Socialist Worker

They want to steal the anti-war vote, and are heading to the right

Issue No. 1905

THE LIBERAL Democrats are trying to grab the anti-war vote. But they dropped opposition to the war once the bombs starting raining down on Baghdad. Mark Oaten, the Liberals' home affairs spokesperson, said on Radio 4 last Thursday, 'We took the view that when the military action happened, when the vote was taken in the Commons, that the worst thing we could do would be to undermine our troops. When the troops went into action we took the moral judgement to support them as best we can. On the fundamental issue of troops it would have been wrong to call for the troops to withdraw. It is still wrong.'

Last February, as millions marched against the war, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy admitted on his website, 'We are not the all-out anti-war party.'

Once the invasion began Kennedy gave it his 'genuine support'. He even attended the state banquet held in honour of George W Bush last November, while thousands took to the streets in protest against Bush's visit.

When Jenny Tonge said she could understand why some Palestinians are driven to become suicide bombers, Kennedy sacked her from his front bench. Now the Lib Dems back the continuing occupation of Iraq and are prepared to back more troops being sent. The Liberals try to win votes from both Labour and the Tories. This means they are opportunist to the core.

The official Liberal Democrat local campaign handbook, Effective Opposition, advises members to 'be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly'. It goes on: 'In simple terms, if it's a Labour council, you can secure support from voters who normally vote Tory by being anti-Labour and, similarly, in a Tory area secure Labour votes by being anti-Tory.' But they are never left wing. In fact, they have lurched to the right. Kennedy brought Mark Oaten, Vincent Cable and David Laws into his shadow cabinet last October.

Even Liberal Democrat Lord Greaves described the men as 'pseudo-Blairites' and 'right wing'. Vincent Cable is now Lib Dem shadow chancellor. He was the former chief economist of Shell Oil. He told Liberal Democrat MPs two weeks ago they would have to make 'tough choices' about spending cuts.

The Liberals are retreating from plans to introduce a 50p in the pound top rate of income tax for anyone earning more than £100,000. The Liberals opposed the increase in the national minimum wage to just £4.85 an hour. A spokesperson said the minimum wage was a 'dangerous precedent'.

The Lib Dems dislike trade unions. Simon Hughes, their mayoral candidate, said last week, 'If elected mayor, I will remove the RMT from the board of Transport for London.'

RMT leader Bob Crow is suing Hughes for libel after Hughes accused him of pocketing £23,000 from Transport for London. Crow gave the money to charity. They want to tighten the anti-union laws brought in by Thatcher and kept in place by New Labour.

Recent policy documents show they want to let businesses shape their policies: 'Liberal Democrats are committed to a market economy in which enterprise thrives. Competition and open markets are by far the best guarantee of wealth creation. It is the government's role to ensure the conditions under which innovation and competition can flourish.

'Liberal Democrats' commerce policy seeks to create trading conditions in which business and enterprise flourishes. We wish to reduce the burden of regulation on business that holds back its development and hinders the ability of the private sector to generate the wealth we need.'

'We will scrap unnecessary business regulations. We will also consult business before introducing any new measures.' Their love affair with business means the Lib Dems flog off public services whenever they can.

They use the government's privatisation Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to help enrich private companies. The Liberal Democrat council in Southwark, south London, has shut eight day-care centres for the elderly, cut £1.5 million from adult day-care provision and cut early years and nursery provision.

Janet Noble, the Respect candidate for Lambeth and Southwark in the London Assembly elections, says, 'The Liberals have privatised education provision in Southwark. They handed it over to WS Atkins, the roadbuilding firm, who went belly up after a year and walked away with the money. Children with special needs suffered. I attended a meeting in Southwark last week where residents are opposing the council's plans to knock down part of their estate. The Liberals are a party of the establishment. On every issue they capitulate to New Labour and the Tories-including the war, PFI and the privatisation of public services. They have no principles whatsoever. They are out for an easy vote. So they can swing to the left to get disillusioned Labour voters, but they can also swing to the right, like in the Isle of Dogs in 1993 where they scapegoated Asian people. They are a party of big business who go along with the mainstream.'

The Liberals are not a radical alternative. A vote for the Liberals is a vote for a mainstream party committed to the status quo.

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Thu 10 Jun 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1905
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