All posts by Steve Guy

Reflections on the strangest election yet

Steve Guy's 2017 election photo

As the dust settles, I am reflecting on the strangest general election. Who won, who lost – and where do we go from here?

Let’s look at it party by party:

Conservatives

Well, they called the election when they didn’t have to. Clearly, they calculated that they would increase their majority substantially as well as extending their term by two years. When I say ‘they’ it must be said that many Tory MPs were less than happy with the early election. ‘They’ seems to have been Theresa May and her rather small inner circle. In any case, the Theresa May Strong and Stable campaign was utterly awful. Bereft of any positive reasons to vote Conservative, it was an attempt to ‘win by default.’ The central message seemed to be that everyone else was dire and therefore we should elect Tories. We were told only Theresa could be trusted with Brexit, but without any kind of detail to back it up. Then there was the rest of the Tory manifesto: another suicide note! Dementia Tax, Foxhunting and more austerity. It was hardly a cheery offer. It was almost as if they didn’t want to win, but i suspect it was pure hubris.

Theresa May must surely go. She has managed to throw away a working majority on an unnecessary election. She has done so after triggering Article 50. Another utterly irresponsible gamble from the Tories, and one which blew up in their faces.

Labour

This is an interesting one. Labour supporters are currently strutting around like cockerels. It was almost as if they had won! It seems that expectations of a Corbyn led Labour Party were so low, that this feels like victory to them. Let’s give them some credit: they appear to have been more successful than any other party at inspiring younger voters. The increased turnout among the 18-25 voters must be welcomed, and Labour seem to have been the biggest beneficiaries. But they also benefited from the anti-Brexit vote, despite not really being anti-Brexit. Open Britain colluded in this, urging Remainers to vote Labour in many seats. And they were up against such a dire Tory campaign it was hard not to see them making gains. It remains clear to me that Labour were still held back by having a leader that puts many voters off, and a poor top team. Ill health notwithstanding, the thought of a Home Secretary that couldn’t grasp basic figures was a big turnoff to many potential voters.

It remains clear to me that Labour still have a long way to go to look like a party of government.

Lib Dems

Well it was certainly a mixed bag for us, but we have much to be positive about too. Clearly, losing someone of the calibre and experience of Nick Clegg was a huge blow. I do sincerely hope that he will continue to figure in a big way in our future.

But despite having been starved of coverage, and having a leader previously unknown to the wider public, we did what we do best:

We targeted our effort, and focussed our energy on seats where we thought we could win. As a result we now have a larger and more diverse team of MPs. And we did so without compromising our principles. We stood on a manifesto we could all own and be proud of.

So what now?

What indeed! Above all else, it is clear that the system is broken. Opponents of voting reform have always claimed that the advantage of First Past The Post is that it gives rise to a strong government with a clear mandate. Well, this is clearly no longer the case. In 2010, a hung parliament led to 5 years of stable coalition government. Unfortunately, the public reacted at the next election by almost wiping out the junior coalition partner, us. This led to us understandably ruling out joining a coalition government in 2017. What a bitter irony! What the country desperately needs now is for politicians from different parties to work together ‘in the national interest.’

We need a fairer voting system, but we also need a cultural shift. We need to convince both the public and our politicians that working together can be for the common good. As it stands, the only people who will work with the Tories are the DUP.  Even if this was a good idea (and I remain to be convinced) the combined working majority would be wafer thin.

Perhaps it is time to cancel the Article 50 notification. The Leavers said we were going to ‘take back control.’ I think we need to learn how to govern ourselves first, before undertaking anything as big as Brexit.

 

The Longest Suicide Note – Now Even Longer

I am not alone is suspecting that the early leak of the 2017 Labour Manifesto was not exactly ‘accidental.’ I thought perhaps they wanted to test the water on a few of their more extreme ideas. Now I am looking at the final document and I actually feel really sorry for Labour supporters. Boy have you been let down.

There are things to applaud in it. I agree we need more money for things like health and social care, and I agree with the need to raise more revenue to achieve it. There are many people in desperate need across our society, and it’s only right that those of us who are more fortunate should contribute our share.

But then it goes way, way further. We can argue the pros and cons of privatisation vs nationalisation. We can debate points about private sector efficiency, effective competition and the like. But we must remember that nationalisation is not a panacea. It has been tried before, with decidely mixed outcomes.

But right now, right now in 2017 our nation is already facing one reckless gamble. Right now, we have decided to turn our economy upside down by withdrawing from the Single Market. Labour make it clear that they intend to pursue a full Brexit, and at the same time they would gamble on borrowing tens of billions of pounds for nationalisation projects (for they admit it would be all done with borrowed money).

So all of Labour’s warm plans for a fairer society will never happen, because they have just issued an even longer suicide note than the one they issued in 1983.

RIP Socialism

No flowers

There won’t be Coalition of Chaos

… so let’s squash all talk of deals, pacts or any other nefarious practices, and while we’re at it, let’s be very VERY cautious with all these so called ‘tactical voting’ projects too.

I had been a long time supporter of Open Britain, so I was quite pleased when they put my constituency on the list where they’d like to topple the pro-brexit incumbent. Naturally, I logged on to their website to pledge my support. I was rather shocked when, after giving them all my details, I landed on a page urging me to get in touch with my local Labour party. They also followed this up with an email, again telling me I needed to get behind Labour.

Now this is all very galling. Throughout the referendum campaign, the Stronger In stall in Wycombe was amost single handedly run and staffed by local Lib Dems. Not only that, Labour have not, as I write this, even selected a condidate yet! I wrote to Open Britain, but have received no reply. In fairness, Vote2017 have simply stated that they don’t have a view on our constituency yet. But for Open Britain to blatantly favour Labour like this probably expains why the remaining Tories have already deserted them.

Let’s get one thing clear too, we are the only party committed to avoiding hard brexit and putting any final deal before the people. Labour policy in this area is simply an exercise in fence-sitting. The only way the next parliament will contain strong opposition to hard brexit is if it contains the largest possible contingent of Lib Dems.

We must fight to make that happen.

 

Representative Democracy

If I had a pound for every brexiter who had called me ‘undemocratic,’ I could probably take you all out for a slap up meal (I couldn’t, because that would be classed as ‘treating’ and there are laws about that kind of thing, and rightly so). But fear not, friends as they are wrong, of course. I am a democrat with every fibre of my being, and you probably are too.

We all have the great privilege of living in a representative democracy. Every five years (or two, if you are Mrs Twisty Turny May) you have the right to vote for someone to represent you in parliament. Two years ago, my friends and neighbours chose, in their infinte wisdom, hard-line brexiter Steve Baker. That was their democratic right, of course – but he wouldn’t have had quite such an easy canter to the finish if we had a fair voting system, which is a whole other story. But win he did, and as a democrat I respect that.

One year ago, lest anyone forgot, we had an advisory referendum on the subject of our continued membership of the EU. The result of this advisory referendum was the discovery that we are bitterly divided. 51.9% to 48.1% to be precise. Not only that, if you break it down England and Wales came out in favour of leaving, whilst Scotland and Northern Ireland want to stay. You can break it down still further: London wants to stay, Sunderland wants to leave. My own constituency, Wycombe, wants to stay.

So, in a repesentative democracy, what are we to make of this? This advisory referendum raised far more questions than it answers. Well, if you were the Prime Minister who called this referendum, you might take some responsibility steering us though the mess you made, but we all know what happened there. Enter Mrs Twisty Turny May, who you may remember was a remainer, who has a road to Damascus conversion and becomes a hard line brexiter. Forget the 48%, forget Scotland, Northern Ireland, London and Wycombe. They don’t matter now. No compromises, hard brexit all the way – and to hell with the consequences.

Now apparently, we have to ‘suck it up and stop remoaning’ otherwise we are being undemocratic. Sorry, but that isn’t how democracy works. There are a variety of paths we could follow as a nation. Hard brexit is only one response to the result of the advisory referendum. Ruling out Single Market membership is economically illiterate, and ruling out the free movement of European Citizens is inhuman. Threatening to walk away with no deal, as Mrs May has done, is insane. To want what is best for our nation is responsible and right.

Which brings me nicely back to representative democracy. Those of us who don’t believe in hard brexit at any cost have been given an opportunity to elect representatives who will repesent our views. We absolutely must seize that opportunity, it may be the only chance we will get.

And nothing could be more democratic than that.

 

What a difference a week makes

I spent a tiring but invigorating day campaigning yesterday. Canvassing for one of our County Council candidates and then later taking part in a non party pro EU event, I was struck by the level of support we are getting – and where it is coming from.

Wycombe is of course in the heartland of Conservatism. The metaphors about blue rosettes and various farmyard animals are overused, but apply here. But our arch-brexiter Tory MP and his kipper-lite Chairman have succeeded in dividing their own flock.

Steve Baker was a prominent backer of Brexit, Boris and Leadsom. But Wycombe, I am proud to say, is a remain area. Local Tory Chair, Garry Heath, has made jaws drop with an article for Conservative Home suggesting a ‘purge of Tory remainers!’

Moderate Conservative supporters are horrified at how far their party has lurched to the right. Without a doubt, the UKIP tail has wagged to Tory dog. No wonder UKIP seem irrelevant now – they have succeeded in reinventing the Tory party in their own image.

I had been expecting to pick up support from moderate Labour voters scared off by Comrade Corbyn, but in fact I spent most of yesterday making friends with moderate  Conservatives who wanted to know what we believe in.

Mrs May, you are doing a sterling job!