GEOFF DAVIES. The UK election: lessons for Australian stunned mullets

Jun 13, 2017

The UK election result is heartening, joining a series of demonstrations that people want positive change. But in Australia we seem to be paralysed, no-one willing to pick up the torch, many still unwilling to change their old allegiances despite the manifest destruction around us.

The UK election result is heartening. It discredits the claim Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is ‘unelectable’ (though it won’t stop the attacks on him). It shows people recognise someone who is talking about real, positive change. It proves, as if there was any doubt, people want change.

The campaign also highlighted the flagrantly partisan role of the media, including the BBC. Why do we allow the means of our communication, the means of our national conversations, to be owned and controlled by a few rich people? Why do we put up with our ‘news’ being run by a class of ignorant, fearful cynics who fail ‘to analyse their own loathing for themselves’ and who are beholden to the wealth and power that employs them?

The lessons ought to be well taken in Australia but, on our form so far, there won’t be much more than a bit of message tweaking. Our strange limbo will continue.

There is at last a great contest in the world to overthrow the austere, selfish doctrine of neoliberalism and to return to, or advance to, a more sharing and less destructive way of being. So far there have been a number of heroic races run – Sanders in the US, Corbyn in the UK, Mélenchon in France, Podemos in Spain, Syriza (for a time) in Greece – but as yet no winners. Perhaps that is as well for UK Labour, as they will now have time, hopefully, to consolidate a bit under the reality that Corbyn’s way really is what people want.

In the meantime the Tories are in some disarray. However they will still, presumably, be in power, and they will continue to severely damage the UK and the world, as does our own baleful Coalition Government. We can only hope their reigns will end prematurely.

There ought to be profound lessons for Australia, but there is little sign the lessons will be taken.

The Australian Labor Party will never be so foolish as its UK counterpart was when it let in the great unwashed who then elected Corbyn leader. The ALP will remain one of the most ‘disciplined’ political parties in the world, meaning it will be the most resistant to change. It cannot survive if and as it refuses to listen and respond. Australia will suffer for its intransigence.

The ALP is the great obstacle to progressive change in Australia. Its entrenched political and cultural role is zealously guarded by its visionless, careerist minders, even as it declines towards oblivion. It occupies the political space where progressive renewal ought to occur, and so prevents others from gaining traction.

The Greens present as progressives, but they seem unable to step up to the main game. Their platform reads well and they champion a range of worthy environmental and social causes, but they don’t seem to be willing to take on the economic structure that is the source or aggravator of many of the issues they tackle. They seem to be held back by their tree-hugging, anti-establishment, even anti-intellectual origins, along with a dash of old autocratic socialism.

Who else it there? A menagerie of small parties and independents, variously reactionary, zealous and loopy, with the odd one of sensible though not always long vision. A senior official of the Australian Council of Trade Unions who suddenly pops up and names our delusion, but who perhaps is best to stay out of Parliament, at least for now. An assortment of nascent online parties that never get off the launching pad.

So here we are in Australia, gawping like stunned mullets, degrading our land, killing off the Great Barrier Reef, committing atrocities against innocent men, women and children, selling our land and our souls to rich foreigners, unable to run a national power grid or a national census, terrified of terrorists that we go out of our way to aggravate, jumping at shadows and bickering endlessly.

The world is showing us change is possible. Can we bestir ourselves? Boycott the mainstream media? Read and fund struggling progressive media? Join together? Find those progressives who are around? Fund them, work for them and vote for them?


Dr. Geoff Davies is an author, commentator and scientist.  He is the author of The Rise and Failure of the Radical Right (May 2017) and the forthcoming Desperately Seeking the Fair Go. He blogs at Better Nature.


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