Jonas Liston shares his thoughts coming out of tonight’s leader’s debate
1) Farage was isolated and snowed under by the dominance of the left in the debate. However, even though his central, racist focus on migration as the cause of every social problem (housing, NHS, etc.) got outdone in the debate, that and his sheer Powell-esque aggression will play to, and give confidence to his supporters and nudge those wavering between UKIP and the Tories. The fact that Cameron didn’t even turn up will help that as well.
2) A similar logic goes for the immigration debate. In the short-term, economic and liberal arguments for immigration might work, but in the long run, politics like that of the UKippers will need to be confronted by much more sustainable and principled anti-racist arguments that go to the root of the racist scapegoating of migrants, such as capital’s use of migrant labour. The limits of the approach described above were exemplified by Sturgeon’s (who otherwise was on complete fire) concessions to basic and “problematic” ‘common-sense’ arguments about migration and national security.
3) Miliband got battered from the left and the right. Especially at the end, when Sturgeon tried to pin him down on the question of a coalition to oust the Tories. The only point I thought he delineated well was his balancing of the need for national security but not subordinating British foreign policy to greater powers. Both bollocks points in and of themselves, but neither without currency nor uncommon. Nevertheless, the Scots have rightly fucked over Labour, the centre is getting squeezed more and more, and the slow, creeping, potential threat of ‘Pasokification’ looms.
4) The Nationalist parties and the Greens won the day by a long shot. Anti-austerity, of the left and (at least superficially on the former) hostile to the centre but *especially* the right. Sturgeon started off and finished very well, speaking to people in Britain, but crucially to Scottish Labour voters. Despite that, she really fell short in the middle, both in argument and in principle, on some of the more detailed, but telling, questions around defence and migration. Natalie Bennett was good all the way through, but as a friend watching it with me convinced me, Leanne Woods massively outflanked both, particularly on hostility to Labour, anti-austerity politics and the need for confronting the anti-trade union laws in order to defend workers’ rights. Let alone the flair.
5) Clegg and Cameron, the slimy scumbags they are, were morons for not coming on. Seems like a really stupid move from where I’m sitting.
Still haven’t got a clue what’s going to happen in this election. It won’t be good in the final instance, so the questions are open for us; the anti-capitalist left. Where are we weak? What, are we actually a part of and learning from, in terms of social and political struggle, that can change narratives and win real victories (I think of the way massively inspirational housing struggles have concretised demands such as rent controls)? Basically, how do we make ourselves both relevant, thinking and fighting, as an anti-capitalist left, *especially* coming out of elections, recognising our real limitations during.