Why I’m voting Labour in Cambridge

I’ve finally decided how to vote – as I’ve blogged before, in Princess Bride style, it’s been very hard to decide how to vote in Cambridge. Cambridge is a strange seat – over the last few decades we’ve had Tory, Labour and Lib Dem MPs – and at present it is a Lib Dem/Labour marginal. The sitting MP, Julian Huppert, is a good man, a local man, and one of very few MPs who understands the internet, something that really matters to me. And yet, after today, I can’t either support him, or vote Green (I’m a Green party member) which might effectively support him. Instead, I feel that I have to vote Labour. Why? For one simple reason: it looks very much as though the Lib Dems would prop up a Tory government.

Nick Clegg has been the persuasive factor. Today, he’s been saying things that confirm that, to all intents and purposes, he would prefer to go into coalition with the Tories. There are many reasons for him to prefer that – but even the suggestion means that I have to vote against the Lib Dems.

The ‘logic’ that Nick Clegg has used is that he would do a deal with the ‘largest party’, and he has suggested that this would be the ‘legitimate’ thing to do – though constitutionally this is entirely unconvincing. Rather, it looks like an entirely self-serving suggestion. And it’s worse than that. Choosing which party to form an alliance with based solely on the number of seats they win is a morally bankrupt position: it’s like choosing who to have a relationship with based on the amount in their bank balance. Would anyone with any morals do that at all? Don’t you choose your partners on whether you like them or not? Whether you get on well together? Whether you’re compatible? The same, surely, has to be true of political alliances – unless your party has no morals, no objectives, no policies, surely you would choose which party to ally with on the basis of their policies, first and foremost, or their politicians themselves – their trustworthiness, and so forth? Clegg isn’t saying that. He’s saying that his party is open to offers from whoever has the most seats. If he really doesn’t care about their policies, then what kind of morality does that suggest?

If, on the other hand, the Lib Dems choose to cozy up to the Tories because they prefer their policies, then I’m even more worried. Which of the Tories’ policies do they like? The brutality of their policies towards vulnerable people? The illiberalism of Grayling’s legal policies? The xenophobia of the immigration policies? The divisiveness of their tax policies? The Govean attempts to bring education back to the ‘golden age’ of division and discarding those deemed unworthy?

None of that sounds very convincing as a reason for the Lib Dems to cozy up to the Tories. It’s easy, on the other hand, to see why Clegg himself should like to cozy up to the Tories: it looks very much as though his survival as an MP will depend on Tory defectors. The polls suggest that the Tory voters like Clegg – and one of the main reasons for that is how compliant Clegg has been in coalition.

That, then, brings the biggest and most worrying thing of all – and the ultimate reason why it would seem wrong not to oppose the Lib Dems in every way. The Independent, in their leader, suggested that the best result would be another Conservative/Lib Dem coalition, but one that is more liberal and less conservative. The problem is, exactly the opposite would be inevitable should the Lib Dems ally with the Tories. How could the Lib Dems exert more leverage this time around, if they had half the number of MPs that they had before? And how likely is it that the Tories would be anything but more conservative? The few ‘liberals’ amongst their ranks have been sidelined or discarded – Dominic Grieve and Ken Clarke for example – whilst the hardliners have been kept or promoted. Iain Duncan Smith. Chris Grayling.

No, any new Tory/Lib Dem coalition would be almost certain to be much more conservative, more extreme than this one – and that is too hideous not to oppose in every way possible. That, in Cambridge, means voting Labour, even if that means voting against one of the best MPs in the house. If he was really as independent as he sometimes claims, I would vote for him – but he isn’t. He’s too decent, and too loyal to a leader and a party that does not deserve his loyalty – and for that reason I have to vote against him.

So, though I have huge misgivings about Labour, from their immigration and civil liberties policies onwards, I have to vote for them. There is no real choice, now that the Lib Dems have shown their hand.

35 thoughts on “Why I’m voting Labour in Cambridge

  1. Nick Clegg doesn’t get to decide whether we go into coalition, the membership do. Any coalition OR confidence & supply deal has to get a 2/3 majority at special conference. And given how labour behaved last time they were in government voting for an unknown labourites over Julian on this basis seems crazy.

    But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

    • I’d like to believe that, but in practice Clegg has ended up overruling the membership every time, or railroading the membership into doing what he wants. If you can convince him to move, I’ll be impressed: but you’ve only got a day to do so. Did you listen to him today? It was his performance that pushed me over the limit.

      • He can’t overrule the constitution of the party. He simply can’t. He can whip the parliamentary party and the payroll vote if he likes – there’s THOUSANDS of other people who are eligible to vote at special conference.

        And if you think it’ll be easy for him to get a 2/3 majority of all the councillors who have lost their seats since 2010 to vote for ANY coalition deal… well, I don’t know what else I can say.

        The reason he’s been drawing all these red lines is because he knows he’s not going to get called on them. He’s hoping to not even take it to special conference because he knows he’d lose.

      • But he could get the party to support a Queen’s Speech by Cameron without a formal coalition, couldn’t he, and without going to the members?

      • Not if it could be construed as a confidence and supply arrangement. That also has to have a 2/3 majority at special conference – one of my local members double checked this at Glasgow in public questions to the exec

      • Just to be clear, do you think the members would vote down any suggestion of another coalition with the Tories? If so, has anyone told Clegg, because he certainly doesn’t act as though they would. And if not, then how can I possibly consider not opposing the Lib Dems with everything I’ve got?

    • Just to be clear, the biggest problem is our electoral system: if I vote Green, I have no say in who our MP is. If I do that, I might well be allowing the Lib Dems in. That’s what the point of this blog post is: I have to do everything I can to stop that, and that, given our electoral system, means voting Labour. Sadly it doesn’t matter how good our Green candidate is – he’s not going to win here.

  2. I believe Clegg and some of his close team would give up their right arms for a few more rides in those ministerial cars. If there was ever a better example of a man totally losing sight of his values once he has sniffed the snuff of power, I can’t think of one right now.

    I also believe the Tories would not have got away with so much if they had not had the ‘lickspittle’ yellow Tories on their side of the house versus the ‘rest’. I dread to think what could have happened if Thatcher and the LibDems had somehow have teamed up all those years ago!.

    While I would take issue and disagree with the final conclusion and choice, this next link is a very good dissection of the LibDems in power from George Selmer. http://www.georgeselmer.com/an-open-letter-to-nick-clegg-5th-may-2015/

  3. Glad you’ve come to your senses.

    Given you record and values you have to vote against Huppert.

    Huppert is a sectarian LibDem; the “Public Whip” http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/ had him down as rebelling against the government 3.5%. He’s become a Tory and his articulation of a pro-digital liberty agenda has declined since he voted for DRIP which was opposed by Labour’s award squad; he wouldn’t have been alone. He is not talking about the architectural wars going on in the internet, P2P vs Command & Control, he has nothing to say on web blocking, nor on copyright reform. His promises on opposition to mass surveillance has been negated by his support of DRIP and his support for the Government on workfare, sanctions, disability fitness for work, secret courts, the privatisation of the NHS and the bed room tax are all reasons to vote against him. They are all reasons to vote Labour as well.

    Labour’s manifesto is the most focused attack on the power of capitalism offered since 1982, it’s about fixing broken markets including the Labour market and ending the Tories 40 year old interrupted supply side revolution. Making work pay will be at the expense of the rent takers in society, and we plan to break the idea that what’s good for the rich is good for the country. There are weaknesses in the offer, but to return to your comments in previous blogs, who’d you prefer as Justice Secretary, Kahn or Grayling, who’d you prefer as Home Secretary, Cooper or May, who’d you prefer as their boss, Miliband or Cameron.

    The next Parliamentary Liberal Party will be more right wing than the current one, this was going to be so even before Clegg’s recent lurch to the right. I agree with you that Clegg’s positioning on the next coalition is designed to protect his own seat with little regard for what will happen to those Liberals fighting Labour opponents, or those genuine left-Liberals left in their party. The other thing is that the next Parliamentary Labour Party will be more left wing than the last and Labour’s Left and its awkward squad will break the whip to fight for what’s right. It shows that there is a debate if not a sufficiently active democracy in the Labour Party. We would be stronger if people like you joined us.

    • Labour only seem to apply the brakes, they rarely reverse the Tory express train to the Right. Only when I see a Miliband bringing public services like the railways back into public ownership will it suggest to me that Labour have a hint of left wing social justice back in their soul again.

      Please don’t quote the NHS as an example of what they will do in power as I believe Labour did little to shout about NHS privatisation when it was initially happening.They knew it was a good election winning issue so they kept their powder dry, letting the Tories and the LibDems ‘hang themselves’. In the meantime people suffered.

      Can I forget the Digital Economy Act of 2010? Let’s see also how they will deal with TTIP or Fracking. Will they stop it? All very doubtful.

      • I don’t think I have any illusions that Labour are anything other than a ‘lesser evil’. They are, however, ‘lesser’, and there are a few signs that Miliband can be persuaded – the gradual movement of their rail policy in the direction of public ownership is one of those signs. I’m much more bothered by the idea of Yvette Cooper as an authoritarian Home Secretary, implementing even more surveillance etc. However, as I’ve tried to articulate, the dangers of the Lib Dems propping up an even more right wing Tory party seem to me to be much, much greater.

    • I’d certainly prefer Khan over Grayling – but I’m afraid the noises I’ve heard, both public and private, do not lead me to have any confidence in Yvette Cooper at all. She is, from what I’ve heard, even keener on surveillance, internet filtering and so on than Theresa May. I’d like to hope she can be persuaded, but the people I’ve met within the Labour Party who’ve tried to talk to her about it have been dismissed as irrelevant, despite good contacts and excellent credentials. I do have hopes from the awkward squad though!

  4. If I recall, Labour’s behaviour was actually enough to make you give up your longstanding membership of the party. I know we face an electoral “Prisoner’s Dilemma”, but I really don’t think tactical voting is a rational answer. I’d sooner vote with my conscience; bear in mind that, if an elected MP takes any notice at all of the votes that were cast against her/him, tactical voting sends misleading signals about what manifesto/policies people actually favour.

    • It’s not easy. Consciences are in trouble either way – vote tactically and you go against your heart, but you might stop a hideous results. Vote with your heart, and you might be complicit in a hideous government. And yes, the signals can be misleading – but again, that could go either way. If your heartfelt vote brings in a hideous government, that government might think it has the consent of the people. I don’t see an easy way out – this is where I see the balance at the moment.

  5. I understand your reasons, yet a few things occur to me. I might be wrong about some of these things, but they are my thoughts.

    1. The Conservatives didn’t win last time, hence the coalition with the Lib Dems. If they don’t win a majority this time, then it actually shows a swing to Labour in England because Labour are most likely going to lose seats in Scotland. Hence, any new Conservative/Lib Dem coalition can only be illegitimate, because:

    2. If I’m right about the above, and if there is no outright winner, then the broad will of the electorate is for a change of government.

    3. By voting Labour instead of Green, you would be contributing to the continuing rightward drift of the political consensus, as noted by Anonymous, above, making it less likely that the policies you want from Labour will ever be on offer in the future.

  6. I know several people in your dilemma – including a family member, previously a Green voter, who told me he ‘has’ to vote Labour as the only credible opposition to another dose of right wing government but who can’t at the moment bring himself to canvass for them because he disagrees with some policies.

    I’m not a great fan of tactical voting unless it’s guaranteed to be effective, but I do think number of votes will matter more and more, so in that sense and at this particular election I think Labour needs all the votes it can get if it is to be able to have a shot at forming a government.

    I’m a lifelong Labour voter in a safe-ish Labour constituency and a Tory ward, although I usually vote straight Labour I did once vote for a Tory councillor who I thought was doing a particularly good job representing local interests, and once voted Green in the council elections to encourage the candidate.

  7. I must admit, this article gave me pause. It’s not a new argument, but it is a good one; I’ve now been distracted most of this morning looking at polling data trying to work out whether to change my vote. Ultimately, I remain convinced that voting for Huppert is the correct decision, and would encourage you to reconsider doing so. Here’s why:

    Here are my preferences (which seem similar to yours), in order of importance:
    1. I would strongly prefer a Labour-led government to a Conservative-led one.
    2. Of the individual candidates, I strongly prefer Huppert. Mutatis mutandis, I would strongly prefer a scenario with him in Parliament to one without him.
    3. I would prefer a government involving the Liberal Democrats to one not involving them.

    So, given these preferences, here’s how I think it breaks down:

    The question really comes down to: could Cameron (+LDs) pass a vote of confidence? There are three relevant situations here:

    1. Yes, without Cambridge. In this case, seems likely that Clegg would attempt a formal coalition with the Conservatives, but most likely still not be in a majority. Either two things: succeeds, either in formal coalition with DUP (unlikely to be supported by the LD membership) or with informal support from DUP+UKIP and formal partnership with the LDs.

    In this case, I would rather the LDs have a stronger position (to increase their weight in this coalition) and I would certainly rather have Huppert there (and potentially in a ministerial position, given reduced LD numbers).

    This would be a pretty terrible situation, but the vote in Cambridge doesn’t change it, and if it happens I’d rather have Huppert in government than an increase of one in Labour opposition.

    2. No, even with Cambridge. In this case, Cameron falls to no confidence vote from Labour+SNP (+LD?), Labour either go into formal coalition with LD or go into minority government with confidence support from SNP (+LD?).

    This is the best situation to me, and happily the one that looks most likely. Lab+LD is very likely to be able to pass a confidence motion (because SNP would likely support, or abstain at worst). Again, in this situation I would rather have a strong LD contingent including Huppert.

    3. Yes, with Cambridge. The tricky one. In this case, a vote for Huppert in Cambridge could result in a Conservative led government. The question is: how likely is this?

    Well, polling is putting the LD pretty consistently between 26 and 28 seats. Supposing they are on 26 seats, say, with conservatives on 287 (high end of predictions, but plausible). LD+CON still in minority, would need support from DUP+UKIP (10 seats). LD ruled out coalition with UKIP, what about DUP? DUP have ruled out coalition, but would potentially support LD/CON government? This is also assuming that Clegg has won in Sheffield Hallam, because I suspect that without him in the leadership, the rest of the party is going to be less keen on a Conservative coalition. It’s also assuming that the LD membership would vote for a coalition which would require support from DUP+UKIP to pass anything. However, in this scenario, I would want to vote for Zeichner in order to remove this possibility and force the LDs to consider joining with Labour.

    Ultimately, it looks like 3 is a pretty unlikely situation; it requires a particular balance of votes, as well as a particular result in another marginal constituency. In other cases, the argument is pretty clear in favour of voting for Huppert.

    • Interesting analysis – but I’m not sure you’re right that 3 is the least likely of those scenarios, particularly as I don’t think the LD rule-out of a coalition including UKIP is really meaningful. Moreover, I disagree with your analysis of 1: with Julian, the Con+LD seat numbers increase, making the minority government more sustainable. Where minority governments are concerned, a single seat can make a huge difference!

      If Clegg had not expressed his preference for the Tories so clearly, I think I would agree with your analysis more – which is why Clegg’s performance yesterday pushed me over the edge. He clearly desires another coalition with the Tories, and he has the chutzpah and charisma to take his party with him. That’s decisive, for me.

      • Hmm. I think 3 being the least likely is certainly the case, just because it requires specific numbers, rather than a range. However, it’s certainly possible the I’m undervaluing how likely it is, and given that it’s the most important case – the case where Cambridge plays a big role in the national argument – the undervaluation could be somewhat multiplied. A small increase in your estimation of how likely that situation is could certainly swing the argument the other way.

        In terms of 1, I’m more concerned about the influence of UKIP and the DUP; their increase proportionally increases as the LD numbers go down.

        Clegg’s preferences are indeed depressing, but I don’t necessarily attribute the same qualities of persuasion to him as you seem to. For one, I think I has roughly nil chance of persuading the party into any deal that did involve UKIP involvement.

  8. “The xenophobia of the immigration policies”

    Interesting that you mention this. I’m not able to vote in this year’s election because it is only on April 6, 2015 that illegitimate children born to British fathers and foreign mothers could finally have UK citizenship. This was because for all of Labour’s time in office, they refused to change the law to allow us our birthright. In fact, they made strides to make sure the law never changed. The last immigration minster under the Labour government said that giving illegitimate children their human rights would be a “step into the unknown”. Even the last three Labour shadow immigration ministers have been against the change in law.

    It was only because of Julian Huppert’s hard work and diligence, and that of the Liberal Democrats, that the law could finally change. It was actually Tory immigration minister Damian Green who gave government approval for the law to change, as he was the one who went up against Labour’s constant birth status bigotry as a shadow immigration minister. He and all subsequent Tory immigration ministers have supported the change to this discriminatory law in our favor. Yes, even Mark Harper.

    I worry about the submission of my application for British citizenship if Labour come to power. I worry for all the children born and raised in the UK to British born fathers who are stateless and now awaiting their applications to be approved. I worry about the Labour mugs with anti-immigration verbiage. I worry about an 8 foot stone with “Controls on Immigration” chiseled into it and displayed outside Number 10. This is what I worry about when thousands of UKF citizenship applications go before a Labour run government in the coming months. I worry about my human rights under a Labour government because nobody spoke up for me when they trampled over my human rights the last time they were in power.

    Do you believe the Labour government will have better immigration policies with “Controls on Immigration” as their motto? Paul, will you be standing up for us when a Labour government reverses our human rights and tells thousands of illegitimate children that their right to UK citizenship through their British born fathers is now null and void?

    We illegitimate children were always Labour’s go home van.

    • As I said at the end of my piece, Labour’s immigration policies are one of their worst things – I’ve blogged about them a number of times before, including about their hideous ‘controls on immigration’ mugs. However, appalling though they are, the Tories are even worse – and the Lib Dems were in government when the real racist vans happened, and did nothing to stop them.

      The real tragedy is that xenophobia has become the norm – and that decent people like the Lib Dems have gone along with it. The Immigration Act 2014 (which I also blogged about here) is one of the most appalling pieces of legislation in my lifetime, but the Lib Dems voted in favour of it.

      So yes, I know Labour’s immigration policies are appalling – but the Lib Dems aren’t any better, and have enabled far worse, voting in favour of them and standing idly by whilst the government lurched in a more and more xenophobic direction. If the Lib Dems were actually any better than Labour, it would definitely be a point in their favour. Sadly when push comes to shove, they’ve sided with the xenophobes.

    • Of course what I’d really like is a Labour/Lib Dem coalition where the Lib Dems are able to influence the Labour party in a positive direction over immigration – there are plenty within the Labour Party who can be persuaded. Sadly it looks as though Clegg has decided to back the Tories – if he hadn’t, the situation would be very, very different.

  9. I think you’ve been too quick to dismiss Rupert or his chances. We’re fighting hard here for every vote and simply put your argument falls into the ‘I’d vote Green if enough other people would’ without actually realising that to everyone else – you are the ‘other people’. Yes, Julian as a LibDem would support another Tory government and Clegg was stupid to acknowledge that the other day – but no less stupid than Clegg with his declaration that he would not deal with the SNP.

    Voting for Zeichner is not a guarantee of stopping the Tories either – but honestly, what difference is there between Labour and the Tories anyway? At least Russell Brand acknowledged this to some extent, believing (however falsely) that “Ed would listen” to the likes of him and the E15 Mothers in changing Labour policy. But that simply will not happen. A majority Labour government would differ only in colour and the names of the banks and businesses they serve. More cuts from the poor to give to the rich, continuing privatisation of the NHS, fracking, HS2, Trident, airport and road expansion in the face of climate change… And when the exec takes their policy from focus groups and the Daily Mail, they couldn’t care less about pressure groups. Didn’t they want to make trespass a criminal offence? And what is to stop them from following France along the road of oppressive surveillance?

    A substantial Labour vote will do nothing but prove to the policy wonks that their strategy was correct, and to stay in power, all they have to do is more of the same.

    • All good points, and I’ve thought a lot about it in exactly those terms. I’d have preferred Miliband to be openly willing to deal with the SNP… but I don’t think a Labour majority is anywhere near possible. If it was, I’d be much more likely to vote Green – but right now a hung parliament looks a near certainty, and then numbers really come into play. The perfect result for me would be Labour needing the SNP and the Greens…

      I’m not under any illusions about Labour being any good about almost all of that – but they really aren’t as bad as the Tories. If nothing else, the HRA would remain….

      …and finally, local polling appears clear: sadly it really is a two-horse race. I wish it wasn’t.

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