By David Eade
Being British and a keen student of politics I have been taking a close interest in the General Election. However living 1,000 miles to the south I have viewed the proceedings more as onlooker as my political fate is decided in Madrid and not London.
I had talked of the election before now as the Phoney War. Sure enough come next Friday Britain shall have a new government or three parties haggling as to who will take power. Yet as financial bodies have pointed out this week none of the three main challengers have dealt in factual terms with how they will tackle the economic crisis that has been put on hold to May 7. They are in denial but the wider public is not fooled.
There is no doubting that the week after the election the British people will wake up to the awful financial reality. Even if the prime minister of the new day does not want to admit to it, just yet, the world financial markets will dictate the waiting time is up – it is time for action, or else. Cuts will be made, jobs will be lost, and as always it is those at the bottom of the pile who will bear the brunt.
This sense of denial had filled me with gloom but then another topic took over. It was the fact that the Communist Party is contesting just a few seats and to be frank has absolutely no chance of winning any of them –indeed saving the deposit might be an achievement. That is not to pour cold water on those engaged in the battle for votes or the winning of minds. Yet if at this time of abject economic and social crisis the Communist Party is deemed irrelevant then something is very badly amiss.
With the drawing closer of the Labour and Liberal parties the dreams of Lord Mandelson and his cohorts are being answered. Mandelson’s dreams are territory I would not normally wish to enter but he has long hoped for a coalition of the Labour and Liberal forces to keep the Conservatives forever at bay.
Viewed from Spain where the Communist Party in Izquierda Unida is alive and well the scenario in Britain fills me with despair. I know the Communist Party has traditionally played a more major role in European political life than in the UK. My uncle Len became a Communist in the 1920s and remained so till his death in the 1960s. Yet even within the staunch socialist family of which he was a part he was viewed as the political eccentric.
I am a member of Izquierda Unida in Spain – a broad coalition of left parties dominated by the Communist Party. In a country on a continent where proportional representation rules the IU has a strong voice in the government of the nation but at a local level actually holds the reigns of power either in absolute or in coalition.
The coalition of the left was formed in 1986 largely amongst parties who believed in a Republican Spain. In November 1992 it became a registered party and now often presents itself with Los Verdes – the Greens. In 2008 it had 48,318 members and in the General Election of that year along with the Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds (ICV) took 963,040 votes giving the IU two seats in parliament and the ICV one. How many Communist MPs or councillors will be returned in Britain next Thursday?
The IU is the third force in Spanish politics and forms a parliamentary block with the Esquera Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) and the ICV. More over it has a senator in the Upper House, a Euro MP, MPs in the regional governments and controls numerous town halls.
So is now the time for a political realignment on the left of British politics? Well it is now or never – because the situation facing Britons in the coming months and years will never be more conducive to the forming of such a coalition. Election reform may be on the cards, which would help such an alliance. However if those on the left of British politics, be they in the Labour, Communist or other parties or pressure group cannot present a united coherent message to the voters – then the game is up.
(A version of the above article appeared in The Morning Star in May 2010)