Now that a 5th May election has been officially called I thought I’d air my views on why I still intend to vote Labour despite the huge misgivings I had, and still have, about Blair’s joining Bush’s war in Iraq.
We need to look at all the achievements of this government over the past eight years not just their failures and the things they’ve done which disgust us. There are little matters like a redistribution of wealth to consider, for example. While Blair’s government has been privatising services very publically much more quietly, almost in the background, they’ve been taking a little from the rich in taxes and giving it to the poor. One result of this is that there are many less children living in poverty now than there were in 1997.
Other redistributions, which are more hidden because they’re not so direct, include the large amount of extra money which is available for use by schools, the NHS and other national bodies which affect most of us in one way or another. The Tories will, of course, try to persuade us that most of that money has been wasted in some unspecified way and has just lead to a massive increase in bureaucracy as if better services can somehow run themselves without there being anyone around to push the buttons.
There are more police on the streets whatever the Tories would have us believe. Crime, especially violent crime, is down a long way even if the Tories do still continue to try to persuade us that it’s all a magic trick and that crime is much worse than it was.
Sure Labour has made some huge blunders. Not least of these is joining the war in Iraq, something for which many of us will never forgive them. I don’t see it in quite that way. This was Blair’s war not the Labour party’s. The problem was that Blair has had such a large majority in Parliament that it’s been difficult, if not impossible, for the Parliamentary party to mount any decent resistance. And do we really believe that a Tory government would not have done the same thing? Of course not. They’d have been in there with Bush even sooner than Labour was. At least there was a lot of debate in the Labour party. Cabinet ministers lost their posts or resigned because of it. There would have been precious little debate amongst the Tories at all.
One of the main problems for many of us is the answer we get when we ask ourselves “What’s the alternative?”. The answer I always get is “The Tories”. The idea of the current Tory party regaining power gives me the willies. Other than their being only loosely held together with cheap glue you only have to look at their pre-election advertising campaign to see why they scare so many of us witless. Their posters on immigration are, on the surface, aimed at new immigration but they know full well that that’s not how many people will see them. Instead many people see the posters as referring to all non-white people in this country regardless of who they are, where they were born or how long they’ve been here. The people who see things that way include not just the usual racist bigots but many non-white people themselves. The latter often see themselves as being attacked. The Tories’ attacks on minority groups who haven’t a hope of fighting back or finding anyone to fight for them, such as the gypsies, has been appalling, gutter politics reminiscent of the way the Jews were vilified in Germany in the 1920s and 30s.
It’s been my perception that over the past few years inter-communal relationships have improved rather a lot. In London’s East End, where I work, people now appear to talk to each other much more; there seems to be much more tolerance, even acceptance, of people whose background is elsewhere in the world. I love it. It’s so vibrant, makes life more interesting and brings new ways of looking at the world into the country. Do we really want to throw all this away because we’re angry with Blair about invading Iraq? I sure as hell don’t.
Are there other alternatives besides the Tories? Of course there are but a large vote, nationwide, for any of them or all of them combined leads to the same result. A Tory government. The Liberal Democrats have no hope of forming a government. Respect, an odd coalition of Trotskyists, disaffected ex-Labour people, champagne socialists and Muslim organisations, would fall apart from their own internal contradictions as soon as they looked like they were getting anywhere. They may do well in some areas, such as the East End, where they’re campaigning almost as a single issue group (the issue being Iraq) but elsewhere people can, I hope, see straight through them. There are other parties such as UKIP and the British National Party but both of those are too despicable to even contemplate.
So, I shall be voting Labour again I think. Their core values are still more similar to mine than those of any of the other main parties. The party’s heart is in the right place even if its brain sometimes seems to have gone missing. If the Labour party can be returned with a smaller majority than it’s had since 1997, say 40 or 50 MPs, then Blair himself becomes less important and the party as a whole becomes more important. That’s the result I’d like.
Posted 6 April 2005, 19:52 BST