without the sanction of litigation in corporate courts.”

JOHN WILMOT

CLARION COMMENT: The Long Dark Night of the Soul

In Editorial on June 22, 2015 at 4:38 pm

We lost – and we’re now facing the reality of five years of Tory Government without even the Lib Dems to soften the rampant triumphalism of the rabid right wing who’re now in control. And any pretence that the Tories can in any way claim to be “the nice party” has been abandoned. As we go to press, things look bleak.

As for Labour’s performance, we don’t intend to join the blame game, though some analysis is in order.  The neo-Blairites, now circling like vultures, have of course their own agenda, and blaming Ed Miliband’s leadership is inevitably at its core. But there are plenty of factors involved in Labour’s defeat, including the re-alignment of the vote caused by the fracturing of old party loyalties. Few of these can be placed directly at Ed Miliband’s door – but then if a lie is repeated often enough it becomes a truth in people’s eyes.

The neo-Blairites have been vocal in their condemnation of Labour’s manifesto, claiming it had failed to speak to the “middle ground”. Completely untrue, as those who’d actually read the aforesaid manifesto should no doubt know. But what the critics didn’t like was the fact that it also addressed the plight of those stuck on poverty pay, the unemployed, or those on “zero hours” contracts. Not to mention the growing number of homeless and those hit by the bedroom tax.  In other words, all those who the Labour Party was set up to represent in the first place. But there are far too many who’d prefer to brush these victims of Tory policies under the carpet.

The main fault with Labour’s manifesto commitments lay in its attempts to “square the circle”. Many policy points showed distinct signs of muddled compromise. One glaring example was the proposal not to take our failing railway system back into public ownership, but instead to open up any future bids for rail franchises to public or community-based ventures. This, of course, left us with a neither-here-nor-there policy that did nothing to tackle the tangled mess of our rail system.  It is unlikely that we can blame Ed directly for this. It’s more the consequence of  attempts by the Labour leadership as a whole to reach some compromise between various forces and factions that exist within the party.

FORCED ON THE DEFENSIVE:

For those who still hanker for that old 1920s slogan, “Socialism in our time”, we fear that it might once again have to be postponed a while. Following the Cameron-Osborne-led Tory victory we’ll have enough on our plates trying to defend what we still have whilst we still can.

Although it’s early days, there are clear indications of what the Tories have in store. We can expect the continued privatisation of NHS England until its original aspirations represent an empty shell. Education will be increasingly taken out of local authority control (thus making sure that teachers and parents become more and more marginalised) – and a mass increase in “free schools” is threatened. Trade union rights will be further undermined. And, above all, there will be massive cuts in public spending (some £12 billion according to Osborne) with benefits and welfare targeted particularly. Of course it goes without saying that bankers’ bonuses will continue to be paid and the rich will continue to enjoy the good life.

We could also mention moves to scrap the Human Rights Act (adding to the ongoing attack on our legal rights), and the threatened repeal of the ban on fox hunting. Indeed, it’s likely to be bleak time for all those with humane or “green” sentiments under the Tories!

BOLSTERING CAPITALISM:

Meanwhile, looming in the wings are the Infrastructure Act and TTIP (short for TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – a blatant device to enforce capitalist control and privatisation over the public sector throughout Europe). The Infrastructure Act, passed by the last government and opposed by bodies such as HOOF, will no doubt also be used to enforce privatisation of public assets. And it’s not just the public sector that could be threatened but also a range of community initiatives and projects too – if they’re deemed to stand in the way of capitalist developers out to make more profits.

FIGHTBACK:

First, we need to give our backing to such forces as the trade union movement, (including of course the teachers and health workers) plus those bodies set up to defend the homeless and those in poverty.  We must support and participate in those sections of the social media like “38 Degrees” and Avaaz – which have a potent influence in spreading the message at least.  Indeed, we should all participate in building an effective anti-Tory coalition.

No-one claims that it will be easy. And at the same time those of us who are in the Labour Party need to engage in the defence of the party and its principles, to help to build an effective opposition both in the constituencies and at Parliamentary level.

The fightback starts here!

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MODERN TIMES: The Dinosaur Column

In Dinosaur on June 22, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Gutted:

Like most readers I’m sure, I was gutted by the election results. Both here in the Forest, and of course nationally. My first reaction was that it must be a bad dream. Maybe it was something I ate. That was followed by the thought, “have folk taken leave of their senses??”

dinosaurI even contemplated emigration. Perhaps moving to Scotland where I might get a better deal from that nice Nicola Sturgeon – even if  the SNP’s not quite so squeaky clean as their image suggests. But all those emotions only lasted a few minutes, and then I came to my senses.

Of course we have to fight back, and it’s here that it all begins. But we also have to sort ourselves out, following the resignation of Ed Miliband as Labour Party leader.

This was the moment when the Blairite “New Labour” acolytes and their closet supporters chose to jump out of their various closets and blame Ed for Labour’s defeat. He was, they declared, “too left”. Well, maybe about as left as Harold Wilson or Jim Callaghan actually. We were told that Labour must appeal to the “middle ground”, aspiring employees and the world of business. I even heard one Labour MP declare that we shouldn’t waste time attacking such iniquities as the Bedroom Tax or Zero Hours contracts. It makes one wonder why the Labour Party was set up in the first place.

There are a lot of reasons why Labour lost out.  One point that critics seem to have ignored was the loss of 40 seats north of the border – a number that makes a significant difference to Labour’s overall tally of seats. Incidentally, the groundwork for this debacle was laid during the Blairite years, when Scottish Labour was forced into line, losing its radical roots in the process.   After that its tally of MPs were just taken for granted.

Another point to bear in mind was the Liberal wipe-out. Their total number of MPs is now roughly down to the level they had in the 1950s, under Clement Davies. Then they were regarded as an irrelevance. Of course this time round they asked for it, but there was still something ruthless about the way Cameron set about demolishing the Liberal heartland in the West, considering they’d been his allies for the past five years. But it did increase his own total of MPs significantly. And we shouldn’t ignore the UKIP factor – according to BBC polls, the “Kippers” managed to take more votes from Labour than it did from the Tories.

As for poor old Ed, he also had to face a daily barrage of invective from the Murdoch press and the Daily Mail. Rupert Murdoch, it seems, personally ordered this attack on “Red Ed” as he was dubbed by the Sun (as well as the Mail).  As I see it, this concerted onslaught must have had some impact on the vote.

So, let’s have no more nonsense about Ed being “too left wing”. And let’s make sure that we rebut the siren voices of the Blairites in the wings.

Minor voices:

One diversion from fuming over the Tory victory and the fate of the opposition was seeking out how some of the minor players in the election fared. Well, it’s what we dinosaurs do.

Like for example “National Health Action”, made up of a handful of doughty doctors fighting to save the NHS from destruction. They polled a total of 20,210, doing particularly well in the Wyre Forest.

The “Yorkshire First” party, formed after the carrot of regionalism was dangled and snatched away, gained 6,811 in the seats it fought.  And “Mebyon Kernow”, the Cornish nationalists, did quite well in the few seats it was able to fight in Cornwall – particularly in St. Austell where it polled 2063 votes.

Mebyon Kernow now has seats in all districts of the County Council (though it doesn’t use the word “county” as this would assume that Cornwall lacks its own sense of nationhood!).

… and the Greens:

By the way, the Green Party polled well over a million votes – 1,157,613 actually – and ended up with just one MP (congratulations, Caroline Lucas, for increasing your majority!). But surely this alone strengthens the case for proportional representation, don’t you think? Not that we’re likely to get any movement on that from the Tories. Not whilst they’re sitting in power with just about a third of the total vote.

Dinosaur