This is a personal plea to all my friends not to vote Labour on May 6th. I don't make it lightly; I've had drafts of this post in my head and on my laptop for weeks, only to be deleted and started over. I don't like singling out one party; I don't like telling my friends things they will find uncomfortable. I've come to the conclusion that this time, I won't be able to forgive myself if I don't speak up, for the sake of my own conscience and for the sake of people who have no vote, but depend on ours. So here it is:
If you vote Labour, you’re saying you can see no better option than to lend your support to people who...
1. Don’t respect the rule of law
2. Lock people up without charge for 28 days (and would do it for 90 if we let them), and tried to detain some indefinitely
3. Keep innocent children in prison conditions
4. Pursued a deliberate strategy of making people starve on the streets
5. Return LGBT people to face death in countries like Iran and Cameroon, and say it’s their own fault for being so indiscreet as to kiss a partner in their own garden
6. Believe same-sex partners have no right to respect for their private lives
7. Want to be able to open your mail without telling you
8. Tried to give themselves the power to abolish Parliament itself - twice
9. Lied to get support for an illegal war and tried to cover up the evidence
and – the real clincher for me:
10. Create a market for information gained from torture.
I don’t think those things are okay, and if we’re friends – and since you’re reading this, we probably are - then I'm pretty sure you don’t think these things are okay either. That much probably goes without saying. The last item alone, and to a degree that is difficult to surpass, disqualifies those responsible from any claim to be ethical or decent. So I have confidence that you want to and can find a better option than to reward these things, because you are all awesome and I love you.
You may think it’s okay to vote for your local Labour MP or candidate because they’ve opposed some or all of the things on this list, but here’s the thing: every sitting Labour MP has helped to keep in power a Government that did those things, and every Labour candidate is willing to put that Government back in power. Some of the things on that list individually, and certainly all of them taken together, should have been issues over which to force a leadership election or a vote of no confidence, and if those failed, they should have been resigning issues. No current Labour MP and no candidate willing to sit on the Labour benches under Brown’s leadership deserves to be making decisions that will mean life or death for asylum-seekers, for civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, or for people in poverty in the UK and the developing world.
You may think you need to vote tactically to keep the Tories out. Do I think the Tories will be better on all of these points? No, of course not. I think they'll probably be better on some and worse on others. They voted with Labour on Iraq (but can’t have been helped in their decision by Blair’s misinformation), and recent events have shown that they’re still deeply worrying on LGBT issues - but don’t forget points 5 and 6. For the rest, after thirteen years out of power, it’s impossible to be certain. I will point out, however, that it seems even Thatcher had enough decency to reject information gained from torture, and torture is so uniquely evil that there’s very little the Tories could do that would be worse. But Labour has not even the advantage of being to some extent an unknown quantity. We know that Labour will give us more of the same if we re-elect them, because they were doing it right up until Parliament was dissolved: the Digital Economy Act has shown that they still don’t get civil liberties, and Phil Woolas shows every time he opens his mouth that they still don’t get asylum. Amnesty continues to document Labour’s complicity in torture. If people tell me they think the Tories have changed since 1997, I think they're being premature at best – they’ve started the process, but it’s not yet complete and far from secure - but I can understand why the elapse of thirteen years gives people that hope. If anyone told me they thought Labour had changed in the last three weeks, I’d know they were deluding themselves.
But of course, no-one does tell me that, because everyone knows perfectly well that the outgoing Labour Government did, and continued to do to the end, things that are unspeakably vile. What people actually tell me is that they’re more scared of the Tories than they are of Labour because of what the Tories did last time - but that’s a perception that is out of date. It’s out of date because no-one, not you and not me, not Labour and not the Tories, has stayed exactly the same since 1997, far less since 1984 or 1979. The Tories I see people reacting to for the most part are the Tories of 1984, and the Labour Party is the Labour Party of Neil Kinnock or John Smith, not Blair or Brown.
That perception is also out of date because the race is in any case no longer just between the Tories and Labour – if it ever was. I still love you, and I still think you’re awesome, and I will still love you on May 7th, whoever you vote for. But even the most awesome people can be fooled into seeing only the “forget” button that will allow them to live with torture, and the “protest” button that will bring civilisation crashing to a halt. You need to allow yourselves to see other choices.
You do have those choices. You can choose to vote Lib Dem this time so that whichever party has most seats, you’ll have a strong voice in Parliament – very probably holding the balance, just possibly even in power - not just against everything on that list up there, but also for fairer taxes, fairer education, a fairer economy and fairer politics, particularly a fairer voting system (and every vote for the Lib Dems will make that case stronger.) By the time the next election comes round, I hope we may even have convinced you that you want a Liberal Democrat in No.10 (not to mention No.11) - and as the polls are now starting to show, if enough of you want that, you can have it, even under the old system and certainly under a proportional one. But if we don’t convince you, then I even more dearly hope that by the next election, enough time will have passed for the voices of reason and decency to regain control of the Labour Party so that you can go back to voting for them with a clear conscience. You can even choose to vote for someone else on May 6th, then join Labour on May 7th and be one of those voices. They need more people like you.
Meanwhile, if you don’t like what the Lib Dems offer, you can choose to vote Green, choose to vote SNP or Plaid, choose to vote Independent, choose to vote any flavour of Socialist you like; you can choose to vote Loony or Zombie; you can even choose to spoil your ballot paper – and if you do it by writing on it “NO TO TORTURE”, I’ll applaud you. If you still think your only choice is to vote for accomplices to torture, that should tell you that something has gone disastrously wrong with your thought processes. A sound thought process could never tell you that your best option is to tell accomplices to torture that they can do whatever they like and still count on you because you’re so terrified that the Tories might be worse. They know you’re scared, and they’re exploiting that. Show them it doesn’t work any more.
It’s bad enough that my Government is complicit in torture; I don’t want to see my friends, you awesome people whom I love so much, complicit as well. I know you can be so much better than that. Please don’t let me down; don’t let the asylum-seekers and torture victims down, who have no vote and depend on yours for their lives; and most importantly, don’t let yourselves down on May 6th.
This entry was cross-posted from Dreamwidth, where there are currently comment(s). View DW comment(s).
- Current Mood: hopeful