Where will Lib Dem votes go in Brighton and Hove?

As the Lib Dems drop into single figures in more and more opinion polls, the big question is “Where will Lib Dem votes go in Brighton and Hove?”.  It is true to say that there are not that many in the first place, but their distribution could make all the difference in certain key seats.  Experience on the doorstep throughout the city, reported by Green and Labour activists alike, is that former Lib Dem voters are not keen to be reminded of their Lib Dem past.

Nationally, it is said that Nick Clegg is giving the veil of respectability to David Cameron, and Simon Hughes continues to give the veil of respectability to Nick Clegg.  No such problem locally.  There may, ironically, be a chance that the Lib Dem vote won’t drop too badly throughout the City, not because the vote is holding firm, but it could become the ‘conscience’ vote for Tories who know that a Lib Dem vote will not hurt their first choice, the Tories, as much as a vote for Labour or Green. 

But traditional Lib Dem voters continue to desert that party in droves.  In a comment in response to an earlier post on this blog, ‘Clive’ says: “My membership card went into the shredder several months ago and I will not be voting for the party”.  He warns activists not to underestimate the Liberal tradition: “The Welfare State and old age pensions were essentially Liberal creations for a start. More recently the Liberals/Lib Dems has promoted advanced positions – way ahead of public opinion – on matters such as gay rights and abortion”.  One challenge for Labour and the Greens is to articulate a vision equal to that of the Welfare State for the 21st century.

I suspect that Labour will not benefit as much as the Greens from former Lib Dem votes this time round since Labour comes across locally as still being bitter about their humiliations at the last general and local elections.  The Greens, on the other hand, come across as positive and bright.  That perception is not altogether fair.  Labour has a number of bright and enthusiastic young activists and candidates, not least Tom French, standing in Queen’s Park, and Dan Wilson in Regency.

I expect the Tory vote to slump in Brunswick and Adelaide, with Tories shifting their support (as the did in Oldham and Saddleworth) to the Lib Dems.  Paul Elgood is active and has a personal vote.  That may yet save him, but at least one seat will go to the Greens.  Labour doesn’t stand a chance in Brunswick and Adelaide.  To change that position the Party has to select candidates, not just in B&A but, so I am advised, in three other Hove seats.  Doesn’t that say it all about the state of Labour?

The policies of Milton Friedman are being implemented by the ConDem Coalition, and Labour isn’t even paying attention

I’m finding it hard to blog these days.  What is happening nationally is too depressing and Britain and the Left are sleep walking into the restructuring of British society.  No, I don’t mean the Big Society.  I don’t even mean severe cuts to public services.  No, something more fundamental is happening. 

Labour and media pundits agonise over aspects of government cuts, and Labour leadership candidates are obsessed about positioning themselves against each other.  Meanwhile the economic extremists in both the Tories and Lib Dems (David Laws having been in the vanguard and he will no doubt remain influential before returning to the Cabinet) are embarking on a programme of privatisation, dismantling the welfare state, and (in due course) tax cuts.

If anyone has read Naomi Klein’s brilliant ‘The Shock Doctrine’ will recognise that what is happening in Britain today comes directly from the philosophy of Milton Friedman.  Klein explains the concept of ‘Disaster Capitalism’ where there are “orchestrated raids on the public sphere” in the wake of a disaster or crisis, the crisis at this time being the near collapse of the banks and the ensuing economic crisis which is being used to justify just about anything.  And the Labour Leadership contenders fiddle while Britain is burnt.

Friedman wrote: “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change.  When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around”.  Klein say that “some people stockpile canned goods and water in preparation for major disasters; Friedmanites stockpile free-market ideas”.  Friedman believed that once a crisis happens, it is crucial to act swiftly to impose rapid and irreversible change before society slips back into what he describes as the “tyranny of the status quo”.

Friedman wrote that “a new administration has some six and nine months in which to achieve major changes; if it does not act decisively during that period, it will not have another such opportunity”.

The ideas of Milton Friedman are alive and well and thriving in the Conservative Party and on the right of the Lib Dems.  Both Cameron and Clegg worked for Moneterist ministers in Thatcher’s government, and their economic philosophies have evolved since then.  The only difference is that their presentational skills have also developed to ensure that they are seen as ‘compassionate’.  But the political and economic intentions are just the same.  David Laws gave the game away when he said that he wanted the cuts he proposed to send shock waves throughout Whitehall. 

The Welfare State is being dismantled before our very eyes.  Education (as in the USA where Charter schools are taking over) is being privatised through the acceleration of Labour’s Academies programme.  In due course the NHS will be privatised.  And Cameron and Clegg’s friends (and also those of Blair) are ready for some very rich pickings. 

And the Labour leadership contenders continue to fiddle.

Tactical Voting: Why we need to settle our differences

The Conservatives are planning to put an end to universal benefits, devolving administration and benefit levels to local authorities.  They argue that it costs more to live in Essex than it does in Cornwall, and a 17 year old does not need the same as a 30 year old.  Local discretion will be allowed.

This would be the end of universal benefits as we know it. The amount devolved to localities will not maintain the same value as the current benefit levels, and so the ‘blame’ for cuts in benefit will be the respoonsibility of  local politicians rather than national government.

This is just one of the clearest reasons why we need to settle our differences and agree to tactical voting. A Tory majority after the general election will be a disaster for the poor, for local government, for the voluntary sector. I’m scare, very scared.   Tactical voting isn’t a game. It is about protecting the welfare state and defending the poor.