With this I intend to explain to you why I am going to be voting for the British Labour Party tomorrow. I had planned to write a much longer piece on this subject but, having run out of time, I’ll have to keep it short, and limit myself to just a few points.
1. Labour’s manifesto will lay the groundwork for a new breath of life for the British economy. On several fronts, from investment, to public services, to the state of jobs, productivity and the key pillars of industry, Britain has been languishing for much too long. Investment has been perilously low in this country as with the rest of Europe since the Financial Crisis. You can find more about the details and some proposed solutions through DiEM25’s European New Deal, which gives the broader European context of the state our economy is in. But in crucial areas of economic life, the Conservative-led governments of the past 7 years have let us down tremendously. Austerity has failed. It fails every time. Spending on education and health is down. Housing has never been so scarce. Our hospitals are failing, and our students are indebted as never before. On the matter of transport, we are the only major state in Europe not to have a nationally owned rail operator on our railways, and we are paying for it, literally. Do you think immigrants have landed our communities in the mess some of them are in now? Or the people who have been responsible for those communities, and the funding for them and their public services since 2010. Austerity has stripped them of their ability to manage increased numbers of people and their integration. It has stripped many of their dignity. Labour’s objective is to reverse this. To prove its not the migrants, who pay taxes and work, but the government, who’s responsibility it is to make sure those communities have the resources they need to welcome new, bright-eyed and determined people to our nation. Crucially, this means in the NHS, which has been dangerously under-funded by Conservatives for too long. Beyond proper funding, Labour’s plans to take the railways into public ownership. This is one thing, but perhaps more ingenious is their plan to set up publicly-owned utility companies in every region of Britain, in order to compete with the private firms and bring costs down, and making sure those utilities are there at the service of the people who need them. Supporting all this will be a public investment bank with the role of reinvigorating and sustaining investment all across the country. It is the government’s role to ensure a sustainable, equitable and prosperous economy, not the lopsided mess we have been told we have to live with. The markets are not the final arbiter of social outcomes – we decide the society we want to live in, and part of that means the state takes the responsibility it must to make the economy deliver.
What kind of country do you want to live in? One where market justice is the iron law of the land, which no one can escape from? Where the richest and most powerful continue to live lives way beyond most of us can dream of, can conceive of? I know some people think social justice is a dirty word these days – Hayek thought it didn’t exist. Well just think about it. Think about a government that believes in justice for the majority, that is equal to all, and that privileges no one over others. A government that is compassionate. That doesn’t abandon people. That makes it a priority to take what stress and pressures off your shoulders that it can. Take this chance to rebuild social democracy in Britain. This begins with economics, and requires the economy that John McDonnell and Peter Dowd want to be able to build.
2. Labour is not the best on Europe. But then, British politicians have never been good on this issue. Yes, Corbyn and some of his allies have long been sceptical of the European Union – but anyone who has thought critically about the European Project knows that we cannot simply accept the Europe of today as the right one; one which need not be changed. Indeed, Corbyn has gone further. But he does not represent the whole Party; nor will it the government they hope to form. Labour’s stance on Brexit is as moderate as it comes, and, yes, this disappoints me, because this means Britain must leave. Does it mean we are no longer Europeans? No. Does it mean we must sever all ties with the continent? Of course not. Who seems to have been trying to do this? Theresa May, with her humiliating subservience to Donald Trump, her provocation of Europe and her intentions to be ‘bloody difficult’. Labour have said they want a good deal before anything else. They are not immigrant-hating and division-sowing, as the right-wing in this country want us to be. They will be measured and calm in these negotiations. They will immediately guarantee EU citizens’ rights in this land, and will seek them same for Britons in Europe. Does this make things seem easy? Of course not. This process will be the most difficult Britain has undertaken for decades; the factors at play make success almost impossible, which is why you can’t go into this process without a clear head, free of any posturing or egotism. That is what Labour are offering, with Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry and Barry Gardiner.
Many of us would like to say that we reject the referendum, that it was a mockery of a democratic vote, that it’s crazy and preposterous to even think otherwise. Others out there think Europe’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to Britain, and can’t wait to try and give it a bloody nose before we leave. Neither of these positions will help Britain or Europe continue towards a more stable settlement. I believe that Britain truly belongs in Europe, but I also accept that for now, it must leave, for what we had was not acceptable to a vast number of people. This is what we are working with, and it’s what Labour plans to address.
3. Finally, there’s the issue of who’s in charge. There are people out there who appear to be in charge, who act like that. These people who run ratings agencies and polling agencies. Who are in charge of consultancies, and the political parties, and corporately-funded think-tanks, and who’s faces always appear in the media. These people tell us they know exactly what’s going on, and have told us for decades now that a government like the one Labour are proposing is beyond preposterous, it’s impossible. To you people, I say this: You think you know what normal people want. You think you can read us like books, that we will never vote for something that seems unacceptable to you. You think because you control the terms of the debate you can manipulate it the way you want it. That you can shut down alternatives and shrink our vision to a tunnel that leads exactly where you want us. You think you can control people? You think you know us? You think that because you think something is crazy, we’ll believe you? You’re wrong. We know that you lot have been manipulating us for too long. We know that you’ve sat on you thrones, stood high above us in your glass towers, and behind closed doors, and believed yourselves masters of this country. We know how removed you are, how smug you are, and ultimately, how wrong you are. You have tried to drown out our speech, cut off the voice of dissent. Those radical voices. The renegades. You’ve tried to tell us they’re mad, unrealistic, dreaming. We don’t think so. We believe otherwise, and we’ll do everything to prove you wrong. We are not all of them, but we are certainly a great mass of the people, and the people are speaking. And when we speak, you will listen, and remember who is sovereign.
If the first two arguments don’t appeal to you, then just think of the last one. Show them who’s in charge. That Theresa May doesn’t get to keep going, after the pathetic and humiliating débâcle of a campaign that she has run. Show her that she will be held responsible for the cuts in police, for undermining our safety, for continuing to arm hideous, extreme regimes such as Saudi Arabia, for submitting to a joke like Donald Trump. Not everywhere this means voting Labour. The SNP, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and even in some cases the Liberal Democrats have these objectives as well. So, as Jonathon Pie said, give them a bloody nose. Remind them that the people are watching, and we are not impressed.