After the election
As the phoney war ends, the battle begins to determine how life in Britain will really be during Tony Blair's second term.
It’s 10pm, Thursday 7 June: the polls have closed, and politics is finally open for business again.
The 2001 general election campaign has virtually been a politics-free zone. Now, as the phoney war ends, the battle begins to determine how life in Britain will really be during Tony Blair’s second term.
As we have argued throughout the election, beating the pathetic Tories is not the same as establishing New Labour’s authority over society. And attracting the half-hearted support of less than a third of the electorate, most of whom are unsure of what you stand for, is not the same as winning a mandate for bold and radical policies.
The widespread sense that the election was taking place in some sort of parallel universe, divorced from ‘real life’, reflects the isolation of the political elite from society. New Labour has a majority in parliament, but it has no real roots in society, no popular movement to carry it along. Blair and co will now have to set about the considerable task of consolidating their authority.
The implosion of the Tories, for so long the natural party of government, makes clear that the old Britain is gone for good. But it remains unclear exactly what will replace it. A new national identity cannot simply be ‘spun’ into existence, as those who have tried to redefine Britishness have discovered. Who we are and what kind of country we live in will ultimately be decided through the clash of ideas and actions. It is already evident where some of these clashes are set to take place.
The issues of health and education, for example, will obviously be central to the debates of Blair’s second term. The questions to be answered here are not just the familiar economic ones about levels of finance or public v private. There are also important political issues, like the government’s attempt to exploit the health and education systems to help impose a sense of social coherence and control. In many other areas too – touching on work, the home, parenting, the law and lifestyle issues – the relationship between the state, society and the individual will be in the mixer over the next few years.
spiked is up for all of the debates to come. As we made clear during the election, politics is still important – it’s just that voting wasn’t this time around. Our abstention was informed by neither cynicism nor by disrespect for the dead, as Blair rather bizarrely claimed in a last-minute attempt at moral blackmail that must have put even more people off voting.
At spiked we are not cynical, but critical. People should question everything and stand up for what they think – rather than voting for parties and policies in which they don’t believe. We felt no obligation to get involved in a poll that was effectively a coronation ceremony for the new oligarchy. We will, however, be fighting in all of the intellectual battles to decide the future shape of British politics and society. The spiked-proposals that were developed on the website during the election can hopefully form the basis for campaigns designed to develop politics that are worthy of people’s support.
We are not sorry to see New Labour victorious over the terrible Tories tonight. Tomorrow, however, is another day that has yet to be won.
Mick Hume is editor of spiked
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