Election 2010: the Best and the Worst

Five high points and five low points from election night.

The best

1. That we don't have a majority (neo)Conservative government, and that the truly frightening prospect of the fanatical neocon warmonger Dr Liam Fox as defence secretary may still be avoided.

2. The likelihood that we'll get a move to a more democratic voting system, which will lead to the break-up of our traditional parties and reinvigorate our political system, as I argued here.

3. The re-election of the solidly anti-war John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and some other genuinely leftist Labour MPs.

4. The conduct of Gordon Brown. As regular readers will know, I'm no fan of Brown's neoliberal policies, but I must admit to admiring the way he has conducted himself over the past 48 hours. His speech outside No 10 yesterday was very measured and politically very astute. (On the subject of Brown, here is a very interesting piece on the Blairite plot to replace him with David Miliband in the event of a Lab/Lib coalition.)

5. Er, that's it.

 

The worst

1. The defeat of George Galloway in Poplar. The neocon warmongers, who are itching either to attack Iran or to destroy the country by imposing swingeing new sanctions, will be gloating that their strongest critic in the UK won't be in the next parliament.

2. The way that the cult of celebrity has infected election-night television coverage. Did you want to hear the views of Bruce Forsyth, David Baddiel and the "property guru" Kirstie Allsopp on a hung parliament? No, me neither.

The BBC spent £30,000 of OUR money on a freebie junket for millionaire celebs and hangers-on, all of whom were perfectly capable of paying for their own wine and champagne. All at a time when we're told that the state must curb its spending drastically. It's beyond parody.

3. The contestant from The Apprentice -- I didn't catch her name -- who seemed to imply that public-sector workers should be disenfranchised because they don't vote the way she wants them to.

4. The way that working-class voices are nowadays almost totally excluded from election night, and indeed during the election campaign. Solidly upper-middle-class presenters, introduce solidly upper-middle-class analysts and then interview solidly upper-middle-class politicos. If you're working class you can sod off -- unless your name is Mrs Gillian Duffy, and you make comments about eastern Europeans "flocking" here and have a spat with Gordon Brown.

It hasn't always been like this. I recently rewatched the BBC's coverage of the 1979 election night, the last election before the neoliberal era. There were regular interviews with trade union leaders, and interviews with workers and ordinary people (including a cleaning lady), about how the result would affect them. Today all the talk is about how the markets will respond and what the City thinks of the result.

And what's the end result in this most upper-middle-class of elections? Two upper-middle-class public school/Oxbridge-educated politicians discuss how they're going to form the next government. Welcome to the classless Britain of 2010.

5. The election of the solidly middle-class Blairite carpetbagger Luciana Berger (a candidate who didn't even know who Bill Shankly was) in the solidly working-class seat of Liverpool Wavertree. If only Ricky Tomlinson had stood against her. Let's hope he does in October.

Anyway, that's my "best and worst". How about yours?

This post originally appeared on Neil Clark's blog

Get 12 issues for just £5.99 plus a free copy of "Liberty in the Age of Terror" by A C Grayling.

European People's Party via Creative Commons
Show Hide image

Ansbach puts Europe's bravest politician under pressure

Angela Merkel must respond to a series of tragedies and criticisms of her refugee policy. 

Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, is supposed to be on holiday. Two separate attacks have put an end to that. The first, a mass shooting in Munich, was at first widely believed to be a terrorist attack, but later turned out to be the actions of a loner obsessed with US high school shootings. The second, where a man blew himself up in the town of Ansbach, caused less physical damage - three were seriously injured, but none killed. Nevertheless, this event may prove to affect even more people's lives. Because that man had come to Germany claiming to be a Syrian refugee. 

The attack came hours after a Syrian refugee murdered a pregnant Polish woman, a co-woker in a snack bar, in Reutlingen. All eyes will now be on Merkel who, more than any other European politician, is held responsible for Syrian refugees in Europe.

In 2015, when other European states were erecting barriers to keep out the million migrants and refugees marching north, Merkel kept Germany's borders open. The country has resettled 41,899 Syrians since 2013, according to the UNHCR, of which 20,067 came on humanitarian grounds and 21,832 through private sponsorship. That is twice as much as the UK has pledged to resettle by 2020. The actual number of Syrians in Germany is far higher - 90 per cent of the 102,400 Syrians applying for EU asylum in the first quarter of 2016 were registered there. 

Merkel is the bravest of Europe's politicians. Contrary to some assertions on the right, she did not invent the refugee crisis. Five years of brutal war in Syria did that. Merkel was simply the first of the continent's most prominent leaders to stop ignoring it. If Germany had not absorbed so many refugees, they would still be in central Europe and the Balkans, and we would be seeing even more pictures of starved children in informal camps than we do today. 

Equally, the problems facing Merkel now are not hers alone. These are the problems facing all of Europe's major states, whether or not they recognise them. 

Take the failed Syrian asylum seeker of Ansbach (his application was rejected but he could not be deported back to a warzone). In Germany, his application could at least be considered, and rejected. Europe as a whole has not invested in the processing centres required to determine who is a Syrian civilian, who might be a Syrian combatant and who is simply taking advantage of the black market in Syrian passports to masquerade as a refugee. 

Secondly, there is the subject of trauma. The Munich shooter appears to have had no links to Islamic State or Syria, but his act underlines the fact you do not need a grand political narrative to inflict hurt on others. Syrians who have experienced unspeakable violence either in their homeland or en route to Europe are left psychologically damaged. That is not to suggest they will turn to violence. But it is still safer to offer such people therapy than leave them to drift around Europe, unmonitored and unsupported, as other countries seem willing to do. 

Third, there is the question of lawlessness. Syrians have been blamed for everything from the Cologne attacks in January to creeping Islamist radicalisation. But apart from the fact that these reports can turn out to be overblown (two of the 58 men arrested over Cologne were Syrians), it is unclear what the alternative would be. Policies that force Syrians underground have already greatly empowered Europe's network of human traffickers and thugs.

So far, Merkel seems to be standing her ground. Her home affairs spokesman, Stephan Mayer, told the BBC that Germany had room to improve on its asylum policy, but stressed each attack was different. 

He said: "Horrible things take place in Syria. And it is the biggest humanitarian catastrophe, so it is completely wrong to blame Angela Merkel, or her refugee policies, for these incidents." Many will do, all the same.