Before you decide how to vote on Thursday, this is what I’d like you to ask yourself and this is what I want you to know:
- Has the country improved over the past nine years of Conservative government?
- Labour’s spending plans only bring us to the medium level of what other European countries spend.
My dad died very suddenly during the last General Election. The timing is important because we were, and are, a very political, Labour supporting family. My dad instilled in me strong values of social justice, fairness and equality; and, as important, the necessity of questioning the world around me. Including what you read in the papers. Without his counsel and understanding I find it very difficult to navigate the confusion of our current political situation. One of the reasons I’m writing this is to try to put my own thoughts in order and find something more persuasive and constructive to say than Vote Labour you bastards.
At his funeral I said:
“He was strong in his opinions whether that be at work, with family or in his political life. And his politics informed how he lived his life. My dad educated himself and was always well-informed and opinionated. He was never afraid to say what he thought was right or to challenge people even when it was inconvenient, impolite or awkward to do so. My dad hated poverty, injustice and racism and was passionate in fighting against them. He was very alarmed at the turn the world is taking with the rise of hatred and scapegoating, blaming the weakest members of our society for the problems caused by successive governments. So he would ask you all here today to speak out, to be brave, to challenge easy solutions and false assumptions. He would also ask you to use your vote wisely next month too.”
That was May 2017. My dad would be appalled at the continuing state of the country. He would rage at the increase in children living in poverty, the massive increase in food bank use, homelessness, waiting times in hospitals, the unremitting hardships faced by disabled people, the piss poor state of the trains. He would be disgusted by the seeming belief that this is now normal in one of the richest countries in the world. Most of all, he would be incredulous that anyone would believe that the Conservatives, the very people who are responsible for this decade of cuts and cruelty, could be ones trusted to sort it out – “We’ve cut 21,000 police so we’re going to recruit less to make up for it. We closed Sure Start centres and youth clubs, so trust us when we say we’ll give you a few scraps to repair the massive damage we’ve done.” Why is anyone believing this stuff?
I think what upsets me most is the fatalism. The idea that this is how the world is and we have no power to change anything. This is how the world has always been, politicians are all the same and we should just accept our lot.
So before you vote in the election on Thursday ask yourself the following questions:
- Have public services – health, education, transport – got better or worse over the last nine years?
- Are we really saying that as a country we can’t be better than where we are now?
- Are you happy to live in a country where food banks, homelessness, SEN kids not getting proper support, increasing hospital waits have become normal?
- Why are doctors begging people not to vote Conservative?
- Take a look at the NHS Cuts website to see just how much we have lost in Bradford over the last nine years. There’s one for schools too.
Our wages have stagnated and our services are crumbling under nine years of underfunding and deliberate austerity policies. Things have changed in this country, but not for the better. It does not have to be this way. The world hasn’t been like this forever. There is an alternative. When Labour was last in government it brought in the minimum wage; it invested massively in schools and hospitals, Sure Start centres, apprenticeships and job creation. Should Labour have done more to regulate the banks and been more aware of the looming financial crisis? Yes. Do you know who would have done more? The people now in the leadership of the Labour Party. Was the previous Labour government perfect, absolutely not. Was it better? Yes.
But we can’t afford what Labour is proposing, all this “free stuff” is unaffordable they say. As the fifth richest country in the world why can’t we? We’ve suffered for too long under the idea that we can’t afford the sort of services that our European neighbours take for granted.
We can afford what Labour is proposing. It is exactly what we need – real investment in schools, hospitals, children’s services; affordable, energy efficient homes; decent, skilled jobs that pay enough to live on; good, cheap public transport; a green new deal and an economy that rebalances the country’s enormous wealth between north and south rather than leaving some of our communities to rot. If you invest you reap the rewards long term. What Labour is proposing is only what normal, civilised countries in Europe spend on their (unsurprisingly) better hospitals/transport/housing/schools. In fact, Labour’s spending plans only bring us to the medium level of what other European countries spend. At the moment we’re close to the bottom (see table below) Do you think we deserve less than France or Germany or Norway?
And then finally, Brexit. What an absolute shitshow that has been. A Conservative cock-up from the very outset. Over the past three years, they have shown that they have absolutely no idea what they’re doing and have no coherent plan to get Brexit done despite the easy slogan. The Brexiteers never did have a plan. You’d have thought after spending 30 years wanging on about Europe they might have had some idea about what they wanted, or how to go about it. But they were woefully unprepared. They didn’t expect to win. And yet we’re now expected to trust them to get the best deal for the country? The very people who said it would be easy, that Europe would be begging to give us a deal. Are these the people who showed such lack of foresight that you want negotiating for our country?
Can you honestly say that Europe was a massive issue for you three years ago? Have the last three years been worth it? Labour has a plan, you can vote on a deal with real details knowing what it entails. I imagine it will be quite like Norway’s (which Nigel Farage was happy with three years ago). Then it’s sorted and we can get back to fixing the mess the Tories have left and deciding what sort of country we want to be.
Because whatever happens with Brexit, we’ve got to be better than this. We deserve better.
Brilliant Catherine. Why don’t you apply for a job on the Guardian! Look North etc!! Joyce
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I’m way too left wing for the Guardian Joyce 😉 but thanks very much xx
Couldn’t have put it better. Your last point about few people wanting a referendum is spot on. The whole exercise has been a Tory vanity project, proving their ideological position that their party matters more than the country.
Btw, think their might be a fancy dress do at ours this New Years.
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Thanks Nik, well let’s see if they do get Brexit done. Must admit I had no enthusiasm for a second referendum. Will message you about the party x
Great article Catherine
Thanks very much Ken, really pleased you liked it.
Interesting article Catherine.
You once told me I should vote on policies not personalities. However I will be voting labour because I believe Judith Cummins is an honest M.P. who works hard for this constituency and because I could never vote Conservative or any of the other candidates. I know you said in your article that the U.K. is a rich country but I find it hard to believe that we can afford the policies that Jeremy Corbyn has outlined in the Labour manifesto. I would feel even happier voting Labour if I could be convinced we can afford these policies.
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Thanks for commenting Trish, Labour didn’t manage to convince people that we could afford their proposals, I think we’ve become too accustomed to the idea that we can’t afford anything but the most basic of services, when most of our European neighbours seem to be able to manage quite well with higher spending. There was an interesting letter to the Financial Times from leading economists which suggests we can afford the Labour Manifesto: https://www.ft.com/content/d6f56834-0f78-11ea-a225-db2f231cfeae