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Though campaigning has just begun, the battle-lines have already been drawn out. And for the first time ever, I’m going to vote Labour—here’s why:
The Economy, Stupid.
The Tories tell us they are competent with the economy. Competence however, can only be judged in reference to intention. If the Tories had the intention of hugely increasing poverty, keeping real wages below 2008-levels until 2021, failing all deficit targets, cutting taxes for the super-rich and making everything more expensive by tanking the pound, then they are indeed very competent. In fact, I doubt whether any other government could ever parallel such competence. If on the other hand, their aim was to help improve normal people’s quality of life, then they were some of the most incompetent politicians that we ever had the misfortune of seeing in Parliament.
The other side of the aisle seems to have some fresh ideas. Unlike their middle-of-the-road, not-really-sure 2015 campaign, Labour 2017 have hammered home the reality that financial austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity. Most economists agree with that. For them, austerity is like cutting your nose to spite your face. It gives little relief in the short-term, and makes you rather unattractive in the long-term. Not only that, but it is utterly inhumane. I’ve seen first-hand how elderly patients have had to wait weeks-months in hospital for social care to come through—by which time they have aged the equivalent of years. I’ve seen how the mental health burden is increasing, while bed availability plummets. Meanwhile, waiting lists for talking therapies are literally farcical: You’re obviously depressed… want to wait 6 months to talk to someone about it?
Thankfully, we have an alternative. Corbyn’s Labour realise that to secure our future, you need to invest, not divest. This is the economic vision that Labour used to build Britain in the post-war period, and they are returning to it now—at long last. They want to invest £500bn in infrastructure, make a million new homes, raise the minimum wage, regulate banks, and use wealth taxes and not income taxes to support public spending. These policies are a breath of fresh air from the slash-and-burn ‘competence’ we have been admiring in the Conservatives for so long.
Theresa May, who campaigned to remain in the EU, has seen the light. After a Damascene conversion, placed somewhere between losing the referendum on the 23rd of June 2016, and becoming Prime Minister on the 13th of July 2016, she is now a swashbuckling hard-Brexiteer, looking sternly at her European adversaries while steering our proud island out of the single market and down a whirlpool of corporate tax cuts and financial deregulation. Hard Brexit, which sounds appropriately like an addictive but destructive drug, must be stopped. The question is, how?
For me, Labour have the only policy on this that makes sense. It can summarised in two words: soft Brexit. They want to retain membership of the single market, guarantee the rights of EU nationals here, while addressing concerns of immigration undercutting wages. This seems eminently sensible. At the same time, they disagree with the Liberal Democrats on the idea of another referendum to say yes or no to whatever deal the EU gives us. It’s easy to see why. Imagine spending years negotiating a deal with the EU, only for a deciding referendum to say NO DEAL. Then what? Do we leave the EU without a deal? Do we spend another five years negotiating a new deal with an increasingly vexed EU? Won’t the chronic indecision progressively weaken our hand, putting us in Brexit purgatory?
Put another way: we’ve divorced the EU. Not satisfied with the divorce, the Tories want to decapitate our former partner, and failing that, themselves. The Liberal Democrats are acting like the divorce never happened, and are bewildered that they’re no longer allowed back into the bedroom. Labour are upset but want to amicably settle the custody rights and move on. Personally, I have no doubt as to who the grown-ups are here.
Acclaimed Peace Envoy, and the esteemed winner of GQ’s Philanthropist of the Year 2014, Tony Blair is widely viewed as a war-criminal personally responsible for setting the Middle East on fire. While he was doing that, Jeremy Corbyn was leading Stop the War Marches. In 2011, just 13 MPs voted against bombing Libya. Numbering among them were Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.
Time and again, the current Labour leadership’s foreign policy advocacy has proven to be on the right side of history. With Trump’s increasingly reckless actions in Syria, and Putin’s commitment to maintain Russia’s international influence, the world is in a precarious position. Right now, we need peacemakers.
Neither Theresa May nor Tim Farron are those peacemakers. Immediately after Donald Trump’s absurdly rash decision to bomb a Syrian airfield, and bring the West yet closer to war with another nuclear superpower, May and Farron lost no time in praising his decision. Corbyn on the other hand warned it could lead to further escalation, and called for a rapid UN investigation before we started bombing people. Now more than ever, we need a British Prime Minister who thinks for themselves, and doesn’t blindly follow the White House’s lead.
Call me crazy, but I think we’re due for something different. Be it on how our society functions, or Britain’s place in the world, this is a rare moment to make a radical change. I dare you to seize it.