Sunday, May 01, 2016

May Day

Today, the first of May, is sometimes known as May day, an expression with three meanings

1) An ancient holiday commemorated throughout Northern Europe as a celebration of Spring

2) International labour day, also known as Labour day, which in the words of Wikipedia is a

"celebration of labourers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labour movement, anarchists, socialists, and communists"

3) an internationally recognised distress signal.


The New Scientist magazine used to run brilliant cartoon strips. For a couple of decades about the time of my childhood they ran a series called "Grimbledon Down" set in a fictional government research institute, and in my early adulthood they had a cartoon series called "Albert the Experimental Rat."

One year in the 90's at the beginning of May, at a time when Labour had been out of power for a long time and looked likely to stay that way, (it might have been something like May 1992, shortly after John Major was re-elected,) the "Albert the Experimental Rat" cartoon strip was called "May Day" and remembering it now just goes to show how much things change.

Against a back drop of morris men dancing round a maypole, Albert the rat was shown saying in the first panels something like

"May day - an ancient festival ...

where the British enjoy arcane rituals ...

and pay homage to ancient and long-discredited powers ...."

And the final panel, against a background purporting to be "Ye Anglo Saxon Chronicle" with the headline "Wilson declares May Day bank holiday" had Albert the rat concluding

"such as Labour governments."


It was very funny at the time. But there is a serious point to remembering it.

Nothing lasts for ever, especially not in politics. A political trend can last for a couple of decades, but sooner or later people will want a change.

That cartoon came out at a time when it looked like Labour might never get back into power and people were wrongly predicting that Britain had become an effective one-party state. Yet in fact about five years afterwards, Labour had one of the biggest landslide wins in British political history and were in power for the following thirteen years.

For much of that thirteen year period it looked for a while like the Conservatives might never return to power and some people wrote press articles arguing that the Tories had joined the Liberal democrats in the dustbin of history.

They too were proved doubly wrong when the following government was a Conservative and Lib/Dem coalition.

At the moment we are back in an era when the Labour party seems determined to destroy itself.

Conservatives should not assume that Labour will succeed in doing that. Or that the Labour party, even while displaying the serious faults which are only too apparent at the moment, could not get back into power given an unfortunate combination of "events, dear boy, events" such as another recession (there will be another world recession sooner or later no matter what policies Britain follows) especially if the Conservatives tear themselves apart.

Nothing in politics is certain and nothing in human affairs lasts for ever.

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