Don’t be tempted not to vote!

Picture of Richard Pryor, a Black American male actor, standing at a podium in front of four microphones, in front of a simultaneous video of him speaking, with the slogan "None of the Above" belowYesterday, in response to the abstention by most Labour MPs (and the party itself; forty Labour MPs voted against, including John McDonnell and Dennis Skinner) on the retrospective legislation to excuse the government for compensation to people stripped of their Jobseeker’s Allowance over refusal to do unpaid job “experience” placements, at least one erstwhile Labour member and voter said she was no longer going to keep her membership and would not vote for them, if at all, at the next election. This sense of disenchantment with Labour has been a factor since the election of Tony Blair, and that party’s refusal to challenge Tory policies and the demands of the Tory press has been the main reason I let my membership lapse in 1995 and have never once voted for them in a general election. However, I’ve always lived in constituencies where there there is a serious alternative (e.g. Plaid Cymru in Aberystwyth in 1997) or where they are not the biggest or second-biggest party. If your constituency is one where Labour and the Tories are the main challengers, that is not an option in 2015. (More: Latent Existence, Sue Marsh.)

As I wrote last weekend, the Lib Dems need to vote out most of their sitting MPs to persuade enough people who voted for them last time to do so again if they are going to save most of the seats they hold. We have seen that the party membership opposes coalition policy; they must show it by punishing MPs who went against what they voted for. The danger is that enough people will not vote, or vote for a no-hope candidate (e.g. Green, anywhere except Brighton), to let a Tory in. Much the same is true in Tory-Labour marginal seats, and although the Tories are likely to lose some votes to UKIP (barring a major scandal involving them in the next two years), erstwhile Labour voters will not be able to rely on that, especially as UKIP (and worse, the BNP) will steal white working-class voters who feel Labour has abandoned them and might believe claims that Labour “gives council houses to immigrants” or some such thing.

An all-Tory government is likely to be far more right-wing than the coalition. They will continue cutting taxes for the rich while raising them on everyone else; they will continue the privatisation of the NHS and the destruction of the welfare state, including completing the move to PIP which it is a chance that Labour will abandon, especially as lifelong DLA awardees will not be re-assessed for PIP until after the next election. They have already promised to abolish the Human Rights Act and may even pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights, abolishing any protection we have from legislation on whims or media-manufactured panics. They may well leave the European Union. A United Kingdom outside the EU and without the HRA is likely to settle the mood in Scotland in favour of independence, unless the Tories rush through legislation to prevent it. They will not be restrained by the Lib Dems’ civil libertarian instincts if they are in power unchallenged. We will end up not as the UK or Great Britain, but as the isolated backwater of Little England.

I understand the temptation not to vote, but making sure the Tories do not return in 2015 is at least as important as getting rid of them in 1997 was. You do not have to stay a member of Labour; it’s an undemocratic party which demands loyalty in Leninist fashion for a capitalist party. But not voting is not an option. A vote for a loser is a wasted vote; a non-vote is not a vote for “none of the above” but a vote for “whoever”.

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