Straight off, I want to be clear: I like Jeremy Corbyn. I generally like what his manifesto stands for. My friends are into him and his values, and many of them will be voting Labour on 8th June because of him.
And I get it. There are power hungry politicians and there are those with a sincere motive to make things better – and there’s no doubt that Corbyn is firmly one of the latter.
We need to unseat the Tories. We should be in no doubt that this is the number one priority in this election, and, in many constituencies, tactically voting Labour is the only option to achieve this.
I’d vote Labour without hesitance in one of those seats, but that isn’t the case here in Bristol West. Not just that: we’re the only three-way non-Tory split in the whole country. Since the tactical agenda doesn’t apply in Bristol West, we have a real choice, and I’m desperate to encourage undecided voters to use that choice wisely.
Labour supporters may have picked up on the tone so far and I’m sorry to say, yes, there’s an obvious direction this article now takes – I can hear the groans from tribal voters, but, with respect, you’re not the demographic I’m trying to speak to here.
It’s the people who, day to day don’t follow the ins and out of political news but who are now swamped with online posts branding Labour as the young, progressive (and grime?) vote. For the sake of balance, here’s why I don’t think Corbyn’s Labour is the right decision for Bristol West.
We voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU – in Ashley ward, where I live, 85.6 per cent of voters chose to remain – the second highest percentage of any ward in the UK. On June 24 last year, it’s fair to say that everyone was gutted. My Facebook & Twitter feeds were full of shock, disbelief and a desperate search for any way to stop this from happening.
What I can’t believe is that in the last few weeks, I’ve seen the same people adamantly supporting Labour in the general election. In case Labour’s Brexit position has gone completely under the radar, here are some key points:
- To ensure we leave the EU, when the vote came to parliament, Corbyn imposed a three-line whip on the triggering of Article 50 – the notice to leave. This means that if any of his ministers voted against the motion they’d be disciplined.
- The Labour Manifesto doesn’t pledge to stay in the Single Market – the EU’s trading bloc (leaving was not part of the referendum last June).
- Labour want to retain the benefits of the single market while capping immigration. Free movement of people is one of the rules of trading within the single market. This policy doesn’t make any sense.
Leaving the EU is going to affect so may Labour supporters, in terms of jobs, the economy and so much more, so why isn’t Corbyn providing an effective opposition to it? If he fundamentally agrees we should remain in the union, then why isn’t he fighting to stay in?
As with constant flow of scary news coming from America concerning Trump, we’ve developed Brexit fatigue. Feeling shit about something so huge and not being able to do anything about it is tiring. It’s understandable to want to switch off, but, less than one year on, we have a chance to send a message to government that Bristol doesn’t accept May’s UKIP vision of Britain.
Where’s the opposition?
Since the Brexit vote, Labour has split. The fact that this hasn’t been the fault of Jeremy Corbyn is irrelevant. Whilst they’ve been fighting each other, Trident, the ‘Snoopers Charter’ and welfare cuts have all gone through: remember the Conservatives only hold a slim majority so it shouldn’t be this easy.
The current Labour Party have proved they’re unable to provide us with a strong united voice of opposition, and our Labour candidate (current MP) for Bristol West, Thangam Debbonaire, has been at the forefront of party in-fighting. If the reason you’re voting for Labour is Corbyn, then you have a serious dilemma.
It might be that you’re familiar with all these points and you have good reason to vote Labour. I don’t think we should argue too hard with any progressive vote to beat the Tories but we need to remember we have a rare opportunity to choose here.
We’ve got a proud tradition of inclusiveness, tolerance and liberalism on this side of the city, and the Lib Dems can be that voice. There’s the obvious coalition government elephant in the room, but you can’t ignore that, compared to the political landscape of GE 2015, everything has exploded. We need reasoned, pragmatic voices and fair, inclusive policies to get us through, not more left/right extremes.
The Lib Dems want to give us a referendum on the final Brexit deal, of which we currently know nothing. Will it be hard, soft or red white and blue? When Scotland were offered independence, voters were provided with a 100-page white paper, not a lie on the side of a bus.
Much more than Brexit though, Farron (who voted against tuition fees by the way and rebelled against the coalition) wants to fund the NHS by taxing 1p on every pound of income tax (about the price of a cup of coffee once a week), reverse the benefits freeze (something not offered by Labour) and gain extra tax revenue by legalising, regulating and taxing the sale of cannabis. Oh, and they don’t want to leave the single market or put a stop on immigration.
Of course, you’d be voting for Stephen Williams, not Tim Farron – our previous MP of 10 years.
The Green Party are in the running too. In the 2015 election (when the Lib Dems got punished for the coalition), much of the yellow vote went to the Greens and local candidate Darren Hall. They finished second to Labour and as such are now in the three-party running to win in 2017.
This is their chance of getting a second seat in Westminster and they’ve brought in Molly Scott Cato to stand. There have been calls by them for other parties to stand down here, but as the Tories aren’t likely to be a serious challenger, neither Labour nor the Lib Dems have.
If we’re honest and peek our heads out of our social media echo chambers, we can see the Conservatives will likely win a big majority here. In each opposition seat, it’s important we have a strong voice to directly take on the Tories. In Bristol West, I hope that people think twice about who that should be.
Jason Powell is a Bristol West resident and Lib Dem voter.
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