The only sensible option for the left in the EU elections is to vote for Labour, argues Shabbir Lakha
On Thursday, Britons will vote in EU elections we were never meant to have - thanks to the failure of Theresa May to win support for a deal or step aside and call a general election. The highly publicised election is likely to have the highest turnout an EU election has ever had in Britain, and is being used by some as a rerun of the 2016 referendum.
This is why the Brexit Party has surged in support, catapulting Nigel Farage to the top of politics once again and analysts are looking at the polls solely through a lens of Leave parties and Remain parties.
There seems to be some confusion on the left as to what the best tactic in this election is. Some have called for a boycott of the election, some are supporting Farage’s Brexit Party and some are going to vote Lib Dem/Green, or will vote Labour only on the basis of candidates that support a second referendum.
These are all essentially different sides of the same coin. The coin being the idea that Brexit is the most important issue in British society.
Those on the left who have pledged support for the Brexit Party, and some who claim to be on the left like Claire Fox but have always played the role of giving a left wing voice for right wing positions along with others in the Spiked milieu, are content with elevating Nigel Farage, a serial racist and darling of the international far-right.
There is simply no excuse for anyone that claims to be socialist or anti-racist to prop up Nigel Farage and his ilk. The reality is that after these elections, the likelihood of the Brexit Party remaining a significant political party that can win seats in a general election are slim – and certainly if our withdrawal from the EU has progressed by the time an election is called. According to polls, the majority of those who have said they will vote for the Brexit Party are not expecting it to remain a party for very long after the EU elections.
So what is the point of it? The point is the rehabilitation of Nigel Farage as a mainstream, popular politician and a shift in the balance of forces towards the far right. Sure, a victory for the Brexit Party on Thursday, as looks likely, will be an indicator that people want the referendum decision to be delivered, but more than that it will once again give confidence to a far right electoral project, with Farage at its helm and with all the license to unleash his usual brand of xenophobia and racism (which he has been careful to tone down for the purposes of this election).
It will seal the Brexit Party as the anti-establishment voice, Farage will be plastered all over the media even more than he already is, and he’s already making deals with Boris Johnson and other Tory leadership candidates about electoral pacts in a general election.
On the flip side, the only loser from any gain made by Remain parties is the Corbyn project. Some second referendum platforms pushing for a ‘tactical vote’ are urging people to vote Lib Dem, Green and Change UK in England and Wales which would detract by and large from Labour’s vote more than anywhere else. Worse still, the People’s Vote campaign have included Labour in their leaflet, saying although they are “lukewarm” their candidates support a second referendum – I can’t think of a better way to push Labour Leave voters to voting for the Brexit Party.
Most polls put the Lib Dems as the third party after Brexit and Labour at around 15%, and the Greens and Change UK combined roughly at 10% (what a success Change UK has been). If this is the case and the election is viewed under the framework of Leave and Remain, then Leave-supporting parties massively outweigh Remain supporting parties and any MEPs from these parties will have no ability whatsoever to get a second referendum agreed in Parliament.
So who benefits from a vote for these parties? The Lib Dems, whose leader Vince Cable stands proudly by his party’s record in ushering in Tory rule and implementing austerity, the right inside Labour who will be strengthened against Corbyn, and of course Farage, who will top the results and claim to be the voice of the people.
The only option that benefits the left is to vote Labour, even if that’s through gritted teeth for the likes of Adonis. We cannot allow ourselves to get bogged down by Brexit and lose sight of the bigger picture. The bigger picture being the dire state this country is in and the immediate impact a Corbyn government would have in ending austerity and boosting the living standards of the majority of people in this country. The bigger picture being the rise of the far right and the very real dangers they pose.
The better Labour does on Thursday, the stronger a position Corbyn will be in relation to both the Tories and the right within his party, and the better chance we have of pushing Labour back into being the insurgent anti-establishment force it was in 2017 which can win an election against Boris Johnson or whatever monster the Tories settle for.
The better Labour does on Thursday, the more confidence that anti-war, anti-racist and anti-austerity activists will have, that trade unionists will have to take on the Tories and confront the far right. This will translate directly into amplifying arguments for nationalising British Steel, the railways and utilities and against austerity; it will feed into the mobilisations against Trump, against war with Iran, at the Tory party conference in September and against the far right.
Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.
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