Blimey, we can tell that
Doctor Who is back on the TV, because time travel is now all the rage.
More than a hundred years after the formation of the Labour party
has called for a vote for the Tories in an election.
Except these Tories call
themselves Liberal Democrats. they distinguish themselves from the
conservative party by not deriving their social attitudes from a
Surbiton golf club in the 1950s, but apart from that they are a
big-business party as loathsome and rancid as the conservatives.
This mistaken view is
further popularized by Jim Jepps (on this web-site)
who argues: "It's certainly true that in some areas across the
country the only way to punish a pro-war Labour MP is a tactical Lib Dem
vote. Any jump in Lib Dem fortunes will be seen as a reward for their
'opposition' to the war. ... Also in their favour is their approach to
the war on terror, civil liberties and asylum which, compared to the two
headed monster, looks like some sort of Leninist internationalism. But
let's not get carried away - whilst it *might* be acceptable in your
area to vote for the Lib Dems this once the job of building a
progressive strand of politics does not lie with the yellow peril."
Jim's argument fails on two
important points. Firstly he is promoting implicitly the entirely wrong
view that the war in Iraq is the only issue socialists should consider.
Secondly he promotes the idea that voting for such a right wing
neo-liberal party might - just this once - contribute to progressive
Jim describes Labour and the
Tories as a "two headed monster" in contrast to the Lib Dems. But even
though Labour is a thoroughly capitalist party, its historical links to
the workers' movement still means that there are socialists within it,
such as Alan Simpson and John MacDonnell, and the Labour Party has a
structural antagonism with the progressive agenda from the affiliated
unions. It is a travesty to regard Labour and the Tories as cut from the
same cloth, but it is entirely accurate to describe the Lib Dems as an
unmitigated right-wing party.
I understand that as the Lib
Dems have positioned themselves as an anti-war party some progressives
may be tempted to vote for them on that basis. But the task of
socialists is to expose the Lib Dems for what they are. A strengthened
Lib Dem vote strengthens the drift of the political spectrum to the
right, and makes building an alternative more difficult. It may be
frustrating if that means the only choice in your constituency is
pro-war Labour or abstention. But where there is no left of Labour
candidate that is the only choice there is, and voting for the Lib Dems
is no better option than voting for UKIP.
Make no mistake in terms of
economic policy the Lib Dems are more Thatcherite that either the
Conservatives or New Labour. This claim may seem surprising, but I quote
here from Samuel Brittan writing in the Evening Standard:>
"In going for the Lib-Dems I
am under no illusion that they are the party of Gladstone and John
Stuart Mill. But at least they are different from Labour and
Conservative; and there is nothing wrong in voting for negative reasons.
In the past I have shrunk from supporting them because they looked too
much like the unreconstructed Old Labour of the 1980s. But since Gordon
Brown's large increases in public service spending, they have found less
mileage in that direction; and the recent Orange Book from the
still-too-small free market wing of the party suggests a move in the
right direction, as does the appointment of the eminently sensible
Vincent Cable as their shadow chancellor."
The appointment of Cable was
a significant move. Former chief economist with Shell International PLC,
he is an ideological neo-liberal who has written various books and
articles on globalisation and trade liberalization. This was widely
commented on in the press at the time of his appointment as an attempt
by the Lib Dems to turn themselves into a Thatcherite party.
Lib Dem economic policy
unnecessary subsidies to industry"
They also want to take further economic powers away from the treasury
and vest them with the Independent Bank of England, without any
democratic control. "We
advocated and welcomed the decision that interest rates should be set
independently by the Bank of England, but there needs to be more
independent scrutiny and discipline in monetary and fiscal policy. ..
and the Bank itself should decide the most appropriate inflation level
to aim for."
At their recent conference
they voted for binding arbitration in industrial disputes: "to
require both workforce and employers to submit to binding arbitration
where the workforce in a vital area has voted for industrial action".
A direct assault on the right to strike for the fire-service and postal
Their manifesto pledges
draconian cuts in civil service jobs: the Department for Trade and
Industry would be scraped saving £8.2bn over five years, and £2.65bn
would be cut from the Department for Work and Pensions, £1.6bn from the
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. A bonfire of jobs and huge cuts in
They also promise further
privatization - selling off the Royal Mint. Given the success of
previous privatizations we would be bartering chickens within a couple
Although they would
encourage local authorities to build council-houses, which is
progressive, they also plan to extend the current right to buy
legislation to other Registered Social Landlords (housing associations)
so the overall stock of social housing may not be increased.
Their much heralded plans
for a local income tax will be a regressive tax that has a cap on
contributions for those earning over £100000, and may lead to some lower
income families paying more than they do now in council-tax (because it
will extend the burden of direct taxation for the lowest paid). The Lib
Dems support poverty wages: they oppose increasing the minimum wage
saying this would be "unfair to big-business".
The party backs the proposed
EU constitution that establishes a European imperial army, and
ring-fences private property rights. They backs Britain's entry to the
euro - and the growth and stability pact would lead to further assaults
on working class living standards.
So why vote for this shower? Because they opposed the war on Iraq? Did they? Didn't
dipsomaniac leader Charles Kennedy congratulate UK and US troops after
their murderous assault on Iraq. Didn't the Lib Dems support the war on
Afghanistan. One of the hallmarks of the Lib Dems is their opportunist
policy of saying whatever is popular to get votes, and then when in
office (and they do run a number of councils) ignoring their electoral
Over the years the Lib Dems
have played fast and lose with racism, notoriously in Tower Hamlets in
the 1980s whipping up a racist climate about Bengali immigration.
But worse, worse than all
this, is that they stoke up the cynicism about politics felt by ordinary
working people. They put out their pathetic "Focus"
leaflets claiming that the sad, personally ambitious no-marks that they
stand for office are "local activists", when all they do is stand in
front of some local landmarks for photos for their leaflets. Their
leaflets shamelessly lie - in the past 3 years there have been two
grossly false claims in the leaflets in Swindon. All this is part and
parcel of the Lib Dems own contempt for the voters - who they seem to
regard as fair game for manipulation and spin.
So reject this argument of
despair. The animosity we feel towards the Conservatives should extend
to the Lib Dems - who are also Tories even if they wear jumpers and not