The Party is Over 225

The highly paid political class in charge of each of the UK’s three major political parties detests, despises, distrusts and seeks to discard their own party membership.

The Conservative, Labour and SNP elite all view their party members as a potential embarrassment.

The Tory Party MP’s appear to have worked out how to get rid of Truss , the hopeless leader the membership lumbered them with, and to put in place a replacement – crucially – while minimising their own rules on including a vote of party members in the process.

All Candidates will require 100 MP nominations to stand – which should eliminate member favourites Suella Braverman and Kemi Badenoch. This makes it impossible for there to be more than three candidates nominated, as there are under 400 Tory MPs. MPs will then hold one or two rounds of voting until a winner is announced.

Only then will the candidates be put to the membership, with information on who the MPs chose. It is plain there will be huge pressure on  candidates to step down after the MPs’ vote, so the election does not go to the membership at all.

There is a precedent. Andrea Leadsom was a kind of proto-Truss, with a similar ideological stance. Leadsom did not get to be Prime Minister because she was made to stand aside by pressure from senior MPs before the vote was put to the membership, where polls showed she might well have beaten Theresa May.

Given the chance, Tory Members would bring back Boris Johnson – that remains their number one choice. Alternatively they would, given the chance, be more likely to vote for populist right wingers like Suella Braverman or Kemi Badenoch, than more Establishment friendly figures. The new rules are designed to ensure they won’t get that chance.

Johnson however appears to be hoovering up more MP nominations than expected. Careerist Tory MPs will be worried about the impact on their own prospects of not backing him.

Many members entered the Tory Party from the winding up of UKIP. Opinion polls show that, after the economy, immigration remains their next highest priority, even after free movement from the EU has ended. In short, the Tory membership will vote in any nutter who promises rough treatment for immigrants.

It is fascinating that both the Tory and Labour parties have now adopted exactly the same mechanism to prevent the membership electing a leader again with views outside the narrow Establishment consensus – in both parties that mechanism being an increase in the number of MPs who have to nominate, before a candidate can get their name before the party membership.

The professionals are to radically limit the options of the members.

The Labour Party had under Jeremy Corbyn the largest mass membership of any political party in Europe. The current leadership has succeeded – quite deliberately – in losing half of them. The Labour members elected Keir Starmer on the basis of ten pledges to carry out the kind of left wing policies the Labour membership support. Almost all of those pledges have been summarily broken.

We have witnessed the Labour leadership refuse to endorse strikes which are the main avenue for working class resistance, ban its MPs from the picket lines, and refuse to oppose massive Tory attacks on civil liberties at home, while vying to be the most enthusiastic zionists and warmongers abroad. Labour members are summarily expelled for connection to legitimate socialist organisations.

This is what Labour Party members voted for:

This is typical of what they got:

Keir Starmer’s Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, not only wants to deport more immigrants than the Tories, she has for a decade been proclaiming that Labour will cut more benefits than the Tories. The disjunction between what Labour Party members want – and were promised by Starmer to get elected – and what Labour MPs want, could not be clearer.

The SNP, like Labour, has been shedding loads of members. The 2022 SNP Conference took place at the same conference centre in Aberdeen where I attended the 2015 SNP Conference. On that 2015 occasion the entire main hall was used, and full with some 7,000 delegates. In 2022 attendance had fallen to about 10% the number of delegates, with an equivalent fall in the hall space used:

By inviting non-delegates to attend for the leaders’ speech, the party managed to get 1,000 people for its big showpiece, which with complicit broadcasters using tight camera angles, looked pretty good.

The SNP is both paranoid and fundamentally dishonest about membership numbers. The 2022 election results for National Secretary are illuminating, an election in which the large majority of conference delegates might be expected to vote. A total of only 822 delegates voted in that election.

To give some indication of the rate of decline in participation in the party, that is about a third of the delegates who voted in the election when I stood for Party President just two years ago.

If you take alone the SNP MPs, MSPs, their paid staff, and SNP headquarters staff, SPADs etc, that gives you over 400 payroll votes. Hundreds of paid SNP councillors also automatically qualify as conference delegates. In short, the 900 odd delegate SNP conference is now almost totally devoid of the thousands of ordinary party members who used to be delegates.

Crucial past party conference decisions – including that an independent Scotland must have its own currency and central bank – are simply ignored by the party leadership which has announced this week that its proposal for an “independent” Scotland involves still using sterling for several years, and accepting some of the UK’s sterling denominated national debt; a simply disastrous proposition.

About 5,000 SNP members have defected to the small Alba Party, which now includes Scotland’s own currency, no NATO membership, and a republic as policies on Independence clearly different to the SNP. With its radicals gone, the SNP has become ever more neo-liberal, with an annual 1% reduction in the state sector share of GDP as a policy. The SNP leadership openly briefs the media against its own membership.

Here follows the perception, I believe very important, which led me to start writing this article four days ago. I have needed constantly to rewrite it because of the astonishingly fast developments with the Truss government collapsing; but originally the article was nothing to do with that, except for the fact the Tory party professional elite also hate their own membership.

I live in Joanna Cherry’s constituency and was an SNP member here. All of the stalwarts in this constituency have left the party. There was a system of 16 individuals who received the leaflets for distribution, and then gave them out to local volunteers in their area (I presume the 16 are by ward, but that’s a guess). All 16 key individuals left to join Alba.

The universal motive of members quitting was the Sturgeon SNP’s failure to make any move towards Independence despite multiple successive electoral mandates. This member insistence on Independence was deeply annoying to the large professional class in the SNP making excellent personal money out of the positions they occupied within the devolution settlement.

That is the same all over Scotland. The average Alba member is not just ex-SNP (and over 90% are), but were the heart and soul of SNP membership, the people who chapped the doors and delivered the leaflets. A year ago, it was being suggested the SNP would be seriously damaged without these people.

That turns out to be completely untrue. Because those who lead political parties – and here comes my promised perception – believe they don’t actually need members any more. Almost nobody attends hustings meetings, nobody reads leaflets and nobody engages with canvassers. Elections are now fought almost entirely through the mainstream media, and online.

For the modern campaign, parties need paid PR practitioners and they need paid troll farms. They don’t need little old men and women going door to door, other than once or twice for a candidate photocall.

The members, bluntly, are redundant old nuisances in the eyes of the political class. Nobodies who presume a right to have a say in party policy which should be dictated by the professionals.

Nor do they need the members’ subscription money. Starmer is delighted to have shed hundreds of thousands of Corbyn supporting members, to pursue instead corporate and billionaire money. The SNP Conference in Aberdeen was simply a festival of corporate lobbying. The Tories have always run on dark money in huge tranches.

Then there is the ever increasing largesse of Short money – taxpayer funds which the political class have awarded themselves to fund their party administrations. This state funding of political parties is one of the very worst innovations of my lifetime and fundamental to the development of our careerist and unprincipled political class.

The UK’s political parties are becoming uniformly right-wing organisations which represent a very narrow spectrum of views – those of the corporate sector and billionaire donors; who also of course own the mainstream media, which thus has precisely the same narrow spectrum of view.

This is a fundamental change in what a political party is – it no longer is a free association of citizens holding a common political outlook and working to elect representatives to support that philosophy. This great change in society – which renders western “democracy” entirely meaningless – is being consolidated before our eyes.

The destruction of Corbyn and his member-supported left-wing programme is mirrored in the destruction of Truss and her member-supported right-wing programme.

Nobody is allowed any longer to put forward any programme that is not within the narrow and entirely unimaginative confines of the professional political class.

An election that pitched Corbyn against Truss would offer voters a real choice between two radically different visions of society, with the Lib Dems as an option for those who liked neither. That would be a real democracy. But it is not to be permitted to voters.

Irrespective of what Labour and Conservative Party members would like to offer, the electorate is likely to be presented with Sunak or Starmer, two people so close in political outlook and policy there really is little point in turning up to vote. In Scotland you can choose the SNP, with the same basic economic policies and no genuine desire to change much on the constitution.

This of course links to the ease with which the “markets” were able to destroy the Truss/Kwarteng mildly radical economic policy. Be in no doubt the “markets” would have done precisely the same to Corbyn/McDonnell. Again, no actual political choice that deviates from our unseen masters is to be permitted.

That is a much larger subject, for another day.

To end on a happier note, I am not sure the professional politicians can so safely write off the power of ordinary people campaigning in the real, not virtual, world. Both climate chance activists and union strikes are showing a way forward, while the feeling of social solidarity at the Assange protest in London recently reinvigorated me.

I will never forget the genuine social mobilisation behind the major unexpected and still sustained advance in support for Scottish Independence in 2014. I don’t think troll farms and PR firms can replace genuine popular movements, and I believe those are still possible, drawing on – but not dominated by – modern communications technology.


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225 thoughts on “The Party is Over

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  • Vivian O’Blivion

    The systematic drive to control the limits of “acceptable public discourse” predates the here and now.

    The high point in true, proportional representation at Holyrood was 2003 with eight MSPs outwith the five establishment parties. By 2007, Margo MacDonald would be the only independent voice at Holyrood. As of the 2016 election, Holyrood was reduced to the five establishment parties.
    You don’t have to support the political platforms put forward by non-establishment individuals or parties to support the general principle that a multitude of voices enhances debate. By design, we are left with slightly different flavours of our managerial class endorsed, bland menu.
    The fall of the Scottish Socialist Party was the result of various factors, but their political posters at election time were a feature of our streets. The ability of the SSP to harness the enthusiasm of their support and promote their message through poster campaigns will have played a significant part in their returning six MSPs in 2003.
    This display of “populism” was intolerable to our permanent managerial class. By the 2016 election, 32 out of 36 Scottish councils has established by-laws prohibiting election posters on council owned street furniture.
    The four “hold-out” councils continue to allow election posters on street furniture, proving that any perceived “littering” issue can be managed rather than resorting to prohibition. It’s no coincidence that all four councils are rural and are substantially populated by independent councillors, free from the admonishments of any party head office.

    Is the potential for a wee bit litter too high a price to pay for a vibrant, mass participation democracy? The answer from our permanent managerial class is a resounding yes.

  • Xavi

    Rishi Sunak did not win the Tories their big majority at the last election. His views on ordinary people mean he is unelectable. Yet rhe British Establishment are commanding us to embrace this billionaire austerian as national leader.

    This was him in August boasting of diverting public funds from deprived urban areas to Royal Tunbridge Wells.
    He also boasted of having no working-class friends and until he was exposed had no intention of paying tax on his family’s vast wealth in this country.

    The politicians and journalists reassure us Rishi Sunak is a ‘centrist’. But what do they mean by that? ‘Centrism’ by their terms is simply the perpetuation of Establishment interests under a premise that those interests are universal. ‘Centrism’ is nothing more than ruling-class interests, not the centre point of differing political ideologies.

    Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer may be unpleasant charisma vacuums but they embody centrism so are loved by our elites and should be by us too. By their terms we will finally have a legitimate leader and a legitimate and palatable democratic choice.

    • Goose

      Tbf, thirty years ago, the idea of someone with parents of Indian descent (via East Africa), someone with an Indian name and darker skin, leading Britain, would have been unthinkable. Were he on the left, the press would certainly be highlighting his ‘foreignness’ in order to denigrate him and call into question his loyalties. The fact that isn’t happening is a sign of progress on inclusion…of sorts.

      What is obnoxious however, is the idea of a billionaire being UK PM pursuing policies that favour the rich.

      • Xavi

        They’re embracing him because he’s determined to inflict more austerity. We’ve seen for decades now how useful elites consider pitiless neoliberals in minority packaging. (BAME racists too). Their ruse could not be any more transparent by this stage.

      • DunGroanin

        Let’s not conflate oligarchs with actual Peoples and Whole countries.

        Sunak is about as Indian now as the Indian Summer is. And as from that other continent he is more a drunken cowboy unable to hit the side of the barn – remember how he was daily forced to change his budget in 2020. Failing to deal with the Covid crises, procurement, furlough etc.

        There are two main reasons, it is Sunak , the first he was one of many ‘Asians’ brought into that BrexShit government- the appeal to India as a major economic power and population to remain within the 5 Eyed sphere. To sign up to some demented trade agreements which would not benefit the subcontinent anymore than the last 300 years. This also is reflected in the US elected leaders. And he isn’t Petty Patel who became daily more untrusted and despised.

        The second reason is to capture the Asian voters in the U.K. who traditionally mostly voted Labour.
        They were gaslighted at the last GE to vote against their better interests as many of them found almost immediately, with the disaster of Covid upon mostly their communities. Dog whistled with anti-Corbyn messages – being a Muslim terrorist lover!
        It’s one of the reasons that Bozo got his constituency vote last time.

        Anyway the timing of his ascension to the throne of PM of Great Britain today is aimed directly at these above local and international constituencies. It is an auspices day.

        Happy Diwali to all these Hindus who celebrate it today.

  • Jack

    So Sunak it is,
    Big Israel supporter (supports the stance that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel) and is very anti-China.
    He has, from what I know, not been as hawkish on Russia as Truss, Boris, Wallace etc. – but I guess it is a matter of time?

    • DunGroanin

      Yup she should have been the first Labour female leader instead of the liar starmer. Dumb membership. Nasty NEC.

      Here is who should be our actual pm – if he hadn’t been couped at the last ge – says about the dodgy global oligarch banker who left his piano at no11 knowing he was going to move into anyway:

      “Rishi Sunak’s 90-second statement reflects a Conservative Party devoid of any plan to fix the multiple crises they have created.

      No ideas. No conviction. No mandate.

      This government has a simple choice: embrace the transformative change this country needs or get out of the way.
      5:04 pm · 24 Oct 2022 “

      Don’t write Jezza off yet – he is grassroots!

  • Curmudgeon

    Dear Mr. Murray,
    I worked as a business agent for a union for over 30 years. I am a traditional leftist. One of the first lessons I learned in a Labour Economics class 40+ years ago, was the “supply and demand” of labour influencing the ability to negotiate not only wage increases, but “monetary” benefits and other terms and conditions of employment as well. The instructor was clear on immigrants: people who have applied to come here and have been granted the right to do so, have done nothing wrong. The issue was not immigrants, rather immigration policy. In short, immigration is the reserve army of capital. It produces an “excess” of labour, which suppresses wages and working conditions, while creating new “markets” competing for jobs, housing, food, and other commodities which raises those costs. I have yet to see any government in our so-called Western liberal democracies present any evidence that immigration has a net gain for the government. It is always a cost. When real unemployment – not the doctored stats now produced – is over 10% and under employment is that much again, please explain to me how immigration benefits the working class. I hear chatter about “special skills” all the time. If that is the case, does it mean the native population is too stupid to learn, or is it a reflection of a decaying educational system? If there were no un- and under-employment there may be an actual need for immigrants, but until that happens, the current situation proves the old adage – immigration is the reserve army of capital.
    I have never objected to paying taxes, but I do object to many of the government policies that do not use those taxes for the sole benefit of citizens.

    • DunGroanin

      Well Mr Curmudgeon, It is that the native population has had their minds turned to mush over the last 40 years through the ever more brainwashing of Americanised pop culture. Everyone wants to be a celeb and on telly. They end up being penniless debt-ridden dumbed-down prostitute fodder, who instead of being master chefs feed pre-cooked American, corn starch full, ‘food’ from frozen to microwave to the ever more poisoned guts of school kids and their parents for a few zero hours badly paid wages.

      Todays PMQ’s has your answer – after a friendly welcome from the LOYAL opposition of Rodders and SNP fools and chums of the Tories – Coffey gets to ask the drunken cowboy banker PM some to get more dentists to the feckless dumb, rotten-toothed U.K. masses – “They’re coming”, he says!

      Where from? Guess…

      As I said above the DeutcheBanker placement is to get a trade deal with India for the cheap nurses, dentists and doctors along with more deliveroo cyclists and Uber and Amazon delivery drivers without hopefully having too many actual highly skilled professionals also being allowed in – the I.T. types, that would bring to life your, and all the middle class’s, worst nightmares.

      There is zero chance India will allow any deal without Free Movement and Full Market access.

      It’s the only way we will get anyone to come wipe the arses of our elderly living alone in our dysfunctional society, with 6-hour Ambulance waits. Making money for American medical companies and hedge funds with our bankers and ministers on their boards. Although you can have a few left-over crazy Ukrainians if the EU can spare any. Because they too are in urgent need of fresh, thick, cheap labour.

      Everything you learnt about Economics and Public Finance and Taxes is a LIE.

      Bless, you and others just don’t want to believe that!

      Like little children who don’t want to know there really is no ‘Santa Claus at the North Pole’ fairy tale.

    • Pigeon English

      What you are talking about is textbook Market economy and in theory you are right BUT WHAT IF
      – Jobs are in God forsaken place(farm) and seasonal and backbreaking?
      If you want to attract working force from deprived area in the North to farm in Kent hourly wage should be tripled and maybe your produce become to expensive and your business goes down!
      – no one wants to work in care sector and many other sectors? I don’t want to be rude but at least 10% (statistically) of work force is unemployable, either very low IQ or physically unfit.
      Congratulation,s you got the PM and Home office that will make these idle workers available to the market. I am pleased that after Brexit wages have gone massively up and UK does not have so-called “living crises”. Endure for another 2 years and Sir Starmer will solve it.
      Hard-working Brits are having a good time and Lexit will start to work “Make Brexit work”.
      And to finish I would like to point out that Britain has massive amount of high payed jobs in Financial sector and that sector will be protected. Smart people try to get there!!!!!!!
      What I am saying is that Rishi and Starmer talk BS about High-paid jobs. Sitting in London in the office speculating in the Markets is much more attractive and rewarding than being engineer, scientist, doctor etc. Let’s educate morons to be doctors!
      Your heart is in a good place but things are more complex.

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