I have been eligible to vote in eight general elections, two referendums and five mayoral elections in London. I voted in all of them. I have placed my cross next to a number of parties in that time. I have voted with my heart, generally, aligning with the party whose policies most accurately reflect my own. (I even gave my second-choice vote to Mark Steel in the 2000 mayoral election when he stood for the London Socialist Alliance and increased his vote from 1,822 to 1,823.) On Thursday I will vote with my head. I do no necessarily agree with all of the policies of the Labour Party, and I have had my doubts about Jeremy Corbyn, but Labour is the only party who can realistically unseat the Tories, and that, for me, is the priority.
This is what we are up against: a Prime Minister who thinks that people use food banks for “many complex reasons”, while Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton, believes people use them when they have “a cashflow problem.”
If you are of voting age and don’t vote on Thursday because of apathy, fear of terrorism or fear of getting wet (showers are predicted in some parts of the country), please think again. It was Labour leader Neil Kinnock, cover star of the NME in 1987, who summed up the dangers of Margaret Thatcher’s bulldozer free-market economics and her disdain for ordinary people lacking the entrepreneurial ruthlessness to become rich and successful, with a speech that is as resonant now as it was over 30 years ago:
If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday, I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. And I warn you not to grow old.
Look at the faces of May, Raab, Amber Rudd, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, David Davis, Karen Bradley. Look at their disgust. It causes their nostrils to flare and their eyes to narrow, their foreheads to shine and their smiles to disintegrate.
Apathy is no excuse. This is the big one. The country is poised to leave the EU, thanks to the will of 51.9% of the electorate, and even optimistic economists seem to agree that the initial effects will not be desirous. We can’t carry on cutting public services, cutting taxes for the rich, driving the NHS off a cliff to prepare it for privatisation, cutting tax for corporations behind the fig leaf of austerity, and driving the ordinary, the young, the ill and the old deeper into debt and despair.
Despite negative briefing against Corbyn by his own party and a priapic right-wing press, he has found his tone and his feet during the rushed campaign for this snap election (called, lest we forget, by a PM who promised not to call one). A Labour candidate on the left – or what the right calls “the hard left” – is on a hiding to nothing before he or she starts, and Corbyn has targets on his back. However, his steady, approachable, non-violent campaigning style has seemed increasingly attractive as Theresa May has stumbled, blathered, stonewalled and u-turned, rocking up in a Jag by the back door and taking questions from plants, and Tory arrogance might just be their undoing. (She won’t even criticise that abomination Donald Trump for calling the Mayor of London “pathetic” days after the horrific London Bridge attack.)
Nobody would take any satisfaction from a terrorist atrocity affecting an election, but let’s face it, May has been exposed by her own record as Home Secretary, during which she called out the police for “crying wolf” and “scaremongering” when they predicted that her cuts and the reduction of police numbers would lead to attacks just like the ones in London and Manchester over the past three weeks. (“Enough is enough,” was the PM and former Home Secretary’s assessment. Did she mean three deadly attacks was enough? That rather suggests that two was acceptable.) For Tory thinking, try this, from former Health Secretary Edwina Currie.
I’ve gone into elections with hope in my heart before, and I’m realistic enough now to distrust my own optimism. But as the gap has narrowed in the polls, and I’ve read about how many people have registered to vote since April 19, I’ve dared to dream. In the month after it was called, almost 1.2 million voters between the ages of 18 to 35 signed up. About half of them were 24 or younger.
The young are our Obi-Wan Kenobis this week. It’s the old who voted for Brexit, the old who think Theresa May is strong and impressive, the old who think bringing back fox hunting is a splendid idea, and the old who fear Jeremy Corbyn’s socialism of the heart. Help us, young voters – you’re our only hope!
PS: Corbyn rally, Gateshead, yesterday (courtesy Paul Mason):
Agree, agree, agree, and will be sharing this forthwith, everywhere I can think of.
I do worry somewhat about where all the money’s going to come from, and wish that a commitment to cancel Trident could have been made, to help fund some of what is needed.
But yes, socialism of the heart is what’s needed (and if you, as his biographer, can’t co-opt that lyric, who can?!)
Reblogged this on Miluramalho’s Blog.
Nicely put, Andrew.
I was watching Have I Got News For You from when the election was called and it was as if it was a foregone conclusion and Corbyn was a hopeless case.
But since then he has done most things right and May has done most things wrong, being prepared to try and lump in all sorts of vile policies while she thinks she has the upper hand.
Like you, I have dared to dream the last week or so. Which is going to make the Tory romp home on Thursday night even more crushing than it might otherwise have been. (This comment left solely in the fatalistic hope that I have to come back here on Friday and point out how wrong I was.)
I don’t know what to think any more.
I’ve been disappointed with Corbyn from the start. Ideologically, I’m right behind him, but the danger signs were there the day after he was elected leader and appointed John McDonnell and Diane Abbot as his generals. If he wanted to be taken seriously as a potential Prime Minister, he’d have swallowed his pride and appointed a mixture of figures from across the party to senior positions. It might not have gone down well with the people who elected him leader but it would have helped party cohesion and appealed to the wider electorate. You get the impression he got what he wanted when he became Labour leader – a chance to reward comrades and punish Blairites. The result is that the party is divided down the middle. I’m not defending the “rebels”, but the plain truth is that most of his MPs have little confidence in him. If Corbyn did come to power, I suspect we’d find that Labour weren’t a party of government. A coalition with the Lib Dems and / or the Nationalists, however, might be more stable than Labour winning alone (which they clearly won’t). That would be the ideal outcome for me.
Having said all that … the Tories are bloody awful. May deserves punishing, after calling the election for opportunistic reasons and then treating the electorate with arrogant contempt throughout it.
I’ll wait and see what happens on Thursday but expect to be disappointed (again).
This would be the 8th general election I could vote in (was too young for ’83 by a month), except that my last vote was in ’97 by post, having left Major’s Britain three years earlier to seek my (non-pecuniary, lol!) fortune abroad within a European Union which seemed to offer limitless possibilities to our generation’s freedom of movement and country of choice to live and work in. Once Labour was in by a landslide with Blair, I stupidly imagined that my postal vote would no longer be needed. and neglected to re-register. To say that I’ve regretted my downright naive attitude since then would be putting it mildly. I’ve been relegated to the position of disenfranchised bystander to the Tories’ unravelling of the social fabric of the country and in two years time, am likely to be stripped of European citizenship rights.
So, I’m wholeheartedly with you on the urgency of voting for those who can do so. Young people have this election and their own future as citizens of an outward looking country in their hands as never before. I’m obviously prepared for disappointment, as so often before. All the same, I’m still hoping in these last two days for self-appointed Supreme Leader May to be at least cut down to size on Thursday. Getting Labour into office would be the icing on the cake that seems to be baking nicely to a turn right now.
I would love to share your optimism, and to be proved wrong on Friday morning, but the picture I’ve seen canvassing for Labour is very different. The election won’t be decided in university debating halls or on twitter. It’ll be decided in the living rooms of people that are working hard but struggling and, as far as these people are concerned, Jeremy Corbyn speaks for trendy people in London, not for them. They don’t trust him. In many many cases they loathe him. I never mention the “C” word, and instead stick to talking about the work that the local MP has done for them and will continue to do if re-elected. This has always been a rock-solid safe labour seat but we’re very much on the back foot.