At the Oldham crossroads #oes…

Labour (rightly, in my opinion) claim that the Oldham by-election represents a rejection from the public re the ConDem’s cuts, whilst the LibDems pretend to be confident and contented seconds (they argue that by-elections are rarely won by the government against opposition parties, despite the fact they moved the writ with the explicit expectation to win) and leading Tories are trying to silence their dissenters who are rightly criticising the Tories for their rather non-existent campaign.

Arrogance was definitely on the table last night, as well; the Tories were blaming the weather for their poor campaigning whilst Labour celebrated with flowers before the result had been called. However, Labour cannot afford to be arrogant. Oldham’s result provides more questions than it does answers. It is obvious that the public are hardly accepting the cuts line – even with the ousting of a racist MP, the public still decided against punishing Labour (all the “it’s Labour’s fault” in the world aren’t seeming to work). Even David Cameron is beginning to accept that the public aren’t accepting the ‘necessary’ cuts as he had expected.

Sadly, however, Labour’s ‘alternative’ is poor, as mentioned yesterday – Ed Miliband has reinforced his adoption of the neo-liberal line of cuts as the solution. As Len McCluskey said, it is ineffectual to protest on the basis of cuts later and slower (Emily Thornbery’s response is a good example of this error). There is no factual need for cuts. Labour may be benefiting from the public’s hatred for the cuts – but it is time for them to really carve out why they would be so different.

This is where the Greens’ disappointing result comes in. The problem relates to the Greens inability to build a base in the north similar to their southern base; their anti-cut message is failing to penetrate within the areas that are set to be the most affected. Too often, Greens are deemed to be isolated environmentalists. The environment however, does run through all aspects of our policy – as do social, political, economic and cultural issues, at large. The commons is a great expression of how these different layers interact; judging things such as the environment in isolation is central to why the environment is commodified and divorced from wider contextual influences.

Noted, there are issues with funding and resources re the Greens’ ability to progress in the north. However, there are serious questions needing attention in relation to how we communicate our policies to the broader population and connect with more movements, including working people, to build a bigger base in the north. It wont be easy, and given that we are growing in the south, it will need careful consideration. However, it is definitely something we should be thinking about, especially given Labour’s poor ‘alternative’ of just basically cuts at a slower pace; our alternative should be having a better effect than it is – nor can we simply blame the electoral system.

However, as I mentioned previously – our resistance is enclosed from mainstream space given that we are one of the few mainstream parties to actually voice strong opposition to the cuts and argue there is a real alternative. Labour are relying on the public’s disgust of the coalition, but they really need to start carving out a narrative to counter-pose the government’s existing one. But if they are going to go down the line of justifying the cuts, the oppositional forces through mainstream channels – especially up in the north given the Greens’ weaker base and structure – is narrow. However, this is where a complementary political ethic is important when challenging the political structures that construct dominant misleading lies about what is needed in the ‘national’ interest.

The by-election poses questions for all parties as well as ruptures regarding parties’ given directions. Positive reflection and resistance to enclosure needs to become the focus for Labour; whilst the Greens need to place more consideration on how to build a greater base in the north given that racist parties such as the BNP are beating us.


12 thoughts on “At the Oldham crossroads #oes…

  1. Oh come on, how can you claim that the LibDems did well?

    The LibDems was fighting a seat they moved the writ for, against a racist MP who had been ousted via the court!

    The fact that the Tories are voting for Labour shows how dismal the LibDems have got; the Tories no longer trust the LibDem vote itself will hold without Tory help!If you are lucky, the Tories will only maintain your voting – but come more pressure from the Tory right, the Tories wont be able to get around running the weak campaign they did.

  2. They are also a party in govt and no governing party has taken a seat off the opposition since 1983 and that was during the Falklands War.
    the expectation of the naysayers and deficit deniers was the the Lib Dem vote would collapse into a poor third in that context its a success more objectively its just re-assuring for the LDs all to play for in May

    Nothing to do with the party campaigns its just voter behaviour and coalition supporters grasp the dynanmics that under FPTP you have to vote tactically to avoid the least desired outcome .Just like voters did in the last 3 decades when voting anti tory.

    You also ignore the fact that some of the weaker minded former LD supporters who had no stomach or backbone for coalition have drifted away will come back even some of the ones that say never again.Many say to pollsters ‘I don’t know who to vote for next time’

  3. Yes, i heard that excuse earlier – it is hardly an excuse given the specific circumstances I already listed.

    It remained because of the Tories dropping their vote by 7,000!!!! We will see by May, anyway.

    Why do you assume that the LibDems will come back, though? Where’s your evidence?

    Yes, they have switched – but as i have said given the pressure that is about to mount on the tories by the right it’s hardly going to maintain. It was an early bullet Cameron felt obligated to take.

  4. Excellent post Jane. I agree with you that we have to carefully consider how best to become a truly national party. We were incredibly close to gaining a NW Euro seat in 2009, falling just 0.3% short, which would have had a hugely positive impact. As it is, we’ll have to wait until 2014, but the breakthrough will come up here.

    I won’t be standing as the lead candidate next time, but whoever heads up our list will find that they will be treated far more credibly in the media, a problem we struggled with in 2009, particularly when the BNP were being afforded so much airtime.

    The other 8 seat Euro region, London, has just two Green councillors. Here in the North West we have 17, so it is also important to recognise that we do indeed have some real pockets of strength in the North, as well as a sizeable level of support under PR when people feel they can vote and elect Greens.

  5. Thankyou Peter, glad you like it.

    And yes, I agree. A breakthrough is really needed. Caroline Lucas has definitely helped us gain more coverage, but still Newsnight (by-election special) had usual coverage of cutting us out whilst featuring parties such as the BNP .

    You are right to point that out re councillors – it’s about using this base though, as often it can feel a bit as though a lot of our focus is down south.

  6. Agree, very interesting post – although I do think the Lib Dems did well here, even if, as you say, it was partly down to the Tories playing a low key campaign to help stabilise their coalition partners.

  7. Thanks Jim, glad you found it interesting.

    I am not so sure the LibDems vote holding up because of Tories doubting whether the LibDems can maintain their vote is a good thing. As the right of the Tories gets more annoyed, this wont be a long term strategy.

  8. Thankyou for that. I wouldn’t say Labour are shit – they just need to really stop and think about why they are so ‘different’ to the ConDems as at the moment they are a poor ‘alternative’.

    We do need them to become a better alternative, as whilst I am in the Greens – having no mainstream opposition often undermines people’s hope.

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