I am a left-winger. I went to an anti-poll tax protest, by myself, when I was (I think) eight (I had to go home early because it went past my bedtime). I think that the two greatest governments of the last seventy years were the Atlee government and the first Wilson government. I’ve been a Guardian reader since before primary school (albeit with occasional dalliances with the Independent). I’ve been hugged by Billy Bragg at anti-fascist rallies and devoured Tony Benn’s Arguments For Socialism when I was in school. I wanted to join Young Labour when I was in primary school. I’m a member of Amnesty and Greenpeace, I’ve played anti-fascist benefit gigs, delivered leaflets for Hope Not Hate. I’ve been on the dole, and I’ve worked in the NHS. I love Mark Thomas, Mark Steel and Jeremy Hardy. A few years ago a few online friends and I had a detailed discussion about Margaret Thatcher – specifically trying to draw up a rota so that those who wished to dance on her grave would not be inconvenienced by those who wished to piss or shit on it. I’m a lefty.
I’m a member of the Liberal Democrats, but the first two times I voted for them – in 1997 and 2001 – I did so with a sense of residual guilt because of having been raised all my life to believe that the reason Thatcher won in 83 and 87 was because the SDP split the left vote. It’s only over the last six or seven years that I’ve defined myself as a Liberal Democrat (and more recently as a liberal) rather than as a disaffected Labour supporter.
In short, working with the Tories is about as appealing to me as testicular cancer, and while I see the need for the coalition, I am very, very dubious about it. I am precisely the sort of person, in fact, that Labour should be trying to win over.
Now I’ll be frank – no matter what, I’m not going to vote Labour in the next election, because the last government was so outright evil. I simply won’t support mass-murdering torturers who, among other things, removed the right to a duty lawyer when arrested, brought in 28-day detention without trial, made it politically acceptable to blame immigrants for eveything, and destroyed huge swathes of the NHS ( in the first ten years of the Labour government, on average more than two psychiatric beds a day were lost – at one point when I was working at a hospital, we had ten more psychiatric patients on our ward than we had beds for).
But I might be persuaded to vote Labour in the election after that, if I happened to live in a Labour/Tory marginal. And if the next election is fought under a preferential system, as I sincerely hope, then you might well want me to give you my second preference. And even if neither of those is the case, it’s entirely possible we will have another hung parliament again relatively soon, in which you might want to work with the Liberal Democrats (and would need the support of the membership).
But rather than try to persuade me to look more favourably upon your party, most of what I’ve seen from both your Parliamentarians and your membership (with a few honourable exceptions among the members – if you’re a Labour member who I’m in any kind of regular contact with, I’m not talking about you here) has been designed to make me, and those like me, ever more determined to stick with the Lib Dems and stay as far away from Labour as possible.
Now, I’m not talking here about the normal politics – even though Labour would have made cuts were they in power, *of course* they’re going to attack the government for them now. That’s what opposition parties do. And I’m not talking about the normal dirty tricks, going back on manifesto commitments to get at the other side, accusations of gerrymandering and so on. That’s all par for the course, and while it’s not nice it’s something all parties are guilty of (I can’t actually think of any examples where the Lib Dems have done so, but I’m sure Labour can). I’m talking about a few main things. If you do these, you won’t have my support, but you’ll at least have my *respect*:
1) Admit you were wrong on civil liberties and the ‘war on terror’. These two things are areas where Labour got things so utterly, horribly, catastrophically wrong, both pragmatically and – what is worse – morally, that there can be no excuse. I *should not* be listening to Kenneth Clarke – a man whose last period in charge of justice and civil liberties I viewed at the time with horror – and thinking “It’s nice to have a moderate in this job after those horrific authoritarian Labour ministers”. No amount of apologies and meae culpae can make up for the horrors inflicted by the last government, but if delivered sincerely enough they might at least persuade us that you won’t do it again.
2) Stop dismissing the gains the Lib Dems got out of the coalition agreement. The *LAST* thing you want is for people to start thinking the Tories aren’t really so bad. All that will achieve is all those who avoided voting Tory last time because of scary folk-memories of Thatcher (a diminishing number anyway) thinking “Well, this government weren’t so bad, and since the Lib Dems had no real influence I’ll just vote Tory this time”. A HUGE amount of your support is predicated on “Ooh, Tories, scary!”, so it’s in your interest to give the Lib Dems credit for as many ‘nice’ things as you can from the coalition government – even (or perhaps especially?) when they weren’t Lib Dem ideas. That way those who like the current government will at least not vote Tory over Lib Dem next time (I assume everyone’s agreed that a Tory majority would be even worse) while those who don’t like it will turn away from the Lib Dems and towards Labour because they had so much influence and it stil turned out badly.
3) and this is the most important… STOP IT WITH THE HOMOPHOBIC SHIT, RIGHT NOW!. The constant ‘jokes’ about Cameron and Clegg being ‘in a civil partnership’ are, frankly, sickening. No true Liberal – no decent human being – will have the slightest respect for anyone making jokes like that. Anyone making that kind of joke is, firstly, showing themselves up as homophobic, and thus nobody any liberal (or any decent human being) could vote for, and secondly showing they have the mentality of a sniggering schoolboy, which doesn’t lead to a great deal of trust in their ability to run the country.
The coalition government presents Labour with a real opportunity to make themselves more attractive, both to future voters and to the Lib Dems as a future potential coalition partner. Instead, they appear to be sinking and trying to pull the Liberal Democrats down with them (and, it must be said, succeeding somewhat in the latter if opinion polls are to be believed).
Next election we *could* have a choice between the Tories, a Labour party who’ve admitted their mistakes and reformed, and a Lib Dem party with experience in government. Or we could have a choice between a still-unelectable New Labour, a Tory party who now appear like good guys because they can take credit for Lib Dem achievements, and a shattered Lib Dem party who the public at large see as a Tory appendage. The second option there does not sound like a good one for Labour *or* the Lib Dems – or for the left in general, or for the country.
I have a number of Labour friends who are convinced that the Labour party can be the party of Atlee and Bevan, the party that gave us the NHS and the Open University, the party that legalised homosexuality and ended the death penalty. That party is no longer my party, and I doubt it ever will be – too much of my political identity is now firmly Liberal, and that’s not going to change – but it was a good party, and a necessary voice in British politics. But at the moment, you’re the party of Iraq and torture, of ID cards and detaining people in psychiatric wards when they’re untreatable, of “British jobs for British workers” and homophobic jokes, of Hazel Blears and David Blunkett.
Take a look at yourselves in the mirror, and ask yourselves – “Is this really who I want to be?” You could be so much more…
I can’t speak for what happened nationally, but I think my experiences on election day might be useful in determining what happened.
Fundamentally, I think the Clegg surge *did* happen, but was drowned out by the larger turnout, and a squeeze message. And it was a surge we wouldn’t expect.
Normally, a truism in politics is that the young don’t vote, and if students vote it’s for Labour because of NUS organisation. People are still saying that now. It’s nonsense, with respect to this election, at least. Normally in the UK one would never, EVER queue to vote – and when I voted in my non-student-area polling station, I was in and out in seconds as always. It was slightly busier than normal, but not *exceptionally* so.
But a few hours later, I was tallying at a polling station in a more studenty area, and it was a totally different story. There were queues that at one point reached *a hundred and twenty people*. For those with no previous experience of British elections, a councillor I spoke to later said he’d once seen a queue of three people, at the 1987 election, and he’d remembered it 23 years later because a queue to vote was that unusual. And it was almost all students. And they were *EXCITED* to be voting – coming in gangs, some dressed in costumes (one as a gorilla). And they were voting for US!
After my four-hour stint at that polling station I came away thinking we’d won the election…
In the count, of course, was a different matter.
Looking at constituency-wide results, you can see that in both Manchester Withington and Manchester Gorton, both the Labour and Lib Dem candidates actually increased their votes by almost exactly the same amounts – both had an increase of 3000 in Gorton, and 4000 in Withington. But what you don’t see – and what we could see in the count – was how this split by polling district.
The areas with no students – the ‘normal people’ areas – were overwhelmingly Labour. The split there was roughly 60 Labour 30 Lib Dem 10 Tory (with negligible numbers of people voting Christian, RESPECT, Pirate, Green or Socialist). The split in the *student* areas, on the other hand, was 60 Lib Dem, 20 Labour, 20 Tory – which lines up roughly with my guesstimate from what the students were saying that they were voting 80/20 Lib Dem/Tory.
It’s obvious what happened in the ‘normal people’ wards – these are traditional Labour areas anyway, and the turnout was up through fear of a Tory government – the ONLY stuff that Labour were doing was a ‘vote Lib Dem, get Tories, remember Thatcher? Ooh, scary!’ kind of thing (plus getting Eddie Izzard to go round Withington – presumably a popular-in-the-90s standup is meant to have got people feeling 1997 nostalgia, or something?). So they’re scared of a Tory government and come out and vote Labour. Simple.
The annoying thing is that Dave Page, our council candidate in Fallowfield, said students kept coming up to him all day and telling him they supported us, but voted Tory to get Labour out. They’d picked up on the national messages, and not realised that in this area the contest was between Lib Dem and Labour.
So we have a situation where people were voting Labour to keep the Tories out, and Tory to get rid of Labour, when the Tories weren’t even in the race to start with… and people wonder why some of us want STV…
One thing that NEEDS priority – from everybody cross-party, and whatever happens with voting reform – is a MASSIVE programme of education for young people about how the elections actually work. I heard – literally a dozen times – “You know, I never realised you don’t vote for David Cameron or Nick Clegg, but for your local one” (all of them, incidentally, said it that way, not mentioning Brown at all…)
And while this was not ‘the internet election’, the internet may just have saved the Lib Dems half a dozen seats. More precisely, Facebook may have. Talking with the students in the queues, I wanted to know just *why* so many students were coming out and voting (I was very scrupulous about not trying to talk to them about how they were voting or anything, just *WHY* they were voting). The more politically-engaged ones (relatively) said “Because of the debates. All my friends like Nick Clegg”. The rest said “Oh, I don’t really care about the result, I’m voting Lib Dem because my friends are. I just want to tick the box on Facebook that says I’ve voted”.
So ignorance and lies cost us votes, while apathy and Facebook gained us more. Hooray for democracy! I may go and kill myself now…
Batman posts have to hold off a few days I’m afraid…
The one-line summary for Americans is that we’re reliving Bush vs Gore, and Ralph Nader has been asked to choose.
In the election this week, no party got an overall majority – this is roughly the same as not being filibuster-proof in the US system.
There are three major parties in the UK – the Conservatives, the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats. They came first, second and third, respectively, in the election, but none did well enough to form a government. The Conservatives and Labour hate each other even though there’s not really very much difference between them, so definitely won’t work together.
The Conservatives could form a government with Liberal Democrat support, and have a majority. The Labour party could form a government if it got the support of the Liberal Democrats *and* the Nationalist parties (there are parties that want Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to become separate countries. They all hate the Tories and have effectively agreed to this even without being asked) *and* the single Green MP.
The Liberal Democrats are probably closer politically to Labour than the Conservatives, but not by very much (we’re more different from either of them than they are from each other). Most Lib Dem members and voters *HATE* the Conservatives, but just dislike Labour, but some feel the other way round.
However, the Conservatives did far better than Labour in the election, and it may well be politically impossible to support Labour, because it’s clear that nobody likes the Labour government,and people *LOATHE* Gordon Brown.
However, most of *OUR* supporters probably prefer Labour to the Conservatives, and would feel betrayed by supporting the Conservatives (including myself unless we got an *astonishingly* good deal).
Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, though, is rumoured to be closer to the Conservatives.
One of the most important things we’ll be arguing for is a fairer voting system. The Conservatives *won’t* let us have this. Labour *might* – but they’re after a different system instead, which we don’t like. The Nationalists etc would side with us on this.
Nick Clegg can’t make a deal without the agreement of both the Federal Executive of the party *AND* the MPs – if he doesn’t get that agreement then he has to call a party conference to decide.
We’re not, however, a very large party compared to the other two, so don’t have a lot of room to manoeuvre.
Interesting times lie ahead. Whatever happens, a lot of people are going to be angry. Probably including me.
Lib Dem Voice got slashdotted by Graham Linehan earlier today, so many won’t have seen this:
On Saturday afternoon the party’s Federal Executive is meeting to discuss how the party should handle the Parliamentary situation. There’s no pre-set, universally supported answer to this so the FE’s discussion is going to be meaningful and important. It’s only one part of the party’s consultative process, which also includes – for example – a meeting of the Parliamentary Party. But it does mean that now is an excellent time to let the FE know your views.
Because many members of the Federal Executive are scattered around the country – sleeping, travelling back from election counts, making their way to London and so on – the FE members may be hard to get hold of and many will not necessarily be checking their emails frequently.
Therefore, in order to ensure that people have a chance to send in a view that will be read before the meeting, we’ve agreed with the Party President Ros Scott a special email address – firstname.lastname@example.org – balancedparliament.hat.libdemvoice.org.spam.com (this is spam bot hidden email address, replace .hat. with @ and remove .spam.com for the real one) – which can be used to email in your views. A member of staff will collate all the messages and make sure that they are drawn to the attention of Ros and also reported to the members of the FE in time for their discussion.
A few tips when emailing this address:
Don’t use it for an email to which you need a personal, direct reply as, given the short timescales, that isn’t going to be possible for every message sent to the address
Given the pressures of time, short and concise messages are likely to be more effective than 12 pages essays
As with letter writing or lobbying more generally, saying in full who you are and where you’re from is likely to add to the impact of the message
Please send your message as soon as possible
That’s from a post by Mark Pack at LDV.
The message appears mostly aimed at party members, but it doesn’t say *ONLY* them. LET THE PARTY KNOW YOUR VIEWS. THIS IS IMPORTANT.
Got in only 1/2 an hour ago and have to be up in 4 hours to go out campaigning again, so an incredibly brief one today. When you go to the ballot box, just remember:
Tories Section 28. Poll tax. Criminal Justice Bill. Provoking further conflict in Northern Ireland. Sinking ships that were retreating. Destroying Britain’s manufacturing industry. Destroying the mining industry out of spite. Cash for questions.
LabourStarting illegal wars, killing a million or more. Restriction of the right to protest. 28-day detention without trial. Indefinite detention without trial for personality disorders. Two beds closed in mental health wards every day between 1997 and 2007. Collusion in torture. Flipping second homes. Dropping the 10p income tax rate. The Digital Economy Act.
Liberal Democrats None of the above.
You know what to do