May 2008


Justin at Chicken Yoghurt has made some suggestions as to how the British Labour Party might reconnect with the electorate in the wake of the sound kicking they received in the local elections this week. His ideas are good ones in my opinion, but they wouldn’t save Labour even if the party was far-sighted enough to implement them. Which it’s not.

In reality, nothing’s going to prevent a Tory victory at the next general election. Well, nothing beyond the wildly implausible. Britain is fed up with Labour. And what’s more, Britain doesn’t like Gordon Brown. The poor bloke is on a hiding to nothing; he’s got no charisma and he’s leading a government that people don’t feel they can trust. In our ultra-mediated world, that’s a recipe for disaster.

Plus the economy won’t be kind to him between now and the next general election. Every Labour soundbite that followed the meltdown this week insisted that the poor result was due to a downturn in the economy. I have news for them… no it wasn’t. The electorate gave you a thrashing because they don’t like you any more. Get your heads around that and you may not spend quite so many years in the wilderness after the next election. That said, the economy will be a major factor at the general election. And not in a good way.

Smart Labour strategists (I assume there are a couple) are already thinking about how best to exploit the predictable mess of 2010 from the opposition benches.

The tragedy of all this is the fact that the electorate don’t have the imagination to look beyond the tories when it comes to choosing a replacement. And they certainly don’t have the imagination for what’s really needed… to look beyond party politics entirely.

I’ve just realised that, despite the title of this post, none of this is very constructive really. But the trouble is — as Burroughs says in Interzone

We have a new type of rule now. Not one-man rule, or rule of aristocracy or plutocracy, but of small groups elevated to positions of absolute power by random pressures, and subject to political and economic factors that leave little room for decisions […] The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds are rulers by accident; inept, frightened pilots at the controls of a vast machine they cannot understand, calling in experts to tell them which buttons to push.

… and I really don’t see much room for constructive improvement until we’ve shrugged off this foolish way of running our affairs.

All the same, in the spirit of constructivism in its broadest sense, and having already ruled out any real likelihood of saving the British Labour party, here’s some ideas that I believe should be implemented by the people of all industrialised nations (and if they insist on going through the party-political system to do so, then so be it). Oh, and I don’t vouch for the popularity of these policies, merely their urgent necessity…

  1. The fundamental philosophy that public transport needs to be given priority over private car ownership should inform all relevant policies. Car ownership should be made more expensive and less convenient, while public transport should be expanded.
  2. All new buildings must be built to passivHaus standard, or equivalent. Profits from fossil fuels should be heavily taxed* and the revenue used to upgrade the energy efficiency of current building stock.
  3. The building of new fossil-fuel and nuclear power plants should be halted. The question must cease to be “how do we supply our demands with renewables?” And it must become “how do we modify our demands to meet the supply from renewables?”
  4. Airport expansion projects should be halted. Aviation fuel, like all fossil fuels, should be heavily taxed. Plane tickets should be taxed and the money used to subsidise train tickets.
  5. An examination of the food production and distribution system should be carried out. This should be done with an eye to optimising it based on two priorities; (a) the physical health of the population, and (b) the environmental impact of that system. Financial profit is not to be considered a priority, and questions of raw production efficiency (units per hectare, for instance) should not over-ride health and environmental concerns.

Oh, and there’s plenty more where that came from. Stuff about limiting property ownership and about fundamentally restructuring the way political decisions are made. It’s real nightmarish fringe stuff, I guess, when viewed from the modern political mainstream.

But that can change too, you know. And sometimes faster than you’d think.

* By “heavily taxed” I do — of course — mean “nationalised”. I do not view non-renewable natural resources as appropriate commodities to be traded for profit.

Posted in: Opinion