The Samovar

Could the Labour party get my vote?
March 6, 2007, 2:01 am
Filed under: Civil Liberties, Economics, Environment, Manifesto, Politics

The Labour party really couldn’t give a shit about my vote, and my opinion of the Labour party is that it is a lost cause. Left-thinking people of good conscience should not be supporting a party that does not and likely will not represent their views. But it’s an interesting question to ask what sort of Labour party we would like to see. In response to the wholly uninteresting Milburn-Clarke ‘open debate‘ on Labour’s future, Brian Barder has written an interesting 10-point plan for Labour.

To get me to vote Labour, they would have to do at least some of the following (in no particular order, and by no means a comprehensive list):

  1.  Civil liberties: abandon the ID card scheme, detention without trial, etc. More positively: ensure that all government institutions are designed so as to make it as difficult as possible for future less libertarian governments to misuse them.
  2. Democracy: reverse the control-freakery of the current government, their plans to introduce legislation bypassing parliament, etc. Instead, introduce voting and political funding reform including proportional representation and equal state funding for political parties above a (low) minimum size.
  3. Immigration: behave in a civilised way, not in a Daily Mail way.
  4. Economics: favour positive rather than regressive taxes (including flat taxes). Don’t make it axiomatic that the private sector is more efficient. Consider implementing some institutions that are decentralised but not market-based, as in parecon.
  5. Environment and transport: prioritise the construction and improvement of environmentally friendly forms of transport as a matter of urgency! Tinkering around with marginal incentives won’t do the trick.
  6. Public sector: reforms should be designed to improve the lives of public sector workers as well as improving the efficiency and effectiveness of institutions.

Yeah my plan’s probably even less electable than Brian’s. Not all of it has to be though. The major obstacles would probably be immigration (because ours is a very xenophobic country) and taxation (something that is very difficult to sell as being positive, and understandably given some of the stupid stuff governments spend money on).

I should probably include something about crime and foreign policy in there too, but it’s late and I’m tired. Now who wants to be the first to tell me that my ideas are idealistic and unworkable?


I’m grateful for the favourable reaction to my own 10-point plan for a new Labour leader, and I’m of course very sympathetic to all six of your proposals — apart from two of the ideas in one of them:

(1) I don’t think proportional representation is suitable for elections to a chamber whose main function is to choose, sustain and monitor a government (it would always result in a situation in which the LibDems, with rarely more than 20% of the votes, would decide whether the Tory or the Labour leader should go into No. 10 — and how long he or she should be allowed to stay there!), although proportional representation would be perfectly appropriate for the second chamber. I would support STV for the Commons, though.

(2) I share the popular dislike of the idea that even more taxpayers’ money than they get already should be given to political parties which are so out of touch with their own members, supporters and sympathisers, and/or so indolent, and/or so arrogantly indifferent to the ideals, principles and wishes of their own natural constituency, that they can’t raise enough money from them to enable them to meet their own running costs. The need to extract money from supporters by recruiting members and engaging in other fund-raising activities is an indispensable discipline for a political party and I see no reason why public funds should be used to relieve them of it. (OTOH, I would favour a strict limit on party political spending at any time, not just at election time: democracy would survive unscathed if, for example, the parties weren’t allowed to spend enough money to pay for raucous and mendacious national poster campaigns or for mindless ‘party political broadcasts’, although independently chaired candidates’ television debates at the expense of the television channels would be very useful and informative.)

More generally, I don’t share (although I well understand) your dismissal of the Labour Party as no longer deserving the support or votes of left-thinking people of good conscience. Once Blair and, I hope, his “New” Labour buddies, have left the stage and become a noxious footnote in history, it will probably once again be impossible to find an alternative to voting Labour that won’t risk letting in the Tories (or passing to Sir M Campbell the right to decide between Labour and the Tories for us), which, let’s face it, would be significantly worse. As usual in poilitics, it’s a constant process of holding one’s nose and taking the least objectionable and least unpalatable course.

But these are matters capable of honest and honourable disagreement.

BTW, there are some interesting comments on my 10-point plan accumulating at


Comment by Brian Barder

I’ll admit to being a former Labour activist. Naturally, the last time I voted Labour was 1997. I was of the ‘better get this bastard elected before we start giving him a hard time’ school.

Now I appreciate that Labour is a gradualist party. Possibly ideas such as these might take route within it. But at the moment it would be futile to try, surely? Look at how cravenly and unquestioningly the lobby fodder followed the official line on Iraq. But that’s just symptomatic. If there’s no questioning on something as obvious and as pressing as that, what are the chances for meaningful debate on fundamental issues within the party?

So, I won’t be rejoining. And I won’t be voting for them. (My preference would be for post-Tommy SSP…but I’ll consider a tactical SNP vote come the parliamentary election in May). Yeah…It’s Iraq, stupid!

Comment by Edward the Bonobo

Brian, you’re quite right these certainly are matters for honourable disagreement. At the moment, I don’t feel confident about the post-Blair Labour party but I would be happy to be proved wrong.

On voting reform: you have some good points. I think what is important is that we break the monolithic two-party system. Replacing that with a system that gives the Lib Dems disproportionate power would not be a good replacement. I’m not entirely convinced that this would happen with PR because the change in the voting system would I suspect create a much larger change in the relative sizes and importance of all political parties. But, I would also support STV or AV or many of these other proposed alternatives.

On funding: I like your idea of limiting spending as an alternative to providing state funding. I appreciate the danger of letting parties get out of touch with voters, but I’m not sure that the best way to avoid that is getting them to persuade people to part with cash. Either way it’s a very delicate thing, and any system that got implemented would be subject to manipulation and it would need to be tweaked.

Comment by Dan Goodman

[…] liberty and democracy In a previous entry I asked if the Labour party could get my vote, and suggested some policies they would have to change to do so. My motivation for doing so was not […]

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Comment by Test

[…] A while ago I wrote an entry on this blog about whether or not the Labour party could get my vote, including some suggestions and ideas about how you might make them electable. Anyway, Labour MP […]

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