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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Turn left (and then left again), It's as if the left has a self-destruct button, and can't stand being popular by Mark Steel

Mark Steel

Poor Gordon Brown has arrived at that point where his life is one long sequence of disasters. The moment Jacqui Smith left his office he probably went "Hang on, I can smell something burning. Oh no, it's the Spanish Minister of Trade, I must have pushed him onto the barbecue as I dropped a pickled onion down Jacqui's cleavage. And now a parrot's shat on my speech to the CBI."

And yet there's little sense of enthusiasm for the Tories, the way there was for Thatcher or Blair before they were elected. Instead it reminds me of kids picking teams at the start of a PE lesson, with Brown and Cameron as the last two left that no one wants, and the country muttering "Oh we'll have Cameron I suppose".

Nothing the major parties do seems to make them popular, because they both worship the ideals of the super-wealthy that have become hugely unpopular. This ought to make it an ideal time for socialists to win support for radically transforming society, in favour of the majority at the expense of the duck-island owning class. Certainly Tony Benn has become extraordinarily popular, packing huge theatres, and he'd have probably won Britain's Got Talent if he could have made a speech about the Suffragettes while playing the spoons.

But while individual socialists attract an audience, no socialist group or party could win more than a tiny vote. Whereas in Europe, new socialist groups have become credible enough to become a pole of attraction for a wide layer of people, and in Germany a group called "The Left" has quickly risen to 10 per cent in the polls.

The difference here must be partly that the left in the Labour Party are unmovable in their belief they should remain members, no matter how humiliated they become. If the next Labour leader was The Joker from Gotham City, and he sprayed the world with deadly laughing gas, the last choking gasp of the Labour left would be "Nonetheless Labour is the traditional party of socialism and I will remain loyal although I urge any survivors to raise this matter at the next constituency meeting".

But also the attempts to start new socialist groups have gone spectacularly haywire. George Galloway's Respect tore itself apart in a feud about nothing that anyone can work out, and it would have made more sense if one faction had issued a statement that they were leaving because the other lot snored. The Scottish Socialist Party achieved seven per cent of the total vote across Scotland, then went to war with itself over the issue of how to respond to the News of the World, when it accused their leader of going to a swingers' club.

It's as if the left has a self-destruct button, and can't stand being popular. The next time a socialist group appears to be doing well, they'll end their party political broadcast by saying "That's why we think you should vote for us. Now to finish, let's see what happens when I put a kitten in a microwave".

But the cheery note is that the Green Party has attained credibility while retaining its principles, and seems to be the home for many people who opposed the Iraq war, oppose the rule of bankers and private finance, and feel it might be worth looking at doing something about the fact the planet's about to melt. So I'm voting for them tomorrow, and if they implode in a petty row about nothing I'm obviously a jinx and I'm joining the bloody Tories.

First published in The Independent on 3rd June 2009

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