Comment, Comics and the Contrary.
And what did I bet on? Well, most important things first. I put £2 on George Galloway to win Bethnal Green and Bow. That was a win
. I put £2 on Oliver Letwin to lose his Dorset West seat. I lost that one
. I put £2 on Ynys Mons (Anglesey) to fall to Plaid Cymru. I lost that one
. I put £2 on Cardiff Central to swing to the Liberal Democrats. That was a win
. And my final bet of £2 was that the turnout to be between 60% and 64%. And it was around 61%. So I made money, not very much, but some, with my high-rolling strategies. But Galloway did keep me up far too late into Friday morning.
In the end, at about half-past eight on the morning of May 5th, I voted Liberal Democrat. Brownie, from Harry’s Place
, has this to say about people like me:“if, comrades, in an act of treacherous self-indulgence, you risked all this with a protest vote yesterday, then shame on you. // Shame on you.”
Now, this is about as stupid as political comments get. But then, Harry’s Place has turned into the home of, on the one hand, Islamophobes, and on the other, Blairite cheerleaders. I do not remember it always being this way, but that is how it looks now. The eye-watering irony of this quote above is that the re-election of a Labour government will be taken by these people as a mandate for New Labour policies and an endorsement of what has gone before. Now, if the shame that I am being smeared with is to stick, there must have been a way to vote New Labour without that vote being seen as an endorsement for war and privatisation and a mandate for more of the same. It is, I am afraid, one thing or the other. Either a vote for Labour is an ambivalent message, signalling support for the Labour movement and nothing more*, or it is not shameful treachery to cast a vote outside the Labour Party. The only way to maintain the ‘treachery’ line while holding on to the idea that a vote equals approval for the entire programme is to suppose that any disagreement is treachery. Which is a totalitarian line in thinking. Shame on you, Brownie. Shame on Harry’s Place. In fact, shame on them for tolerating the Muslim hating comments. This is not to say that a comment in an open comments box is equal to approval. But if the authors of the posts and the hosts of the blog are involved in the comments boxes challenging any opposition to the war in Iraq or other Blairite adventures and right-wing policy, to stay silent when Islamophobes and the rabidly anti-left colonise this discussion space is very strange.
I wanted to vote Labour. I really did. But on a whole host of issues, from PFI to ASBOs, and yes, the war in Iraq, I felt that I could not. So I voted Liberal Democrat. I do not agree with everything that they say, and I probably would not trust them. But then, the same is true of New Labour. But they were the only one of the three main parties that stood against the erosion of civil liberties, were nominally against the war and that were happy to speak openly about their support for people seeking asylum in Britain. Living in Cardiff West I would have gambled a lot more than £2 on the Labour candidate Kevin Brennan holding on to the seat
. I voted for the Liberal Democrats for two reasons. One, to say that my vote cannot be assumed to belong to the Labour Party. My support depends on their policies and their rhetoric. Two, to cast my vote for a party that had a serious chance of pushing the Tories into third place, removing them from the local political landscape. If this strategy was successful, the next election in Cardiff West would be fought further to the left-liberal end of the political spectrum, rather than being tainted by the Tories authoritarian right-wing ideas. Unfortunately the swing to the Liberal Democrats was not quite enough to push the Tories into obscurity.
*I was going to write, ‘support for the Labour movement and socialism and nothing more’, but thought this would overstate the case for New Labour.