Cast your mind back to the 2015 general election. Cameron was Prime Minister, Barack Obama was the President, Britain was at least nominally committed to the European project, we were waiting David Bowie’s new album, Leicester were struggling in the Premier League and we didn't spend all day wonder what Covfefe is. I know it seems like ancient history, so I won’t be offended if you don’t remember this piece I wrote just before the election where I spelled out my reason for voting Labour.
Central to my argument was that we all vote for our local candidates and not the party leader; and my local Labour MP, Stella Creasy, is a good MP, which is a key reason why I was voting Labour. Fast forward to today and it looks more than ever like we are voting in a Presidential race, making a decision between Jeremy Corbyn or Theresa May’s vision for the future of the country.
That is the choice facing us. This election is likely to result in the highest combined vote share for the two parties in decades Lib Dem revival? It ain't going to happen. UKIP surge? Only in Paul Nuttall's dreams, which look like nightmares to any reasonable person.
I know to some people reading this, the decision between the two is like choosing between lovely fresh falafel wrap from a pop-up street kitchen washed down with pint of local craft IPA, or eating dog shit wrapped in a plastic bag. To others the choice is the difference between waking up to a cold shower or a flame thrower. I look forward to these metaphors being expanded in Facebook comments.
We must vote Labour because May’s vision for the future of Britain is a nightmare of rising poverty, inequality and greed. A vision of a nation that shrugs its shoulders towards suffering that we could alleviate by inconveniencing the rich a tiny little bit. The social justice that is common in many of our European neighbours is too much to ask in May’s Britain.
Corbyn has certainly been a less than impressive opposition leader and I have written before about my disappointment with him, despite voting for him in 2015. Surprisingly he has turned out, at the 11th hour, to be a quite an effective opposition campaigner, closing a 21 point gap in the polls to one point. This has been helped in no small part by Theresa May’s campaign, which has not just shat the bed, but burnt it down and then pissed on the ashes.
If the story of 2016 was the surprise success of the populist, anti-establishment campaigns then the story of 2017 is the return of the centre right at the expense of the centre left. This has been true in France and in the Netherlands, and is likely to happen in Germany. Britain looked like it would go down the same route, as May’s Tories triumphed over the Labour Party. Despite my concerns and if the polls hold, Corby could turn out to be the most effective leader of a left wing party in Europe this year.
Corbyn’s leadership could save the Labour Party from the Pasokification that has marred so many Western left wing parties and reduced Benoît Hamon (the French centre left Presidential candidate) to 6% in the first round of the French Presidential election. Gary Young has written elegantly about this here.
Policy reliably moves the dial in elections for more than a handful of hardcore politicos, but Corbyn’s manifesto has inspired praise from some of his harshest critics. It’s a good a platform of sensible policies that are only considered extreme in the minds of the most Thatcher worshiping tabloid editors. Again, this platform is helped by the contrast with the Tories’ platform, based on animal culturally and taking away the homes from people with dementia. I want to live in the Britain outlined in Labour’s manifesto. I really don’t want to live in the one outlined by the Tories.
The rally of support for Labour is more than just policies taken from the playbook of centre left European parties (the sort of things Labour should have offered in 2015). It is because Corbyn has become a symbol for a broad range of people who want things to be different, whether they agree specifically with him or not. Whether they understand his politics or history, Corbyn has become a vessel through which people are pouring their hopes for a different politics. A politics focused not focused on the bottom line of large companies, but on people’s lives. A politics best summed up as: “can’t we treat people a little better?”
If Corbyn represents the coalition of voters who want to make things better, then May represents the coalition of voters who want to make things worse. They want to make this a smaller, more inward looking, selfish and less tolerant country. A country where we don’t care about rising levels of child poverty, homelessness and food bank usage. A vote for the Tories is a vote for a Britain, which would rather kill foxes than help those in need.
Voting for Corbyn will be a compromise for many people. Myself included. The man and his leadership is flawed. However, we are faced with a clear choice: vote for a Labour Party that is at least trying to make things better or a Tory partly that doesn’t believe anything is wrong with the fact that the people most likely to be poverty are those who are in work.
We can't carry on as we are, so that is why I am voting Labour and urge you too as well. We can’t carry on with rising child poverty. We can’t carry on with a struggling NHS. We can’t carry on with low paying, insecure work. We can’t carry on with austerity punishing the poor and the sick for being poor and sick. I want things to be different, so I'm voting Labour.