Anti-Capitalist Meetup: A Catastrophic British Election Result, where do we go from here?

By NY Brit Expat

Like everyone else, I got it wrong. I was expecting a Tory minority government propped up by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) if needed to get legislation passed.

It was also clear that the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) had been courting the Tories hoping for another small shot at power; their slogan that “they would give the Tories a heart and Labour a brain” really made me think that they had never understood the Wizard of Oz; if they had, they would have realised that the Wizard was a fraud who only granted what the Tin man (heart) and Straw man (a brain) already had; provision of a testimonial and a diploma do not change reality, only perceptions of reality. I wondered who wrote their script; revealing that you are frauds is never a good idea for a political party.

I was at a friend’s house planning to watch the beginning of the election results there and then I saw the exit polls. I gasped and my stomach screamed! I thought surely this was wrong. I grasped at straws: it didn’t include postal votes, people do not always tell the truth (in the US people deny that they wouldn’t vote for a person of colour as they do not openly want to admit their racism) … I went home to watch a national nightmare unfold (one does not put a fist through your friends’ only telly, it is certainly not good guest behaviour).  

The exit polls (316 Conservatives/Tories, 239 Labour, 58 SNP, 10 Liberal Democrats, 2 UKIP, 2 Greens, 4 Plaid Cymru) actually underestimated the extent of the damage. The Tories were predicted to be heading towards a minority government; I thought that was bad enough, but it was nothing compared to the final result.

While I knew that the Lib Dems were signing their own death warrant by joining the Tories in coalition, I thought that they would lose seats in the Labour heartlands (Northwest and Northeast) squeezed by Labour, lose their seats in University towns that they won from their opposition to the Iraq war (due to their support of increasing university tuition fees which they opposed in their manifesto). I expected student votes to go to the Greens, but not enough to give them the seats which went to Labour), but I thought that they would hold historical bases of support in Devon and Cornwall (where the main opposition is Tory); I had underestimated the obvious fact that why vote Tory-lite when you can have the Tories in all their glory?

I knew Labour would suffer severe losses in Scotland (their unionism during the elections, corruption of Labour councils up there, the uselessness of the carrot offered by Gordon Brown towards the end of the referendum and strong opposition to austerity in Scotland), but wiped out except for 1 seat in Glasgow was more than I expected. In Scotland, I knew that the Lib Dems would hold Orkney (and lose everything else; I stayed up to watch Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander‘s head roll which given everything else was a small bright spot in election results); the Tories have been very weak in Scotland for a while, so their having one seat near the Scottish borders does not surprise me at all. But the Scottish National Party winning 56 seats was beyond my expectations (and their own, I think).

I went to bed at 6:30am stressed out and still hoping for a Tory minority government. I woke up to a political nightmare. The Tories have won a majority, they do not need the DUP, they do not need UKIP (who only won 1 seat anyway; small favours, but they took their first local council in Thanet). They most certainly do not need the Lib Dems; who will be very lonely sitting in Parliament.

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For clarification, yellow is the SNP, Red is Labour, Blue is Tory, Orange is the lib dems, Plaid Cymru is Green in Wales, The Green seat in England is the Greens, the Green seats in the North of Ireland are Sinn Fein.  DUP in North of Ireland is red.

Conservatives have the following results:

331 seats in total. 35 seats gained. 11 seats lost.

+24 net change in seats.

11,334,920 total votes taken.

36.9% share of the total vote

+0.8% change in share of the votes

Labour have the following results:

232 seats in total. 22 seats gained. 48 seats lost.

-26 net change in seats.

9,347,326 total votes taken.

30.4% share of the total vote

+1.5% change in share of the votes

Scottish National Party have the following results:

56 seats in total. 50 seats gained. 0 seats lost.

+50 net change in seats.

1,454,436 total votes taken.

4.7% share of the total vote

+3.1% change in share of the votes

Liberal Democrats have the following results:

8 seats in total. 0 seats gained. 49 seats lost.

-49 net change in seats.

2,415,888 total votes taken.

7.9% share of the total vote

-15.2% change in share of the votes

UKIP have the following results:

1 seat in total. 0 seats gained. 0 seats lost.

0 net change in seats.

3,881,129 total votes taken.

12.6% share of the total vote

+9.5% change in share of the votes

Green Party have the following results:

1 seat in total. 0 seats gained. 0 seats lost.

0 net change in seats.

1,157,613 total votes taken.

3.8% share of the total vote

+2.8% change in share of the votes

Plaid Cymru have the following results:

3 seats in total. 0 seats gained. 0 seats lost.

0 net change in seats.

181,694 total votes taken.

0.6% share of the total vote

0.0% change in share of the votes

North of Ireland

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has the following results:

8 seats in total. 1 seat gained. 1 seat lost.

0 net change in seats.

184,260 total votes taken.

0.6% share of the total vote

0.0% change in share of the votes

Sinn Fein has the following results:

4 seats in total. 0 seats gained. 1 seats lost.

-1 net change in seats.

176,232 total votes taken.

0.6% share of the total vote

0.0% change in share of the votes

Social Democratic & Labour Party (SDLP) has the following results:

3 seats in total. 0 seats gained. 0 seats lost.

0 net change in seats.

99,809 total votes taken.

0.3% share of the total vote

0.0% change in share of the votes

Ulster Unionist Party has the following results:

2 seats in total. 2 seats gained. 0 seats lost.

+2 net change in seats.

114,935 total votes taken.

0.4% share of the total vote

0.0% change in share of the votes

The Left and anti-austerity campaigns except for the Greens:

Trade Union and Socialist Coalition have the following results:

0 seats in total. 0 seats gained. 0 seats lost.

0 net change in seats.

36,327 total votes taken.

0.1% share of the total vote

+0.1% change in share of the votes

National Health Action Party has the following results (first general election):

0 seats in total. 0 seats gained. 0 seats lost.

0 net change in seats.

20,210 total votes taken.

0.1% share of the total vote

0.0% change in share of the votes

Respect Party (George Galloway) have the following results:

0 seats in total. 0 seats gained. 1 seat lost.

-1 net change in seats.

9,989 total votes taken.

0.0% share of the total vote

-0.1 change in share of votes

0 seats in total

Socialist Labour Party (Arthur Scargill) has the following results:

0 seats in total. 0 seats gained. 0 seats lost.

0 net change in seats.

3,481 total votes taken.

0.0% share of the total vote

Class War have the following results:

0 seats in total. 0 seats gained. 0 seats lost.

0 net change in seats.

526 total votes taken.

0.0% share of the total vote

0.0 (

The Lib Dems were crushed (that I knew before going to bed), Labour had lost all but one seat in Scotland and did not take enough seats in England and Wales to offset these losses, the Greens kept Caroline Lucas’s seat in Brighton Pavilion (she is a wonderful MP, so that is great) but did not gain other seats (it was hoped that they would take Norwich South a Lib Dem seat, but Labour took that), Plaid Cymru held onto their seats but no gains. The only anti-austerity party that did well was the Scottish National Party (SNP) who ran a brilliant campaign who now holds all Scottish seats but three.

In a night and early morning filled with Portillo moments (named after Michael Portillo a leader of the Tory Party who lost his seat in Enfield Southgate in the 1997 Labour victory), it is difficult to find a favourite. But there are a few that deserve mention. The first was Douglas Alexander’s (Labour’s campaign chief and the would-be foreign secretary if Labour won) loss to Mhairi Black (SNP) (a 20 year old student, who is now the youngest MP elected since 1667) in Paisley & Renfrewshire South.  There was the face of Vince Cable (the Lib Dem Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills) who lost his seat in Twickenham whom I am certain was pinching himself trying to wake up from a nightmare, the stunned look on the face of Simon Hughes who lost a seat he held for 32 years to Labour, and of course, there was George Galloway’s loss to Labour’s Naz Shah (whom he accused of lying about her age at the time of her arranged marriage (I can assure you that many women cheered when this happened); he looked like a really scary and angry Orson Welles glowering with barely contained wrath (and without Welles’s acting ability) and he threatened another campaign which hopefully will be nowhere near the Tower Hamlet’s mayoral elections and the London mayoral which has been the subject of speculation and rumour. As a disabled person, I guess if I had to choose, I would have to pick the Tory Secretary of state for employment, Esther McVey, loss in the Western Wirral seat.

The left barely made a dent … that is essentially it …

Explaining the Results

Quite honestly, explaining the results is easy.

Labour lost and it is their fault

Labour won in London (except for the places where the wealthy live and in the majority of the outer boroughs), they won in the larger cities in England and Wales, they picked up some Lib Dem seats, but they failed to make sufficient in-roads into Tory controlled areas. Voter turnout was at 66% and that was simply insufficient.

To secure a Labour victory, all they needed to do was to propose renationalising the railways and the energy companies (all of which has wide support even among the Tories), take responsibility for the stupidity of Public Finance Initiatives that have undermined the NHS, say they will overturn the Health and Social Care Act, say that they would remove competition of the private sector from health care and counter the ridiculous austerity narratives.

For good measure, if they really think that the budget deficit is such a problem, they could have called for the abandonment of the renewal of so-called nuclear deterrent of Trident which will cost £34 billion. But if wishes were horses, even beggars would ride as my mother used to say.

People in Britain have listened to 5 years of right-wing media spin about how austerity was necessary and that Labour almost destroyed the economy, we have had 5 years of lies from the Tories about economic priorities.

Labour had five years to counter the Tory lies that their party was responsible for the economic crisis in Britain. Really, that wasn’t hard, how could their policies alone create a world-wide capitalist economic crisis? The idea that the country was broke when the Tories took over is simply nonsensical; Britain does have a sovereign currency after all and running a deficit in an economic crisis is a far better policy than impoverishing the working population and the poor and extending privatisation to education, the health system, and social services.

They had five years to put forwards a coherent criticism of Tory austerity policies and all they did was articulate “austerity-lite” (I am not sorry to see Ed Balls, the Labour party shadow chancellor of the Exchequer lose) … they never challenged the balanced budget nonsense, they never challenged the cuts to the public sector and the social welfare state. They even argued that they would continue them; there was no reverse from austerity, they simply said that they would do them in a nicer manner than the Tories. Their wage policies were insufficient, their employment policies were insufficient and they were planning continued cuts. You cannot oppose neoliberal austerity arguments with austerity-lite.

They joined forces with the Tories and Lib Dems to promote unionism in Scotland (this is unsurprising as devolution was an attempt by Labour to counter rising Scottish nationalism). At the end of the referendum campaign, Gordon Brown in a final attempt to defeat the Yes campaign put forward a Devo Max proposal which of course the Tories did nothing about as it was not in their interests (they have very little support in Scotland) which sealed Labour’s fate there.

Finally, there is the abandonment of Labour’s base from Tony Blair’s election forwards. Like the Democrats in the US, Labour thought that the working class, the trade unions and the left had no one else to vote for; most of them did little to support the working class and poor in Britain either in local communities or nationally, they offered no significant alternative having accepted neoliberal arguments on austerity and the horror of budget deficits. They did little if anything to provide support to public sector workers and help the public sector trade unions who are facing an attack even stronger than Margaret Thatcher’s against the manufacturing and industrial unions.

Instead of calling for social housing, they babbled about affordable housing leaving housing in the hands of speculators; their 3 year rent cap is insufficient. Incomes are falling and they are still talking about private affordable housing (affordable for who?), rents are eating up working people’s incomes, buy-to-let is concentrating housing in the hands of unscrupulous, greedy, and incompetent landlords, selling off remaining council homes (one of the Tory promises) will cause greater shortages and will lead to greater concentration of homes in the hands of landlords, destroy public housing and to add insult to injury, housing benefits are being paid to these landlords.

In this election, they even joined the anti-immigrant campaign calling for immigration controls effectively arguing in favour of the brain-drains of trained and skilled workers from peripheral capitalist economies while keeping out low paid unskilled workers (as those are the majority of jobs available to British workers).

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Labour’s abandonment of their base had led to increased voting for the far right by the English working class, first the British National Party (BNP) and then to UKIP (the BNP has essentially been wiped out and supporters have shifted to UKIP even though UKIP is not a fascist party) which claims “outsider status” and uses British nationalist populism irrespective of essentially being the right of the Tory party in exile (they do spectacularly poorly in London, but have picked up a lot of white working class votes in the Labour heartlands and their politics sells well in Tory heartlands). The UKIP anti-EU rhetoric does well in places that want to blame the EU for everything that is happening as though it is not the choices of British politicians and the British ruling class that have destroyed wages and work conditions … it is so much easier to blame immigrants from the EU rather than look to Whitehall for the cause of their misery.

Now, UKIP did not win in those seats, but they pulled votes away from Labour and Labour was not strong enough to challenge the Tories where they needed to gain seats to offset the losses in Scotland.

Then there is the upcoming EU referendum mess: the reality is that British finance capitalists and big bourgeoisie do not want to leave the EU; they just want to get rid of pesky things like EU regulations for workers, the human rights laws which stop them from destroying completely workers’ conditions of work and destroying the power of the remaining trade unions. The EU serves the interests of capitalism, why would they want to leave it? Rather it is the small business owners, those that feel Britain is being threatened by some tiny losses of control, and nationalists that like UKIP. An EU referendum run on xenophobia and racism will be a disaster leading to more divide and rule splitting the working class in Britain.

The Lib Dems were in deep trouble … they lost the student vote which they gained during the Iraq war due to their support for increased university tuition fees. They were destroyed in Scotland for their support of austerity and unionism. They were squeezed by Labour in the Labour heartlands where they made gains and they were squeezed in the areas where their main competitors are the Tories (Devon and Cornwall). Nick Clegg saved his seat, but the party lost MP after MP and the orange book Lib Dems (neoliberal economically and socially liberal) are history.  This is the result of supporting the most right-wing government in British history … they propped them up; they sold their supporters out for a tiny bit of power. As I said then, and I will repeat yet again, if they wanted to mitigate the impact of the Tories, they actually should have forced them to govern as a majority government offering support on things they agreed. Instead they kept them in power and while there is some evidence that they did mitigate some of their policies, they could have gotten more if they were not in coalition.

The SNP ran a wonderful campaign on an anti-Tory and anti-austerity agenda (and not a nationalist agenda) took all seats but 3. Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the SNP was superb in all televised debates; the SNP ran a great on the ground campaign. All Ed Miliband could say when he made his acceptance speech (he won his seat) was that Nationalism had defeated them. What nonsense!  This was not a nationalist vote, it was an anti-tory vote and an anti-austerity vote, and yet, Labour clings to a denial of reality that it was their own policies and actions that caused their defeat.

The Greens gained a lot of votes (over 1 million), but with the first past the post system in place they were unable to win any additional seats, but this number is nothing to sneer at. The first past the post system also impacted badly on UKIP who won over 3, 881,+ votes and only have 1 seat to their name (Douglas Carswell who left the Tory party to join them).

Three leaders of political parties have resigned their leadership positions: 1) Ed Milliband (Labour); 2) Nick Clegg (Lib Dems); and 3) Nigel Farage (UKIP) who said he would resign if he did not win the South Thanet seat for which he was campaigning.  

The Implications of the Results

Britain is in deep trouble … we have an unconstrained Tory party which has promised more cuts and more austerity and the scraping of the 1998 Human Rights Act.

There is no doubt that they will continue strengthening the power of corporations over the lives of the majority of Britons. They will support TTIP which will undermine the state sector as it will enforce the right of corporations to compete with the state/public sector.

The social welfare state is facing destruction (they have even called for the taxing of benefits) as is the NHS which will face more privatisation. The Conservative party manifesto called for a £30 billion dollar cuts programme to bring the deficit under control of these £12 billion will come from welfare cuts. This government’s economic policy is deeply wedded to squeezing wages and incomes of working people (that is wages plus benefits), undermining all the gains that were fought for and won with respect to working conditions, and destroying what remains of trade union power and increase privatisation of the state/public sector.

The other bills Cameron promised in the Queen’s speech later this month include:

• Reducing the annual benefits cap by £3,000 to £23,000 and removing housing benefit from under-21s on jobseeker’s allowance.

• Taking out of income tax anyone working 30 hours a week on minimum wage by linking the personal allowance to the national minimum wage.

• New education bill to “force coasting schools to accept new leadership”.

• A housing bill to extend the right to buy to 1.3 million housing association tenants.

• A bill to double free childcare for working parents of three- and four-year-olds (

In terms of the Tory cabinet, Michael Gove ) has been appointed Justice Secretary and he has pledged to eliminate the Human Rights Act. (Mark Harper replaces him as Chief Whip), Theresa May continues as Home Secretary, George Osborne ( as Chancellor of the Exchequer (plus he is the First Secretary of State – the deputy prime minister which means he oversees all the other Secretaries of State, he will be renegotiating with the EU before the referendum vote), Phillip Hammond stays on at Foreign Office, Michael Fallon at Defence, Nicky Morgan stays on as education secretary, Chris Grayling will be the leader of the House of Commons.  We are still awaiting who will lead the Department of Works and Pensions and the Employment Ministry (due to the loss of Esther McVey).

Let’s just say this is not a pretty picture. To add to our misery, small Tory rebellions can be dealt with through using the DUP to pass things through, they have 8 seats; so in the absence of a massive internal Tory uprising, we are stuck with them for 5 years. I am not expecting a major rebellion sufficient to get a vote of no-confidence.  

In the immediate response to the election results, the right-wing of the Labour party called for a return to New Labour policies (if they left them, I missed it) saying they needed to recapture the “centre.”  

Turning and turning in the widening gyre. The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world (William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming).

Peter Mandelson argued that the “shift to the left” under Miliband had been a gigantic political mistake.

Charles Clarke (former Home Secretary under Blair) actually said (on the BBC coverage of the elections; I was exhausted, but I am not that deaf and there were sub-titles) that the Labour party needs to talk to the “wealth creators,” this nonsense has been echoed by Ben Bradshaw. Someone needs to explain to these echoers of right-wing ideology that wealth creation in the absence of human labour is impossible; land lying fallow and machines lying unused do not create wealth. It is the direct and deliberate application of human labour along with land and capital that creates wealth. There will soon be an election for a new party leader of Labour and who wins will tell us which direction Labour will move.

Blaming the situation on Scottish nationalism or a so-called shift to the left is bordering on delusion, but that will not stop Labour from refusing to evaluate the situation and draw the correct lessons from this mess.

Where does the Left go from here?

This is the big question. In fact, it is THE question.

Clearly, we should continue struggling for proportional representation rather than first past the post. There, that was easy; certainly the Greens would have more seats if that existed and that should even out the mess where some votes could for more in some areas, see below. Weirdly, they did not mention the 8 seats that the DUP got on 184,260 votes … But will proportional representation, in and of itself, solve the problem? NO!

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However, the complete lack of impact of the left in the electoral process indicates a deeper problem that we must discuss among the British left. We will not build support for the left and be able to struggle for the majority if we concentrate only on electoral politics. That will offer no solution for people that are being crushed, and will be crushed, under the wheels of a Tory victory.

Already, I have heard the call for a Left entry into the Labour party from people (see Entryism). Is this the, or even an, answer? This implies that the Labour party is one where we can have an impact and shift it left. A number of left organisations and individuals have done this historically, but Labour then was a strong mass party with left-wing and trade union base. The question is, are there sufficient sympathies in the Labour party today such that we could exert pressure to move the party to the left? Is this a waste of time and energy or should we be building a broad left party?   Given the right-wing of the Labour party’s demand to shift to the right and that they do control the Labour party this makes no sense to me.

Others have argued that we should try entryism into the Green party. Many members of the hard left have joined or re-joined the Green Party during the election period. Years of the Green Left fighting within the Green Party and getting almost nowhere leads me towards scepticism. While they gained votes from moving to the Left for the election, there were no gains of seats although there was a marked increase in their votes. There was also significant discrepancies between candidates and policies; I went to hustings in my local area for two different constituencies and the prospective candidates differed on important issues like: was it people that were responsible for the environmental mess we find ourselves it or is the capitalist economic system? That is not a small difference of opinion as it relates to capitalist reform vs ecosocialism; those are serious issues as where you stand leads to different solutions.

The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition TUSC stood 135 prospective parliamentary candidates across England, Wales and Scotland, as well as in 619 council candidates in local elections. The party gained 36,327 votes in the election and according to Wikipedia, they won no parliamentary seats and did not save any deposits which required 5% of the vote. The best TUSC parliamentary votes were recorded by Dave Nellist in Coventry North West, polling 1,769 votes, and Jenny Sutton in Tottenham, with 1,324 votes. There were also good scores recorded in Bethnal Green & Bow (949 votes), Liverpool Riverside (582), Barnsley Central (573), Walsall North (545), Leigh (542), Leicester East (540), Salford & Eccles (517), and the other Coventry seats, Coventry South (650) and North East (633). These are not good results to say the least …

Left Unity ran jointly with TUSC in most of the areas in which we ran election campaigns; we are far too new to do a proper evaluation of our impact, but it was minimal to say the least.

Where should we operate and how?

The Left needs to talk and we need to actually listen and not only to each other. Certainly divisions among the left are not helping anyone, they weaken us and make it harder to get our message across and also to convince people that there are other real options besides the misery of impoverishment guaranteed by Tory rule.

We need to be grounded in the communities in which we live; we need to work together and struggle together with people that will be suffering from continued austerity policies.

One excellent suggestion that I heard was the idea of actually providing direct solidarity; soup kitchens, fighting directly to maintain social housing, prevent evictions, and helping those that are threatened with relocation and homelessness, supporting local medical centres as that may be compromised by privatisation and medical charges, help within the communities to build support for each other. This was done by the Black Panthers in the US and, instead of just words and ideas; we can actually participate together and learn from each other. The slogan, fighting locally but acting globally is an important one and it is there that we can have an actual impact on people’s lives.

We need to continue fighting, we need to put our ideas into practice locally and we need to continue campaigning. We need to get our voices heard and actually work alongside of struggling people in solidarity; we need to exist outside of elections in order to continue the struggle. Elections are useful to get our message out, we need to continue building Left Unity, but our message will never be heard if we are not fighting in the areas in which we live.

Yesterday, I went to a local anti-EDL action in Walthamstow where these right-wing, racist, islamophobic, and fascist arses returned for the 3rd time to our local community for no other purpose than to terrify people; they do not live here, they came from all over England just to harass the local community after Lee Rigby‘s mother asked that they do not march in Woolwich so they came back to Walthamstow 9yet again). On the same day, there was also an impromptu anti-Tory march at Conservative Party headquarters and at Downing Street in Whitehall, London. Both actions met with an excessive Police response.  Left Unity activists from the area and from nearby boroughs came to Walthamstow and others participated in the anti-Tory march.

Marches are good, in most cases necessary, but they are not sufficient. Participation in elections is important; we need to get our message out and we cannot abandon the electoral arena to the class enemy.  That’s one of the reasons we need a broad party of the left, we need Left Unity, it is not a short-term project.

But our message will not be heard or believed without building solidarity at the local level.  Left Unity needs to continue to work to build solidarity in the areas in which we live alongside all those who want to resist the attacks that the new government is gleefully preparing.

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