I was reading the tributes to Tony Benn, who died yesterday. One of the most famous voices in British politics for 50 years, a fantastic communicator and orator and always ready with a quick quip or quote. Benn represented two things that modern British politics has successfully removed from its system, a politician of conviction and principle, and a man who could speak without preparation, notes and sticking to a line to push. Benn believed in devolving power to the people, no matter how lowly or poor. To Benn, the people who had nothing mattered much, much more than those who had it all.
Now Benn is gone, who is there to speak for those 8.45 million voices? (Anyone who replies George Galloway can go stand in the corner and think about what you have done.) There is no-one. The major voice of protest in this country, the one standing against the malicious, spiteful treatment of the poor, the disabled, the one person who could speak out and reach an audience of millions to protest as a bunch of overprivileged cunts smash up education and the NHS like alcohol fuelled on a Saturday night bender is… Russell Brand.
One thing that many people mentioned was the 1983 General Election. Labour went into that election with a manifesto dubbed “the longest suicide note in history”. It contained, among other things, unilateral nuclear disarmament (at the height of the Cold War), leaving the EEC and renationalising British Telecom, British Aerospace and the British Shipbuilding Company. Coming off the Falklands War, and a country still bearing the scars of 1970s battles against the unions, it was no surprise that Labour lost, and lost heavily.
We are often told that Britain is a conservative (small ‘c’) country. What is interesting to note is that what is undoubtedly the most socialist manifesto ever produced by a major British political party, managed to gather 8.45 million votes. To put this in some kind of perspective, that is 200,000 votes less than Labour got in 2010, 100,000 less than the Conservatives got in 2005 and a shade under 100,000 more than the Conservatives got in 2001. 8.45 million people voted to protect the welfare state, workers jobs, union rights and the NHS. Yet here we are, with no party standing for those things.