I will be voting Labour on Thursday 7th May 2015, I hope you do too. Here’s why:
When I was a boy the most common indicator of the coming day, aside from the changing heavens, were the workers – young and old – in high-vis clothing covered in thick black dust cycling to the steel works in the damp morning. At times I too was walking alongside them, to my heinously low paid shelf stacking job, having only been informed to come in an hour or so before.
That was over a decade ago, and I kept working in such jobs well up until my early 20s – reading books, acting the wazzock, and assuming that politics would always just be a game I enjoyed rather than an outlet for serious advancement.
One of the books I read most in my days at college was by an old academic named Ralph Miliband…’Marxism and Politics’, which contained the passage:
“It is clearly the case that the struggle for reforms in a bourgeois democratic regime was never taken by classical Marxism to be incompatible with the advancement of revolutionary aims and purposes. On the contrary such a struggle is an intrinsic part of the Marxist tradition. Within that tradition, there is undoubtedly room for much controversy and debate as to the kind of reforms to be pursued. Thus supporters of a ‘revolutionary’ as opposed to ‘reformist’ strategy have generally tended to place less emphasis and value on reforms, and to press for reforms which they did not believe to be attainable, as part of a ‘politics of exposure’ of capitalism – and also of ‘reformist’ labour leaders. But there are limits to this kind of politics, which are imposed inter alia by the working class movement itself: if the ‘politics of exposure’ are pushed too far, all that they are likely to expose are the people who practice them, and leave such people in a state of ineffectual sectarian isolation.”
When I was 17 I thought this was cowardice, now I’m an old hound I see that not only was he right then, he is right now. There are far too many good intentioned people inadvertently taking their eye off the needs of those in most danger of dropping off the map altogether, in favour of traversing new – yet to my mind at least, sadly identical – terrain. People should be explorative, what they should not do is gleefully dance on the fresh soil of the Labour Party’s grave. If it is to pass on (first in Scotland, then perhaps elsewhere) then that is the death of well over a century’s aspirations and victories for the working class (and others too). Until another organised force with the labour movement at heart can command such loyalty and activity I cannot think anything other than it should be a moment of sorrow, not glee.
I might have left Scunthorpe, but those workers are still there – and year after year their jobs are threatened. Many of them have seen their careers and livelihoods taken away long before, in the wake of an incredibly myopic agenda put forward by successive Thatcherite governments, and I am ashamed to say – a couple of Labour ones too. Their numbers decrease every year. A tale you could tell in most towns across Britain. A tale often written by the Conservative Party.
If you think Thatcher is dead, you’re wrong. Just this week documents were leaked showing the Con/LD coalition have considered suggestions by the DWP to abolish statutory maternity pay, bar under-25s from claiming incapacity or housing benefit, and to increase the bedroom tax where possible. This is the rapid erosion of the welfare state in technicolour. The welfare state that our families built so you and I, and our children too, could go to school and not have to worry about your little brother or sister dying in their bed from slum housing and malnutrition….and if you think that sounds extreme there is a reason food banks have multiplied exponentially, it isn’t because people are ‘bone idle’. The people have stepped in where the state have abandoned them, it’s time to put a stop to it.
As pragmatic choices go, there are reluctant ones and absolutely necessary ones, a vote for Labour, and within that a vote for Ed Miliband to be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is I believe an absolutely necessary choice.
I’ve had zero hours contracts; they’re incredibly demoralising when you’re already working for a poverty wage. I’ve been on minimum wage (most of you will have too) – if you think the proposed increase won’t make a difference ask yourself if you would have thought that when you were on that wage – and then imagine the same situation if you had a child to look after. I’ve long since given up on the idea of having regulated rent or even having my own home, the only party even paying lip service are the Labour Party. The right to buy is why this situation exists in the first place. It isn’t a solution.
Politics is fundamentally about one thing – fairness. We all have different opinions on what that is, but there is no one who can truly believe that attacking the sick, the disabled, and worst of all the NHS – that we all built from top to bottom regardless of regional allegiances – is anything but cruel and unnecessary.
People say Labour don’t make a difference, and when you hear the likes of Rachel Reeves decrying those out of work it is hard to disagree. But I disagree nonetheless. With each successive Labour government from Attlee to Wilson and even to Blair the living standards of the working class have improved, and were it not for governments like that there is no way a young man from my background would be fortunate enough to be studying for a PhD and teaching at a university. I won’t settle for young kids growing up now having worse opportunities, or even the same ones, we have a responsibility to do better. We have a responsibility to the women and men who feared having children knowing maternity/paternity pay would not come. We have a responsibility to the doctors and nurses who want to help people, not invoice people. The charge sheet of injustice is endless, don’t turn away from it because Ed Miliband doesn’t look like Cary Grant.
Nothing can be guaranteed, and I would remind Miliband of the words of Harold Wilson when he said “The Labour party is a moral crusade or it is nothing.” – and I would remind him too that if he strays from this path he will not only lose Scotland, he will sound the death knell for Labour across Britain.
The people of Wales, England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland can’t take 5 more years of the Conservative Party.
Nicola Sturgeon knows that.
Natalie Bennett knows that.
Even Nigel Dodds bloody knows that.
Ed Miliband will stop that.
Good luck to anyone who has campaigned, and I hope to see us better off on the other side