Lib Dem Manifesto Analysis

So I just received an email pointing me to some PDFs containing visions of how the world could be, discussions of positive social justice, and some material on obscure voting systems.

But enough of the Hugo Packet (I’m sorry, I’m very sorry) what about the Lib Dem manifesto?

The full manifesto, which I’m going to analyse, can be found here, but for people who don’t like very dull manager-speak, I’d suggest clicking the “easy read” version designed to give the bullet points to people who can’t read well because of disabilities.

All party manifestos are, to an extent, curate’s eggs. They’re the result of compromise between different party factions, and no-one wins out totally. What I’m surprised by in this one is how close this manifesto is to the one I’d have chosen.

That was by no means a certainty. Lib Dem manifestos have to be based on party policy, and the policies are voted for by conference. And between 2010 and 2015 conference was persuaded to accept a lot of pre-compromised nonsense on the grounds that it would be easier to win in the coalition negotiations which everyone in the leadership was certain were coming.

Since Tim became leader, he’s been fantastically successful in turning that around. Tim has, actually, been on a remarkably similar mission to Jeremy Corbyn’s — he’s been pushing the party away from vapid centrist waffle and towards a radical left-liberalism. But whereas Corbyn’s changes have mostly been on the level of rhetoric and image (truthfully, most of Labour’s manifesto would have fit perfectly under Gordon Brown or Ed Miliband), Tim has, in a more low-key way, been restoring some of the party’s lost policy muscle.

(That’s not to suggest that he is the prime force in making policy — he isn’t. What he *is*, though, is a leader who recognises that the best way to build a core vote is to let Liberals actually be Liberal.)

The change isn’t complete yet — what was meant to be a five-year project has been interrupted two years in — but there’s still a massive change between this year’s manifesto and 2015s, both in policy and in emphasis.

(I *VERY* much hope, incidentally, that there are no stupid leadership challenges after the election. Two years is *not* enough time to build a core vote from essentially nothing, and what Tim has done in revitalising the party’s membership shows me that whatever the results on June 8th, he’s got the party headed in the right direction).

The difference shows in the very first sentence: “In every other manifesto, a Liberal Democrat leader has set out a vision for government”. While the manifesto does do that, Tim’s preface makes it clear that we’re recognising that we’re not going from nine seats to over three hundred in a single election. This is, yes, setting out what we would do if that happened, but it’s also making a pitch for us as the opposition to a Tory government.

But what does it say we would do?

I’m not going through the whole hundred pages line by line — there are huge areas of policy I know little about, and so I can’t judge some areas sensibly, though most look about right. But here’s what I think, section by section.

Protect Britain’s Place in Europe
The party’s line on Brexit is slightly softer than I would personally like, but it can be summed up as “push the government to negotiate a deal that protects rights and the economy, then have a second referendum, in which we will campaign to stay in because no matter how good the deal it won’t be as good as remaining”. This is a decent line, though personally I never want another referendum on anything ever.

Highlights of this section:
“We will press for the UK to unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK, ending their ongoing uncertainty.” — the very first concrete policy proposal in the manifesto is protecting immigrants’ rights, which is nice.
“We believe that any deal negotiated for the UK outside the EU must ensure that trade can continue without customs controls at the border, and must maintain membership of the single market”
“We support the principle of freedom of movement – to abandon it would threaten Britain’s prosperity and reputation as an open, tolerant society. Any deal negotiated for the UK outside the EU must protect the right to work, travel, study and retire across the EU.”
“protect Erasmus+ and other EU-funded schemes which increase opportunities for young people”
But basically everything in here is good. It boils down to “if we *must* leave the EU, which we shouldn’t, then we need to protect workers’ rights, equality law, science funding, environmental protections, and all the other good things the EU does.”

Save our NHS and Social Care Services
The priorities in this section are simple:
● Saving the NHS by putting a penny in the pound on Income Tax to give the NHS and social care services the cash injection they need.
● Transforming mental health care with waiting time standards to match those in physical health care.
● Home not hospital: better integration of health and social care and limiting the amount elderly people have to pay for social care.

The 1p income tax rise would be ringfenced only for NHS and social care use, and would be an interim measure while a cross-party group came up with recommendations, possibly to include a new health tax to replace National Insurance. This rise and spending would apply only to England and Wales, but there would also be a UK-wide 1p rise in dividend tax, which would also apply to and be spent in Scotland.

Most of this section is good, but highlights include:
● Guarantee the rights of all NHS and social care service staff who are EU nationals to stay in the UK.
● End the public sector pay freeze for NHS workers.
● Reinstate student nurse bursaries
Tons of good stuff on mental health
● Make Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention available on the NHS.

There’s also a couple of the few things I definitely disagree with here — sugar taxes and minimum unit pricing on alcohol. I understand the arguments for these things, but they would disproportionately affect poor people and make some small pleasures less affordable for them. It smacks of puritanism to me.

Put Children First
Most of this looks good to me, but I don’t know enough about education policy to evaluate things like “Investing nearly £7 billion extra in our children’s education” — is £7bn a big increase in school budgets? A tiny one? Will it help? I assume there are good reasons for this stuff, but I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on an area of policy I’ve never really looked at.

Some things that are clearly good, though:
“Opposing any new selective schools”
“Reverse all cuts to front-line school and college budgets”
“Rule out state-funded profit-making schools”
“Introduce a curriculum entitlement – a slimmed down core national curriculum, which will be taught in all state-funded schools. This will include Personal, Social and Health Education: a ‘curriculum for life’ including financial literacy, first aid and emergency lifesaving skills, mental health education, citizenship and age-appropriate Sex and Relationship Education (SRE).”
“Include in SRE teaching about sexual consent, LGBT+ relationships, and issues surrounding explicit images and content.”
“Extend free school meals to all children in primary education”

Build an Economy that Works for You
This is very sensible stuff — and most of it is actually almost interchangeable with the corresponding sections in Labour’s manifesto. Small income tax rise to fund health, borrowing for investment in infrastructure projects, end the 1% cap on pay rises in the public sector, and uprate wages in line with inflation. Reverse Tory tax cuts for the rich — Corporation Tax, Capital Gains Tax, and so on. Consider Land Value Tax.

One point that seems *very* good to me: “Create a new ‘start-up allowance’ to help those starting a new business with their living costs in the crucial first weeks of their business.” — I know a LOT of people who would be better off running their own business but can’t afford to have no income while they start it up.

I also like “a full-scale review into the burden of taxation and spending between generations to ensure that government policy promotes fairness between generations.”

There’s lots of good stuff here — lots of policies that, taken in isolation, seem like tiny tweaks, but which could easily make life a lot more liveable for a lot of people.

Keep our Country Green
Lots of sensible stuff here, too. I’m very pleased to see the focus on air quality, but there’s also stuff like:
“new legally binding targets to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2040 and to zero by 2050.”
“restoring government support for solar PV and onshore wind in appropriate locations ”
“Suspend the use of neonicotinoids until proven that their use in agriculture does not harm bees or other pollinators”

Support Families and Communities
This is again mostly good stuff: an extra month’s paternal leave, free childcare for two-year-olds, housebuilding target of 300,000 new houses a year.

There’s some particularly good stuff on benefits in here though:
“Separate employment support from benefits administration – making Jobcentres places of training and support into work”
“Encourage people into work by reversing the cuts to Work Allowances in Universal Credit, enabling people to work for longer before their benefits are cut.”
“Uprate working-age benefits at least in line with inflation.”
“Abandon the two-child policy on family benefits and abolish the Conservatives’ ‘rape clause’”
“reversing cuts to housing benefit for 18-21-year-olds”
“increase the rates of Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit for those aged 18-24 at the same rate as minimum wages.”
“Reverse cuts to Employment Support Allowance to those in the work-related activity group.”
“Scrap the ‘bedroom tax’”
“Scrap the discredited Work Capability Assessment”

As many commentators have been pointing out, this means that the Lib Dems are planning to spend *DOUBLE* what Labour are proposing on benefits. *DOUBLE*. Yet Labour are being attacked as ludicrously left-wing Trots while the Lib Dems are being attacked as Tories. Politics is weird.

Other decent stuff in here:
“Help people who cannot afford a deposit by introducing a new Rent to Own model”
“banning lettings fees for tenants, capping upfront deposits and increasing minimum standards in rented homes”
“new Help to Rent scheme to provide government-backed tenancy deposit loans for all first-time renters under 30”

There’s also a lot of good stuff on devolving powers to local authorities.
This section is probably the most detail-intensive, overall, but it’s also the one that will make the most difference to the poorest. I actually, no joke, teared up at some of the benefit changes stuff, thinking how much easier it would make people’s lives if any of our policies actually became law. It doesn’t go as far as I’d go (basic income now!), but *by God* it’s more compassionate than what we have at the moment.

Defend Rights, Promote Justice and Equalities
This is where we get into the stuff I became a Lib Dem for. Human rights and equalities is my jam, as the young people used to say in the mid-noughties (I’m old, I don’t know new young-person slang).

And this is… well I cried again when I read:

Our priorities in the next parliament will be:

● Making the positive case for immigration

That’s the very first bit of the priorities section. And the rest of it is fantastic too — “we will vote against any attempts to scrap the Human Rights Act or withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights”. “Offering safe and legal routes to the UK for refugees, expanding the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme to offer sanctuary to 50,000 people over the lifetime of the next parliament and reopening the Dubs scheme to take 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children from Europe.”

I mean look at these:
● Guarantee the freedom of people to wear religious or cultural dress, and tackle the growing incidence of Islamophobic hate crime.
● Introduce an ‘X’ option on passports, identity documents, and official forms for those who do not wish to identify as either male or female, and campaign for their introduction in the provision of other services, for example utilities.
● Decriminalise the sale and purchase of sex, and the management of sex work – reducing harm, defending sex workers’ human rights, and focusing police time and resources on those groomed, forced or trafficked into the sex industry. We would provide additional support for those wishing to leave
sex work
● Extend protection of gender reassignment in equality law to explicitly cover gender identity and expression, and streamline and simplify the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to allow individuals to change their legal gender without unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles, for example the intrusive medical tests
currently required.
● Remove the spousal veto, and abolish remaining marriage inequalities in areas such as pensions, hospital visitation rights and custody of children in the event of bereavement.
● Require all front-line officers to wear body cameras on duty, protecting the public from abuse of power and police officers from malicious accusations
● Introduce a presumption against short prison sentences and increase the use of tough, non-custodial punishments including weekend and evening custody, curfews, community service and GPS tagging.
● Address period poverty by providing free sanitary products to girls at school.

There is seriously so much good stuff in this section it’s almost unreal — stuff about women prisoners, about changing rules around sexual and domestic violence, about trans people going to the correct prison for their gender… the section on Terrorism and violent extremism, which for other parties would be full fascist at this point, is full of things like “Roll back state surveillance powers by ending the indiscriminate bulk collection of communications data, bulk hacking, and the collection of internet connection records” and “Oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption”. The section on drugs involves decriminalising possession of all drugs, legalising cannabis, and repealing the ban on “legal highs”.

And under immigration…

Immigration and asylum are under attack. Immigration is essential to our economy and a benefit to our society. We depend on immigration to ensure we have the people we need contributing to the UK’s economy and society, including doctors, agricultural workers, entrepreneurs, scientists and so many others. Immigration broadens our horizons and encourages us to be more open, more tolerant.

Refugees are human beings fleeing from war zones and persecution, and we have a legal and moral obligation to offer them sanctuary. The Liberal Democrats are proud of the UK’s historic commitments to assisting those seeking refuge from war, persecution and degradation, and believe that we should continue to uphold our responsibilities

It’s not perfect (and there’s one single sentence later which I *strongly* disagree with) but compare that to Labour, the Tories, or the Kippers. Some of the policies in there I disagree with (the immigration policy is a pre-compromised one from the coalition era which we haven’t got round to rewriting yet — I’m one of a few people who’ve been working on policy motions), but the overall thrust of the policy section is that immigration is good, immigrants are good, and we need to take in more refugees.


Make a Better World

This is a section on foreign policy and defence, subjects on which I know very little. Most of it looks OK to me, some of it doesn’t, but I’m simply not sure enough of my own judgment to talk sensibly about this.

Fix a Broken System
Like the section on rights, this is one of the most important areas for me. Almost everything in here is good — votes at sixteen, STV for all local and national elections, cancel the boundary review, allow UK citizens living abroad to vote, elected Lords, caps on donations to political parties.
I disagree with some of the Scotland stuff — I wouldn’t, myself, oppose indyref2 — but agree with things like “Our plans for a written, federal constitution will include a permanent Scottish Parliament that could only be abolished by the sovereign will of the Scottish people” and the need to actually fulfill the promises made to Scotland during the independence referendum.
Much of this is about devolved powers for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and I’m not the best person to talk about any of that. But the constitutional measures here would, if implemented, make Britain into a true democracy for the first time.

Overall, there’s stuff I disagree with in here, but the overall thrust of the manifesto is one I can absolutely agree with. Stay in Europe, encourage immigration, reverse welfare cuts, fix the NHS, invest in infrastructure, legalise cannabis and decriminalise other drugs, make LGBT+ people truly equal, stop Internet surveillance, decriminalise sex work… when I started reading the manifesto I was expecting it to be like the other manifestos the party has put out during my membership, which I’ve half-heartedly supported saying “well, it’s better than the rest of them, but oh for FUCK’s sake but I suppose it’ll do”.

This one, I actually cried, twice. At a manifesto! I’ve got my party back after it being run by managerial centrists for too long. Now to fight to make the country, rather than just the party, liberal. That may take longer, but I’m up for the fight.

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Patreon Request Post: Sapphire & Steel

May is Patreon Request Month, where I’m trying to write posts based on topics chosen by my Patreon backers. Coming up next week we have posts on The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula Le Guin, and Charles Dickens’ Martian Notes by Simon Bucher-Jones. Today, though, I’m going to talk about Sapphire & Steel.

A green wavy graph-like line, over several squares, over a star field. Early 80s "space" graphics

All irregularities will be handled by the forces controlling each dimension. Transuranic heavy elements may not be used where there is life. Medium atomic weights are available: Gold, Lead, Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium, Sapphire, Silver and Steel. Sapphire and Steel have been assigned.

Sapphire & Steel is a truly odd show, quite unlike anything that had been on TV before or, even though it has been massively influential (most of the Matt Smith era of Doctor Who owes at least as much to Sapphire & Steel as it does to pre-1989 Doctor Who), since.

A low-budget programme originally intended as a children’s show, though it was broadcast in an early-evening “family” slot, Sapphire & Steel was probably the high-point of a particular type of children’s telefantasy that ITV dominated in the 1970s and 80s. While the BBC produced relatively little in the way of fantasy during that time, the various ITV companies came out with Children of the Stones, King of the Castle, Catweazle, Chocky, Robin of Sherwood, and many more, most of which are little known today, but which hit a high standard which little on TV since has met.

(I must write at some point about the way the Broadcasting Act 1990 destroyed British TV. These were children’s programmes made by the lightweight commercial ITV, yet are much more intelligent than much of what passes for adult drama made even by the BBC in recent decades…)

Sapphire & Steel was deliberately low budget. Other than having two relatively big stars in David McCallum and Joanna Lumley it had little money spent on it — only one of the series’ six serials has any location filming at all, and there are a tiny number of visual effects. The show rests entirely on the scripts, and this is where it shines.

P.J. Hammond, who created the series and wrote five of the six stories, wanted to combine fantasy and police procedural, so he created two investigators who could play, roughly, the role of “good cop” (Sapphire, played by Lumley) and “bad cop” (Steel, played by McCallum). Both have supernatural powers of some type — the series suggests that they are not human — and they are given missions by an unknown source. Their missions all take place on Earth, in the early 1980s, but involve breaches in time.

Time itself, in this series, is seen as a malignant force, and objects or situations from the past can, in the right conditions, allow Time to enter the present. The job of Sapphire and Steel, and of other “elements” such as recurring character Silver, is to investigate the cause of those incursions and stop them.

This sounds like utter gibberish, and it is — nothing about the series’ conception of Time (which definitely here merits a capital letter) has any kind of coherence to it whatsoever. But that also doesn’t matter. Unlike most of the stuff that goes under the name of fantasy or SF these days, Sapphire & Steel has no origin stories, no discussions of its own premise, no explanations — the characters have no backstory whatsoever, and the show’s fans have, rather amazingly, resisted the urge to give them one. A strange thing is happening, these strange, inhuman, people turn up to investigate, and over four to eight episodes they find out the cause and put a stop to it.

The logic of the stories is a dream-logic, but it’s one that is entirely rooted in Hammond’s own aesthetic and preoccupations. It’s absolutely minimalist — there are none of the pseudo-science explanations one gets when post-2005 Doctor Who does the same kind of story — and that minimalism applies to everything. The series is staged like a play, the stories don’t even have names (they’re called Assignment One through Assignment Six by most fans, but even those minimal titles don’t appear on screen at all), and the whole series seems to resist explanations or labels.

A man with no face

It’s a series that resists the kind of writing I normally do here — its impact is all about atmosphere and setting, and the show itself seems determined to evade any kind of rational analysis. It’s all in the feel of the thing, rather than in anything that can be analysed, and any attempts to describe the ways in which it works run into the problem that, much like describing a nightmare, it just comes out sounding risible.

But what the series does is to trap us in an enclosed space, with a tiny cast under siege from elemental forces they can’t possibly understand, while our two leads unravel a mystery. One can point to works it has influenced (Stephen Moffat’s version of Doctor Who seems to do a Sapphire & Steel story at least once a season, and some Sylvester McCoy stories owe a lot to it, most obviously “Ghost Light”. Anything where there are creepy nursery rhymes being sung and strange links between present and past, basically. I’d also bet good money that Grant Morrison was a fan) but it’s really all about the motifs and aesthetic of the show — people trapped in photographs and paintings, the past coming back to haunt the present, and two cold, emotionless, telepaths trying to solve mysteries that logic can’t explain.

It’s a show that gestures at things rather than spelling them out, and so the best I can do when talking about it is to gesture at it myself. But what I will say is that anyone who likes — to point to a few things that share some of its aesthetic — McCoy-era Doctor Who, The Prisoner, Doom Patrol, Ghost Stories for Christmas, From Hell, The Avengers, And Then There Were None, or An Inspector Calls, should consider buying the DVD of all thirty-four episodes from Network.

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Coming This Week

A book cover, title "Destroyer: A Black Magic Story" by Andrew Hickey. Cover shows detail of a Goya painting of a witches' sabbat, in a golden oval frame

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Useful Tool for Lib Dems

I’m going to do a proper post tomorrow, but thought I’d signal-boost something Penny Goodman told me about just now.

One of the things I’m most worried about this election is that while the Lib Dems have our highest number of members ever, that might not translate into useful activism. One problem we had in 2010 was that we gained in votes but lost seats — partly because a lot of members decided that since we were getting popular they should campaign in their local seat rather than in a nearby target.

As a minority party, we have to target *ruthlessly* at election times. There’s no point in fifty people working themselves to death in Constituency A, and fifty more next door in Constituency B, to get good second places in both, when if everyone worked in Constituency A we’d win comfortably.

(That’s not to say we shouldn’t work in both seats all the rest of the time — a seat only moves from unwinnable to winnable after that work — but at election time, targeting resources is necessary to win seats.)

But how as an activist do you best know where to spend that crucial next three and a half weeks? Visit http://www.libdems.org.uk/win and enter your postcode. That will tell you what seat near you (it seems to be within a ten mile radius) most needs help. Note that that’s not necessarily the same as what seat is most winnable — it may be that you live in a seat we’re fairly sure we’re going to win comfortably, but you could do most good in the next constituency over. It’s telling you *where you can make most difference*.

Now that doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference where you are — if you’re isolated by geography, disability, or something like that, working where you are is always worthwhile. But if you’re in a no-hope seat and you can get to a key marginal five miles away which needs help, this will help you discover that.

If you’re an activist, you want to make a difference. This site will help you discover where you can make most difference.

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Brief Progress Report

The Patreon backer posts are still happening — I have an Ursula Le Guinn novel on order from Amazon to write about it, I’m rereading Simon Bucher Jones’ “Charles Dickens’ Martian Notes” in order to review it, and I’ve borrowed the DVDs of Sapphire & Steel to refresh my memory on that before writing about it.

I’ve been away for a couple of days because I’ve been sorting out my new computer and getting it in a state where I can work on it. I’ll be away tomorrow because we have a houseguest and are going out to a recording of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue in the evening, but posts should resume on Monday.

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New Comics Post for Patreon Backers

Over on my Patreon, for backers only, a 3000-word post on the 2008 superhero comic Final Crisis, which as is the way with these things touches on other stuff too.
A brief excerpt:

And “on fire” is appropriate Depression, and arthritis, are both caused by inflammation. That inflammation is in turn caused by oxidation reactions – the same bonding with oxygen that is fire. Oxidation reactions are also the same things that cause food to rot and go mouldy, and which cause metal to rust. Decay, depression, corruption – these are all just fire, slowed down enough that you can’t see the glow.

And in a political climate like the one at the moment, it’s very difficult to see any hope. The whole world – or at least that part of it that is liberal and tolerant, that part which chose to see Obama, however briefly, as Superman, before the idea came into contact with reality and revealed him as just another politician – is trapped in the life trap. We have the potential to be gods, but instead we’re lying, bleeding to death, on a rubbish tip. We have seen so many little men squandering little lives on the petty power struggles that take meaning away from otherwise glorious existences.

I’ll be doing one of these long posts on a single comics story every month. They’re free, but only to Patreon backers. If you want to read them, please sign up.

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On Progressive Alliances

I know, I know, I said I wasn’t going to write about the general election. Unfortunately, when you spend all day every day campaigning, as I have for the last few weeks, you end up with no thoughts in your brain other than those of politics. I’m still trying to keep it to a minimum, though.

But also, part of the reason I said I wasn’t going to do more political writing at the moment was my despair at the self-destructive behaviour of the British left, all busily shooting at each other while Theresa May somehow manages to unite everyone from Dan Hodges on the centre-left all the way through to Nigel Farage on the fascist right in endorsing her programme for government, despite that programme consisting, as far as I can tell, of nothing more complex than “fuck you, foreigners”. However, that has largely changed over the last couple of weeks, and I’m very glad of it.

There’s a thing I discovered recently called a kidney chain. Many people with kidney disease need a transplant. Most of them have loved ones who would gladly donate a kidney in order to help them have the operation — but many of those donors don’t match the people they love. However, those donors *may* match someone else in need — who in turn has a potential donor who matches a third person. If these things are co-ordinated right, matching a long chain of donors to patients so that the loved ones of everyone who donates get kidneys, then the end result is that a lot of people get transplants all at once, and everyone gets a kidney. If they can’t be co-ordinated, the result is a lot of people dying unnecessarily of kidney disease.

In this election, the Green Party have been acting as the kidney donors, and we should all thank them for that. While there are *immense* differences in policy between the main “progressive” parties, there are a core of things that the Green Party want which the Lib Dems and at least some of the Labour Party can agree on — electoral reform, environmental protection, more funding for the NHS, and no Brexit or as “soft” a Brexit as possible if it has to happen. And all three of those parties are agreed that if there has to be a majority Tory government it should be with as small a majority as possible. After the Lib Dems stood down in Brighton Pavilion in order that Caroline Lucas, the Greens’ co-leader, not have to oppose us in this election, the Greens have stood down for the Lib Dems in a variety of seats (and in other seats like Lewes they’ve not yet stood down but have put out leaflets saying it’s between us and the Tories, which is nice of them). They’ve also stood down, endorsing Labour, in a few seats where Labour are the obvious “progressive” challenger to the Tories.

The Lib Dems, too, have… not exactly endorsed voting Labour in some seats, but for example Vince Cable has said it certainly wouldn’t be a problem if Rupa Huq keeps her seat. And in one or two seats Labour have agreed not to campaign against the Lib Dems or Greens.

So… very slowly, the old anti-Tory bloc that won in 1997 is being reformed. This *may* be enough to mitigate the Tory majority. It needs to be understood that this *doesn’t* mean those parties not fighting each other where the Tories aren’t in contention — I want to win as many Manchester seats as possible off Labour, for example — and it *certainly* doesn’t mean a full-scale electoral pact. But when the Greens stand down in an area and say who they’re standing down in favour of, that’s a fairly good signal — and it means that Lib Dem supporters in Brighton Kemptown who see the Greens have stood down in favour of the Labour candidate can, if they want, vote Labour in the knowledge that there will be Labour supporters in Oxford West & Abingdon seeing the Greens give the same signal.

Now, standing down isn’t often the best thing for Lib Dems to do even if we *do* want to support a decent Labour or Green candidate — there are many soft Tory voters who won’t ever vote Labour but who *would* switch their vote to the Lib Dems, so in Labour/Tory marginals the best thing to do (where the Labour candidate is actually better than the Tories — there are many seats where that’s not the case) is to put up a paper candidate and not campaign there. That still lets tactical voters know who the principal anti-Tory candidate in the area is, but without taking votes away from a party that might win.

But we should *only* even consider providing even that tacit level of support to anti-Brexit, pro-civil-liberties, pro-electoral-reform candidates. There aren’t actually that many of those in Labour, and we should fight regressive Labour at least as hard as we fight regressive Tories.

Finally, there are only a couple of days til nominations close, but I do think that it would be good if the Lib Dems could bow to the one specific request the Greens have publicly made. They want us to stand down in the Isle of Wight, to give them free run. Now, frankly, I think that would be bad for them, and I don’t think they’re going to win anyway, but given the number of seats they’re supporting us in it would be the decent thing to do as they ask.

We’re not all on the same team — and frankly I think the Labour Party has not been fit for purpose in more than a decade — but there are goals that we have in common, and where it’s possible to provide mutual support right now in pursuit of short-term tactical goals, that’s probably a good thing. I don’t want to lose a kidney, but better that than die of kidney disease. And similarly I don’t want the Lib Dems not to fight the Isle of Wight, but if by doing so we can get, say, a Tory majority of twenty instead of one of a hundred, that’s worth the loss to me.

I’m glad that activists in all three of these parties are coming round to this view, and I hope we have some more good news before nominations close.

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