Vote for a Change – a Labour front?

LibDemVoice asked this question back when they ran a “tactical voting” website which asked you to vote Labour in over 50% of the seats in the country, including ones in which we were a good second place behind the Conservatives.

Today they have come out with the great idea of performing a DoS on the Cowley Street phone lines by insisting that everyone should have the right to know exactly how the negotiations for a balanced parliament are going.

That’s right, they want to cripple the reception of Liberal Democrats headquarters. Do they really want to know if PR is important, or do they just want to cause havoc?

This is the same organisation that couldn’t be bother to take part in the demos on Saturday calling for electoral reform.

Sounds very much like a Labour front, but why not ask them that yourselves? Vote for Labour a Change are based at the offices of ERS and is run by Willie Sullivan with communications managed by Ashley Dé.

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23 Comments

  • Chris Mills 9th May '10 - 9:14pm

    I got the email asking me to phone.

    As a member I know that the party has the interests of the country at heart and didn’t want to participate in their childish games.

    While I distrust the Tories, I trust our party.

  • Michael Parsons 9th May '10 - 9:35pm

    I thought you were stretching it a bit by claiming they weren’t at the demos on Saturday but I can’t seem to find any Vote for a Change banners in any of the photos doing the rounds. That can’t be right, surely? It’s shocking.

  • Just re-read email from Willie Sullivan today that says:

    Yesterday, I was part of an amazing protest outside the Lib Dem meeting in central London. Remembering what Nick promised us in the campaign, thousands of people chanted, “don’t sell us out”.

    And his email from a few days ago:

    After you’ve signed the petition, sign up to join us at 2pm at Trafalgar Square tomorrow to take this message straight to Parliament’s door: http://www.voteforachange.co.uk/TBPRally

    So I think it is a little harsh saying that they weren’t at the demo or that they are a Labour front – even if their tactics have been a little ott. They are funded by ERS which seem very far from it, and are obviously part of power2010. I’ve always found Ken Ritchie to be excellent, sincere and non-party political – even if he is a Labour member. Having said that I’ve never met Willie Sullivan so he might be a deep mole….

  • Steve Johnson 9th May '10 - 9:53pm

    Why so holier than thou when we’re legitimate targets. Perhaps I’ve got it wrong, but doesn’t the fate of PR rest in our hands? Party members on twitter say it best when they say #don’tdoitnick.

    Last I heard ERS was a Lib Dem front anyway.

  • Rather than bombard LD HQ Vote for Change supporters time would be better spent drumming up support for the Parliament Square Rally next Saturday. We need a huge turnout to persuade David Cameron etc that the movement for PR is huge in this country and more than the LD electorate. Remember purple was one of the women’s suffrage colours and we know how long that took.

  • Roger Pierce 9th May '10 - 10:06pm

    Doing some research Willie Sullivan is a Labour councillor, but a guy who campaigned hard for STV in local elections which must have made him very popular.

    Seems a little odd to bang on about the LAbour Front angle, as it seems they backed Willie Rennie in his own seat. Perhaps a defector in waiting…

  • Ryan, you are wrong on so many counts here.

    1. Vote for a Change is part of the “Take Back Parliament” coalition which organised the protest on Saturday. We were there. Get your facts straight.

    2. The Vote for a Change “Hang Parliament” widget recommended Labour candidates in Lab-Tory marginals. It recommended a SMALL number of Labour electoral reformers (e.g. Mark Lazarowicz in Edinburgh) where they faced a Lib Dem challenge. But on the whole, had there not been a campaign to smear our tool as a piece of Labour frontery by the likes of conspiracy hound James Graham and others, we might have seen Lib Dems win in places like Richmond Park, Camborne & Redruth, Devon Central, Dorset West, Dorset North, Bournemouth West, Weston-Super-Mare, and of course Oxford & Abingdon. They were all seats where we recommended a Lib Dem vote! Our methodology was spot on, and we were right to predict that the effect of incumbency would be to make more seats winnable for Labour than the Liberal Democrats. You should all be eating vast slices of humble pie.

    3. We are keeping up the pressure on the Liberal Democrats — including the campaign at Lib Dem HQ — because there has been a tangible sense that Nick Clegg is not as committed to electoral reform as his party colleagues and grass roots members. We are applying pressure in the same way we have for the past year, while others have waved around their arms around ineffectually and chanted mundanities on the blogosphere. We were the ones who forced Ed Balls into backing a referendum on AV. Now, with the power balance changed, we are the ones pressuring Nick Clegg into honouring his commitment to STV.

    4. Ashley Dé is an employee of the Electoral Reform Society, so bothering him with nuisance phone calls is picking on the wrong target. Fair enough, Willie Sullivan, as campaign manager of Vote for a Change, has opened himself up to it, but I think Liberal Democrats should realise that he is not a Labour Party apparatchik. He has a strong track record of campaigning for voting reform, and he has repeatedly gone against the Labour Party line in order to fight for something in which he believes. Blind loyalty to any party is a nasty trait, and before you get defensive, you should take the time to consider whether what Taking Back Parliament and Vote for a Change are doing might be in line with your interests and beliefs.

    But thanks anyway Ryan for the heads up. A truly forensic piece of investigative journalism. Gold star.

  • Andy,
    that’s all great and I support the campaign. But could it be suggested by the Take Back Parliament coalition that people need to be writing/emailing/calling their Tory and Labour MPs and putting the pressure on them ask/allow (depending on their own views) their party to offer a deal that offers STV?

  • Anna: the way we see it is that Nick Clegg and his negotiating team are the only ones placed to secure concessions from the Conservatives or, failing that, Labour. We have spent the past year getting our supporters to write to and email Labour MPs (with the result being that voting reform became a much more mainstream issue in Labour circles).

    But our only route into the present negotiations is Clegg’s team of Liberal Democrats, whom we know, in principle, are on our side. Any coalition agreement involves compromise, though, and we are reminding them (quite forcefully!) that this is the one issue on which they cannot compromise.

  • So basically you are Labour activists then?

    You know, in principle, that the LibDems are on *your* side?

    I dont know, all your supporters on the internet claiming that Clegg is about to ‘sell out’, the fact that it is the LibDems being protested to get behind electoral reform – something that they have been pushing for years while Labour actively opposed it – why did you not organise demos for this *before* the election? Why are you not demonstrating in front of Labour offices? If fair votes were so important, how come noone seems to be making much of a fuss about last weeks election, overseen by Labour, where many people were denied a vote at all? That is shameful.

    There is something massively off about the whole thing. And a DOS attack on the LibDems in order to push for reform you couldve had if you had voted for them – it just stinks.

  • I don’t think you can really say PR is the only thing the negotiation team can’t compromise on, when there are so many important issues on the table. The Lib Dem manifesto has many aspects to it, of which electoral reform is just one. Can Clegg really claim he has a democratic mandate to force this issue upon Cameron who would have difficulty to say the least taking that to the Conservative party. A Coalition is about compromise and recognising that many people voted for a party that doesn’t support PR.

    The party has to trust those at the table to get the best deal, and trying to suggest that Clegg is less committed then party activists to reform just seems a bit of a cynical attempt to try and develop a fault line and invoke the triple lock.

  • In terms of party affiliation most ERS folk are LibDems or Fabians (er… ‘good Labour’).

  • Jeremy Hargreaves 10th May '10 - 9:36am

    Why is everyone focussing on lobbying the one party that already agrees with them wholeheartedly? The people who hold the keys to electoral reform are either the Tories or Labour – why isn’t there a march to present the insanity of the current system to them?

  • I echo Jeremy’s point. The best chance we have for electoral reform is if the Tories are facing widespread calls for electoral reform from all the population – from not just the Lib Dems. The more pressure is put on the Tories the greater the likelihood of them recognising that this may be something they need to give ground on. Any failure to get electoral reform out of this will not be down the Lib Dems not trying hard enough, but it needs to be remembered that we are only one side of the equation.

  • You hope that it helps them in the negotiations? You believe it will? Naive, at best.

    Labour cannot make a majority to govern even with the LibDems. There is no point discussing whether they are better than the Tories or not – although I think they are equally awful – because they cannot make a majority.

    The Tories got the most votes and seats from the electorate under a system that Labour protected and supported because it tends to skew things unfairly in their own favour. LibDems dont support that system and want to change it.

    Electoral reform – and political reform, ‘change’ – includes working together with parties who may have vastly different ideas and priorities than you. It might mean the end of all that baying in parliament, which is frankly embarassing as well as inefficient and immature. ‘Change’ for the better requires cooperation and negotiation and compromise and balance for the benefit of the country and the people.

    What is happening right now – threats of DOS attacks on the LibDems, the Facebook groups and shouts that Clegg and the LibDems are traitors or Tories for daring to negotiate – that *is* old politics. It is the same baying and jeering two party bullshit that we want to evolve out of.

    The LibDems are not duty bound to serve the Labour party. They are duty bound to respect the wishes of the electorate. They are evolved enough to recognise that a change for the better, an evolution in politics, has to include talking to the opposition and working with them for the better of everyone, instead of going round in circles spitting at each other.

    If you want fair votes and electoral reform and ‘new politics’ and all that – there is no point shouting at and encouraging the harassment of the one party dedicated to it. Slagging them off for doing things the right way is regressive, not progressive.

    Organise locally, take it to your Labour and Conservative MPs – demand they work with the LibDems and put us first over party politics and their financial backers.

    What is happening now does look like entryism and I have to say, some of the rumours being put round to try and stop these negotiations are clearly slanderous.

    It is a real shame, in my opinion, that people asking for reform are resorting to the same old nasty tactics that work to block it.

  • Emailing Labour, ‘nearly’ sending a van into Ed Balls consituency.. compared to threats of DOS attacks, and organising a large mob to scream that Clegg better not ‘sell out’. It doesnt really seem balanced.

    Have you seen the stuff going round the net? Some of it is slander. It is, whether you like it or not, connected to the VFAC campaign. Hysterical rantings that put all the responsibility on the LibDems and absolutely none on Labour or the Tories. If VFAC are serious then maybe they could make an effort to calm that situation down?

    The LibDems are in a very precarious position. What this particular campaigning has done is make it worse, imo.

    The Tories have the greater votes and seats. They are in a better position as far as bargaining is concerned, not just because of that public support that gives them credibility, but also because they have rather a lot of money. If it all falls flat and we all have to go through another election, they can afford it, and they have a decent chance of winning outright.

    However, that is a risk and another election would put us all in a bit of a risky situation economy wise. So it is better for them to try and govern now, which requires that they negotiate with the LibDems. This is good for us because a Tory majority would have been pretty horrible, and a Labour majority has already shown itself to be pretty horrible, and the LibDems holding the balance and influencing policy making has potential to make the situation much more sane and tolerable.

    What youre showing them is that if they choose to not compromise enough, it is the LibDems who will pay. Not the Tories. Its the LibDems who will be called sell outs, not the Tories, not Labour, who by these standards have been selling out for their entire run of government. No wonder they look smug! No wonder they arent falling over themselves to make unrefusable offers. Putting pressure on Clegg makes his position look more desperate, not stronger. He is being squeezed, again. Squeezing the LibDems is part and parcel of the two party system.

    If people want to support Clegg to help him achieve electoral reform and ‘change’, then they have to pressure Labour and the Tories. Its the only way that makes sense.

  • Roger Pierce 10th May '10 - 8:52pm

    I think we’ve seen today how Clegg’s position of power is reaping benefits. Tories now have AV. Labour are prepared to ditch their leader to better their offer. But Clegg is really in the driving seat. It seems fair then to make him the target of campaigning.

    The Tories changed their tune not because of protests, but because of the threat Clegg would pair up elsewhere. This is high stakes poker. Clegg can’t back down. So nothing wrong with a gentle reminder for our very own King Maker.

  • I think we’ve seen today how Clegg’s position of power is reaping benefits. Tories now have AV. Labour are prepared to ditch their leader to better their offer. But Clegg is really in the driving seat. It seems fair then to make him the target of campaigning.

    The Tories changed their tune not because of protests, but because of the threat Clegg would pair up elsewhere. This is high stakes poker. Clegg can’t back down. So nothing wrong with a gentle reminder for our very own King Maker.

  • I think it is very reasonable to point to Willie Sullivan being not only a member of the Labour Party, and an elected Labour representative in Fife, but, more pertinently to the Vote For a Change vehicle, we should also raise his history as a member of Compass. Compass converted to electoral reform as a strategic choice to ensure Labour led a ‘progressive’ coalition permanently in the UK and to exclude the Tories from ever gaining power. Whilst this may be an understandable political aim from a Labour faction’s perspective, we should not lose sight of the fact that Vote For a Change is arguably but an extension of the Compass faction of the Labour Party, indicated by the presence of, and the support of ,Compass members. Therefore the protestations of Sullivan may not be taken as genuine outrage but instead mere sophistries.
    I think it is also legitimate to point to the long relationships between Sullivan and the Labour elite in Scotland. MPs such as Nigel Griffiths have had a long relationship with Sullivan. Sullivan has also been a prominent figure in Fife politics where many may say his claims to being a democratic pluralist are laughable.
    As is his appeal to morality.
    I firmly believe the whole Vote For a Change strategy was supposed to deliver the LibDems to Labour and to cement the presence of the Compass faction as the new leadership of a ‘Newer’ Labour Party. It failed hence the loud protestations of those who urged a hung parliament and who ignore the 13 years of broken Labour promises on electoral reform.
    Let us never lose sight of that fact and the silence of people like Sullivan until the election was clearly never going to be won by Labour.

  • In response to the earlier postings, I believe it must be stated that LibDem members should realise that the pressure is not needed to be put on the Tories. They have committed to a referendum and wouldn’t get away with denying it after the political gain made from the lack of referenda on EU, for example. We also know they will most likely vote against PR in any form. It is a waste of time and resources for any serious minded electoral reformer to apply pressure there. As it is a waste of time and resources to apply pressure on the LibDems for we are the only party that has a consistent record and commitment to reform.
    The pressure is actually needed on Labour. The reason Labour could not have brought a coalition is that they are split on electoral reform such as PR. The pressure is required there for the referendum to come in the lifetime of this Parliament. Reformers need Labour to gain the popular vote that is required for real reform to begin.
    I am amazed at the brazen manner in which this glaring fact is brushed aside by Sullivan and others. Perhaps he, and his supporters here, may care to answer these 2 questions.
    1) Why ignore the inability of Brown to deliver AV and the process of real reform as was shown by the reaction of many Labour MPs and grandees to the prospect of such a Bill and coalition with LibDems?
    2) Why should pressure NOT be placed fully and firmly on Labour to support a referendum on PR and further reform of our antiquated political system considering we already know the likely position of the Tories and LibDems?

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