The following letter was published in the Cumberland & Westmorland Herald in the Saturday, 19 October edition.
The Penrith & The Border Labour Party has received a number of letters from members of the public asking that we co-operate with the Greens and LibDems to unite in opposition to the Conservatives by agreeing to field only one General Election candidate that we can all get behind.
Their rationale for this strategy is prompted by a genuine fear about the shift of power to the extreme right wing of the Tory Party and their lack of democratic integrity, unashamed dishonesty, disregard for the law and their obvious game plan of inciting conflict and division by provoking leavers against remainers and people against parliament. The party that Theresa May once referred to as the ‘Nasty Party’ has, under the leadership and guidance of Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings and the European Reform Group, become a whole lot nastier.
This is not a time to be stirring fear and loathing: a responsible government should be seeking to calm the polarisation and anger of the electorate whilst focusing on healing divisions, rebuilding a national consensus and promoting unity. Strikingly, the overwhelming majority of us have much more in common with each other than with the hugely privileged multi-millionaires of the current Tory establishment whose haughty arrogance illustrates that they care little for the misery, turmoil and dangers that their reckless approach will inevitably unleash.
In contrast, it is very refreshing to see our local politicians on the Eden District Council (Labour, Greens, LibDems and Independents) sharing power and working together to repair the damage of the previous administration.
However, the election of a national government is an altogether different matter. The Liberal Democrats have already refused to work closely with the Labour Party. This is no surprise as, during the period between 2010-2015, LibDem leader Jo Swinson voted with the Tory whip 849 times, which was more than 72 actual Tory MP’s.
Like Johnson, Swinson, is a divisive politician and an illiberal autocrat: what could be more disrespectful to the electorate than to declare that she will simply ignore the 52% of ‘leave’ voters and cancel Brexit without another public vote. The wounds that this strategy would inflict upon our democracy would fester for decades.
The Labour Party EU position is very clear. A Labour Government would negotiate the best deal possible and, when the deal is agreed, Labour will trust the people to decide, rather than the politicians. If by some miracle Johnson makes a deal, this too should be put to the electorate as a confirmatory vote, or to remain. The electorate will have the choice of accepting the deal, or remaining in the EU. If we all accept that this will involve a loosening of polarised positions and a little compromise, it will be the start of a constructive healing process.
So, if the other parties want to stand down to avoid splitting the anti-Tory vote, that’s fine. However, The Labour Party doesn’t believe that the manipulation of democratic choice is the right way to proceed: we trust the electorate to make their own minds up about how to best use their vote without patronising them by censoring their options. After all, it is patently obvious that the best way to defeat a local Tory candidate would be to vote for the party that, at the last election, came almost 8000 votes ahead of other opposition parties.
Finally, though we disagree with Rory Stewart on many issues, including his support for the savage and unnecessary austerity cuts, we must warmly congratulate him on his principled opposition to the current regime. We wish him well and hope that he will never have to hold his trousers up with ‘bits of twine’.