Friday, May 07, 2010

Whether it's Labour or Conservatives we need to avoid big public sector job losses leading to another recession - and we need P.R

Well - in complete contradiction to my own guesses before the election Labour increased it's majority in my constituency due to fear of a Conservative government (full result here) After spending a week organising my campaign, election communication and website and three weeks knocking on doors and ringing doorbells I got well and truly gubbed with 670 votes, 1.4% of the total number cast. It is a 48% increase on my vote last time but still irrelevant to the result as a whole.

(Thanks very much though to everyone who voted for me and everyone who campaigned for me and all the people who were polite or friendly on the doorstep when i interrupted their tea or their TV programmes or their baths and showers, or getting the kids to bed.)

(I’m still considering standing on the second vote on the Scottish parliament’s regional list for the South of Scotland next year, but not decided yet. The additional member system is as favourable to small parties and independents as the first past the post system for Westminster elections is unfavourable, but the list has 500,000 voters on it across a vast area – and many voters don’t realise that voting for a big party twice in Scottish Parliament elections will usually result in no additional seats for that party.)

I can’t blame people here for being scared of a Conservative government and voting Labour out of fear of it as bad rather than much worse.

On top of that the Conservatives (pretty much the UK equivalent of the Republicans) have won the largest number of seats in parliament - and whether they or Labour win they've both said they'll make cuts in public spending bigger than Thatcher did - as Labour Chancellor Alastair Darling said before the election. They won't touch military spending, or private finance initiatives, or public subsidies to arms firms, or public subsidies to privatised rail firms - nor raise taxes on the highest earners, nor close down tax havens.

So that means lots of public sector workers sacked (the local councils have already started by sacking the lollipop ladies and men (road safety wardens) for road crossings at primary schools.

More people made unemployed would mean reduced demand in the economy, which will result in knock on job losses in the private sector. This would likely lead to a "double dip recession" like the one Japan suffered in the 1990s, with the job losses killing the recovery of the economy.

All in all it looks pretty grim unless the big parties’ leaders step back from the brink or the smaller parties and some back-bench Labour MPs on the left of the party can prevent it – which I hope they can.

We certainly will have to cut public spending and/or increase taxes to avoid the risk of ending up a bit like Greece (though our public spending and debt as percentages of GDP are lower than Greece’s and we can vary the interest rate as we have our own currency, so we’ll hopefully avoid that fate). The question is who to tax and what cuts to make. We can’t afford to make large numbers of public sector employees unemployed any more than we can afford to continue without any cuts our tax rises. The most important thing is not that we eliminate the debt rapidly but that we rebuild an economy that can pay off that debt rather than slash and burn into a vicious circle of rising unemployment.

I'm still hopeful that we might get proportional representation for future elections if the Lib Dems stick to their guns on demanding PR in return for any kind of support for a minority government. That would mean that in future elections people could vote for the candidate or party they agree with most instead of mostly voting negatively against the party they dislike most and for one they only see as slightly less bad.

Nick Clegg would be a fool to accept David Cameron's vague promises of an all party electoral commission to discuss reform - he needs to hold out for a solid commitment to bring in proportional representation - and would be more likely to get that from Labour, who have less seats and so are more desperate to make a deal - and who at least believe that public services should exist and be well funded, unlike most Conservatives, even if both parties (and the Lib Dems) have gone for the over-charging and service cuts resulting from PFI and PPP deals.


Kit said...


I wouldn’t be too down in the dumps about it though, given that (from a distant perspective) you appeared to have run a last minute campaign you achieved a reasonable vote. Up against an incumbent with a reasonable record your chances were slim.

Given that they didn’t run, did you try appealing to the Scottish Socialists as their preferred (although still independent) candidate? Attending a couple of their meetings might have secured you a few extra votes – or even campaigners if you wooed them sufficiently.

If you do run again, best of luck

calgacus said...

I should've decided whether to stand before the election was announced - but my relatives were mostly trying to persuade me not to stand so i didn't decide till the day it was announced.

I was a member of the SSP for a few months in the past, but at the local party meetings the party officers seemed to consider Tommy Sheridan "a right winger" and were for nationalising everything, full stop.

That put me off them and i didn't like to see SSP members seeming to take Murdoch's side against Sheridan's (whatever the truth or lack of it in the allegations made by that rag 'The News of the World'). Having said that their candidate in 2005 was a decent guy and so was the former chair of the Constituency Labour party who'd joined them - and their candidate in 2005 - Dennis Reilly - got more votes in 2005 than i got then or in 2010 - 802 votes i think.

I might stand a better chance on the regional list in the Scottish Parliament elections and i'm hoping i might get a candidacy with the Green Party, who are free of influence from big donors and i mostly agree with them on policy (though i've plenty of ideas of my own). When people have two votes, as they do in Scottish Parliament elections, they're much more willing to use one of them to vote for a small party or independent candidate.

James Nelson said...

well done on the 670 votes, which i think, while obviously not knowing, is a decent total!
personally,i am very dismissive of the "democratic" process in the united kingdom and apropos "the greens" as your future "geistige" and political "heimat", you might want to look at their sister party here in germany and wasn't joschka fischer a "great" foreign minister?
still, god loves a trier, or so i am told, and it really is a little bit far-fetched to think that they are going to start erecting barricades on clydeside. therefore, all the best with your own political ambitions or, at least, until the barricades are erected.

calgacus said...

Thanks James - it was 1.4% of the vote, so lost my deposit obviously, but in Scotland there seemed to be only one issue for most voters - keep the Conservatives out by voting Labour - even though Labour Chancellor Alastair Darling said before it he would being in "harsher" and "deeper" public spending cuts than Thatcher did if Labour got in. I suppose they had the legitimate fear that the Conservatives would be even worse, but either will be extremely bad. Not sure if i'll go with the Greens or stand myself in the Scottish Parliament elections. I'd have a much better chance on the second vote in that election.

calgacus said...

oops meant to write 'bring in' harsher and deeper cuts, not being in

Kit said...

I’m not sure what the turnout is likely to be, but if it's low, this would improve the chances of those outside the big four Scottish parties doing well. Coupled with your prediction that the Lib-Dems will lose votes - if the Greens attract the disillusioned Lib-Dem vote, they might just scrape a seat in your constituency. It seems a good idea to get on the Green ticket. Even if you don't win a seat, if you impress them as an electioneer, they might want you to stand in other - possibly more winnable contests in the future.

I hope you don’t take offence, but I’d like to offer some constructive criticism on your election material. It lacks hierarchy and proportion. At least a third of your leaflet should be concerned with local issues. Local issues should be prominent – not dumped at the bottom of the page as an after thought. The electorate are likely to ask what you can do for constituents - a disproportionate amount of your manifesto addresses international concerns, which although noble, it’s likely to be considered that many of your ambitions are unrealistic (which, of course, will be reflected in the electorate’s perception of you). Anyway … on the upside, I suspect that it was your force of character – rather than election paraphernalia - that won votes.

Good luck getting on the Green ticket (if that is what you choose to do).

calgacus said...

Kit - Fair points - and i'll never take offence at constructive criticism. I should probably have put issues specific to the constituency on the front of the leaflet.

In the unlikely event that i had been elected then in a hung parliament one or two votes could have swung votes on all kinds of issues (even international ones).

Kit said...

True enough. Even so, you would be reacting to legislation. On local issues you would have greater authority and greater scope for being pro-active - who could question the legitimacy of an elected representative with a clear mandate? If legislation were to affect your constituency, (the hypothetically elected) you would have a stronger voice.

Even though they may not be your actual priorities, for the sake of electioneering, your official concerns should be regional, domestic, and international (in that order).

TONY said...

Well done on your showing. The 'public sector' if the tabloids and Tories were to be believed, means pin-striped tea drinkers in Whitehall. You never hear them talking about cutting the real world public sector workers - nurses, teachers, home support workers etc. That's what it really means. I work in the public sector in Lanarkshire myself and actually expect to lose my job in the next 18 months as a result of the self-styled radical coalition and their plans.

calgacus said...

Thanks Tony. I wish i could say i thought front-line public sector jobs weren't at risk, but sadly you're right, they're probably more at risk than managerial level ones.
The only groups opposing it that might have a chance would be a coalition of patients' groups and trade unions.