Dead Men Left

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

On not voting Lib Dem (again)

Just as I was resigned to suffering the ridiculous media consensus, between now and May 5th, that the Lib Dems are in some way a "left-wing" party, George Monbiot offers some hope:

Like the choice between Labour and the Tories, a negative choice for the Lib Dems is also a positive one. As well as voting for their superior policies on class sizes, taxation and the environment, you would be voting for the further deregulation of business and continued support for the private finance initiative. And, if past performance is anything to go by, you would be choosing a good deal of slipperiness as well. They opposed the Iraq war in theory, but supported it in practice. They have done the same with road-building, airport expansion and the incineration of waste.

He's spot-on, too, when he indicates the future direction of the Lib Dem's travel: off to the right, ending up less socially unpleasant than the Tories, but equally committed to neoliberalism. I said much the same thing here, with more aggression, and a couple of mindboggling examples of the Lib Dem's "slipperiness". (See also the article in this month's Socialist Review.)

But Monbiot also throws in a key, for many perhaps the decisive, reason for voting for a minor party:

If, on the other hand, you were to vote Green, Plaid Cymru, Respect or Scottish Socialist, you would send an unequivocal signal about the kind of politics you are rejecting and the kind of politics you are embracing. The reason is that these parties, as far as Westminster is concerned, inhabit the political margins. It is precisely because none has the slightest chance of running the country that a vote for them is interpreted as a clear expression of intent: your choice must be ideological, rather than tactical. Paradoxically, a vote for a minor party can thus be far more powerful than a vote for a party with an eye on government. All four of them are solidly to the left of Labour. They have been consistently anti-war, anti-privatisation, pro-distribution and pro-environment. No one who has read their manifestos can doubt that a vote for one of them is a vote against the current deference to wealth and rank.

There's no doubt at all that a decent for the non-Labour left will kick politics hard in a progressive direction. The current fawning by the Labour leadership towards their deeply (and rightly) cynical one-time core voters is a good indication of that. Best of all, of course, would be the election of a non-Labour left-wing MP. With the Tories becalmed in the polls, ranting into the night, the major battle in this election is over the direction of the left vote.