New Year Message from Mike: is there an Opposition?

January 1, 2020 9:05 PM
By Mike Hibbs

At 5.30 pm on Polling Day I knocked on a door. The young woman who answered told me she wasn't voting Liberal Democrat. I asked who she was voting for and she said, 'either Labour or Conservative - I haven't made my mind up.' It seems strange to dither between two parties with such opposing views without even considering an alternative - but for most of my life people have seen the choice as between the two main parties, and the media have consistently reinforced the two-party system. But how permanent is it?

Let us look at the left of politics. Over the last few years there has been much talk of the Labour Party's return to socialism. But the results of the election make it clear that the electorate does not want socialism. Time and again as I knocked on doors I was told that Corbyn had to be stopped. The Labour Party lost the election. And it is not surprising. Socialism is a perfectly sound political premise (albeit one I don't share) but it is a niche view. Arguably it has never recovered from its association with Communism. The only time in recent years that the party has been electable was under Tony Blair's New Labour. And now, as the various Labour factions struggle to address the causes of its defeat, it seems more and more irrelevant to the voters of this area.

The Conservatives now have a huge majority in Parliament, and we need an opposition more than ever before, if only to challenge their lurch to the right. And it is definitely the case that in seats all around us (South and East Cambridgeshire, Chelmsford) it has been the Liberal Democrats who are the challengers as support for Labour falls away. We need to take on the role of being the main, coherent opposition to Boris Johnston's Conservatives and put forward a liberal political philosophy that presumes we will be the party that voters turn to when disenchantment with the Conservatives sets in.

The alternative to Conservatism is not Socialism. It is a Liberal philosophy with its roots in internationalism, integrity, inclusivity and understanding. We must stand up for all those who are marginalised by Conservativism, including refugees, migrant workers, struggling young families and anyone in need of care and support. We must stand against the small-state/low-tax proposals of the right; fight against the sell-off of the NHS and the inequalities and under-funding of Universal Credit; and be aware of an agenda of bread and circuses. And we must fight for all our human rights, and the right to freedom of expression - including for those who believe in Socialism! Mike Hibbs November 2019