Can Europe Make It?

Spain's Podemos shows us that we can (but without Labour)

If the UK is to learn anything from the political changes in Spain, it must be that Podemos was formed out of the failings of the country’s traditional socialist party.

Mike Pope
6 July 2015
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Pablo Iglesis, leader of Podemos. Demotix/Hugo Ortuno. All rights reserved.There is a lot to be learnt from the ongoing political upheaval in Spain and many have already spoken about the need for the left in the UK to take note.

The necessity of adopting a winning mentality, a more accessible vocabulary or a clear policy of programmes and goals as opposed to difficult to conceive rhetoric have all been stressed.

Yet possibly the most important lesson to be learnt from Spain, that which sparked it all off, has been largely missed or ignored.

A new political party had to be formed in Spain before any changes at the political level started to take place and the same must happen in the UK.

Spain’s two main parties had become so similar that they actually came together to change the Spanish constitution and take away Spanish worker’s rights to appease the IMF and meet the Troika’s austerity measures.

Out of this collusion and lack of choice the political party Podemos was formed in January of 2014, going on to win five seats and over a million votes in last year’s European Elections and later being a part of the citizen-led movements which ousted ruling politicians from strongholds such as Barcelona, Valencia and Madrid in May’s regional and municipal elections.

Proposing a simple programme of policies based around making the Spanish political process more democratic and open, Podemos has brought an end to Spain’s two-party system.

In just 18 months the party led by Pablo Iglesias has forced the ruling elite to take notice and implement changes to address the new reality in Spain.

Of course Spain was and still is in a very different social and economic situation than the UK so an exact copy of Podemos could never take place here but the British electorate is already showing signs that it too is looking for an alternative.

Yes The Tories won more seats in May but they only increased their number of votes by 0.8%, hardly an emphatic show of support for a party responsible for the last five years of government.

And despite registering just two seats in the House of Commons, Ukip and the Green Party gained 16.4% of the vote and the 56 seats won by the SNP further confirm the move away from the UK’s established power holders.

The combined total of the Liberal Democrats, Labour and Conservative parties fell from 88.1% in 2010 to just 75.2% this time round, a pretty substantial 12.9% drop and grand fall from grace since 95.6% voted for either the Tories, Labour or the SDP-Liberal Alliance coalition in 1987.

The UK electorate is demanding a change but unfortunately Ukip has been the only party to offer an alternative to the usual diatribe of the established order and look how quickly both Labour and the Tories have been to show they too are tough on immigration.

As we have seen in Scotland with the success of the SNP, if a legitimate alternative is provided the political hegemony of the established parties can be broken.

Labour, once the party of the working class and Britain’s immigrants, has lost the last two elections and has been losing votes since Tony Blair first came into power in 1997.

Seemingly unable to move away from it’s “Blairite” right wing agenda, the party is at risk of losing it’s working class base despite individuals like Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott offering an alternative, the party’s current leadership contest is a more accurate indication of where Labour is going.

There are individuals from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and most importantly, individuals currently outside of mainstream politics, who could offer an alternative.

Now with Podemos as a template, the rhetoric and momentum must be redirected to create a new UK party that speaks to the many who have been brutalised by years of austerity, anti-immigrant abuse and isolationist mantra.

Despite Greece being the clearest indication that a policy of fiscal austerity is both socially destructive and economically flawed, Osbourne and the Conservative’s are determined to further dismantle the welfare system and it is sad that no party was able to form a coherent counter-argument to this proposal outside of Scotland.

How is it that the multi-billion pound renewal of Trident was not more openly discussed during the General Election?

Why despite the UK’s long and proud history of immigration and multiculturalism, was there no one speaking up for the country’s BME population is the face of increasing anti-immigrant rhetoric, lies and abuse?

And who was there to highlight that despite being in power for five years and implementing a harsh programme of austerity, the Tories have actually increased the country’s debt to GDP ratio from 67.1% to 89.4%, surely an election losing statistic, especially when you consider Osborne claimed he would have eliminated the deficit by now.

The Tory parliamentary majority does not mean that the UK population is inherently conservative or content with the status quo, but rather reflects the awful state of the alternative parties outside of Scotland.

Spain has shown, and continues to show, that people who have never been directly involved in established political parties, and thus never tainted by them, are more than capable of competing against career politicians and winning.

That same voter dissatisfaction is present in the UK and all that is needed now is a coherent platform for the many dissatisfied citizens to converge towards.

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