Friday, 7 May 2010

Democracy: hung, but not dead yet

I should have sat up in bed reading my new treat, ‘Brightness Falls from the Air’ by James Tiptree Jr, instead. It would have been more relaxing, more enjoyable and far more edifying. But there were at least some results in this bizarre and undemocratic General Election that brought a smile to my face.

After 18 years with a tomato-faced lawyer who lives in Kent, Eastbourne went yellow. I’m happy about it, of course, and Stephen Lloyd is a good guy. I just hope the Lib Dems don’t go and do a deal with the dark side; if they do, I won’t support them again.

The British Nazi Party didn’t win a single seat, and the Fuhrer came third in Barking. As Russell Howard memorably commented, “who’d want to preserve this genome? – he looks like luncheon meat stretched over a toad.” I’m very happy for all my black, Asian, European, Muslim, Jewish and gay friends – everyone who doesn’t correspond to the Nazis’ laughable definition of ‘Britishness’. We are all England, we are all Britain. We are all human. Strange that one should have to state something so obvious in the 21st Century, but then again, the Third Millennium hasn’t exactly begun in an enlightened and civilised manner, has it?

Jacqui Smith lost her seat, ha ha! I don’t give a poo about her expenses scandal and I don’t blame her husband for watching porn when he’s married to her, the poor sod. I’m just happy because she’s an evil cow, and whilst home secretary was an arch-enemy of liberty and democracy. Same with Charles Clarke – good riddance and fuck off.

A few Labour MPs who I actually quite like got re-elected, such as Diane Abbott, Glenda Jackson, Frank Dobson and the incorruptible Jeremy Corbyn.

I got a glimpse of Neil Hughes, the Lib Dem candidate for Carlisle! In the groundbreaking documentary ‘Up’ series, he was the one who at seven years old wanted to be an astronaut, and if not that then a coach driver. Since then he has been shuttling around all the corners of the British Isles every few years, although not, I think, at the helm of a shuttle or a coach.

Salma Yaqoob, the leader of Respect, did massively better than in 2005. She achieved a huge 13% swing from labour to Respect, coming in at a very Respectable second place and not that far behind. I would have absolutely loved her to win, partly because the Respect manifesto is so close to my own views, partly because she seems so refreshingly honest and down-to-earth, and partly because she looks wonderful in a hijab. In the post 9/11 and 7/7 climate, seeing a Muslim woman in a hijab standing up for equality and human rights would have been a fantastic thing to see in the House of Commons. I haven’t checked George Galloway’s result, but with the other Respect candidate Abjol Miah failing to get in it looks to have been a bad night for one of my favourite two parties. But Salma will do it next time!!!

The most exciting result for me, however, was the triumph of Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion. In many European countries with a less antiquated and unfair system of democracy, Green MPs have been in Parliament for years, but we’ve never had one in Britain before. It was, as Caroline said afterwards, a historic event. A party with a far bigger share of the popular vote than you might think, committed to values of justice, equality, human rights and environmental protection – no, a party that’s really committed to those things – can finally represent us nationally in Parliament. And in a hung Parliament even one vote can sometimes carry a lot of weight. In an era, when a public hungry for change and fairness has been repeatedly sold down the line by those whose duty is to represent them, Caroline is one of the few politicians I actually trust, and I am hugely looking forward to seeing her on the benches and watching her, in that quiet but determined way she has, demonstrating her integrity amongst a group of people who, by and large, possess little of that quality. Seeing the quiet emotion on her face when the result was declared was a joy, and almost made up for my disappointment at Salma’s result. I wish, I wish I lived twenty miles further to the west…

As for the prospects for the country over the next few years or more, I guess that depends partly on what the Lib Dems decide to do. I suspect, however, that while things may continue to get worse, that should hardly be surprising because they were pretty bad already. Blair was a monstrous and fanatical leader, and Brown too led a criminal government, eroding fundamental rights, colluding in torture and pursuing a barbaric and unjust war with scant regard for the lives of civilians who bear a terrible cost in terms of casualties. Could things perhaps actually get a bit better, in a Parliament so truly hung? I don’t know enough to say, but I’m not holding my breath.

The best hope lies with us, as it always did, and with the possibility of radical electoral reform. Go to Without public protest and direct action, they will probably still need a good kick up their arses.