AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME
This is spot-on. Labour is now in a zombified state: its MPs wriggle ineffectually in an attempt to escape the grip of its inapt leader, but for all that they know that Alan Johnson would lead them into an election next year with a healthier complexion, they cannot face Brown down. As the oleaginous Ben Bradshaw (the new Culture Secretary apparently, like anyone had noticed) claimed yesterday morning that the PM was the right man to lead the party and the country, one could only feel pity for him.
As K-Punk rightly notes, Parliament has regressed back to the early 20th century, to the days before the Labour movement when there was no political representation for working-class people. Labour's share of a very low turn-out was 15% for the European elections. They will certainly lose the next general election, and it is virtually impossible to imagine them reconnecting with anything resembling a socialist value thereafter.
So the Tories will be elected - but not by an enthusiastic electorate. They gained only 28% of the vote - a pretty terrible result for the opposition when the governing party is catatonic. Even if those who voted UKIP switch their votes to the Tories, and even if the Tories win by a thumping majority, it will be an utterly bathetic – and potentially Phyrric - victory. The Conservatives are seen (as are the Lib Dems) as archaic - part of a political-economic system whose time has passed.
Which brings us to the Thatcher paraphrasis: that we are currently waiting for an idea whose time has come. Or to put it into Freudian terms (since at the moment I am reading this excellent Lacan primer), we await a vorstellungreprasentanzen: the representation of an idea whose time has come. To see the glass half-full, it feels like the idea about how we restructure society is “out there” somewhere, but remains half-baked and unstable and needs representing and voicing clearly. The inutility of the Labour Party clearly shows that it cannot be the place where progressive solutions will be found.
The BNP increased their share of the vote by just 1.3% this time (compared to an increase of 3.9% in 2006), and their two new MEPs received 8% and 9.8% of the regional share respectively. They were elected because people who would normally vote for the other parties stayed at home. As this article explains,
The BNP still ended up with two seats, but it was not because people supported what the BNP stands for. We held the BNP vote back, but our campaign just could not stand up to the relentless onslaught of bad publicity over the MPs’ expenses scandal, coming on top of the economic recession and growing unemployment, which meant many people did not vote at all. Rest assured we shall quickly expose the BNP’s failings in Europe as we have exposed the failings of BNP local councillors. The fight goes on.
If we do not find a way of articulating how our economic and political structures should change, Nazism could still take hold, but at the moment public sympathy for the BNP remains stagnant. That is not to take away from the awful fact that the UK now has Fascist representatives in Europe, but a concerted anti-fascist campaign and a coherent list of positive steps forward (see here for some ideas, but there are more, many more) will ensure that Griffin, Bron et al will get a lot more than egg on their faces.