Spare Us Your Emotional Blackmail, Labourites
January 21, 2015
by Martin Odoni
NB: This is probably not going to be one of my best written efforts, as I’m currently sat shivering in bed with gastric ‘flu. Hardly a scrap of food for about thirty hours, and unable to go to work – please don’t tell Iain Duncan-Smith or he’ll have me attend a Fitness-To-Work Assessment – so I’m not going to be at my most eloquent.
Earlier today, Thomas G. Clark, the Angry Yorkshireman, published a new post about an increasingly reflexive pet-soundbite of Labour Party activists, “Vote Green, Get Tory”. The idea is that, as more of the left-leaning electorate chooses to vote for the upstart Green Party, fewer will vote for Labour, and that this will open the door to the Tories getting back in for another five years. As we saw the other week, the Tories themselves rather like the possibility.
I was rather thinking about offering my ha’penny’s-worth on this subject myself, as the soundbite has been getting up my nose quite a bit too. Now that the Yorkshireman’s done it, I have no need to go into as much detail as I was going to, but there are still a few thoughts I feel I need to add.
Firstly, if the Green Party ends up splitting the Labour Party vote, that is not the ‘fault’ of Green voters, it is the fault of the Labour Party. Less so Ed Miliband than the likes of Tony Blair, perhaps, but the reality is that the Labour Party has spent over twenty years paddling merrily in the waters of the neoliberal-right, and Miliband has not really made enough of an attempt over the last four years to drag it back to the left. Yes, they are further left now than they were on the day that Gordon Brown left office, but that is a little like saying that there is a soap opera more popular than El Dorado. I also do sympathise with the awkward position the right wing media puts Miliband in, their childish anti-Stalinist name-calling making it difficult for him to be openly left wing in his rhetoric and policies. But he has to find the courage to rise above that and do so anyway. Being brave is part of the job of being a leader. Quite simply, and this is something Labourites have to accept sooner or later, if Labour does not offer a clear and firm commitment to the ideals of the left, particularly renationalisation, many in the left simply will not vote for them anymore. This is especially true after the frustrations of the ‘Blue Labour’ years, and they will have no ‘duty’ to vote for Labour either. If Labour really devoted itself to the ideals of its support-base, its vote would not be splittable. And this is certainly not a question of ‘voter-disloyalty’ either. The disloyalty is Labour’s general abandonment of its support-base, and not the other way around; a Party must go to its electorate, not arrogantly demand that its electorate must follow the Party.
Secondly, while I would agree with those who argue that the Greens are not exactly a left-wing party in itself, it is quite simply the most left-leaning of the current ‘Big 5’ (if we are to assume that UKIP and the Greens are now in the mainstream of more-established parties). It was interesting to note last week’s survey on the Vote For Policies’ website, which concluded that, if everyone voted for the policies they agreed with rather than for their habitual party-banner, the Greens would actually be the largest party in a probable Hung Parliament. See for yourself; –
Does this not suggest therefore that it is Labour who is splitting the left vote, and not the Greens? Is it not just over-entitled arrogance on the part of Labourites to assume that the left vote is theirs ‘by divine right’ and that someone else is ‘stealing’ it?
Thirdly, if the Conservatives get in again, why not tell off the people who vote for the Conservatives? Why not point out to them why this is quite plainly against the interests of the overwhelming majority of people? Why not point out to them how all the panic the Tories have created about the National Debt is largely a storm-in-a-teacup? (A storm that Labour helped to brew up in the first place by leaving silly messages at the Treasury.) Why not condemn the culture of paranoia and fear that Conservative philosophy is always so dependent on, instead of resorting to the same tactic to discredit others on the left? In fairness, both the Greens and Labour have been guilty of unfair mudslinging at each other in recent times, and this is not the time for that. So instead, why not condemn the short-sighted tendency of the narrow-minded and the greedy to vote with their wallets? Why not condemn the cowardly, backward-looking instinct simply not to want anything to change, even when the status quo contains so much injustice? These are what get Tories into Parliament at all, let alone into Government, and they are all tendencies that Greens oppose as much as Labourites do.
Finally, consider that there has long been the worry that, should the UK Independence Party get seats at the next General Election, they might form an increasingly-hard-right coalition with the Tories. This is largely going to be an outcome of the support for the right wing in this country becoming fragmented. Does it not occur to Labourites therefore that a similar coalition could emerge from the fragmentation of the left? Labour may end up unable to secure an outright majority, but if a lot of the support shifts to the Greens, it is entirely possible that most of the lost ‘red’ seats will have simply turned ‘green’, and there is enough common ground between the Green Party and the anti-Blairite majority in the Labour Party to form a stable coalition. In which case, it is not necessarily the fall-in-of-the-skies that some Labourites are picturing. Of course, thanks to the obsolete absurdities in First-Past-The-Post voting, that is far from guaranteed, but then the UKIP-Tory alliance is just as uncertain for the same reasons.
Whatever the reality of that, trying to make out that Green supporters will be to blame if the Tories manage to form another Government in May is just a mixture of arrogance and guilt-tripping. Labour’s failings are what stop people voting for the Labour Party, which has no right to expect people to keep voting for them no matter what. And equally, there is nothing shameful in voting for the party whose policies are closest to your own. To argue otherwise is in fact both blame-shifting and anti-democratic.
I would suggest it is long-past time you got your house in order, Labourites. Maybe if you had done so before now, the Green Party would never have become such an issue to you in the first place.