I’m sure I’ve referenced this before. In one of my favourite shows, The League (about a group of friends and their fantasy American football team), the most acerbic characters, Ruxin, accuses his friends of rigging the draft and trying to dupe him. They have, but they know the only thing they can do is deny, deny, deny.
“Fine,” he says, “pile into your clown car of lies because you are all going down!”
I haven’t written about the election aftermath because I’ve been so gutted, disappointed, dismayed, alarmed….and speechless. Since the exit poll. I’ve read so many articles (from Chuka Umunna’s breathless “This is why we lost” before Cameron had even visited the Queen I think), so much research (more and more ethnic minorities breaking for the Tories. Turkeys, Christmas, IMO – and I’m sticking to that – though that doesn’t necessarily mean Labour were/are offering…well…anything worth voting for either really) and so many anguished/hysterical/bitter posts from lefties. Oh yeah, and some smug tweets from righties, though I think they’re entitled to that.
I won’t add to much of what’s already been said except to say that the battle over the Human Rights Act is one of many major battles that we have to win in the next five years. And there will be a lot of lies thrown around. An entire clown car worth of lies that aren’t really worth the paper they’re printed on but really distress me because the stakes are so high.
But the struggle over the HRA is like the election in a microcosm for me. There’s a lot that lefties have to accept, like,
1. It’s not obvious. You’d think that the Tories damaging plans for Human Rights and pretty much *everything else* (I know they won on economic competence but there are £12bn of cuts coming that haven’t even been spelled out and oh yeah, they want to pass a LAW banning themselves from raising income tax so – that’s not gimmicky or insane AT ALL.) Hostage to fortune much? Anyway, my point is, this is obvious to the left but apparently not so much for the rest of the country who will believe the tabloid tub thumping over human rights being for all the bad people (and actually, yeah, because that’s the point – it’s for all of us, even the awful people). This is the same country that looked at Tory scaremongering about Scotland, Europe, immigration and a deficit that has GROWN under the Tories but which is being blamed on Labour (it’s only a global financial crisis when Cameron sees the “warning lights flashing on the dashboard”) and thought… let’s have more of that. So, yeah, human rights needing protection is not obvious to everyone.
2. The narrative on human rights is contested and that doesn’t help with problem number 1. It’s like the deficit. You misdiagnose the problem (who has been a bigger welfare recipient than the banks? Seriously!) and the solutions (so let’s clobber the poor because they’re scroungers) will be wrong too.
3. Right Wing media and Labour failing to mobilise. You can’t blame everything on media conspiracies. To do so implies the public are stupid sheep. They resisted the Daily Mail’s negative “plastic Brits” narratives about naturalised British citizens competing for Britain at the Olympics, for example. But crucially, Labour won’t (can’t?) mobilise to defend HRA, a positive Act that it introduced. As with so many things, Labour is so busy trying to chase UKIP and playing within the Tory frames of reference that it doesn’t know where to step because it hasn’t got its own compass. What does it stand for? No one knows, and soon no one will care unless the party finds its heart.
But civil society is rallying. There is a great campaign by a coalition of organisations to save the Human Rights Act. And the government has backed off for now. We just have to keep the pressure on because no one else is going to. And this is probably where them much-needed rebuilding of solidarity takes place.