Friday, 2 December 2016

Learning lessons from Richmond

Sarah Olney's election was worth staying up for and validating.  After the European referendum and the apparent election of Trump, there may have been an element of superstition in not believing the unfolding evidence that a vile scion of a vile family was about to be given a lesson in the powers of representative elections.  Goldsmith's ejection from Parliament is a welcome flickering of a feeble flame amidst the gloom we now inhabit.

Richmond was a fertile seat for the Liberal Democrats - recently held and in part of the areas where the Cameron strategy had destroyed the Parliamentary redoubts built up under Ashdown and Kennedy.  Highly-educated, highly-alienated from the monstrous regiment of treasonable liars marshalled by Theresa May and Paul Nuttall, spiritual bedfellows of the most odious construction, it was nevertheless a challenge worthy of the heady days of the Liberal attempts to break through in a broken system two decades ago.

To read exclusively partisan advantage from the by-election would be wrong and dangerous.  There will be a parade of analysis to demonstrate how far the triumph was driven by tactical voting by natural Tories, but the fundamental issue is how the opposition to national catastrophe can address its tribal particularism and work to ensure that there is both challenge in the current Parliament and a concerted effort not to allow the Westminster system to be gamed against the interests of the electorate when the next General Election comes around.

The Tories and Kippers used their muscle for Goldsmith.  Not to oppose one of their own who was opposing government policy tells you all you need to know - the Conservative Party is now, as Nick Clegg observed, in thrall to the demagogic populists and Nazi apologists that Nutcase and Farridge parade as an authentic insurgency, all the time bankrolled by the corrupt and amoral roubles that Arron Banks and other enemies of the people pass over to fund an illusion of rebellion.  Immorality and scum go together like blue and purple rosettes, so no surprise, but not something to be forgotten or passed over in the next stage of the fight.

It was Labour who should have held the key to an unequivocally-positive outcome from this by-election.  Despite the evidence that Labour's supporters (a dwindling band at present) support a close relationship with Europe, the Labour leadership did not engage in an atypical election to push a message that a far-right "Independent" should be challenged on his home patch by a much more progressive, centrist force.  For the Greens, the Women's Equality Party and those Labour members and supporters more sensible than their alleged leaders, this was both a matter of experiment, pride-swallowing and a recognition that in order to shift the political landscape a two-horse system will need to be created that does not handicap the diversity of opposition to the present band of criminals and wreckers.

A strategy for the future needs to recognise that, as the consequences of the vandalism orchestrated by Cameron and catalysed by May's imbecility, allegiances will shift and the anger will need to be directed towards the forces of conservativism.  May and Corbyn are now locked in a courtship ritual with fascists, racists and others for whom Goebbels is a role model - such as the right-wing press.  Articulating anger and directing it to its true centre is the strategy needed, and this means that those who value liberal values across all parties and none need to coalesce - civic national parties as well as those who worked together so well in Richmond.

Olney's victory is a triumph of an informed electorate.  If the parties cannot work together, then they will fail as the movement against the right gathers pace.  A coup has been executed - there is a genuine need for revolt now.  Farron and Olney struck the right note in their recognition that it was not Liberal Democrats who won on their own, but a wide range of groups prepared to recognise that the post-coalition landscape is now replaced by an existential threat to civilisation.  From Scotland, I shall continue to support the SNP for Westminster, and would expect across the rest of the country there to be a range from the sane wing of the Conservative Party leftwards who can be encouraged to work against the disaster unfolding.  The plates shifted horribly on the 23rd June.  Hopefully Richmond, and the legal challenge to May's dictatorship, may be the advent of at least the potential for salvaging something from the wreckage.

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