Reflections on the election

There was a general election in the UK. It was complicated.

Reflections on the election

The difference between Labour's number of seats and share of the vote in this election is sobering. This is always the case with first-past-the-post but this time it feels particularly extreme. 65% of seats from 35% of votes is not a fair election by any measure.

Labour's actual vote, from the results I saw last night, seems to have barely increased. I strongly suspect that, of the Labour gains, if you were to combine Conservative and Reform votes as one party it would have won many if not most of them. Where there was a healthy swing to Labour it mostly followed the pattern of C -30, L +10, R +20. A decent proportion of that +10 will be Tory switchers, but a lot of it will be tactical too. Once the right wing sorts its shit out this landslide is fragile.

[Later] Here's a terrifying graph from the NY Times. Labour's landslide came from a paltry 1.6% increase in vote share from the previous election. Remember that the 2019 election was supposed to be Labour's worst performance ever. Has anything actually changed? (Caveat - other metrics are available.)

I would be happy to see the end of the Tories if that is what had just happened. It didn't. The Conservative coalition was just split in two, by accident or design, and will now begin to re-stitch itself in some new form. Given the British establishment's inertia this is the only way it could happen and while the next few years will be messy, they will return. The big question is in what form.

Reform are a Conservative tribe. They may be attractive to some demographics of traditional Labour voters, but so was Thatcher. If Farage has a plan (and I really don't want to give him too much credit - my default position is he's surfing on grievance and vibes and fuckit-let's-see-what-happens) it's for his tribe to capture the Conservative party in its entirety and remake the establishment in his image. This is theoretically possible (again, if he actually has a plan), partly because the main driver of the Conservative party is to be in power regardless of which ideological variant is in charge (contrasted with Labour's traditional desire fight over ideology to the detriment of actually getting into power), and because this is what the establishment does when given the choice between the mass of the people and fascism.

There will be a viable Conservative party contesting the next general election. The question is whether they lean fascist. Not hard-right, not libertarian. Fascist. And I do not use that word lightly.

This is a massive Labour victory under the rules of our democracy and the country will clearly be the better for it, if only because we'll be governed by a party that is not at war with itself, staffed by people who want to fix things. But it is built on sand. The first order of business, politically speaking, is to get some proper foundations in place. I do not know how to do this. I'd like to see some kind of broad church progressive alliance, but the left is really really shit at that sort of thing.

While I am not a natural Starmer fan (my political compass is kinda extreme) he's significantly closer to what I'd like to see than the previous shower of shits, so I was expecting to feel happy today, or at least relieved that the bullshit of the last decade is over. That feeling has not really come. It is good that there are seemingly competent people in government now and that we're not going to get the nonsense of Johnson or the insanity of Truss. There will doubtless be moves to alleviate poverty and to start fixing all the stuff Osbourne's austerity dogma left to rot, and that can't come soon enough. But I fear it won't be enough. I feel like this is a brief reprieve, a silencing of the big guns before the final assault on the post-war democratic consensus. I hope I'm wrong. I have a horrible feeling I'm not.

Locally, my constituency held no big surprises. A strong retain for Labour, although we have a new MP as the old one stood down, effectively harassed out of office for his views on Gaza. Regardless of my thoughts and feelings about the slaughterhouse of Gaza, it's a sad day when a public official decides fuck it, it's not worth it, I quit. But at the same time there's a paucity of mechanisms for dissenting voices to be heard, measured and considered outside of the general election, and the general election has to be about everything, so single issues like Gaza either dominate, as they did in some other Birmingham constituencies, or get drowned out, as they seem to have done in mine. In the constituency where the MP was scalped by pro-Gaza activists, the explicitly pro-Gaza candidate won just 2,800 votes, fewer than the Greens and half that of Reform. Labour's vote share was down 10% so something was going on, but it wasn't just Gaza.

55% of the people who voted in this Labour stronghold did not vote Labour. Turnout was 51%, which is a terrible indictment on a democracy that claims to be representative. My new MP has the explicit support of barely a quarter of the people he represents. I have a good feeling he's one of those MPs who says they will work for everyone, regardless of whether they voted for him, and I'll grateful for that. But I shouldn't have to be grateful - it should really be baked in somehow.

I've always followed politics but I soon realised I should never be involved in politics. I love exploring and mapping the political system but that doesn't mean I understand why it behaves the way it does. Over 5,000 people who live near me voted for a fascist party led by a misogynist racist and I don't know what to do about that. I don't believe there are 5,000 fascist misogynist racists living here. I can't make sense why they would do that. So all I can do it watch, make notes and talk about what I've seen in the hope that it's useful to those who can navigate this stuff and actually do something about it.

And I can help build. Extremism thrives in a void and the last 14 years have effectively been an exercise in creating a void. I don't think Labour's economic plans mean they're going to be filling any voids soon so it's up to us. We need to build support networks, build compassion, build understanding - all the things that will stop people thinking opportunistic populists have the answers.

A Labour government is going to take the edge off for a bit but it's not going to save us. Only we can do that. I guess the real works starts now.

And that's about as optimistic as I'm going to get.