In Johnny Lewis’ post on April 1st, he states that a progressive who casts their vote for anyone other than the Labour Party on May 6th is ignoring the “effect on the lives of our class” that general elections have. In other words, if you cannot bear to vote for the likes of Liam “my Liberal opponent is secretly soft on immigrants, he’s told the Asians” Byrne in Birmingham Hodge Hill, or Steve “Tories oppose compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals” McCabe in Birmingham Selly Oak, then however much you might think you’re doing the right thing, you’re actually bringing about a Tory apocalypse. He even gives us a helpful little scheme to show us the possible outcomes of our frivolous votes, in order of likelihood:
The probable outcomes of your Green/Respect campaign are (in order of likelihood):
1. A Tory goverment
2. A Tory-led coalition
3. A Labour-led coalition
4. A Labour government
Johnny refers specifically to the Greens and Respect, however presumably the same could apply to any left-of-Labour candidate who cannot mount a big challenge in terms of votes. After all, the brutal fact is that every vote taken away from New Labour means that a Tory government of some kind becomes more likely. Therefore, logically, is it not a betrayal of the interests of the class to vote for anyone other than the candidates of New Labour? For example, the AWL’s Jill Mountford in Camberwell and Peckham surely cannot expect a hatful of votes, so would it not then be the case that a vote for her rather than Harriet Harman is the foolish act of a middle class leftist, out of touch with “the lives of our class”?
This sort of bolt-necked Labourism on the part of sections of the left is a part of the reason why the Labour right continues to call the shots when it comes to progressive politics in the UK. The left may sabre-rattle, may howl with protest over events like the Iraq war or bankers’ bonuses, may even (in a good year for Labour) back candidates outside of the Labour party. But when it comes down to it, everybody knows that both the Labour left and parts of the Marxist left will fall in to line and dust the cobwebs off the same old phrases – “Yes, they’re shit. But the Tories would be worse”, or “The LP still has the union link so it’s still our class party”. Quite literally no matter what Labour does in government, those sections of the left will always call for a Labour vote in the end.
A similar argument comes from the AWL, reproduced here by Mr Denham. Again, underneath all the talk of class politics, it essentially boils down to “but the Tories would be worse”. Poor, comrades. Poor.
Rather than trotting out hackneyed old lines which even those saying them must surely struggle to believe, or hurling vitriol at easy targets like the more peculiar Respect candidates, can these people come up with a single positive reason to vote Labour? Apparently they cannot. Why?
Because there isn’t one.
“Labour” as we know it today is nothing more than the hollowed-out shell of what was once a mass political party, with at least the pretence of democratic processes providing checks and balances on its leadership. Since 1994 those checks and balances have been slowly removed, culminating in the union leaders’ shameful acquiescence in the destruction of the policy-making role of the party’s annual conference. Labourites used to wave the union link and the party’s structures around in order to make favourable comparisons with the US Democratic Party. Well comrades, at least the AFL-CIO are getting something of significance for their dollars in terms of seeing politics slowly shifting leftwards, and an administration which is prepared to take a stand against the right. What have you got?
In this coming election, I think people should do something which may seem staggeringly obvious. Take a look at the list of candidates in your constituency, and vote for the one who most closely reflects your politics. Yes, really.
Depending where you are, that might entail voting for people from one of a number of different parties. Some of them might be Labour candidates. Speaking personally, I’d be more than enthusiastic to support Labour socialists such as John McDonnell in Hayes and Harlington – and incidentally if you’d like to do that, then Stroppy has a post about how to do so here. But equally, I’d be perfectly comfortable supporting Nellist in Coventry or the Greens’ Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavillion, both of whom are far preferable in my view to their Labour opponents.
Vote for the best candidate, not for the status quo. It’s not rocket science.
Automatic support for the Labour Party – it’s time to kick the habit.