Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Backing Blair...

... into a corner. And that's the kind of thing that can backfire badly.

Yes folks, UK politics time again. For overseas readers, this recent article by George Monbiot might be a more relevant read. To be honest, it's also a damn sight more relevant for UK readers than anything I'm likely to write about local politics.

Nonetheless I persist. And bliss abides.

Anyways, prominent UK blogger Tim Ireland has started a campaign called "Backing Blair". For those without the requisite sense of irony, the Backing Blair campaign does precisely the opposite to what it's name might suggest. In essence it is working towards the single aim of reducing the NuLabor majority at the next election. An admirable goal given the near certainty that they will remain in power.

So admirable a goal, indeed, that I've made a small donation to their fund and will continue to display the link to their site until the election. (Operation Henman alone deserves that much support).

Despite this, however, it's important that I qualify my support for this campaign. I've read the various explanations on Backing Blair as to why it's a valid tactic to vote Tory this time round. The campaign draws a line at the BNP and UKIP, but insists that you should "suck it down" and vote Conservative in your constituency if they have a chance of beating Blair's candidate.

I understand the rationale. That a direct attack on Blair's majority is the only real weapon in the electorate's arsenal this time round. Anything else is symbolic. And the times demand action not symbolism.

And I agree. Except I need to take a step back to the paragraph before last. The problem is that I draw the line at the Tories, BNP and UKIP. Hell, NuLabor is too damn right wing for me to vote for. Voting for anyone to the right of them, for any reason at all is actually distasteful in my view. "Hey! Let's vote for rapacious capitalism with no boundaries in order to weaken those who stand for rapacious capitalism with only a couple of boundaries!" Fraid not. It's just as bad as voting UKIP in my view.

And on a purely personal level; it was Michael Howard as Thatcher's Home Secretary who first really politicised me with his crack downs on youth culture, and if (as looks likely) there's going to be another NuLabor government, then having an electorally invigorated Howard in opposition is not where political debate in this country should be located for another 5 years. It really isn't. A vote for the Tories remains, as it always has done, a vote for a more right wing society.

What happens the day after election day when Blair realises he's only got a majority of 40 thanks to a massive resurgence of the Tories under Michael Howard? Is it really likely he'll see that as the result of a tactical vote, and that it actually means the electorate want a shift to the left? Or will he see it as indicating a need to shift even further right to address this shift in the electorate?

Given NuLabor's track record, I'm willing to bet on the latter.

My personal distaste and philosophical objection were then reinforced when I took a gander at Backing Blair's advice on my local constituency... "This is a safe Labour seat, so we'd advise you to vote for (Conservative) although this may not affect the outcome in this constituency". This is absolute madness. I have one of the most rebellious Labour MPs in the country. On the issues that actually matter to me, he's far less likely to vote with Blair than a random Tory. So how does putting some novice Tory MP who'll vote with Howard on every issue do anything other than strengthen Blair's position in the house, and make him think that the people of Walthamstow have made a serious shift to the right?

And who is the Tory in question? Why it's Jane Wright. Followers of the last London Mayoral election may remember her as one of Tory candidate Steve Norris' key pro-car campaigners... she was a prominent figure in the "scrap the congestion charge" campaign (certainly here in Walthamstow).

Those familiar with me or my writing are probably aware of my attitude towards car culture and car use in general. So even if Steve Norris - her political mentor - hadn't been the Tory Minister for Transport when I was protesting the bypass at Newbury; to ask me to vote for a "pro-car" candidate is still, frankly, insulting. In practical terms, the pro-car lobby is a greater threat to all I hold dear than any of the pathetic fringe parties filled with dumb racist thugs and vainglorious fools.

I realise that this is all to do with perception. The Tories aren't seen as extremists by many people because many people fail to realise just how extreme their environmental and economic policies truly are. No, Blair's are not much better, but a vote for Howard will inevitably result in a shift in that direction. I fear Tim Ireland may be overestimating the ability of politicians to distinguish a tactical vote from a genuine shift to the right (especially as all this "The War Against Terror" bullshit is clearly being designed to do just that!)

My suggestion? Don't vote. Or else vote with your conscience. But if you vote to the right of Blair, do so with the expectation that it may very well lead to a shift in that direction.


Blogger Justin said...

I've toyed with the idea of not voting but changed my mind after reading John Harris' Now Who Do We Vote For? He argues against abstaining because the reasons for low turnouts are spun by the victors to their advantage. Anybody who remembers John Prescott putting 2001's 59% turnout down to a "culture of contentment" will know what I mean.

7/3/05 11:02  
Blogger john b said...

Ryan sums it up rather well: "anyone who votes Tory because Tim Ireland tells them to deserves their own personal Tory government, governing them alone."

7/3/05 11:05  
Blogger Jim Doyle said...

With a heavy heart, I have to share with you an e-mail from Clive Summerfield, who is one of the Backing Blair webmasters. It makes it clear Backing Blair lied

7/3/05 11:58  
Blogger Jim Doyle said...

With a heavy heart, I have to share with you an e-mail from Clive Summerfield, who is one of the Backing Blair webmasters. It makes it clear Backing Blair lied

7/3/05 12:16  
Blogger Rob Jubb said...

I made exactly this argument here


a couple of weeks ago. I mean, it's just obvious that a swing to the Tories is going to drag Labour back to the left. Why on earth would they think that a swing to a right-wing party would mean they ought to move to the right?

7/3/05 12:57  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Hillary vs Condi in '08??? nah...

hmmm... p'haps Ah'nold vs Tony...

I mean like if'n u guys don't want him (Tony)...

actually "tactical" voting is VERY risky business... but I'm only 3 months into my choice... we will see how it turns out...

9/3/05 17:22  
Blogger merrick said...

I totally agree about the idiocy of voting further right than Labour as a way of opposing right-wing government.

And it's that agreement that is preciselty the reason why I, unlike you, think Backing Blair is a load of arse and don't link to it and hope it fails.

Labour being trounced @ the election would be good, but imagine if they did so without a swing to the Tories. This could be the thing that really finished them off.

The grounds for popular debate, the politicians turned to for a voice against government, would be the LibDems. Kennedy's hardly likely to lead us into a golden age of contentment and plenty, but that's not the point.

The point is whether we want to stirke against right-wing thinking or just want to give the leader of the day a bloody nose.

If we, as Backing Blair advocate, opt for the latter, we'll be doing the same thing again every election till doomsday. On in 8 years time, it'll be some even more fucked-up Tory fucker in power.

9/3/05 17:59  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

As I mentioned Merrick, I like "Operation Henman", and I think most of what Backing Blair is doing is pretty good - almost all of the campaign's energy is being directed at reminding people what a nasty piece of work Blair is.

And I can't disagree with that. The fact that they advise people to tactically vote Tory is something I disagree with. But I support any campaign to highlight Blair's untrustworthiness. And I doubt many people will vote Tory because a website tells them to.

At root though, I do believe that Tim Ireland missed an opportunity. Whatever support he could mobilise would be better directed towards a swing leftwards. Criticising Blair for dragging the UK into Dubya's war (for instance) and then advising someone to vote Tory just doesn't add up.

Having people at Blair's public appearances shouting things that make him appear foolish, however, I completely support.

With regards to the web host issue, Jim Doyle, it's not a story I followed to be honest. From what I can gather, Tim Ireland claimed that the site was pulled due to political pressure, when actually it wasn't (it went down temporarily for some non-political reason).

If that's the essence of the story (and I don't know that it is), then it was obviously a bit silly of Mr. Ireland to lie. But having read his blog for a wee while, I don't get that impression of the bloke, and I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt; he saw the site go down, had a burst of paranoia and claimed political censorship was at work.

I once lived opposite a drug dealer. The guy used to hang out in my flat (for complicated reasons that had nothing to do with me being a customer... cocaine has always been "the bloody stupid drug" in my own personal classification system). This resulted in my being put under surveillance. However I was also involved in some political campaigning at the time.

Needless to say, when I discovered I was under surveillance, I instantly assumed it was to do with the fact I was helping organise a cannabis legalisation protest just then. And I was fairly vocal with my righteous outrage at the time if I recall correctly.

So I can sympathise with Tim Ireland if something similar happened with him. It's a little embarrassing - after having cried "political oppression" - to have to admit that actually it had more to do with the fact that a regular visitor to your flat is renowned in the locale for dealing coke and stabbing people.

(Which only came to my attention when he showed up one night with an axe and a bad case of the DTs).

All of which has led me off on something of a tangent.

10/3/05 02:23  

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