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Britain: Tory majority with 36.9% vote; Scotland moves left as SNP demolishes Labour

After her party won more than 1 million votes but just one seat, Greens leader Natalie Bennett said: "The fight for a fairer, more democratic voting system begins today."
By Stuart Munckton

May 9, 2015 -- Green Left Weekly, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party won a clear victory in Britain's May 7 general elections. In Scotland, however, the Scottish National Party (SNP) dramatically rose from six seats to 56 out of 59, in a clear sign of opposition to the brutal austerity backed by the major parties in Westminster.

The big loser in Scotland was the Labour Party, which was nearly wiped out. Previously the largest party in Scotland, it kept just one seat. It was ruthlessly punished for its support for austerity and its role in opposing Scottish independence. Although the “no” vote won, Labour paid the price for a nasty campaign in which it appeared as just one more voice of the London establishment.

“The SNP gains wiped out political heavyweights,” TeleSUR English said on May 8, “including former cabinet minister Danny Alexander of the Liberal Democrats, Scottish Labour Party leader Jim Murphy and Labour’s foreign affairs spokesperson Douglas Alexander. Douglas Alexander lost his seat to one of the SNP’s new seat holders, Mhairi Black , a 20-year-old university student, who has become the youngest member of parliament in 350 years. She won 23,548 votes against 17,804 for Alexander in the Paisley and Renfrewshire South constituency – an embarrassing result for a man who is Labour's shadow foreign minister and electoral campaign chief.”

The Conservative Party won 331 out of 650 seats, giving it an outright majority. However, in a sign of the deeply undemocratic electoral system, it did so winning only 36.9% of the popular vote. Combined with the nearly one-third of voters who abstained, the vast majority of people in Britain did not vote Tory – but will be subjected to its brutal rule.

While imposing crippling cuts and the austerity measures on the majority, under the Tories the super-rich have doubled their wealth. On April 26, TeleSUR English reported: “Britain's super-rich doubled their collective wealth since 2009, the annual The Sunday Times 'Rich List' has revealed.”

At the same time, The Guardian reported on May 3: “A harrowing study by the National Association of Head Teachers, published at the start of its annual conference, has revealed the extent to which schools are helping children whose families have been affected by government cuts. Providing an estimated £43.5m of unfunded support, schools are helping unemployed or low-income families with everything, starting with food (on top of free school meals).Then there are issues as basic as underwear, laundry and washing facilities, equipment, school trips, bus passes, haircuts, head-lice treatments, even birthday cards for children who otherwise would not receive them.”

Labour clearly failed to capitalise on anger at this reality by providing a clear alternative. Despite its national vote rising by 1.4%, its number of seats from 256 to 232.

In England, the Green Party's Caroline Lucas – a leading voice against austerity – kept her Brighton Pavillion seat, winning 22,871 and increasing her majority by 11%.

Across Britain, more than 1.15 million people voted Green, compared to the 265,243 votes the party won in 2010. The party came second in four seats, including Bristol West, where Greens candidate Darren Hall took the Green vote from 23% to 26.8%.

However, despite the large rise, the Greens have won no more seats due to the undemocratic “first-past-the-post” voting system. Greens leader Natalie Bennett said in response: “The fight for a fairer, more democratic voting system begins today.”

The left-wing Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru kept its three seats. Irish republican party Sinn Fein, which abstains from taking seats in Westminster, fell from five to four seats.

Left-wing Respect MP for Bradford West George Galloway lost his seat to Labour's Naz Shah.

The Liberal Democrats were punished for their role as a junior government partner, which resulted in it breaking key election promises, falling from 57 seats in 2010 to just eight.

Left Unity: 'We have a long battle ahead'

This statement was released by the executive committee of May 7 general elections won by Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party.

* * *

No one was expecting this election result. Against all predictions the Tories are set to return to government – and the fight is on to stop five more years of austerity and the destruction of the welfare state and attacks on migrants.

A significant factor in this defeat was the Labour leadership’s capitulation to Tory economic policies and their failure to offer a much needed alternative. But already the Labour leadership are finding other factors to blame.

They are lashing out at the SNP and Greens, who were able to attract voters opposed to austerity away from Labour. Yet at the same time Ed Miliband will be blamed for being "too left wing", and there will be moves to replace him with a figure from the hard right of the party. Labour’s position is now likely to shift from "austerity lite" to simply austerity.

That is why the project of building a broad left party as an alternative to Labour is as urgent as ever. Left Unity’s general election results mark the first step on that long road.

All our campaigners worked hard and we thank them for that. We can see potential in votes such as the 949 (1.8%) for Glyn Robbins in Bethnal Green and 542 (1.2%) for Stephen Hall in Leigh. We also hope for some good showings in the local election results, which are mostly not yet announced.

But we recognise that the final votes did not generally reflect the effort put into the election campaigns. The election system puts huge pressure on people to vote for the "lesser evil" of Labour, and many voters were reluctant to support smaller parties even in safe Labour seats.

The election results show the voting system is not fair. Most people did not vote Tory: their share of seats is out of all proportion to their percentage share of the vote.

Meanwhile a million Green voters are only represented by a single MP. We believe a key demand now should be proportional representation, so that future elections give parties a fair share of seats according to their real support.

As the Tories prepare another round of brutal austerity cuts, we have a long battle ahead. We must all be part of building the alternative that Labour has failed to provide.

The anti-austerity, radical left can grow – but support will only come if we continue to do consistent work within local communities, shoulder to shoulder with all resisting austerity.

Left Unity is a party of activists who will campaign as hard on the streets as we campaigned in the elections. We will be right there alongside all those fighting to defend the welfare state, defend migrants, save the NHS and build a better world.

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From GLW issue 1052

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