Vote 2005

Rushed early thoughts

Obviously its a big relief to wake up to a third term Labour government. Despite the setbacks, despite the losses of, as Tony Blair rather unusually termed them, “good comrades” there is another chance for the left to make a real difference in Britain.

Its going to be the last chance for a long time unless Gordon Brown can get a grip because watching those southern seats returning to the Tories was a brief glimpse at what might be around the corner. The Tories aren’t back yet but they certainly aren’t finished as some once claimed.

Blair, as an attractive electoral force is finished though and the Labour Party must do everything in its power to ensure that Gordon Brown (or whoever else might fancy the task) is given plenty of chance to establish his own government before the next election. We will see how grown up Labour is and how much or how little Blair cares for the party by how the transition is handled.

But I’m in an internet cafe with a hangover and a lunch appointment coming up so I’ll leave analysis and other thoughts for later – and frankly what can one add at this stage to the mountains of punditry that most of us sat through last night?

Turn out was poor again. The electoral system is creaking and badly in need of change. It simply isn’t on to have such a difference between votes cast for parties and the seats they gained. It looks even worse when there is a real third party. Can we have elections in the future without all this tactical voting nonsense?

I spent yesterday campaigning in Bethnal Green and obviously the result there is a real blow. One thing we can be sure of – the result was a defeat for the left and a victory for communalism. I’ll write another time about the experience of being involved in that campaign but it was truly a horrible feeling to walk from Cable Street, with all that resonates from that address, to a polling station where people were voting on communal lines.

Bitter though it is to see an open supporter of the murderuous enemies of Iraqi progressives returned to parliament, I suppose I should keep the matter in perspective. As the Communist MP Phil Piratin said after losing his East End seat in 1950: “We may have lost Stepney but we have gained China”.

Well we can settle for Britain.

The problem is what kind of Britain is it going to be if communalism is shown to deliver results, as it did for Galloway? Such poison can spread. There were some strong results for the BNP last night such as 17% in Barking. Anyone fancy a BNP v Respect communalist battle in the future? Its a sickening thought but it was one of the many unpleasant things that went through my mind in Bethnal Green yesterday.

I’m glad that along with some of you we took a stand in Bethnal Green though and got involved in that campaign. If there is one positive thing that came out of the past few days in the East End it was this the very forceful reminder that Labour is a progressive party which seeks to bring together working people, regardless of race, creed or colour, and to improve their lives.

Knocking up, canvassing and leafleting can be chores at times but I was fortunate to spend my time with some lovely people from all manner of backgrounds.

Hopefully the next few years will give us some other reasons to be proud of our party.