Letter to a friend thinking of voting Lib Dem

lib dems

By Bruce Robinson

Dear *****

You texted me saying “I am seriously considering voting Lib Dem in the European Elections. Can’t believe I’m writing this. Am I mad?”. My first response was “Yes”.

However I recognise that there are many people like you — lifelong Labour voters and people who supported Corbyn in the leadership elections — who are angry about Labour’s failure to support a remain position and a referendum on Brexit and find it unacceptable that Labour can enter European elections with no clear position on this key issue.

Many, like you, are wondering whether they can support Labour “this time”. Why not vote for the Lib Dems? They are still the Lib Dems. The party without whom austerity would not have been possible. They are trying to use Europe to recover from the consequences of that and rebuild a base for centrist politics. There has been no break from neo-liberalism or the politics of austerity and, of course, they are notoriously opportunist and make commitments they don’t keep. Also they are liberals, not socialists, and their MEPs would sit in the Liberal bloc in the European Parliament. This is now important because the Socialist group, of which Labour is part, is hoping to win control of the European Commission and is planning to implement a Europe-wide minimum wage.

The Lib Dems’ support for Remain is also uncritical of precisely those aspects of the EU that most need challenging.

The impact of these European elections will go beyond European issues and will be taken as an indicator of where politics in Britain are at. There is generally no good time for a random protest vote, but this time especially a low vote for Labour will have a negative impact for many reasons.

Firstly, Labour alone can prevent Farage’s party coming first in the poll. In the North West we need to prevent “Tommy Robinson” getting elected. It’s necessary to go beyond the “Don’t vote Nazi” line of the SWP to put a positive alternative. And there are positive reasons to vote Labour.

The Labour manifesto contains much you will support along the lines of the 2017 election manifesto (there is also a strange contradiction — there are phrases like “Labour will work across the EU to deliver an ambitious equality plan”, which only make sense if Britain remains in the EU!) A bad result would be negative in the Labour Party where it will strengthen the anti-Corbyn right. Similarly a good result for the Lib Dems would help reinvigorate the idea that politics in Britain has to be located in the centre.

Whatever you think of Corbyn on this issue, or in general, the shift in the Labour Party since 2015 has opened a lot of new possibilities for the left, not least of a government that will break with austerity. I can understand why you feel the way you do. The Labour leadership’s attitude to Brexit has been terrible from the start. I and many others in the Labour Party will be fighting to change that. But I don’t think a Lib Dem vote will do anything to help that or promote the goals we share.

Best wishes




2 thoughts on “Letter to a friend thinking of voting Lib Dem

  1. Sorry, but I don’t buy it.

    Firstly, Labour is also a bourgeois party, and has supported neo-liberal policies. Corbyn’s Labour supports an end to free movement and so on. Marxists don’t support Labour as a lesser evil, less still because it is some sense socialist, but because it is the Workers Party, and we aim to gain the ear of that working-class, to work alongside it, inside the party and to thereby develop the class consciousness of workers, including developing the programme of the party. In short, as Trotsky and the Communist International put it, we should stick with the workers and their mass organisations no matter how reactionary, at any particular time they may be.

    Secondly, its not true that only Labour can beat Farage’s Brexit company. Latest polls put the Liberals ahead of Labour, with the Greens even snapping at Labour’s heels. The nature of these elections means that we should unify the stop Brexit vote behind whichever anti-Brexit party has best chance of winning in each area, which means Liberals in England, SNP in Scotland, Plaid in Wales.

    Thirdly, this is not like any other election. It could be the last election for Europe if the Brexit supporting parties – and that includes Corbyn’s Labour – get their way. It is a proxy for a second referendum. In such a referendum I would vote Remain, so it is perfectly logical, therefore, to vote for whichever party best represents such a proxy Remain vote. That certainly is not Labour.

    Fourthly, whilst we should certainly stick with the workers, and their mass party – Labour – that does not mean fetishising a vote for Labour. After all, many Labour members, particularly all of those new young, radicalised members that joined the party as part of the Corbyn surge are themselves really pissed off with the fact that Corbyn and his Stalinist entourage are riding roughshod over their opposition to Brexit. In many ways, sticking with those workers and LP members, in rejecting Corbyn’s nationalism, does mean voting for other parties so as to oppose Brexit.

    If there were a second referendum, and Labour came out to call for a vote to Leave, I would after all reject Labour’s plea, and vote to Remain, even if that meant siding, for now, with neoliberals in doing so. Remaining inside the EU, means we have plenty of time to deal with them later. But, a vote to leave means leaving for at least a generation, unless there is a crash out resulting in chaos and an emergency readmittance.

    The priority for now is to stand against the forces of reaction, and stop Brexit. That means a tactical vote for whichever party is best place to represent a stop Brexit vote. That is not Labour, given the pro-Brexit stance of Corbyn and the leadership. The huge vote swing from Labour towards the anti-Brexit parties will assist in making the case to ditch the Stalinists behind Corbyn, and their policy of Socialism in One Country. Any vote for Labour will be portrayed as a vote for Brexit, just as the Brexiters have continually touted the vote for Labour in 2017 as a vote for Brexit, because Labour stupidly said in its Manifesto that it would “respect” the referendum.

    We should have proudly been able to mobilise behind Labour to stop Brexit, and stop Farage, but we can’t because Corbyn’s leadership has prevented it. So, we have to vote to stop Brexit, by voting for Stop Brexit parties, and at the same time, we have to set about sorting out Corbyn and the leadership, and their betrayal of the party membership. We should demand a recall conference to demand the party changes policy to demand Article 50 be revoked. We should demand democratic reforms for mandatory reselection of MP’s and immediately begin clearing out the dead wood. We should begin a mobilisation to create a truly EU wide labour movement, and a struggle to end austerity, establish a programme of infrastructure spending, for a struggle for industrial democracy across Europe, and the convocation of constituent assemblies to create a new EU Constitution as part of bringing about greater EU integration, the creation of a United Stats of Europe, a struggle for a Workers Government, on the road to a United Socialist States of Europe.

    That is the positive international socialist vision we should offer, and not simply tag along meekly as Corbyn’s foot soldiers, in his quest to build social democracy in one country.


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