serious

"This country is sleepwalking towards a Tory government."

Here you can find Ken McLeod's take on the important facet of British electoral politics. I've heard too many people lazily parroting the idea that there's no difference between a Blairite party and a conservative one to do anything but shake my head sadly and agree with him.

Whether a Conservative government woud be a good or a bad thing, of course, is a matter of opinion. Whether it would be a major departure is not. "A new Tory government would not be more of the same - Blairism with a less human face. It would be as different from the governments of Thatcher and Major as theirs were from those of Edward Heath. It would resemble Thatcher's only in its capacity to astonish. The Left would spend the next ten years beating their heads against questions like How can they get away with that? and Where did we go wrong?"

If you have any interest in politics, you could do a lot worse than keep an eye on Ken.

"Much as I detest New Labour's imperialism and its civil authoritarianism, I'd rather have it in government, where we can fight it, than in opposition, where it's in our trench against a worse enemy."
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I've heard too many people lazily parroting the idea that there's no difference between a Blairite party and a conservative one to do anything but shake my head sadly and agree with him.

I can imagine little practical difference in what they would implement in a first term. The policies are largely the same but the presentation is different. The differences listed in the article are attitudinal differences and certainly I don't disagree that the conservative party has a strong current of genuinely nasty right-wing belief. However, does it matter greatly whether it is the government or the opposition spouting inflammatory racist claptrap if they don't legislate based upon it?



From that article.

The Left would spend the next ten years beating their heads against questions like How can they get away with that? and Where did we go wrong?

I find it rather unlikely that the British electorate could elect two tory governments through carelessness.

any non-Labour vote or abstention anywhere but a rock-solid safe seat is a Tory vote.

This is just polemic. Strange but true, there are places where the lib-dems are the better bet to keep the tories out and there are still other places (hard as this is to believe) where the lib-dems have MPs.
I can imagine little practical difference in what they would implement in a first term.

Really? I've no difficulty thinking of at least one - they've said they'd repeal the Human Rights Act. I can't imagine them being as keen on freedom of information, either. I'd imagine we would kiss goodbye to the minimum wage as well, and probably to various other employment rights.

The policies are largely the same

They would be vastly different.

This is just polemic.

It's a polemical article. Presumably what you mean is that you don't agree.

there are places where the lib-dems are the better bet to keep the tories out

Increasingly Lib Dem MPs will tend to vote with the opposition. And to get back to the minimum wage, LD support for this was notably weak - none of them voted against it in '97, but there were quite a few abstentions. They won't necessarily be disagreeing with the Tories, and certainly can't be assumed to wish to oppose them on all matters.

Now, voting for the LDs because one supports their agenda and party is one thing, but regardless of whether it seems to be justified in particular circumstances, tactical voting always has the drawback that you're voting for someone you don't really agree with.
In the UK parlimentary system you get a choice of three indivisible sets of policies. Unless you happen to have been the person who *wrote* these policies, you're always going to be voting for someone you don't entirely agree with. Personally, the Lib Dems are the ones I disagree with least, by quite a margin.

[The Lib Dems] won't necessarily be disagreeing with the Tories, and certainly can't be assumed to wish to oppose them on all matters.
Almost certainly true, but rather more true of "New Labour" than the Lib Dems.

The whole concept of "tactical voting" shows that something's gone badly awry in this supposed democracy anyway; we need serious voting reform so people can start voting ideally on the basis of specific policies, but at least not feeling they have to second guess the rest of the electorate to direct their own vote. Personally I'll take the perhaps overly-idealist path, and give my vote (and money) to the people I really want to represent (note to Tony and Mike: not "rule") me.
I'm with you on voting reform. We're already getting it up here. Scottish Assembly elections are by a top-up list system - not ideal, but an improvement. Council elections are headed the same way soon. With any luck it'll spread further.

Personally I'll take the perhaps overly-idealist path, and give my vote (and money) to the people I really want to represent

Best way if it's a reasonable option. I can see that voting tactically can be useful in the short term, but if it becomes a habit then it's potentially quite harmful.
Tactical voting
AFAICT a tactical vote is generally an anyone but those bastards vote, with the voter voting for whoever they think has the best chances of beating the bastards in question. Please tell me if I'm wrong about this.

If I'm right, then it indicates a failure of the democratic process, in that people are voting for what I percieve to be the wrong reason. One is surely supposed to vote for the party one likes, not vote against the party one hates, but in a political system like ours that is effectively a two horse race at the national level, I can see why tactical voting happens.
Re: Tactical voting
No, that's right. It's a damaging thing to take hold in the long term, in my view, although as you say it's understandable in the short term.
Assuming the Lib Dems' actual policies have any relation to their stated policies, which is not assured in the least - e.g. software patents, where they just plain fucking lied.
Perhaps I am an optimist. I find it hard to imagine that they would be able to do most of the things you say in a first term. I find it hard to imagine they would get a second term.

On the specific thing of the human rights act.

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/conservatives2004/story/0,15018,1292468,00.html

Has there been change since then?


It's a polemical article. Presumably what you mean is that you don't agree.


I mean that part is just polemic the facts of the situation clearly contradict the claim. I feel sure that there are even consituencies where the battle is tory or lib dem and a vote for labour is more likely to get the tories in.

Increasingly Lib Dem MPs will tend to vote with the opposition.

That's the inevitable mindset of being an opposition party isn't it? British politics seems to work on the near automatic gainsaying of the other guy. We've had some positions in the last few years where Tory MPs have voted with the rebellious labour left (presumably through gritted teeth) just in the hopes of getting an upset result.

They won't necessarily be disagreeing with the Tories, and certainly can't be assumed to wish to oppose them on all matters

I consider that an eminently sensible position. Just by random chance surely even a tory party can accidentally pass some good legislation once in a while -- I mean in "throw enough coins and you get eight heads in a row" kind of scenario.

I've always leant towards the Lib Dem party since well before it became obvious that Blair wasn't secretly old labour in a cunning disguise. But many of the policies which impressed me have since been withdrawn as not voter friendly and they occasionally startle me by coming out with something whackily right of centre.
Has there been change since then?

They've made what sounds like a commitment to "review" it, and they've been badmouthing it in the press. It sounds to me like they want rid of it. It'll be interesting to see if it's in the manifesto.

I mean that part is just polemic the facts of the situation clearly contradict the claim.

I don't think they clearly contradict it. You can't rely on tactical voting forever - at some point you have to try to build your own vote. At a time like this, with relatively high support and a weak opposition, it's a mistake to act as if you're still a minority party trying to hamper a strong government.

Tactical voting was advanced as a solution for an entirely different situation from the one we face, and I would agree that it would now be a mistake for the left to vote for centrist parties rather than to take advantage of the opportunity to build a lasting and strong voter base.

That's the inevitable mindset of being an opposition party isn't it?

Yes, absolutely. The government will look less good to them over time.

Just by random chance surely even a tory party can accidentally pass some good legislation once in a while

Yes, but I was only talking about times when opposition was merited from my (or possible ken's) viewpoint. I wouldn't personally go so far as to hold my breath if Michael Howard says he enjoys oxygen. Not yet, anyway.

Blair wasn't secretly old labour in a cunning disguise.

I don't really buy the whole Old Labour/New Labour thing. It's a marketing ploy. TB used to be on the left, but he's shifted to more or less where the party's old Atlanticist right wing used to be - a lot of the more centrist elements left to form the SDP, but Tony's perhaps closer to those like Austin Mitchell, who stayed. The party, when in government, has always been led by somebody from its right wing. Generally, these all faced accusations of being class traitors in their time. Really, this is just history repeating itself.
I don't think they clearly contradict it.

To be quite clear I was originally taking him to task for "any non-Labour vote or abstention anywhere but a rock-solid safe seat is a Tory vote." I don't think you can (or really intend to) defend that as true. At the last election in Cheadle the conservatives got 18,444 votes, the lib-dems got 18,477 votes, labour got 6,086.

I agree with what you say about tactical voting.

I don't really buy the whole Old Labour/New Labour thing. It's a marketing ploy.

I was thinking here of the "demon eyes" campaign. The '97 Tory propoganda that Tony Blair was secretly a radical socialist and would plunge the country into some dreadful left-wing hell. I was disappointed but unsurprised that it turned out to be untrue.
Ah, I'm truely not eligable to vote in UK this time, which is a bit of a relief I must say. Getting rid of the Tories in 97 (when I was unable to vote) was one thing. But Blair is a totally different prospect this time around. So many cracks I see.

Anyway, I get to vote here in NZ this year. I've done my jury duty, so I've even contributed to that right! Only 2 main parties here, but the outcome is usually a coalition gov cos we have proportional representation here. That means the Greens or the crazy christians get in too. Atleast I really like our current PM. The only one I ever have, anywhere! I think we're on the same wavelength. She's actually standing up against the big boys she should. It is so different from the craziness that was in power when I first came here.
The same will happen in the UK as happened in Australia. People will think it makes no difference, vote them in and they'll trash the place. e.g. 1979.
this sounds familiar. the hard left in 97 and 2001 compalines that Blair was a Tory by all that name and then suddenly came round to support in the months up to the election. This is because he probably is not and people like to slag him off (and the start trek fan syndrome... where th hard core star fans seem to be the one who poitn out al the flaws in the show yet watch it most vividly).

And in the end he has reduced unemployment and child poverty and done a few of those left wing things. And in the end he did win the election ona fairly centrist platform (and there is a good chance a hard left manifesto would have just ke[t Jophn Major in power).
fan syndrome

Indeed.

done a few of those left wing things

Indeed. But the tone of his speeches is otherwise, and he seems to want to make more noise about the non-lefty things he does, presumably to try to keep non-lefties voting for him. And it's working.

It worries me, though, that he's not shifting the tone of the debate in the way that, say, Maggie did. If you don't enthuse the people of the country with what you're doing, they won't want to keep doing it after you're gone.
This comes just as I had decided to vote Liberal Democrat in the election. I could forgive Iraq and much else -- or at least, balance it off against the Human Rights Act and much else. But I can't forgive ID cards.

Ken sends my thinking slewing back in the other direction; because he's right, of course: it would be much worse under the Tories. And if they had been in power post 9/11, I don't doubt that they'd be trying to get ID cards in, too. What's surprising is that Thatcher never tried it. I suppose there were enough actual conservatives in the Conservative Party in those days that it would have been resisted.

I live in a safe Labour seat with the Liberals second, so I can voice my disapproval at the ballot box without fear of accidental harm; but on election night, as we sit and watch the figures come in, what do we hope for?
Tony to have a health crisis and retire?

Dunno, really. Gordon wouldn't be as big a difference as people think, but I'd still prefer him a lot because the rhetoric would improve. You can't, surely, build a better future by continually tricking the public into thinking you're not going to change anything, can you?

Mind you, Billy Bragg has a theory about politics. It's the white-bread theory of politics. He had a friend who stacked shelves in a supermarket, who noticed that white bread always outsold brown bread, even though brown bread tastes nicer and is better for you. He reasoned that it must be the price difference, so he asked the manager if they couldn't mark down the brown bread in the interest of increasing sales. The manager, surprisingly, was sympathetic, so the brown bread's price was lowered to the same as the white bread's price.

The white bread still outsold the brown bread by a fair margin, so Billy's mate persuaded - with some difficulty - the manager to lower the price of brown bread so it was a couple of pennies a loaf less than white bread.

Even when it was more expensive, white bread still outsold the (better-tasting and more healthy) brown bread.

This brings us to Billy Bragg's white-bread theory of politics: sometimes people will only buy brown bread if you paint it white.
Even when it was more expensive, white bread still outsold the (better-tasting and more healthy) brown bread.

That is so true, especially here. Historically, a lot of people where I live have voted Labour no matter what other parties offer and no matter what Labour's manifesto is, because they've always voted Labour, their Mums and Dads voted Labour, and Labour is therefore who they will vote for forever more. Unfortunately, this means that Labour, realising that they don't need to sweet-talk the electorate here in order to win seats. tend to ignore the NE in their policies. What really gets to me is that local people and local publications alike bitch about the lack of decent policies provided for the NE by Labour, and yet they are still stupid/partisan enough to vote for the bastards again and again. Having said that, who else is there really to vote for?