Sometimes it can be exasperating being of the left in Britain. First of all you live through three decades in which right-wing neoliberal capitalism sweeps all other ideologies before it, conquering the world and redrawing it in its own image. Then, just as neoliberalism falls apart under the weight of its own stupid dogma, we look up to discover that there is nothing in Britain left to challenge it.
Of course everyone wants to pretend there is an answer. The CBI and the Federation of Small Businesses think that to cure the disease we simply need another firm dose of the medicine which caused it ñ although even they have given up on the ëdonít regulate usí line. The political parties are all running exactly the same policies as before but claiming that this is ëthe right thing to doí via a number of rather uncomfortable contortions. These are statements like ìour strategy was right before the downturn and it is even more right nowî or ìour values havenít changed, the crisis is a global phenomenon and weíre the people to deal with itî or (most honestly from the Tories) ìwe donít really know what to do but we canít be worse than this lotî. So we can all vote for the continuity candidate and the beauty is that we donít even need to make our minds up ñ wherever we put our cross itís going to be a continuity candidate.
So we have a political class frozen in impotent denial, a left which has proved incapable of producing an alternative and a media which knows the games up but still wonít really allow serious talk of alternatives. Oh, and a string of elections which could not seem more futile if they were Zimbabwean. In the next two years we in Scotland will have a chance to elect a European Parliament without a proper left party, a Westminster election where the options are all on the right and a Scottish election in which all the options have managed somehow or other to leave the impression of drift, chaos and more of the same. It is the Scottish Parliament situation which may be most frustrating ñ Labour failing to develop an independent identity, the SNP becoming more ëNew SNPí by the day (literacy testing for all S4s because the Daily Mail is unhappy?), the Lib Dems in a state best described as ëconfusedí and the smaller parties incapable of finding a way to work together to get elected. But it is the Euro elections which are the most imminent.
As Henry McCubbinís analysis of the state of play in Europe shows, we are about the only country with no decent left option on the ballot paper. The Greens might pick up a couple of seats and we have a new trade union-backed initiative, but thatís it. By the time you read this there will have been the launch of a party called ìno2eu ñ yes to democracyî . It has four central slogans: Say no to the Lisbon Treaty (defend democracy across europe); Say yes to workers rights (resist the EU turning human beings into commodities to be shunted around Europe while local workers are excluded from being able to provide for their families); Keep out the BNP (resist the fascist threat to exploit the current economic crisis to promote racist political ends); Defend public services (such as post offices and the NHS and renationalise Britainís railways). The financial support comes from the RMT but the principle is supported by The Socialist Party, the Communist Party of Britain; The Morning Star; Solidarity: Scotlandís Socialist Movement, the Alliance for Green Socialism, Respect Renewal and Respect. This is something, but it is very much a last-gasp attempt. It is a short life party with a very loose coalition and it exists because of the failure of the left in Britain and not because of its successes.
But at least itís a recognition of the problems we face as we try to achieve real change. We may not be excited about Europe but at least we realise the failure in our politics. The Euro elections may not stimulate much interest in Scotland, but at least we can see the rest of Europe taking a lead and trying something different. It may prove to be a start.