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Letter: We Will Continue to Use Bar Charts to Inform Voters

Published on: 16 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 16 Aug, 2021

The disagreement between the Guildford Lib Dems and Labour parties stemmed from a Conservative leaflet criticised by the lib Dems.

From: Catherine Houston

Chair Guildford Liberal Democrats

In response to: I Stand By My Criticism of Lib Dem Campaign Literature

Brian Creese and his Labour colleagues may not like our Lib Dem bar charts but that will not stop us using them as a means of informing local people about recent election results and that the best way to vote for a progressive result in Guildford and Cranleigh constituency is to vote for the Lib Dems to get the Tories out.  I make no apology for them as they are a useful tool in getting this key message across.

There are many good reasons to vote Liberal Democrat in Guildford but progressive voters should also be aware that Labour cannot win the constituency and that if they vote Lib Dem then they can ensure the incompetent and out-of-touch Conservatives do not get elected.

At the time it went to print, the 2019 General Election leaflet referred to by Brian Creese was correct. The position of the Liberal Democrats nationally was to give voters a choice to stop Brexit by giving them the option of voting for a party which unequivocally opposed Brexit. By contrast, the position of Labour, as shown by their voting record in Parliament, was to equivocate, telling Leave voters that they weren’t a Remain party whilst telling Remain voters that they opposed the Tory Brexit deal.

Initially, the Labour party were not offering a final say on the deal being negotiated. Then when their manifesto was published, tucked away on Page 89 was a vague notion that Jeremy Corbyn was, if elected, going to negotiate a new Brexit deal (with details not revealed to us the public) within three months and that this mystery new deal was then going to be put to the public for approval. And who could trust Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit anyway?

By the time our leaflet was back from the printers this change of messaging from Labour meant our statement was incorrect.  However,  we are funded by kind and generous donations from those who believe in liberal, progressive politics and we did not wish to dump 35,000 leaflets in the recycling bin and waste both valuable financial support and valuable paper, so our leaflets were delivered.

If we had known in advance how Labour was going to change its tune in its manifesto then I would have preferred the leaflet to be worded slightly differently, but fast-changing announcements are unfortunately part of the nature of general elections.

And Guildford Labour will know how frustrating it is to work on producing a leaflet only for it to be left behind the news by the time it arrives from the printers.  Their recent county council election leaflet pictured Labour activists out campaigning, except that one of those activists had done an about-turn and hadn’t just left the Labour party but was now standing as a candidate for another party. I bet that fact didn’t stop them delivering their leaflet. To not do so would have been a waste of their members’ money.

“Ironically, of course, the only chance we ever had of a second referendum was a Labour victory in that election – voting Lib Dem was never going to make any difference to the Brexit debate,” says Mr Creese.

Except of course in seats like Guildford where the only party that has a chance of beating the blue rosette is the Liberal Democrats (in 2019 a Lib Dem MP here would have reduced the Conservative majority in Parliament).

It seems Guildford Labour would rather a Conservative MP than a Lib Dem one, but that position is not going to win them any votes, nor help Labour come to power nationally.

One only needs to look at Guildford Labour’s social media to see that the only fire they have is against the Lib Dems and that, rather than opposing the Conservatives, they have an ongoing love-in with local Tory councillors.

Labour seem determined to only attack the one party in Guildford who could reduce the number of Conservative MPs and make life a bit easier for Keir Starmer, a man who has a mountain to climb since Corbyn lost Labour’s Red Wall seats. Their response to this piece will no doubt perfectly illustrate the point I am making here.

“Most people are not aware – and why should they be? – that the boundary of Guildford’s parliamentary constituency is significantly different from that of Guildford borough” says Mr Creese.

We believe differently.  If an electorate is bright enough to be able to vote in a referendum on an issue of such importance as the country’s membership of the world’s largest trading bloc, then it is bright enough to understand constituency boundaries.  How patronising to assume that people here do not know what they are voting for.

If we show a graph from a local election where we have removed the non-Westminster wards in order to show what the Westminster bit voted in recent local elections then we will do that and, as you saw from the screen grab in Brian Creese’s letter, we note where our figures are from. It is a good visual way to explain how local voting patterns work.  We shall continue to inform people on how best to eradicate the Tory majority here, and if a bar chart is the way to do that then that is what we will do, even if it leaves Guildford Labour in a froth.

Electoral reform is high on the list of priorities for the Lib Dems.  We want all votes to count instead of just a minority (44.9%) of them. It would be good if the Labour Party understood how electoral reform could help them get more Labour MPs elected and make our bar charts a thing of the past, since every single vote would count rather than requiring voters to vote tactically.

“Of course, the big winners in May 2019 were R4GV but they are not mentioned on this chart.”

Correct, they were not mentioned because in December 2019 in the General Election they were not on the ballot.

However cross Guildford Labour get, they will not stop the Liberal Democrats informing the electorate about the realistic choice here locally, and that means more bar charts going forward.  In fact, here is the BBC’s bar chart showing the 2019 General Election Guildford vote and this visual, in Lib Dem form, will be on our leaflets at the next General Election.

To beat the Conservatives in Guildford and Cranleigh people must vote Liberal Democrat.  A vote for the third party – Labour –  is a wasted vote here, because as you can see, it’s a two-horse race between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.


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Responses to Letter: We Will Continue to Use Bar Charts to Inform Voters

  1. Shelley Grainger (Labour member) Reply

    August 16, 2021 at 5:21 pm

    The only chance the Lib Dems had of securing a second referendum would have been a full-throated call to their supporters in Labour/Tory marginals to vote Labour (coupled with their usual request for Labour supporters to hold their noses and vote for them in Liberal/Tory marginals).

    In addition to this, they could have supported an interim minority government led by Labour after (winning) a vote of no-confidence in Johnson’s precarious leadership.

    Their failure to pursue either option shows that they are not willing to work in a progressive alliance of the centre and left in order to defeat the Tories. Their attack on the Labour Party in this letter is the very definition of hypocrisy.

  2. Brian Creese Reply

    August 18, 2021 at 1:07 pm

    I will savour that chart; it does appear to be completely accurate – it even includes all the candidates! Let’s hope this a sign of things to come.

    Brian Creese is the chair of Guildford Labour

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