How should Remainers vote on 8th June?

Put party politics completely to one side

April 20, 2017
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron ©Danny Lawson/PA Wire/PA Images
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron ©Danny Lawson/PA Wire/PA Images

For the many million Remainers still shaking their heads at the circus of solipsism offered by the Left and the cod-patriotic mendacity offered by the Right, there is now one big question: who to vote for on 8th June?

The Tory party is in the grip of some of the most fatuous politicians ever to consider themselves guardians of a national future. The Labour Party has moved in ten years from dominant to powerful to plausible to embarrassing to delusional to its current status—best characterised as some kind of live performance-art work that openly celebrates self-harm. In England and Wales, that leaves the Liberal Democrats as a last, threadbare refuge.

A quick digression. Do not let anyone tell you anything other than that the Liberal Democrats performed the greatest possible national service in the Coalition Government of 2010-2015; the list of punitive and kamikaze Tory policies they blocked or moderated is too long to relate here. No further evidence is needed, surely, of the Lib Dem influence for the national good than the ongoing eisteddfod of cluelessness and rupture that has overtaken our country since the Tories were left in charge without them.

At the last election The Conservatives got 37 per cent of the vote (and only 24 per cent of those eligible to vote). So let’s be clear: what Theresa May and the “Leave” Tories are doing here is turning the 52 per cent “mandate” into something like, say, a 40 per cent “mandate” that is covertly only, say, a 25 per cent “mandate.” And with this sweeping up 100 per cent of the power. To do with as they please—which we now know means downgrading most aspects of the British polity in order to banish a few baffled Polish builders whom they'll probably have to re-admit anyway if we’re to start fixing the housing crisis. Instead of standing by and looking on with slack-jawed amazement at the sheer pointlessness of it all, what can the other 75 per cent do?

The answer begins with three obvious points. First, vote. Second, if you are related to anyone under 25, you now have a serious moral duty to wake them up and get them to the polling station on 8th June. You don’t get to feel good about voting in the UK anymore unless you’ve taken someone under 25 and “disillusioned” with you. Third, if you care about the welfare of your fellow citizens and consider the EU preferable to, say, Messrs Putin or Trump, you must now vote Lib Dem wherever they have a chance. Think Richmond. Yes, even if you’re Labour “through and through,” even if you’re a “lifelong” Tory. You can go back to your habitual party when and if they recover their senses. And remember: the more Liberal Democrats there are, the better they’ll get as a parliamentary party.

But the Lib Dems cannot stop hard-Brexit on their own. Indeed, though they’ll undoubtedly storm back in triumph in the many Remain constituencies, this may well be at the price of constituencies in the South West where trenchant Brexiteers are still in the trenches. So what to do for those Lib Dem free zones?

The easiest solution would be what in the US is called Electoral Fusion or cross-endorsement—the process whereby one candidate can stand simultaneously for both parties. In other words, where a Lib Dem candidate has best chance, they would run as candidates both for Lib Dems and Labour. And vice versa where Labour have the best chance. (Or, in Brighton, for example, Caroline Lucas would stand as Green, Labour and Lib Dem.) This system also records which of the two parties gave the candidate most votes—so he or she takes their seat accordingly. But the electoral commission rules cross-endorsement out: the same name cannot appear on the ballot paper twice.

Instead, in the UK, the parties need to get the consent of their nominating officers and run on a pre-agreed joint ticket. A name would thus appear with both "The Labour Party and The Liberal Democrat Party" after it on the ballot—but only once. The electoral commission seems to think this can also be decided at a local level—“bottom up” as opposed to “top down.” (An example of “top down” would be the famous “coupon” election of 1918 where candidates endorsed by the Liberal-Conservative coalition were issued with a letter of support from both leaders). I wonder if some kind of formal deal can be done? Bottom up if not top down? Surely it is worth a try?

Failing that, and without a Lib Dem candidate who is in with a chance, we, the 16m (and rising) must then vote for whichever of the candidates is pro-Europe and against Hard Brexit and has the best chance of winning…

In England and Wales, this will most often be the Labour candidate. But not always. Where the Tory offer is not a frothing faux-Edwardian like, say, Jacob Rees Mogg, but is reasonably at home in the twenty-first century like, say, Dominic Grieve or Anna Sourby or Nicky Morgan with a confirmed on-the-record opposition to hard Brexit, then they should receive our vote. In other words, Remainers are going to have to put party politics completely to one side for this election. We need to return a parliament that is—at the very least—48 per cent Remain. It should be even closer and more difficult for May than it is now. Every vote for a Conservative Leave Candidate, makes the future of Britain demonstrably, obviously, senselessly worse. That much should now be very clear. Theresa May wants to treat the General Election like a second referendum, Remainers must make sure they do, too.

Never can a nation have been persuaded to waste so much time by so few for so very little.