Thursday, 7 May 2015

The Times, They Are A-Changin'...


Here we go.

After 5 years of coalition government, under the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. After a largely stale election campaign for what will probably usher in the most interesting result in generations...
Today, Britain goes to the polls again.

Those reading this will know it's no secret I'm a Labour supporter. I've gone out canvassing with The Labour Party over the last couple of weeks, knocking on doors, posting leaflets, talking to other voters. I've shared and retweeted countless videos and posts from Labour over the course of the campaign. I've written blog posts and long-winded facebook posts on my opinions, and been on many a rant.

Now, I know there are a lot of people today, who are as desperate as me to kick out this Tory-led government. To be rid of the bedroom tax, of exploitative zero-hours contracts, to cut or abolish tuition fees, to lower the voting age, to raise the minimum wage, to scrap or reduce Trident.

While I have advocated doing so by voting Labour, others have suggested doing so by other means. In Scotland - voting for the SNP. In England - for the Green Party. In Wales - for Plaid Cymru.

Many of my friends in particular have lost any faith they had in the Labour Party, and will likely be voting Green today. And I don't blame them.

I was considering a Green vote myself at the start of this year. I felt disillusioned with the politics of the norm, I wasn't sure Labour, or Ed Miliband, was up to the job - there were all sorts of reasons.

Now, I could go into all sorts of my own reasons that caused me to change my mind (and believe me, there are many). Quite apart from any of my own personal reasons, I can also offer you this article by Owen Jones, a favourite columnist/writer of mine, or this video from Russell Brand along the same lines, explaining why voting Labour is not a solution, but a beginning of a fight back:

(Side note: I never thought I'd be in such agreement with 'Mr. Don't-Vote' Russell Brand at the start of this year, but there you go).

But you know what? As important as I believe that is, I am also someone who is, in principle, opposed to tactical voting. I damn well think that you should be able to vote for what you believe in, without the fear of letting in the party or candidate that you hate. I still think that as long as we still live under this ridiculous first-past-the-post voting system, then you should maybe be cautious of voting Green in some marginals, if we really want the Tories out of Downing Street. And it's worth bearing in mind that in places like Sheffield Hallam and South Thanet, we have the chance to end the political careers of the unprincipled Nick Clegg, and the scare-mongering Nigel Farage (the latter of which has vowed to stand down as UKIP party leader 'within 10 minutes' if he doesn't win a seat).

But at the end of the day, with any general election - it is your vote, and your decision.

I think many of us do not want to wake up to another 5 years of Tory led government. There are some that are probably not very keen on a Labour one either, but if the Tories are ousted, then a Labour-led government is the better (if not ideal) alternative. But how we get there is up to us.

Labour are not going to win a majority at this election. No-one is. But if, as polls predict, the majority in the House Of Commons is made up of anti-Tory MPs, then we can begin some real change.

Ignore Miliband's apparent claims that he won't be doing deals or compromises - that's pre-election talk. His first duty is to his MPs and candidates standing in the election. He's also trying to maintain that he is a man of principle, and doesn't intend to be bartering away bits of his manifesto which has been carefully crafted to be practical but fair. And good on him for that. (It also doesn't help that the Tories managed to back him into a corner over the SNP thing, but that aside).
After Election Day, if he ends up as Prime Minister, the furthest he might get without concessions is the first Queen's Speech. After that, thanks to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, then although he might not be ousted by a vote of no confidence, he could still reach legislative gridlock if the parties propping him up veto bills without changes.

I also think, like Owen Jones, that the minor parties should be demanding a referendum on proportional representation as a condition of support. And before we assume that Miliband or Labour as a whole won't agree to that, given that first-past-the-post gives them a supposed electoral advantage, remember this:

Labour, led by Miliband, backed the AV campaign in 2011. There was division in the party over that, but he lead the cross-party campaign for AV, and even those that opposed it in the party did so on the grounds that the reform wouldn't go far enough to bringing in a fairer voting system.

Well, a PR system would.

Okay, it's not as likely to deliver majorities, but it doesn't look like the current system can do that now anyway. At least with a PR system, parties would be obligated to compromise and work together in the national interest, and we might see some actual progressive politics for a change. Parties highlighting and co-operating where they agree on issues, rather than constantly dismissing each other because of a few differences.

And all of that can begin, today.

Whether you vote Labour, SNP, Green, Plaid Cymru, SDLP or even Lib Dem today, know this: this is where the fightback begins. However those of us on the left choose to make our voice heard, let's be united today, and in the coming weeks. If Cameron and the Conservatives try to cling on, with the help of the newspapers, as they're apparently planning to, then we must stop them.

Miliband himself said in the Brand interview that politics isn't just about the politicians - that real change comes from ordinary people. Essentially, that he welcomes the changes and pressures coming up from below. If he sticks to that, and if he's as principled as I think he is, he will - then we can take what is already a pretty good Labour plan (certainly by previous standards) forward, and turn it into a great one.

Vote for what YOU think is right today. But above all, turn out and VOTE. :)

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