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

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal  

What is 4Chan? And why does it threaten women like Emma Watson?

Memphis Barker
Chuka Umunna was elected MP for Streatham in 2010  

Could flirty Chuka Umunna be worth a punt for Labour’s top job?

Matthew Norman
Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world