Just three days now until re-entry to the toxic planet called Britain. I chose this time to return in order to be able to vote in the EU elections. As a dual national, I could vote here in Sweden, but not in both countries in the same election, and I reckoned that, with the UK’s place in the EU being on a knife-edge just now, my vote there would be more important: in as much as any single vote amongst millions can be.
But I feel conflicted about where my vote should go. I understand the reasons for Labour’s ambivalent position over Brexit, and have supported Corbyn’s line on this all along. Brexit is not the main problem facing Britain today, by comparison with growing inequality, the environment, austerity, the rise of the Right, education, health, the press and a score of other deep-laid issues that desperately need to be tackled, on all of which I support the Labour leadership’s policies wholeheartedly; and which I believe lay, albeit invisibly, at the root of that disastrous Brexit vote in 2016. Labour currently reflects most of my views on nearly everything. I’ve been a member since the early 1960s. I worked and voted for them in the recent local UK elections (where we won in our ward and overturned the sitting Lib-Dem by just 14 votes!), and will again, of course, if they retain their present progressive platform, in the next General Election, whenever that is.
But this EU election is not like those others. It’s to vote in MEPs – members of the European Parliament. And if Brexit goes through, they won’t be sitting there for long. If I knew they were, I’d vote for the party that I thought stood most chance of turning European policies in the direction I want, in alliance with Left-wing MEPs from other countries. That of course would be Labour. But Brexit has fouled up the whole thing. It’s the only issue that counts now. If Labour remain ambivalent on EU membership, or on the question of a new referendum on whether and if so how we should still leave, no-one will be able to tell from the results of the election what the Labour votes represent on this issue. That will tend to boost the Brexiteers.
I’m getting desperate e-mails from Labour candidates in my Yorkshire constituency urging me to stick by my basic political principles, and vote for the party that best represents them. But I’m thinking of supporting the Lib Dems nonetheless. I’ll have to hold my nose, having been betrayed by them before. (Can you believe that I actually left Labour briefly under Blair, and joined the Libs on the strength of their solemn promise to abolish University tuition fees! Fool that I was.) Once bitten, twice shy. I could never vote for them in a ‘normal’ election. But on this occasion, on the basis of their unequivocal ‘Remain’ stand, and if Labour doesn’t re-think in the next couple of weeks, and at the very least promise a People’s Vote come what may, I just might.
I imagine that other pro-Europe British Leftists are faced by the same dilemma. Which is why the results of the upcoming elections will probably tell us little that we need to know.