Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I'll Not Vote Brown's Labour

Remember Christopher Logue's poem "I shall vote Labour" (1966)? I remember reading his verses in The New Statesman at the time:

I shall vote Labour because
God votes Labour.
I shall vote Labour to protect
the sacred institution of The Family.
I shall vote Labour because
I am a dog.
I shall vote Labour because
upper-class hoorays annoy me in expensive restaurants.
I shall vote Labour because
I am on a diet.
I shall vote Labour because if I don't
somebody else will:
I shall vote Labour because if one person
does it
everybody will be wanting to do it.
I shall vote Labour because if I do not vote Labour
my balls will drop off.
I shall vote Labour because
there are too few cars on the road.
I shall vote Labour because I am
a hopeless drug addict.
I shall vote Labour because
I failed to be a dollar millionaire aged three.
I shall vote Labour because Labour will build
more maximum security prisons.
I shall vote Labour because I want to shop
in an all-weather precinct stretching from Yeovil to Glasgow.
I shall vote Labour because
the Queen's stamp collection is the best
in the world.
I shall vote Labour because
deep in my heart
I am a Conservative.

[ 'I Shall Vote Labour' from Selected Poems by Christopher Logue published by Faber & Faber.]

Contrast and compare with the following excerpt from Tony Wood's Editorial in the latest issue of The New Left Review, "Good riddance to New Labour":

"... is there any reason to find Labour preferable? Arguments for them as the lesser evil rest on a number of false assumptions.

First, the notion that there is any principled social or political basis for loyalty to Labour: whatever such attachments used to mean, the party’s own self-transformation in pursuit of power has emptied them of any real content, turning them into little more than sub-political badges of identity. There is no reason why voters should be any more sentimental about the Labour Party than it has been about them.

Second, the idea that rejection of New Labour necessarily means voting for the Tories: abstention, a spoilt ballot, or a vote for one of the minority parties denied representation by the British parliamentary system are perfectly honourable options. Within the present morass of British parliamentarism, any consistent left should not restrict itself to one enemy, but should rather engage in combating the entire putrid edifice, the better to carve out an exit from it.

Third, those who advocate yet another term for New Labour ignore the fact that, in a system where actual political differences are minimal, no government should be allowed to continue in power indefinitely, lest its corruption go unchecked. The notion that a spell in opposition might actually do a ruling party some good, though widespread in previous decades, is rarely voiced today—itself an indication of the system’s degeneration.

But surely the clinching argument against New Labour is one of simple democratic principle. Any government with a record as appalling as this one’s deserves to be punished at the polls, if accountability to the voting public is to have any meaning. The specifics of New Labour’s record—one murderous war after another; slavish devotion to finance; promotion of rampant inequality; repeated assaults on civil liberties; fragmentation and privatization of public services; outrageous corruption—make plain that they have fully merited being turfed out of office. Good riddance; this execrable government deserves to go."

I'll not vote Brown's Labour
because my balls would drop off
if I did and, above all, because
deep in my heart
I am a Socialist.

P.S. In fairness, I will vote Labour in my local elections, where clever and competent candidates committed to improving the life of their community innocently stand, unfairly handicapped by Gordo. They might have called for his demise before the elections, but nobody should be put in a position of having to be a hero.


Anonymous said...

Yet another great post....indeed, it calls for a broader and deeper look (a paper perhaps, Mario?) at the dilemma facing voters in country after country....between, if not Scylla and Charybdis, then certainly Tweedledum and Tweedledee....


D. Mario Nuti said...

It's not just a crisis of social-democracy, Ashok: the whole democratic system is in crisis. And not just the Italian perversion of democracy. The UK, considered the Mother of All Democracies, is not democratic:

(1)the vote in the UK is not secret, it can be identified by the electoral returning officer by a number marking both ballot paper and counterfoil, which allegedly has the purpose of allowing the elimination after the election of improperly cast votes;

(2) it takes on average roughly 50,000 votes to elect a Labour member of parliament, 70,000 to elect a Tory MP and 120,000 to elect a Liberal Democrat MP - not because of the 'first past the post' system but because of manipulation of constituency borders, intensified instead of being corrected by Labour;

(3) The UK Parliament is elected also by Scots, in spite of Scotland being governed by its own government and Parliament; moreover the current UK Premier is a Scot elected in a Scottish constituency, whose party was wiped out in the Scottish elections and who was not elected as leader even by the not very democratic rules of his own party...

Anonymous said...

Mario, time for an election post-mortem?


Jacob Richter said...

Dr. Nuti, you should probably make a whole blog on your comment on "the crisis of social democracy."

Have you looked into various democratic theories which all go beyond liberal democracy? There's everything from the communal power model to the delegative democracy model to Burnheim's demarchy model to the Paris Commune model to the workers councils model. Of course, there should be some synthesis of all of the above.

That first point on not being secret is important, coming from personal experience: Westminster systems everywhere use numbers marking both ballot paper and counterfoil.

In any event, I do think the working class itself, as much of a whole as possible, needs to take political action and become the ruling class itself in order for even the slightest of structural reforms to be long-lasting.

Whether being the ruling class actually means politically disenfranchising big-time hirers of labour for profit and other class opponents like the 1918 Soviet constitution did (in spite of the Bolshevik coup d'etat that same year when leftist but anti-Bolshevik soviets were elected then shut down) is up in the air, and up to the actions of those opponents.