Theresa May has called a snap General Election for 8th June. While many are predicting a landslide Conservative win, it does not have to be this way. It should not be a source of dismay for the majority of the electorate that did not vote for Brexit, let alone for the appalling, fuck everything whatever the cost hard Brexit that the May government has been pursuing (or a catastrophic no-agreement Brexit that is perhaps the real plan),
Remainers, and the Remain movement more widely, should see this as a massive opportunity. If the last year has taught us one thing, it’s that huge swings and against-prediction results are genuinely possible. In this case, the only objective can be to ensure that the Conservative party does not get an overall majority. A hung Parliament would give anti-Brexit parties massive leverage, and, if they can unite, potentially the balance of power.
For it to happen, we all need to be very clear that there are many parties, but only two sides in this election – Remain and Leave. We need to campaign, whatever our party affiliations, tirelessly on this basis, and this means tactical voting.
Anyone who wants to stop a hard or no-deal Brexit should vote, and encourage others to vote, for whichever candidate, regardless of party, that is standing in their constituency and pledges to oppose Brexit. Where there is more than one such candidate, we should vote for the one with the best chance of winning.
This of course means each of us may have to swallow some electoral unpleasantness, depending on your affiliation:
1. Anti-Brexit Tories effectively don’t exist.
There are a few pro-EU Tory rebels who have continued to campaign against a hard Brexit with some gusto. Ken Clarke, of course, has, but he is not alone. Anna Soubry, and a few others have provided some serious internal opposition within the Conservative party, for which they have my moral support. However, all but Ken Clarke did in the end vote for the unamended Article 50 bill.
What this tells us is that, despite very good intentions on their part, anti-Brexit Conservatives are, when it comes to voting in the House of Commons, willing to vote for Brexit in any form. Tory Party discipline is fierce and coordinated, so this is understandable. Nobody should be under the impression though that a vote for any Conservative candidate in any constituency will be an unconditional vote for Brexit at all costs. It’s a great shame, but it it the truth. Voting Conservative at this election is voting for the most damaging, ill-judged, and badly negotiated, Brexit possible. Don’t do it unless you want that.
2. Forget Labour
Unless you are in a constituency that is represented by one of the 47 Labour MPs who defied the 3-line whip to vote against the unamended Article 50 Bill, the current Labour party is now very clearly a pro-Leave. The leadership may have a preference for a slightly less damaging form of Brexit, but trying to sell EEA membership, which requires implementation of 80-90% of EU law with no say in it, is a pointless exercise. It is made still more pointless by the simple fact that Labour are not going to win a majority in this election. If you think they will, you are beyond help. If however you are a Labour voter or supporter who cares more about the future of the country than you care about expressing your party preference, you have to ditch them, just for this election.
Labour have said, of course, that they will hold the government to account, and ‘may’ even oppose a final deal that doesn’t meet their criteria for success. So what. They are not going to form a government on their own, and their form on this has been to table amendments, have them ignored, and then side with the government in votes. Unfortunately, and with deep regret, the Labour party in its current form is effectively pro-Brexit in whatever form the Tories see fit.
It’s not easy to ditch a political allegiance, but this is too important to throw good votes after bad.
There is a case of course for supporting one of the 47 rebels if they are in your constituency, and it is a straight Labour/Conservative fight. Only if the individual MP pledges to vote against Brexit when given the opportunity though.
(list of Labour rebel MPs here: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2017/02/mps-who-voted-against-article-50 )
Aside from in the constituencies of the Labour rebels, the only real anti-Brexit parties in England are the LibDems and the Greens.
There are potentially a couple of constituencies where anti-Brexit Green candidates would have a better chance than LibDem candidates, but on the whole, pro-EU Green supporters in England need to vote LibDem. The First—past-the-post system means that even a few hundred pro-EU votes for a green candidate could be enough to allow a Conservative win. If they have any sense, the LibDems will not stand a candidate in Brighton, leaving Caroline Lucas as the main anti-Brexit candidate. Even if they don’t do this though, any pro-EU Green voter in the rest of England will be wasting their anti-Brexit vote if they stick with Greens. Please vote tactically!
Forget Unionism vs. Independence. It’s pro-EU vs. Tory Brexit.
This election is about the EU and Brexit. Yes, the SNP will, and should, call a new Independence Referendum if the UK pursues the hard Brexit that the Government has said it will pursue. I’ve written elsewhere about why, by any measure, the only reasonable response to the Tory Brexit for Scotland is to try and save itself by becoming independent, and, full disclosure, I am now a member of the SNP. (https://thegreatbritishmoronathon.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/why-i-have-joined-the-snp/ ).
For unionists in Scotland though, pretty much the only way to avoid a new Independence Referendum is to avoid Brexit, particularly the vicious one planned by May et.al. The Scottish Government’s White Paper ‘Scotland’s Place in Europe’ made it absolutely clear that an Independence Referendum would only be held if the UK government refused remain in the single market, or attempt to negotiate so that Scotland could. There is no reason to think that this would not still stand were an anti-Brexit government or coalition elected in Westminster.
It is a fact that in almost all of the constituencies in Scotland, the SNP candidate will have the best chance of winning, let alone the best chance of the anti-Brexit candidates. Anti-Brexit Unionists in Scotland, of any party, need to bite the bullet and vote SNP on anti-Brexit grounds.
This is particularly hard for LibDems of course, who have their own anti-Brexit party in Scotland, and are also largely unionists. Splitting the anti-Brexit vote will however only risk allowing pro-Brexit candidates to have a chance. Personally, I believe that the best route would be for the two parties to make a loose electoral pact, but I understand that the LibDems in Scotland have previously ruled this out. It is therefore down to voters to do this job for them, and ensure anti-Brexit candidates succeed whatever party they are from.
Wales again has 2 main anti-Brexit parties, with Plaid Cymru joining the LibDems. In Wales, the choice between them is a question of which one is most likely to win the seat. I’d again urge both parties to enter into an electoral pact, but if they do not, make sure your vote, and your anti-Brexit campaigning, is directed towards the candidate with the best chance of success.
6. What if there’s no chance in my constituency
In the case where there is no serious anti-Brexit contender, we should still campaign and vote for the best-chance anti-Brexit candidate. Nothing makes an MP think harder than a slim majority, and this is a chance to cause them upset, even if the result can’t be an upset. Every anti-Brexit vote counts.
This is a real opportunity, but only if every anti-Brexit voter is willing to put aside party loyalties for just one election. It’s not even enough just to vote tactically. Campaign tactically as well. We must swallow our pride, and campaign for whichever anti-Brexit candidate is most likely to win. This chance to avert catastrophe is a rare one. If we really see that there are only 2 choices though – pro-and anti- Brexit – this appalling act of self-immolation can be avoided, and we can all go back to our usual affiliations.