Tuesday 23 May 2023

Brexitwatch: A warning from the future, for Labour

 Working painstakingly with paper and glue I have managed to put together another passage from The New Oxford History of England: Brexit 2015-, presented to me by Sybil, the emissary from the future, in the obscure corner of North London pictured above:

‘Labour was in power for 13 years under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. It could have brought in proportional representation for electing MPs, which would have made it impossible for a Conservative government ever again to win power when the majority had voted against it.

Unfortunately, Labour decided that stopping this disaster was less important than preserving the chance for its own MPs to lord it over the country even when the majority had opposed them. The result was that in 2010, after 13 years of Labour, the Conservatives were back for even longer, with what was up to then the most right-wing government the UK has seen in modern times, which took the disastrous decision to leave the EU.

So when Sir Keir Starmer won the general election of 2024, there were some hopes that Labour might have learned from this bitter experience, and that this time it would put the interests of its voters and the country before narrow party advantage, but history repeated itself.

The size of Starmer’s parliamentary majority was enough to obscure the uncomfortable fact that once again most of those who had turned out had voted against the government now given virtually absolute power over them. Hardly anyone in the Labour Party had the courage to point out that this could not be regarded as democratic, and proportional representation was rarely mentioned.

While Labour wrestled with the dreadful mess the Conservatives had left them, their opponents regrouped and ruthlessly attacked the new government's performance, so that after five years of Labour, the Tories were back again with a working majority on yet another minority share of the vote, with all the catastrophic consequences we have seen.