Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Your complaint is my mandate

So, if you aren't going to vote Labour (and I really hope you aren't), who does that leave?

For myself, I'm not voting Liberal Democrat. On the national level the party remains some way to the Left of Labour, but that's not saying very much. At the local level their campaigning is truly abysmal. The last councillor they got elected around here did a lot of old-style pavement-level campaigning before he was elected. The current councillor-elect, though...
I am returning this questionnaire uncompleted. As a disaffected left-wing Labour voter, I have been tempted to give the Liberal Democrats my support on a number of occasions.

However, I have been deeply disappointed in recent communications from your party, this questionnaire included. Firstly, the ‘personal details’ section of the questionnaire has been pre-completed, with the names of both the adults living at this address and our phone number. While I realise that this information is in the public domain, we have not given it to the Liberal Democratic Party and have no wish for it to be held on the party’s database. Please remove our details.

The questionnaire itself is a really dreadful piece of work, full of leading questions and generally calculated to produce a public endorsement of the local party’s existing positions. Questionnaires of this type are thoroughly dishonest; I’ve complained to the local Labour Party before about their use of this form of sharp practice, but nothing they’ve circulated has been as bad an example as this one.

Lastly, this questionnaire suggests that the Liberal Democrats have given up on opposing the two major parties in the area of law and order, just when a principled opposition is most needed. Labour, in particular, are currently proposing some startlingly reactionary and authoritarian policies on crime and ‘anti-social behaviour’. In the past the Liberal Democrats have raised a voice of sanity, tolerance and liberalism against these developments. It’s deeply disappointing to see the party trying to compete with Labour for the Daily Mail vote.
I sent them this letter on Tuesday. They phoned up today to ask if they could count on my vote. Joined-up campaigning!

I won't be voting RESPECT, either; I'd find it very difficult to vote for them in any circumstances, but they've saved me the trouble by not standing in my ward. Or, indeed, in any of Manchester's 32 wards, with the exception of one: Rusholme. As Andy Newman says in the piece I quoted yesterday,
Respect’s strategy outside East London is to throw all their resources at a limited number of target seats. This is a viable and rational strategy, if not necessarily the only one. In some areas like Manchester this has caused local controversy, as the tactic has been poorly applied. Respect are standing in a ward never contested by the left before and are abandoning the admittedly small base they had established elsewhere in the city. And they are standing against one of the very few Labour Left candidates.
Meaders dismisses the idea that RESPECT is running any kind of 'communalist' campaign - but it's difficult to see what other justification there could be for focusing on Rusholme. (Rusholme is currently represented by three Lib Dems; the Labour candidate this time out is John Byrne, who has in the past gone unchallenged from the left.)

I can forgive RESPECT a lot for the consternation they're causing New Labour and its sympathisers. Patrick Wintour's efforts to avoid mentioning the elephant in the room were particularly amusing:
Labour is expected to hold on to Greenwich, Barking, Hackney, Newham, Lewisham, and Haringey, but Tower Hamlets is unfathomable. In the west of London, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow and Ealing all look vulnerable. Croydon and Merton in the south, which were once deemed marginal, are now gone.

But much will depend on turnout. The Tories are confident about voting intention thanks to David Cameron, Labour's activists are thin on the ground, and much effort is being put into black church congregations, who are regarded as likely to vote. Mr Blair has held big, successful rallies with black Christians. In Brent and Harrow the Hindu vote is loyal to Labour. But elsewhere the traditional Labour vote is likely to stay home, or go elsewhere.
(Black Christians, Hindus, who does that leave? OK, never mind.)

But ultimately if you vote RESPECT you get the SWP, and I've been on the Left long enough to find that a really distasteful prospect. Meaders is a good bloke, Mark Steel has some good lines and even Richard has his moments, but I can't put any trust in the party. So RESPECT wouldn't get my vote even if they were standing in my ward, which of course they aren't. (And we're back with the reasons I don't trust the blighters.)

And I'm not spoiling the ballot. This isn't on principle - I respect the old Bennite argument about keeping faith with the people who fought for the vote, but I don't think casting a vote to maintain the status quo really qualifies. I think I can keep faith with them better by doing something that stands a chance of bringing about change. So a mass NOTA campaign would have been good - but it hasn't happened, has it? In the absence of concerted ballot-spoiling, I'm not going to risk my vote getting filed under 'apathetic' - or 'too contented to bother' (one of Prescott's, if I remember rightly).

I guess it's the Greens again, then.

2 Comments:

Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

Ah, I had forgot about the Greens. And we're not at the polls here in Wales anyhow. If we were, though, I might be campaigning for a 'No Vote', given the choice of New Labour loyalist, a Welsh Nationalist, a Tory and an unprincipled Lib Dem, as we were in the General Election.

Given a Green though - they were, after all, the recipients of my last council vote[s], in York - I could vote that way again.

4/5/06 15:53  
Blogger Bill said...

Well, I did, obviously, spoil my Ballot in Kentish Tahn - however I'm due to go to the count and see how I've done as a candidate in Clapham tahn...

4/5/06 20:05  

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