There were some political protests this week. One in London and one in Cardiff. They were campaigning against the Conservative policy of austerity. The damnedest thing of all was that the poor sods were a day too late. A little glitch in their event management meant they did it they day after the election instead of the day before. It could happen to anyone.
I am being facetious, obviously. It was of course a response to the result of the general election, rather than a way of drumming up voters to back their cause. It has happened a few times before, after Conservative governments have been elected. There is therefore a history, or perhaps a tradition, of British left-wing activists doing that. Oddly, right wing ones have not adopted the same tactics. Conservative election wins are invariably met with scorn protest where Labour ones are not.
Perhaps the answer to this is that the governments are elected for different reasons. There is the feeling that Labour governments are elected mainly because Conservative ones are unpopular, rather than because the Labour prospect is itself popular. Labour have a dedicated following of course, which is probably smaller than the tory one, at least if the number of years of conservative government since WW2 is compared to that of Labour. It is about twice as much.
I was surprised when I first heard that statistic. Perhaps it is all the more surprising when we consider that voting conservative is largely socially unacceptable. Or, at least tories are shy, according to Lewis Barber in the Independent. This shiness might also be why so many of the pollsters got it wrong and why the BBC’s poll that predicted the conservative party would be the largest was published so nervously on election night.
It would be easy for right-wingers to blame a left-biased media for this sort of thing. Realistically, they had no direct role, and I think we can ignore evidenceless media conspiracies as the mechanism behind voting practices. The same applies to the protests: they were not media-generated. By far the most likely explanation for those was that a group of lefties did not get what they felt entitled to at a general election, and rocked up in a couple of big cities (and not even the most Labourite ones) to say so.
This analysis has them as childish, and worse still, undemocratic. It suggests they should vote for what they want and then move on whether or not they get it, at least in the short term after the election. That is probably what Conservative voters do, but as we know they have different behavioural response to electoral disappointment. The only Conservative-type protest in Britain that I can think of is the countryside march. That was in the middle of a parliament, partly a response to the Hunting Bill. Despite being huge and non-violent, it was not listened by the government of the day any more than any of the others were, so was probably as just as ineffectual. Still, we retain the view and practice that people having their voice non-violently is part of democracy and no one in the UK is about to stop it.
No one needs to tell the Scottish nationalists this. They did not get what they wanted in the referendum on Scottish Independence, but there was no crying or stamping of feet. They worked out what to do and then did it. Now, 56/59 Scottish seats in the house of commons are held by the SNP, who got something like 50% of the vote in that Kingdom, overturning several considerable Labour majorities in the process. They now have a strong ‘Scottish voice’ and probably the political will and power to get their way. Their respect for democracy has been exemplary throughout.
The SNP has also been campaigning for independence for 80 years. In context, that’s about twenty years longer than the National Health Service, an important socialist achievement, has been in existence. We still have a National Health Service, and have even added to its remit the task of being something for everyone to complain about. We also have the Hunting Act and the Union remains intact. So, who has got the best political tactics?
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