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Editorial: What's wrong with tactical voting?

BORIS JOHNSON’S claim that people “should believe exactly what I say” about proposed customs arrangements will be met with the same derision that his defence of trust in politics did during the first leaders’ debate.

As even conservative commentators such as Peter Oborne have pointed out, we have seldom been led by a man with such total indifference to lying.

Trust was the main theme of BBC presenter Andrew Neil’s challenge to Johnson to agree to an interview with him.

The PM’s craven refusal to do so, like his abrupt cancellation of a planned speech in Rochester yesterday because of the presence of five protesters, shows a cowardly streak reminiscent of that shown by his predecessor Theresa May as she dodged the public in the 2017 election.

And it’s one reason this unprincipled chancer is so unpopular with grandees of his own party, with former PM John Major now joining former chancellors Michael Heseltine and Ken Clarke in suggesting people vote against the Conservatives in certain constituencies.

Nothing that Johnson says can be trusted. But it is ironic that the heyday of this serial liar should itself be the consequence of a breakdown in trust in politics.

None of the political figures calling for tactical voting next week have a real answer to that loss of trust.

Some, like Tony Blair, are deeply implicated in it — the lies that took us to war in Iraq shattered faith in politicians more than any other factor. Notorious spin doctor Alastair Campbell can hardly lecture other politicians on trust and probity either.

More seriously still, the tactical voting brigade — who are mostly Remainers — are trying to fend off one consequence of the ongoing crisis of Britain’s economic and political institutions, Brexit, without any understanding of its causes.

Major is still peddling the old saw that people voted for Brexit “on a diet of fiction and undeliverable promises,” a patronising attitude that ignores the equally dishonest behaviour of the Remain campaign in 2016 and which is unlikely to win over a single Leaver, since it casts 17.4 million people in the role of gullible idiots.

His pain at the collapse of what was once Britain’s “centre ground” is shared by much of the political and media elite. It is why The Economist is backing the Lib Dems, The New Statesman won’t back anyone and why the most consistent media voice of big capital, the Financial Times, can’t endorse a party either. 

All stances are expressions of the same “back to Blair” nostalgia that wants the EU referendum reversed, socialism returned to the history books after its massive revival since 2015 and both main parties back to business as usual.

That’s not going to happen. The pitiful Lib Dem campaign demonstrates how little public appetite there is for the politics of the past.

The bankers’ crash and the climate catastrophe are products of the economic system these “centrists” are determined to protect at all costs.

Nor is the liberal myth that “if only” Labour had a more “moderate” leader it would be riding to power convincing.

Labour’s radical programme is extremely popular. People want public ownership and greater intervention in an economy that is clearly failing the majority. This is why the media spends so much energy seeking to discredit Corbyn personally.

And when it comes to these policies, which are essential if we are to start to address the deep wounds of austerity and prevent catastrophic climate change, Labour is the only game in town.

When it comes to confronting corporate power, it makes little difference whether an MP is a Conservative, a Lib Dem or a Scottish Nationalist. All those parties are committed to the economic status quo.

That’s why the Morning Star cannot recommend tactical voting, and would not even if the Lib Dems had not proved so spectacularly dishonest about which constituencies they can win. 

Vote Labour, everywhere.

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