Caroline Lucas conferring with Vince Cable in 2017. Photo: Wikimedia/Shayan Barjesteh van Waalwijk van Doorn Caroline Lucas conferring with Vince Cable in 2017. Photo: Wikimedia/Shayan Barjesteh van Waalwijk van Doorn

Lindsey German on radical retreats, Ian Austin and fiscal priorities

The much-vaunted Unite to Remain pact launched yesterday was demonstrated immediately to be not so much a Remain alliance as an anti-Labour one. It is an electoral pact between the Lib Dems, the Greens and Plaid Cymru which is designed to benefit one party only – the Lib Dems. They are standing alone in 43 out of the 60 constituencies chosen, the Greens 10 and Plaid 7.

The pact is supposed to be about stopping Brexit, but a number of those it is aiming to topple are Labour MPs, and pro-Remain Labour MPs to boot. The idea of the agreement is that two of the parties are stepping down in particular constituencies in order to favour the one supposedly most likely to do well. That is obviously a decision for the parties and individual candidates concerned. But in what is just the latest episode of blatant dishonesty from the Lib Dems, they are trying to project this pact as something which can fundamentally alter the electoral arithmetic.

Take the Vale of Glamorgan, where Plaid and the Lib Dems have stood down in favour of the Greens. The three parties between them got less than 8% of the vote between them in the 2017 general election. So what’s the point, when Labour is a very strong challenger to the Tory who has just resigned as secretary of state for Wales? It can only be a sop to the Greens who are being forced to stand down in dozens of seats to make way for the Lib Dems.

The Greens are also standing in Exeter, Stroud, Bristol West and Dulwich as part of this deal – all held by Remain Labour MPs and some, like Stroud, marginals where their only effect will be to let the Tories in. According to the Financial Times, the pact will make little difference to outcomes. Either one of the pact parties would have won anyway, or they will fail to take the seats despite their allies standing down. Only in one seat, Winchester, would it make a win for the Lib Dems happen where it might not have done before. It is fairly certain, for example, that the Greens will retain Caroline Lucas’s seat in Brighton Pavilion, but will gain no others.

The point is not about winning of course (or not in these constituencies) but about politics. It is about ensuring that Corbyn does not form a government. That requires bigging up the prospect of victory in no hope cases, and constantly trying to paint Labour as a Brexit party when it is calling for a second referendum with a Remain option on the ballot paper.

Swinson is getting away with some of this (although I notice she is increasingly being challenged even in the media) because her politics are attractive to so much of the ruling class, and there is absolutely nothing left wing about her, and because the Tories under Johnson are looking so inept. So she gets much more of a free pass than she deserves.

Labour needs to attack the whole Lib Dem operation much more strongly because she is the plan B option and she will play a seriously damaging role if the election results in a hung parliament. She and her mates will demand the removal of Corbyn as the price for any coalition, and will find plenty in the PLP willing to play ball.

What on earth the Greens and Plaid are doing going along with this is beyond me, but it isn’t new. Ever since Corbyn became leader, these small leftish parties have been outflanked to the left by Labour, and they have repositioned themselves towards the centre, almost exclusively around the Remain banner. Hence the Greens work with Swinson who supports fracking and Plaid do likewise despite her unionist views.

Don’t think this will do either party any good and nor should it. A bit shameful really.

Austin car crash

I have long thought Ian Austin a despicable figure. His low point was when he verbally attacked Jeremy Corbyn in the House of Commons as he apologised for Labour’s role in the Iraq war. That tells you about him. He is – as are many of Labour’s right – an Atlanticist. He supports every adventure of US imperialism. He was appointed prime ministerial trade envoy to Israel by Theresa May earlier this year.

So he hasn’t been a Labour MP for months. Ditto John Woodcock. Both are not standing again as MPs because they know they would lose as independents. But their calls for Labour voters to vote for Boris Johnson have been trumpeted and well-received in the media. The only reason this has happened, again, is to damage Corbyn.

They cite the question of antisemitism in Labour. Yet any serious opposition to racism would surely not involve calling for a vote for the man who refers to ‘piccaninny smiles’ and Muslim women looking like letterboxes? So maybe it’s not about racism after all. Maybe it’s because they are Tories in all but name.

Where the money goes

Both John McDonnell and Sajid Javid have called for more public investment in infrastructure. Good, and I’m glad the Tories have found the magic money tree. Problem is, infrastructure spending shouldn’t mean more developer-driven investments like HS2 or PFI hospitals and schools. Nor should it be at the expense of day to day spending on education, health and the rest.

Lindsey German

As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.

Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.