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Sunday, 2 May 2010

My Marginal Vote

I live in the marginal constituency of East Dunbartonshire. At present it has a Liberal Democrat MP, Jo Swinson, who took the seat at the last General Election from Labour’s John Lyons by 4000 votes. She has been a very visible MP – she has a fantastic sense in how to use local media and local gripes to her political benefit. The other parties in this constituency election are the SNP, who support an independent Scotland – as I do but whom have no chance of taking this constituency; the Tories and UKIP – neither would be a preferred party to me – in fact I would love to see both placed firmly into the annals of history...

My preferred party, the Scottish Socialist Party are not standing here. This throws open the use of my ballot – though I will end up voting “tactically” – something I have never done before. I have always voted for what I thought was the best party or candidate.

I have decided to vote Labour. This is not without reticence. New Labour has been the target of my political ire for most of their 13 year history in power.

New Labour have let down working class people, who were its core, since it’s re-invention beginning with Kinnock back in the 1980’s. They sold their principles in order to play to the neo-liberal agenda. They curried favour with the extreme right wing government of GW Bush and backed him in his revenge and oil driven adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the Labour Government has brought in things like minimum wage and Tax Credits – things that do help the poorest of society, they have failed to close the gap between rich and poor and we have and increasing inequality gap. They have failed to eradicate child poverty. And to compound this inequality, the blind faith the New Labour establishment put in the neo-liberalism of the markets, the poor through to the middle classes are going to have to pay for the economic mess.
These are just some of my concerns! So why have I decided to vote for them? Well, for one, the other alternative in this marginal is Lib Dem. I have nothing much against the local candidate, but I feel the Lib Dems are a party who can be all things to all people – until they get into power.

Ask the people of East Dunbartonshire, who at the last council elections ousted the Lib Dem majority council (which was then replaced by a terrible coalition of Labour and Tories). The perception of the Lib Dems in power here is one of corruption, lies and doing the opposite of what they said they would. The local candidate, Jo Swinson, is good at the party line but does not escape the party perception – when I emailed her to congratulate her on the Hull City Council policy of free school meals for all primary children - a policy that was shown to raise health indicators within the city – a policy that was inherited from an ousted Labour majority – she emailed me back to say she too thought this policy was a great one and she would pass on my congratulations (at that time one the Scottish Socialist Party were being blocked from implementing in Scotland thought the Scottish Parliament by some of the main parties – including the Lib Dems). A few weeks later, the Lib Dems stopped free school meals in Hull – and this was BEFORE the economic crisis – when things were “good” but Lib Dems wanted to be shown to be as “economically efficient” as the Tories. It is good to see some Labour Councils, notably in Durham and Newham have taken up this policy.

Though this example does not fully illustrate my distrust for the Lib Dems, I feel they are not to be trusted in a hung Parliament. They would, regardless of their hmming and haaing when they asked, support a minority Tory government… and it is not to be forgotten through the hype that they are “left of Labour” that Liberalism contains quite a few right wing people and policies. A small example came to the surface when their much hero worshipped shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable, said he would like to make striking in the public services illegal. These are the jobs that ARE going to have to be defended and fought for in the coming years – and he would prefer if people in these jobs had no power to save their income. It is the same public services that Cable says he will cut quite viciously.

The Lib Dems didn’t take us to war – but they have been faltering in their support/ not support of the wars. They want to scrap Trident – but they are vague about what they would do after it was scrapped – their internal debate is not one of getting rid of a useless and dangerous nuclear arsenal, but with what to replace it with. They are no Left alternative!

So, why am I voting for the Labour Party in this election? For all the above – and I add, that there are still socialists in the party. Socialists that a minority Labour Government will have to appease. To quote “Socialist Appeal” a Marxist organisation in the Labour Party, “Either the Labour leaders attempt to “manage” this crisis, which means attacks on the working class, or they decide to make the bosses pay and that means taking their accumulated wealth and putting it at the disposal of working people, who would then proceed to plan the economy according to the interests of the many and not the few.” – this is something I WANT to believe in.

Will this happen under a wounded Gordon Brown? Maybe. I am a sucker in that I try to see the good in people – and like Darth Vader, I am hoping Gordon Brown returns from his ‘going over to the dark side.’ This is a person who wrote books such as, “Where there is Greed: Margaret Thatcher and the Betrayal of Britain’s Future,” “Values, Visions and Voices: An Anthology of Socialism” and in his fantastic book on James Maxton, he is positively enthusiastic about Maxton and his socialist principles. He says of these, “The social equality he supported was not for the sake of equality but for the sake of liberty. A truly socialist society would free men and women from the fear of poverty, the uncertainties of unemployment and the miseries of deprivation.”

If the Blairite/Mandelson New Labour project was one he was kind of forced to go along with (I CAN suspend disbelief at times), perhaps a vote for Brown will have him return to those values. Am I too idealistic? Maybe. Put it this way, I would not be searching for such excuses if the Scottish Socialist Party were standing in our constituency.


  1. Do you live in one of the top 100 constituencies where you could prevent a Tory majority? http://bit.ly/bDizHY

  2. I sympathise with your article but I would say that there are some Liberals who are very much more socialist than others. I myself have some problems with corruption and ineffectiveness amongst the unions but I would make collective bargaining compulsory and I would also push for employers to increase worker input into company decisions and a more sharing role in their successes.

  3. It's a good article. Andy's comment above is illustrative; 'there are some Liberals.... While most Liberals I know in Scotland lean a bit to the left (not Jo, actually) it's fairly clear that they are frequently wholly opportunistic (literally) both locally and nationally. I literally can't conceive of why folk anywhere left of centre would vote for a party which holds open the possibility that it might support a Tory administration. And I think it's true, GBs early academic work does provides insights into his present motivation, albeit in a harsh old world.

  4. You fall for the old distraction of policies over values. Socialism is nothing if it is not a set of values about redistribution and sharing, more successful in implementation in some places than others. Liberalism too is a set of values which emphasise the freedom of the individual and that the state provides safety and security. The NHS is something claimed as a great success for both socialists and liberals. I'd always vote for those with values and priciples that favour people and their welfare against vested interests and the restriction of liberty which is why, if you don't have a candidate of your own party standing you shouldn't vote Labour or Conservative


Let me know what you think. Be kind!