Thursday, 20 April 2017

Who do Europhiles vote for?

This cri de coeur from a socialist-inclined but EU-supporting citizen on Facebook is typical:

My background and general educational upbringing tip me firmly into the Labour camp but JC has disappointed me with his weak capitulating stance on Brexit. I am also a greeny at heart but I know it's a wasted vote and I still haven't forgiven the Lib Dems after their broken student loans promise - so where do I go?

As a democrat, I would say: vote for the person who best represents your philosophy and your feelings about what needs to be done for the country and for your community. The weight you place on our position within the European Union has to be balanced against social policies which might affect you more. For instance, the front-runner may be an anti-article 50 Conservative, but one who also wants in England to privatise the NHS, reintroduce the divisive tripartite education system and remove tenant protection.

As to student loans, the message still has not got through: the 2010 LD party manifesto called for the abolition of the student loans system. We did not get our way on this because there was a majority in the Commons in favour of retaining the system, naturally including the Labour party who had introduced it in 1998 in spite of a manifesto pledge that they would not. There were many candidates who personally signed up to a NUS pledge to (a) improve the system; and (b) vote against an increase in fees. It is a matter of regret that individual Liberal Democrats in government - though not, I am proud to say, Welsh Liberal Democrat MPs including junior minister Jenny Willott - individually went back on (b), but it was not a party failing. Moreover, even the NUS would admit that the changes to the system thrashed out by Vince Cable were a vast improvement, thus fulfilling (a).

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