This is possibly the worst time to be left-wing in Britain. As a result of the EU referendum, our country has experienced the biggest political and economic upsets it has seen in decades. David Cameron tearfully resigned, Michael Gove’s attempt at seizing power spectacularly backfired, Theresa May became Prime Minister and somehow Boris Johnson is now representing Britain on the world stage. Theresa May has also slammed any possibilities of a snap general election, intending to keep the current Conservative government alive until its mandate ends in 2020.
So what can you do if you’re left-wing and live in Britain? Unfortunately, the answer is very little right now. Whilst the Conservatives have seemingly lain to rest their leadership crisis and is getting on with governing the country, the Labour Party is locked in a bitter civil war.
The belligerents in this campaign are the sitting socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn and contender Owen Smith, who was until recently a relatively-unknown face in the Labour Party. Labour supporters are left with a difficult decision: a choice between genuinely left-wing policies and ideals but with a leader who seems to be slowly-but-surely losing his support to implement them, or a ‘unity candidate’ who proclaims himself to be a radical but in reality is a pawn in the establishment’s plans to stop Corbyn.
Owen Smith paints himself as a unity candidate but let’s be honest here, it is very easy to claim to be a ‘unity candidate’ when you have little political experience and thus less time to create tension or rivals out of peers. For all you know, Mr Smith could do a Nick Clegg and break his promises as soon as he becomes leader.
His candidacy defies the very concept of a unity candidate, as his intention is to unseat a democratically-elected leader (with the biggest mandate in Labour’s history) and actually create disunity in the Labour Party.
Corbyn in contrast, has had a political career spanning decades and has been a constant source of controversy, although the mainstream media has a nasty habit of hounding Corbyn for even quite minor incidents. I personally think Jeremy Corbyn presents a true left-wing alternative for the electorate and is the key to a fairer, socialist Britain. However, you can understand the concerns of many Labour supporters when their party is on-the-verge of a split or even a collapse whilst the Conservatives are now running the country at full-speed.
That being said, this near collapse of the Labour Party has not been caused by Jeremy Corbyn but by the many Labour MPs who seem determined to enforce the quiet killing of democracy and get Corbyn out for their own personal gain.
The vast majority of these rebellious MPs were elected under New Labour manifestos put forward by Blair, Brown and Miliband and as such are totally inconsistent with Corbyn’s ideology. It is quite hypocritical that these Tories-in-Red think Corbyn will fail to win a general election, when these rebellious MPs themselves have failed to help their party win the last two general elections.
What if you don’t want to have anything to do with Labour however? Are there any other meaningful left-wing alternatives? Unless you live in Scotland, unfortunately the answer is yet again a resounding no.
After the Liberal Democrats near self-destruction and staggering loss of seats in the 2015 election (all credits to Nick Clegg), it is doubtful that Tim Farron will be able to rebuild his party to the extent that they can form a government. However, he has four years to do so and the Lib Dems might be watching the Labour crisis with detail, hoping to reap whatever the Labour Party sow.
The Green Party can be best summed up in three words: popular but pointless. At a glance it is a radical, left-wing and environmentalist alternative to both Labour and the Lib Dems, being proponents of reforms such as nationalisation, animal rights, drug liberalisation and constitutional reform. However, our country’s voting system renders the very existence of the Green Party a futile endeavour unfortunately. With only one sitting MP (the party’s former leader Caroline Lucas), it is very difficult for the Green Party to market itself as a credible alternative government or even opposition.
If you’re Scottish and left-wing, your best bet would most likely be joining the Scottish National Party. The SNP made dramatic gains at the last election, becoming the third largest party in the Commons. It has also led the Scottish government for nearly ten years now. It boasts left-wing policies such as the scrapping of tuition fees, affordable social housing, reducing poverty and nuclear disarmament.
However, the SNP is very much a nationalist party as opposed to a truly socialist party and this is what might deter some potential left-wing supporters. With Labour having experienced a near-total wipe-out in Scotland last year, the SNP seems to be the only credible left-wing option in Scotland. However, although the SNP currently controls Scotland, it will never be able to gain the majority of seats needed to form the UK government on its own. Even if the party won every seat in Scotland, the SNP would still be very far from the number of seats needed to lead the UK.
If you’re Welsh and left-wing, you might be better off just flipping a coin and choosing between Labour and Plaid Cymru. Wales is a Labour stronghold and the Welsh Assembly acts as a partial safeguard against undemocratic Tory rule in Wales from London. However, that doesn’t mean Welsh voters are necessarily satisfied with Labour and at each Welsh election since 2001, Labour has seen its share of the vote slowly decrease.
At the same time, there are a large number of Welsh voters who may complain about how Welsh Labour isn’t as left-wing as it used to be during the miner’s strikes but you can rest assured they will vote Labour until their dying day. It feels like in some of these Welsh Labour strongholds, you could put a wet carrot up for election and if it was wearing a Labour ribbon, it would probably still win.
So why not vote for Plaid Cymru if you’re Welsh and left-wing? Aren’t they as powerful as the SNP? In reality, comparing the SNP to Plaid Cymru is like comparing Real Madrid to Rangers FC. The SNP is a huge political success story so far, whilst Plaid Cymru struggles to get even the slightest chance of power.
However, Plaid Cymru boasts a strong, innovative leader in the form of Leanne Wood, who identifies herself as a socialist and a republican. Although her party is now the biggest opposition party in the Welsh Assembly, can Leanne Wood really expect the people of Wales to vote to leave the UK after they’ve just voted to leave the EU? This would be a very unlikely scenario.
This is a very bad time to be left-wing in Britain, there is no denying. In fact, Britain’s left-wing is in a crisis. On the surface, we seemingly have an array of left-wing alternatives but in reality not one of them is credible enough to take power at present. The Conservatives are noted as (unfortunately for many) being one of the most electorally-successful parties in the democratic world with an ability to galvanize support from both big business and sections of the working-class. This is an ability which few left-wing parties possess.
Individually, all of Britain’s left-wing parties are currently too weak to realistically topple the Tories. Progressive pacts or alliances between these parties (as suggested by the Greens) could possibly be effective. Right now however, there’s very little people of the left wing can do, apart from seemingly wait for all of this to blow over.
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