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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

 

So who do we vote for?

The Queen has dissolved parliament and an election has been called for the 5th of May. The election campaign has kicked off. The Liberal Democrats promise a positive campaign, the Conservative message was summed up by Rory Bremner as ‘less tax, less blacks’* and the Labour Party seem to base their entire appeal for votes with the threat that a vote not cast for Labour increases the chances of a Conservative government. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? The threat of a Conservative government is a very strong motivation for voting Labour.

Yet this is not enough. To appeal for votes on the basis of a democratic deficiency in our electoral system is a morally bankrupt, and anti-democratic, strategy from a party that has held power since 1997, holding a massive majority, without even suggesting that a reform of the electoral system was needed. Any electoral system where large numbers of votes cast according to principle can be accurately described as, at best wasted and at worst, an aid to political ideologies that oppose those of the voter, is one in need of reform. I have stated before the ideal would be a first house of parliament elected on the basis of constituencies using a single transferable vote electoral procedure, with a second revising house based on proportional representation according to the national vote. The second is necessary as, if say 10% of people in each constituency across the country vote Green they will win no constituency seats, yet such a large number of people nationally deserve at least one representative across the two houses of parliament.

So, with the Tories running a disingenuous and particularly nasty campaign, and with Labour taking the votes of progressive and socialist voters for granted, we should be voting Liberal Democrat, no? Correct, no. I was once, some years ago, a member of the Liberal Democrats. I had bought their presentation as being a modern left-wing party. I was, however, sent a document from the ‘Young Liberals’ or ‘Lib Dem Future’ or something, in which the future electoral strategy of the Liberal Democrats was discussed. The conclusion seemed to be this – in order to win Conservative seats they(we) had to adopt the policies of the Conservative party and simply present a more youthful and polished face. I was not able to remain in a party that saw political campaigning in such narrow terms. I wanted to argue for what I, and the party as a collective organisation, believed in, persuading voters to cast their vote for those ideas. Not to simply present what the voters already vote for in order to win power, which would be either power fraudulently achieved if the adopted principles were then abandoned in favour of the ‘real’ Liberal Democrat project, or power empty of purpose as the adopted principles that we not the beliefs of the party or its members formed the basis of governmental action.

My Liberal Democrat organiser rang me to ask me to campaign. I told him that I had resigned. I told him why, and he tried to argue that this was the necessary price of winning power. I should have told him that if I simply wanted to be a member of the ruling party I could have joined it. What I did tell him was that this strategy has lost a member and a vote. It does, of course, get worse. The Liberal Democrats are not simply opportunists (of a far less nasty nature than the Conservatives, it must be said), but, if they do have an ideology, it is the ideology of economic liberalism. And that cannot be my party, or the home of my vote.

So what am we left with? Well, here I am able to vote Plaid Cymru, but as I am not Welsh and not a fan of nationalism, I would feel that a vote here would be misplaced. That leaves me with the Green Party and RESPECT, and over the next few weeks I will be examining their positions, comparing these with my own principles and values and coming to a conclusion.

Which I might share here.

*Or, to revisit a tried and tested slogan, “if you want a gyppo for a neighbour, vote Liberal or Labour.” But as bad as this is, at least we won’t end up with a theocratic junta ;-)

Comments:
Andrew,

Intriguingly, I was also a member of the LibDems a few years back, but left because of similar rubbish and hypocrisy in the media they sent me, and the shift to full-on economic liberalism. And last week I also got a letter from my local LDs asking for help organising campaign. And I also am now torn over who to vote for. Which is all to say... I will be reading attentively :)
 
Andrew

I’m sure this is not one of your top issues, but it does look like Blair is taking lessons from Rumsfeld.
 
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