Want to stop the Tories from winning yet again in Portsmouth? Writer, historian and S&C regular Matt Wingett argues that tactical voting is the only realistic option.
This year’s General Election looks set to bring five more years of Tory rule, highly aggressive and damaging Brexit negotiations in Europe and, at home, more ideological austerity, privatisation, the punishing of the poor for the mistakes of the rich, reduction in tax for the wealthy, the removal of support for the most vulnerable in society and the general degradation of public services – the glue that holds communities together.
That’s not a matter of opinion. It’s simply an extrapolation of what’s been happening for the last seven years with the Tories at the helm. Their track record is woeful. Since they took power, the national debt has doubled from around £800 billion to £1.6 trillion. Meanwhile, none of the architects of the crash – the bankers who gambled with pensioners’ savings – have gone to prison. The pain and hardship felt by the most helpless and most needy in society has worsened, while the disabled and disadvantaged have had to pay for tax cuts given to the world’s wealthiest individuals.
Evidence of the Tory policy of deliberately widening class inequality can be see on the streets. Under the last Labour government, homelessness virtually vanished. Now, the homeless are back out in force, sheltering in empty shop doorways on Commercial Road and begging for enough to scrape by, rather than being actively encouraged by community outreach workers to find their way back to a dignified life.
The great myth is that somehow the Tories are the great party of the economy – that they ‘get’ money. That, like so much else that comes from a predominately Tory press, and increasingly from supposedly impartial news agencies such as the BBC, is a gross distortion of the facts. The World Bank and IMF warned this government that imposing extreme austerity would place a drag on the economy and prevent it from recovering as quickly as it might have done. Basically, if you restrict the amount of money in supply to ordinary people, then the economy slows down. Anyone who has run a business knows this: you borrow and invest wisely to create more wealth, especially when the going is tough. It is the way that businesses have operated for hundreds of years. But somehow, that isn’t good enough for the Tories, the alleged party of business.
Instead, the Tories have restricted the money coming into local councils, meaning increasing levels of cuts in services, and yet more hardship for ordinary people and businesses.
The councils, desperate to replace the money lost to Tory cuts have started to raise rates bills and impose them more rigorously. In Portsmouth, businesses have closed as a direct result of Tory policy. CP Fastenings is one example, with its owner, Alex, telling me directly that after decades of trading, the rise in rates had forced him to close. ‘This is why I voted Brexit,’ he added, not understanding that this had nothing to do with Europe, and everything to do with Tory policies. Heidi’s, Southsea, is another shop that has recently closed due to increased rates and rents.
Yet, so many people persist in the delusion of Tory competency in economics, thanks to a press that presents them as the only game in town. How much more disastrous will it be when Theresa May applies her dubious diplomatic skills and begins to negotiate Brexit with a megaphone? She has already threatened the EU with turning Britain into a tax haven. But of course, that won’t be a tax haven that’s good for people with an ordinary income. It’ll be one for the international super-wealthy who are already buying up large swathes of our cities as investment properties, forcing up rents and house prices while ordinary people are forced out of the market.
Of course, with the Tories bringing in even lower taxes there will have to be more cuts to public services, and with Britain seeking friends overseas, do not be surprised when the NHS is sold off to US big pharma investors. And we all know how well the US does public health. Nor should you be fooled by the notion of trickle-down economics. If anything has been disproven during the austerity years, it is exactly that lie. We have more billionaires in London now than at any time, yet the rest of the country staggers along. Sometimes it seems that the rich urinate on the unwashed masses below them. This is the true meaning of trickle-down economics.
But there can be a better future. An intelligent use of funds drawn from sensible borrowing and progressive taxation could re-energise this country. It could free the British to run successful businesses rather than be run into the ground. The wealth created could be used to fund social and community projects to ensure more people than ever realise their potential. That makes taxation into a virtuous cycle, rather than the downward spiral of Tory tax cuts.
Immigration is one of Theresa May’s big personal obsessions. She failed to control it while Home Secretary, and now, seeking to save face and to woo ‘Kippers who were former Tories, has seized on it as PM. But let’s face it, only a fraction of the 52% who voted Leave in the Brexit referendum voted due to immigration, while others voted due to false considerations about sovereignty or self-evident lies about NHS funding coming from the EU budget or countless other reasons. We don’t have to make immigration the central plank of our discussions with Europe. That was not asked in the referendum.
So, what of those EU negotiations? We’ve seen the Tory track record. We all know that ‘the best deal’ that Theresa May continually harps on about will be best for her rich friends and her hedge fund-managing husband, while the real people of Britain have to put up with ever-worsening living standards – despite her rhetoric stating the reverse.
A government that negotiates intelligently with Europe and doesn’t fixate on immigration will get us a far better deal than Theresa’s ‘best’. That’s why it’s vital to stop the Tories and elect politicians who will look after the interests of everyone, rather than those of an Eton-educated elite, their banker friends and billionaire buddies.
So, we come to the question of whom to vote for…
I would normally advocate following your heart and voting for the party that most closely aligns with your values. In my case, that is Labour. But I learned my lesson two years ago. I live in Portsmouth South, where the seat changes hands between the Liberal Democrats and the Tories.
Last time around, I voted Labour, and I got a Tory.
Not just any Tory, either, but Flick Drummond, who has consistently voted against equality, against helping the disabled and against the interests of the poor in favour of the wealthy. (See her voting record here). She has voted to reduce taxes for the wealthy and reduce corporation tax. Meanwhile, the poor in her ward continue to suffer as a direct result of her choices – and , perhaps, as a direct result of my vote for Labour, when I could have put my support behind the Lib Dems.
Many of my friends tell me that they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the Lib Dems because of their coalition with the Tory government of 2010-15. But I think the dust has settled enough now for us to see that actually the Lib Dems held back many of the worst excesses of Tory cruelty. Yes, they made a huge mistake on tuition fees, but time and time again they helped to soften the blows that Cameron and Osborne planned.
This was proven by the behaviour of the Tories after they were returned with a majority. The policies the Lib Dems had mitigated, the Tories brought in with greater force after they were re-elected without needing to rely on Lib Dem support.
So, my number one aim is to prevent Flick Drummond, Tory MP and vacuous lickspittle to the privileged classes that she is, from being returned to parliament. That means, in this case, not following my heart, but following my head. Only the Lib Dems have the chance to oust her in this constituency. With enough good will, they could go on to form a coalition of confidence, competence and compassion. That is if the Tories aren’t part of it.
I suggest you also vote tactically. Keep the Self-servatives out.
You can find out more about tactical voting here.
Photography by Moshe Tasky.