LEADING ARTICLE: Why Arthur should have waited

Share
Related Topics
Arthur Scargill has decided that he does not want to hold a stake in Tony Blair's New Labour. With a quiet dignity not always associated with him, he has walked away from a party that he believes has embraced capitalism and plans to set up a truly socialist alternative in the spring. Already, left-wingers from all over Britain are queuing up not to join him.

For most of Labour's hierarchy - and many ordinary party members - the Scargillite defection is straightforward good news. His opposition to Labour can now be used to emphasise the party's transformation into the natural new party of government. And all without pain, since those who go with him will be few, uninfluential and unmissed. The history of the non-Labour left in Britain is, after all, one of division, defeat and marginalisation.

Such an outcome may be good for Mr Blair and his colleagues, but it is not necessarily great for democracy. Arguably, the creation of a post- Thatcherite neo-consensus, with all main parties committed to low inflation, low taxation, good public provision and pragmatism in Europe, leaves a vast amount of vacated political space on both the left and right.

But the present first-past-the-post voting system makes even the smallest parliamentary representation for such parties practically impossible. Even the millions of votes for the Liberal Democrats at the last election gained them only a score of seats. The Greens in Germany, an important political force in that country for nearly 20 years, would probably never have elected a single MP under Westminster rules.

Little wonder, then, that different tendencies shoehorn themselves into "broad church" parties, competing internally for influence. Mostly these are groups of like-minded people with overlapping views and shifting allegiances. But sometimes their agendas are completely incompatible (as is the case with today's Tory Euro-sceptics and federalists). When this happens, parties can be convulsed by the attempt to resolve issues that, rightly, should be the province of the electorate. In the end, voters do not always get to make the choice over Europe or (to pick an example for the future) over the size of the welfare state, because all parties have made a similar decision about their policies.

Presumably, this is one reason why Mr Scargill has always been a firm supporter of electoral reform, seeing it as a necessary condition for the success of a genuinely socialist party. With a more proportional system, we could well see a centre-left party (Labour and Lib Dem), a centre-right one (Major, Howard, Heseltine and Shephard), one on the left (Livingstone, Abbott, Skinner) and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the Portillistas. Perhaps some Greens would be in there, too.

But Mr Scargill, appalled by what he sees as the irreversible betrayal of all he holds dear, has not felt able to wait until after the election of a Labour government and the redemption of Mr Blair's promise to hold a referendum on electoral reform. He wants to be in a position to oppose Prime Minister Blair from day one of the new era. If there are stakes around, Mr Scargill will want to do the driving. And this shows impatience, rather than judgement. He is doomed to fail.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker