Thursday, March 24, 2005

Which Way to Vote?

It is claimed that wars are being fought today for ‘democracy’. The vote, the single solitary act, is what, it seems, it is all about. The time approaches again for us to exercise this small amount of power which we have been given. So, as the election approaches, many of us are sitting down to consider who we should vote for. Many, I am sure, will have already decided. Many long term Labour supporters will have decided that the Labour party’s approach towards its Muslim supporters has led them to look elsewhere. The Iraq war features heavily in this. But, let us look at this a bit more analytically.

What are the important issues for Muslims in this country? There seem to be four (these are not in any order of importance). Firstly, because of the class profile of the Muslim community, there is the importance of economic support for deprived areas. Secondly, there is the issue of dealing with racism and the far right. Thirdly, there is the position of the party on foreign affairs, specifically (and most importantly) Jerusalem and Iraq. Fourthly, there is the position of the party towards debt relief. Let us work through each of the three main parties on each issue. There tends to be a cross-party consensus on other issues that concern the Muslim community.

The Tory party argues against a large public sector believing that it should be left to charity. All the energy that Labour has directed towards the inner cities would according to them be directed elsewhere. There may be some truth in the right’s claim on the size and efficiency of the public sector, nevertheless, they would certainly not favour redistribution. Secondly, the Tories are not particularly good at dealing with racism and we are not even sure if they are willing to take anti-Muslim prejudice seriously. Thirdly, the Tory party holds positions on foreign affairs that are completely contrary to Muslim sensibilities and natural justice. Fourthly, the party would not have the same energy as Labour towards international debt relief. So, all round, a fairly poor show.

Now to the Labour party. Firstly, the Labour party directs considerable amounts of money towards the inner cities. Secondly, the Labour party have been poor at dealing with the Far Right, in some cases - as in Ann Cryer from Keighley - they have paved the way for them. The party has also been revealingly slow at finding suitable seats for Muslim candidates. Thirdly, the Labour party has led this country into an unnecessary war the justification of which we now know to be an untruth. The party obfuscates on key issues of international concern and drags its heals on issues of natural justice. This does not prevent its leader from assuming moral postures as and when required. Fourthly, it has led globally on the debt relief problem. So not a particularly good showing, disappointment and disillusionment abounds.

Finally, to the Liberals. The Liberal party is concerned with redistribution towards the inner cities. Secondly, the Liberal party is strong against racism and doesn’t attempt to adopt lesser versions of racist discourse. Thirdly, the party’s foreign affairs spokesman, Menzies Campbell, has spoken clearly and consistently on matters of natural justice in international relations since 2001. Robin Cook could only do the same once he resigned from the Cabinet. Fourthly, the Liberals share Labour’s concern for debt relief.

So the Liberal party gets four out of four issues right. Does the single solitary vote count? Yes, if large sections of whole communities change the direction of their voting. And before anyone tries, I don’t belong to a biraderi and a community centre is not enough.

This position is arrived after at after an analysis of the policies of the various parties. There remains some room, however, for tactical or strategic voting which I will discuss in my next post.