Tuesday, 6 June 2017

An Impassioned Plea

I know you’re probably all sick of politics right now but I make no apologies for posting this.

This general election is probably the most important one of most of our lifetimes. It’s not just defining what kind of place our country will be for the next five years, but likely for decades beyond that.

This could be the last chance for five years that we’ll all have to have any kind of say and influence on the direction of our country, and if we don’t make our choice wisely the country could end up taking a direction that many of us do not want.

We can do something about this. Our vote does matter. In our local election recently, the majority of the winning candidate was less than forty votes. You may think politics is boring – and you’re often right. But thinking that it doesn’t affect you or that you can’t affect the outcome is totally and utterly wrong. It does, you can and you will – but only if you get out and vote.

As for who you should vote for, that’s obviously up to you. Anything else I say will be biased and you’ll probably choose to ignore it, but I’m going to say it anyway. On a personal level, the recent years under the current Conservative government haven’t affected me profoundly. However, they won’t be getting my vote in the election – Labour will. Why?

Because I know I’m very, very lucky. I have a job, a house and my health. Many millions of people don’t have any or all of these things. I also realise that life is fickle and fragile and these circumstances can change in an instant – a fact which has been brought sharply into focus after the last few weeks. All it takes is being in the wrong place at the wrong time and your life can be turned upside down. I believe that if I needed a government to support me and my family if something awful did happen, I couldn’t trust a Conservative one to do it. Irvine Welsh sums it up far better than me: "When you're not doing so well, vote for a better life for yourself. If you are doing quite nicely, vote for a better life for others."

I'm also deeply concerned for the future of our country. We’re about to enter a massively important set of negotiations with the European Union where we have no idea what the outcome will be, and we don't enter these negotiations from a position of strength. Theresa May keeps telling us that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ but she’s never actually said that that means; for me, for you or for the whole country. She’s also seemingly proud of going into these negotiations to be ‘difficult.’ How will that help? Surely we should be going in to reach as mutually beneficial an agreement as possible? We don’t need someone difficult. We need someone collaborative and empathetic and Theresa May is not that person. Jeremy Corbyn may not be either, but he appears to have more of those qualities than the current Prime Minister does. And that could be hugely important in the months and years to come. Labour also have Sir Kier Starmer as their Shadow Minister for Exiting the European Union. A highly respected and experienced QC. An individual who's far more likely to be able to negotiate a better deal than David Davis.

How can we trust a leader who calls a massively important election; then, instead of debating with the other party leaders in front of millions of concerned voters on TV, sends a colleague still grieving the death of her father a couple of days earlier? How can we trust a leader who’s had – as Home Secretary and Prime Minister – seven years to work on the issue of terrorism but comes up with a ‘plan’ four days before an election? Not to mention that during that time as Home Secretary she presided over a 20,000 cut in police numbers and over 1,000 cut in armed police. How can we trust a party whose entire campaign seems to be based around the ‘strength and stability’ of this leader, when she’s shown herself to be anything but? Mrs. May seems obsessed with telling us all how strong and stable her leadership is. To me it sounds more like she’s trying to convince herself. How can we trust a party whose Foreign Minister – the country’s representative on the world stage – appears to be a bumbling fool, but is in reality a calculating, vainglorious career politician who gambled the future of the country for his own political ambitions?

The Labour manifesto appears fair, balanced and inclusive and contains – albeit at a high level – costings of how they’d pay for things like scrapping tuition fees and more funding for the NHS. The Tories' manifesto scraps free school lunches but introduces breakfasts. At 7p per child per day. It pledges £8bn ‘extra’ funding for the NHS without saying where it’s coming from (although one of their ministers has said it’s just repurposing existing spending). And that’s before we even get started on social care, cutting spending on public services, fox hunting and the ivory trade.

You may not want to vote Labour, and that's fine. None of the parties are perfect. However, by voting tactically, there's still a chance to stop the Conservatives from claiming an overall majority and forcing through their plans for the next five years. You can find out how to do it here. Five more years of Conservative policy and a Brexit deal that's no good for anyone but the richest could leave our country on its knees. Please don't let this happen.

Finally, to anyone reading this who’s between 18-34 years old, I imagine you could be disengaged from our politicians. If so I couldn’t say I blame you. However, you’re probably the most important group of prospective voters in this election, and you’re also probably the group of prospective voters to whom this election is most important. You might be at university, or thinking of going there. You might be looking for work, or just started it. You might be trying to get onto the property ladder. Which party do you think will help you the most? Which party has the interests of the young at their forefront? Your vote matters so much, it’s vital that you use it. If it’s sunny on June 8th get out and vote. If it’s raining, get out and vote. If there’s a plague of frogs and locusts, get out and vote. Because if you’re not happy with the Conservative government then this is your chance to temper them – the only chance you’ll get for a while. And you can guarantee that, whatever the circumstances, the majority of their supporters always vote.

Whoever you do vote for in the end though, the most important thing is that you get out and vote. If you don’t like the direction you think the country is heading in, or even if you do, you have the chance to influence that direction. Around 30% of eligible people didn’t vote in 2015. If they had voted they could’ve made a difference. Please don’t be one of those this time round.

Thank you.