Exeter Socialist Students is not affiliated with any political party so, unlike other political societies on campus, we are not obliged to “toe the party line” when discussing the General Election taking place on Thursday. This allows us a degree of extra freedom since we are never put in the position in which we are forced to unwillingly support policies that stray away from our ideology. That said, the broad banner “socialism” sits on a wide political spectrum and, as such, encompasses a wide range of diverse views – ranging from a democratic socialism intent on parliamentary reform, to a full bloodied anarchism antithetical to notions of the state. In light of this, our society provides members with flexibility to choose their own political views accordingly.
When we take a close look at the general election, there are two main criticisms that need to be addressed: the disillusionment with a conventional model of Westminster politics and the related issue of a First Past the Post (FPTP) electoral system.
Firstly, many in society (especially the youth) are justifiably disillusioned with Westminster. The integrity of MPs has always come under scrutiny due to broken promises and unsubstantiated rhetoric. The Lib Dem’s, for example, failed to fulfil their promises on tuition fees under Nick Clegg – a betrayal that displayed a complete lack of political ambition in representing society’s needs at a moment when it was most needed. Regardless of how parliament operates, socialism views unquestionable authority from above as a totalising form of oppression over the general public. This is why we advocate a call for grassroots democracy where the masses have control over decision-making in a way that represents the needs of society more efficiently. In an equal and just society, there wouldn’t be a privileged “1%,” or zero hour contracts, nor would there be discrimination towards individuals based on their gender, race, sexual orientation, economic status or other oppressive categories.
Secondly, the consequences of the FPTP electoral system are at odds with a so-called “democratic society.” FPTP is traditionally known to deliver a stable majority government, but, as the hung parliament in 2010 as the resultant coalition government proved, even this line of thought is now obsolete. Socialism, in contrast, aims for full representation that, under the current electoral system, is impossible. The controversy over FPTP stems from the reality that smaller parties such as Left Unity and the Greens are prevented from acquiring any real power in parliament. Voters who may otherwise align themselves with a minority party may well vote for one of the Big Three because they feel to do otherwise would be a waste. This is clearly absurd, especially since the Green Party has more members than the Lib Dems and UKIP throughout the UK.
Then again, looking at the general election from a cynical perspective, all the parties seem to be conforming to a neo-liberal model society orientated around capitalism and exploitation. Regardless of the “winning party,” won’t it prove impossible to even attempt to extinguish the influence that large investing businesses and pressure groups have within parliament?
With an elitist status quo in the cabinet – 36% attended private schools, whilst 59% went to Oxbridge – it cannot justifiably represent the poorest in society, including the hundreds of thousands of citizens forced to use Foodbanks under Cameron’s leadership in 2014-2015. Faced with an unequal system lacking in proportional representation, candidates from the major parties have been caught in a “popularity’ contest,” leading to a launch of smear campaigns to win votes at a rival’s expense. This damaging aura of competition overshadows any notion of unity and cooperation that could potentially produce desirable political results.