John Smith, Sliding Doors and the GE



I was away last week in Mull and Iona. One “must” as a progressive was a visit to John Smith’s grave which is at the Abbey on Iona. I remember vividly how shocked I was the day he died. I was an active Labour member at the time working at the then Leeds Metropolitan University. There was a feeling that we had lost a great leader; I was not a great fan of Blair and the subsequent decades played out somewhat differently than they might have otherwise. Indeed the idea of differing futures was explored in the movie sliding doors and there are multiverse theories of cosmology where parallel universes exist and other scenarios may play out elsewhere.

There is a comforting narrative looking at history that things are inevitable, but often things seem chaotic and random and small tipping points can have large consequences. The 2015 GE was decided by 900 people in marginal constituencies and the Trump victory in the US by about 75,000 in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The consequences of both these victories are dramatic (catastrophic is possibly more accurate) and it is an indictment of the electoral system in both the UK and US that such tight margins can alter the course of history.

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Tomorrow the UK goes to the polls in probably the most important election since 1945. When the election was called it seemed inevitable that there would be a Tory landslide. Now it looks less sure. Corbyn has exceeded all expectation and May has disappointed at almost every appearance. Some polls even predict a hung parliament.

Needless to say on so many measures the prospect of a Tory victory is undesirable in the extreme. It is no longer inevitable however and even a weakened Tory party is an outcome I would not have expected a month ago. My analysis is the Brexit negotiations are such a poisoned chalice, and the failed neoliberal approach is such that the next few years may resemble in political terms the dying days of the Major Government.

The advice on progressive Pulse is to vote tactically even if it means putting a peg on your nose. It is a bit of fun to look at the the Vote for Policies site. I was surprised when I took the test as to how well the Lib Dems did and how badly Labour (the Greens was no surprise). My results here:

I can assure you however I would most definitely vote Labour if I lived in a constituency where it was likely to matter; sadly I live in a seat where there has been a Tory MP since 1924 (Hexham) and a pig with a blue rosette would get elected. So do vote and use tactical voting as appropriate. At least with a GE there is always next time.


  1. Geoff -

    Yes indeed Sean,
    Smith could have been a great PM, he’s a miss.

    I see the Times ran an article saying senior civil servants have been briefed to expect a “hung parliament.” For me, Theresa May will emerge as battered and damaged goods, regardless, Jeremy Corbyn as a man of vision with the good of the British people at the centre of his beliefs and policies and we have a politically rejuvenated youth, who are the future of our country. Labour have run a brilliant and engaging campaign.
    May has kept almost all of her MP’s away from the media glare, choosing to run her campaign on personality and strength of leadership both of which she lacks in spades.

    We have voted (postal vote) Lib Dem to keep the Tories out of Westmorland

  2. Charles Adams -

    Very interesting vote for policies site. I came out as 64% green. May be this is a much better way of selecting governments!

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Indeed it was quite interesting. Nice to see that you are even more Green than me!

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