Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

PRE-ELECTION EDITORIAL COMMITTEE COMMENT

In Editorial on April 9, 2010 at 2:51 pm

As voters it is becoming increasingly difficult to decide how we should react to the campaign for our vote.

Back in 1997, the Clarion joined in the general celebration when ‘New’ Labour swept to power. At last, we thought, the grey Major years were over. We didn’t support the sweeping changes that had transformed our Labour Party – the abolition of the old ‘Clause Four’ in the Party’s constitution, or the general downgrading of Labour’s traditional aspirations and policies. But, hey, for most of us it was still our Party. Many of our readers had worked hard to steer it towards victory – and, before the election, many of us had joined in the debate as the leadership attempted to redefine and re-brand the Party. Indeed, it was out of this debate that the Clarion itself emerged.

In 1997 it was still too early for that sense of betrayal. That was to come later. Indeed, in the opening months of Labour’s new government, there were decisions that we supported, such as the introduction of a national minimum wage, and the recognition of trade unions at GCHQ. We applauded the announcement of an ‘ethical foreign policy’, by Robin Cook. But maybe that was the honeymoon period. Gradually a feeling of disillusion did set in – reaching a peak when the Blair government took us to war in Iraq in 2003 and well over a million took to the streets of London in protest. By then , any notion of an ethical foreign policy was dead in the water.

For many, Iraq was a defining moment. But there were other areas where traditional Labour supporters felt betrayed. The use of ‘Private Finance Initiatives’ in the NHS and beyond. Policies on housing and education, and the downgrading of the public sector. But still Labour supporters continued to vote for the Party they’d always supported. They still saw it as their Party – though an increasing number of those less committed merely stayed at home on polling day.

Now, if opinion polls are anything to go by, it’s quite possible that Labour could be defeated in the forthcoming election. The Government has faced a Tory resurgence under Cameron, and the recession has damaged Labour’s ‘you’ve never had it so good’ image. But at this stage in the game, opinion polls remain volatile, and the Tories have slipped on their own banana skins recently, so nothing should be taken for granted. Be that as it may, the question facing the Clarion is, how should we respond when it comes to casting our vote?

As far as we are concerned, voting Conservative is NOT an option. Neither is staying at home on the day. We may feel a sense of powerlessness, but we can and should still use our vote.

Many on the Left may decided to vote for the party that seems most likely to meet their aspirations. In the two Wyedean constituencies – the Forest of Dean and Monmouth – there will be a choice between Labour or Plaid Cymru (in Monmouth), or the Green Party (in the Forest). Or, for some, the Liberal Democrat option might be seen as a preferred alternative. Some may argue voting Plaid or Green in our neck of the woods is a ‘wasted vote’ – but such a claim should have no impact on those who really want to give these parties their support. After all, it’s their democratic right. It’s what political choice should be about.

However, there will be those who will lend their support to the party that is most likely to deny power to the Tories. Both the Forest and Monmouth constituencies previously elected hard working Labour MP’s, but both seats were lost at the last election. There is a strong case for rallying the Labour vote as our one chance to eject the Conservatives from these two seats.

There are, of course, those who will still feel themselves frustrated, even disenfranchised, by the choice on offer. Here, the Clarion believes that a spoiled vote is better than no vote at all. At least it makes a point {and is counted (Web Ed.)}. So if your view is really is ‘a plague on all your parties’, then don’t just boycott the polls. Turn up at the polling station and actively spoil your ballet paper. Make it clear why you choose not to vote for any of the candidates on the ballot paper!

The Clarion is published by a collective, and inevitably represents slightly differing viewpoints. Reader, of course, will make up their own minds!

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