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Thursday, May 05, 2005

 

So who do we for NOW?

Well, who do I vote for in a few hours time? That, on the day of the election, is still the question. After I finish writing this I will go to bed, waking, in too few hours for comfort and effective functioning, to cast my vote at the Canton Uniting Church Hall, Cardiff. In all probability I will have fulfilled my democratic duty by around half past eight.

My choices in Cardiff West are limited. They are (thanks to the excellent Guardian Unlimited Ask Aristotle site):

Simon Baker, Conservative
Kevin Brennan, Labour
Alison Goldsworthy, Liberal Democrat
Neil McEvoy, Plaid Cymru
Joe Callan, UK Independence Party
Catherine Taylor-Dawson, Rainbow Dream Ticket

For the sake of background I will point out that Kevin Brennan is the sitting Labour MP. From my examination of his voting record he is a Blair loyalist. In 2001 he won an absolute majority with 54.6% of the vote and a 23.3% (11,321 votes) margin over the second placed Tories. He didn’t do as well as Rhodri Morgan, the previous Labour MP, who in 1997 won 60.3% of the vote and a majority of 15,628 votes. The interesting point here is that the Tories won almost exactly the same percentage of the vote in both elections, with Labour losing a few percent (of a reduced turnout) to the Liberal Democrats. If this swing to the Lib Dems continued at the ballot box tomorrow then we would not see a Tory MP. We would see Kevin Brennan returned as our MP with a reduced majority, possibly with Alison Goldsworthy in second place, pushing the Tories towards irrelevance. This is a very attractive prospect for someone who wants Britain to develop a more left-wing, socially liberal and economically socialist political climate. The Lib Dems might not be my cup of tea personally, but if we are playing the lesser-of-two-evils game – as Labour appear to be doing – then the Lib Dems are the lesser of two evils in opposition.

So, let me run through the pros and cons of each candidates in alphabetical order:

Simon Baker (Conservative): I will not vote for this party. I have demonstrated that Michael Howard uses completely dishonest rhetoric (either that or he is a complete fool). Furthermore this rhetoric is used to push Britain towards an intolerant, xenophobic and more unequal and authoritarian society.

Kevin Brennan (Labour): Labour is the party that I want to vote for. They are the party of trade unions, of socialism, of the National Health Service and comprehensive education. They are the party that, at their best stood against imperialism and colonialism, and their domestic reflections, racism, xenophobia, intolerance and authoritarianism. Is Labour that party now? Is Kevin Brennan part of that tradition? It seems to me that the party has abandoned these beliefs, with contempt shown towards trade union leaders as business leaders are treated with the reverence. With the championing of academy and specialist schools in a move that is systematically dismantling the comprehensive dream, while at the same time eroding the foundations of the NHS with the establishment of foundation hospitals – all the time placing our future in the pawnshop with the development of PFI contracts, contracts that bring no new ‘efficiency’, only remove money and power from the people and their democratic representatives. With the introduction of authoritarian measures from ASBOs to anti-terrorist legislation to sate the appetite for tough justice, apparently without considering whether the measures will either work to reduce crime or to produce a legal system that is just, it has driven the country firmly towards the right. With the rhetoric of being tough of asylum and immigration, of deterring people from seeking refuge, it has not made the case for a tolerant, generous Britain, and reinforced and legitimated the prejudice of bigots. And this party has launched a war. It might be that Tony Blair and his pro-war Labour colleagues launched this war with no motive other than humanitarianism. But they are not the men and women who would determine the course of the war and the subsequent and continuing occupation. Those men and women work in Washington, and their personal and ideological CVs are track records of death squads, torture, puppet governments and brutalised, dehumanised peoples. These people did not devise the plans for war for the good of mankind. What will prevent the Labour Party from tying its humanitarian and internationalist aspirations to the whims of men and women who murdered their comrades in Latin America, in the Middle East, in Africa and in South East Asia?

Alison Goldsworthy (Liberal Democrat): I was, shamefully, a member of the Liberal Democrats for a short time. I joined because I thought that they were a principled party with left-wing principles to boot. I left because I discovered that they were an unprincipled party willing to adopt to rhetoric of the Tories if that was where the marginal seats were, and that where I did find principles I found that they were economically right-wing. But the Liberal Democrats have opposed the most authoritarian of the Labour governments policies, and have stood against the political weather to champion the rights of immigrants and those seeking refuge. They have also opposed the war in Iraq, in a manner of speaking. It might be that these attitudes have been adopted purely to capture the vote of people like myself. But then, while this is not the way I would like to see democracy work, should I not attempt to send a message that there are votes to be won by proposes these policies and making these arguments, thereby shifting the political climate somewhat towards the liberal, soft-left line?

Neil McEvoy (Plaid Cymru): Well, they do have a quite socialist policy platform. And they do claim to be in second place in the race according to the leaflet posted through my door today. But I am not sure I believe their canvassing. And they are a nationalist party. My conscience would be strained voting for a nationalist party. But would it be more strained than if I voted for a party that had launched a war?

I am sorry, Joe Callan (UKIP) and Catherine Taylor-Dawson (RDT), but you are joking if you think that you will win my vote.

So, I am down to (New) Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru. How to vote? Well, first you take the pencil, point the sharp end at the ballot paper and… Not for Plaid, I am afraid. For the Liberal Democrats, hoping to beat the Tories into third place and shift the political climate leftwards and liberally? Or for Labour, the party that is still, at least, the party of trade unions? I still cannot decide. Tonight I will skim read John Harris’ So Now Who Do We Vote For? And tomorrow, perhaps, I will toss a coin. I will be gambling a bit of money on various aspects of this election anyway, from George Galloway to win Bethnal Green and Bow to Oliver Letwin to lose Dorset West. I will post on the amounts, the odds, and the result of that coin toss tomorrow. I want to vote Labour, but I am unwillingly making the argument that here, in a constituency with a massive Labour majority, a vote for the Liberal Democrats is a reasoned and effective anti-Tory vote.

Incidentally, Guardian Unlimited describes Cardiff West as “innercity, massive council estates, docks, high crime and racial tension”. This is not a picture I recognise, certainly not when compared to other constituency profiles on Guardian Unlimited.

Comments:
Oh, the pains I know so well! I too am a resident and voter in Cardiff West and have suffered from similar doubts over the last few weeks. I too would have liked to have voted Labour, but in all conscience, could not bring myself to do so – no coin toss required. Indeed, for the second general election in a row I have voted both in protest and against the Tories.
 
Have you seen Catherine Taylor-Dawson? There are far worse reasons to vote for someone than that she make (at least) half the population happier just from looking at her.
 
I haven't seen Catherine Taylor-Dawson, no. My street has had very little electioneering, with not even the Vote for Yourself Rainbow Dream Ticket Party bothering to campaign. My guess is that she is expending all her energies in the rest of Cardiff - she is, after all, standing in all the constituencies. Or it might just be that she lives in Cheshire.
 
Hey there Mr Contrary. I find the Guardian's desciption of the area very off the mark...as for who to vote for...well I'm up the road in Rhondda Cynon Taff and I've posted my ballot earlier in the week...as they say, I'll show you mine if you show me yours, but I will say that my decision came down to the same 50-50 choice that yours did.

For the record, I could never vote Conservative (fundamentally flawed idea as it is) plus if I did the rumbling from my Dad spinning in his grave would be enough to keep everyone in the nearby village awake for weeks!!
 
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