I wish I could have more hope with the upcoming General Election, Jeremy Corbyn is by far the most exciting leader in my lifetime, and although this should fill me with the same giddy excitement of a One Direction fan winning a VIP tour to Harry Styles’s dressing room, I feel utterly demoralized. For the older generation, replace One Direction with Take That and Harry Styles with Gary Barlow. For my Labour friends in my constituency, replace One Direction with the Beatles, and Harry Styles with Paul Mccartney.
Why should I feel gutted at the prospect of a General Election with one of the best leaders in my lifetime taking part? Because for the first time since joining the Labour party, my militant marching orders are to support Labour without a shred of critique, or a measure of cynicism. Do the Lib-Dems have any good ideas? No, no matter what policy they have, they are traitors, yellow Tories with no heart and a blood thirsty attitude towards poor people. How about the Greens, surely their lefty policies rub the right way with Labour supporters? Absolutely not, the Greens are crazy crusties with no hope of any power, and Caroline Lucas should really support Labour because we are right and she is wrong. This is literally the level we are at now. Corbyn’s hopeful “inclusive” politics, seems to only be inclusive if you’re part of Labour, otherwise you belong in Theresa May’s basement, eating the leftover crumbs of stolen primary school meals.
I grew up with Liberal Democrat parents, my mother as a councillor, and my father who is pretty much part of the woodwork which make up the foundations of the party. They worked closely with Paddy Ashdown during the Liberal Democrat renaissance of the 1990’s. My sister, a passionate scientist fighting for the environment, and tackling climate change, has worked with Caroline Lucas of the Greens. My mother and I have joined Labour, and are passionate about Jeremy Corbyn and his policies. If you heard any of us discuss politics around the dinner table, our differences in opinion are very subtle, nuanced and specific. We are all polar opposites to UKIP and the Conservative party. As are the parties actually policies if anyone bothers to actually check.
Here’s a few examples borrowed from each manifesto.
“We will end health service privatisation and bring services into a secure, publicly-provided NHS. We will integrate the NHS and social care for older and disabled people, funding dignity across the board and ensure parity for mental health services.”
“The Liberal Democrats will put an end to these sweetheart deals, block PFI contracts, prevent privatisation of the NHS through the back door and increase NHS funding each year”
We need services that fit around people’s lives, not ones that force them to fit their lives around the care they need. We must move away from a fragmented system to an integrated service with more joined-up care.
We will fight for a fair deal for those needing health care by opposing cuts, closures and privatisation and by demanding a full programme of locally accessible services.In particular, we will maintain the principle of a free NHS by implementing in England and Wales the scheme that provides free social care to the elderly in Scotland.
All these parties support the reinstatement of nurse’s bursaries.
So not much difference here, maybe some nuanced differences on funding, but essentially the same goal compare to the Tories; who want more privatisation, social care paid for by forcing people to sell their houses, along with UKIP who believe the NHS is a monolithic hangover of days gone by.
Then we look at domestic politics. Many lefty media outlets praised Labour’s manifesto as Keynesian, I wonder if they and Liberals understand that John Maynard Keynes was actually a Liberal? That investing in an economy in recession is how you grow the economy, rather than floating it on credit card debt? Well the Liberals have now clarified they would boost the economy with a major program of capital investment aimed at stimulating growth across the UK; Labour will take advantage of near- record low interest rates to create a National Transformation Fund that will invest £250 billion over ten years in upgrading our economy; and the Greens have stated “With scant evidence of the kind of strong recovery expected after previous post-war recessions, it’s time to admit that austerity in the UK has failed and that an alternative approach of significant investment to reduce the deficit is needed”
Obviously there are differences in how you invest in the economy between the progressive parties, but compare that to the Conservatives who are tripling private debt, decimating public services, and ramping up privatization in every corner of the country; why split each others votes in this election because of such trivial differences?
The Conservatives won just 24.3% of the population over last general election, why the hell do they deserve any kind of majority? If all the progressive parties had allied last election, they would have received 49% of the national vote. There is no guarantee that voters would switch, but why shouldn’t they? Considering the damage to the country done by this current slim Tory majority? And voters won’t switch on mass unless their supported party leads them that way.
What are the real dividing lines that stop a progressive alliance? For the Lib-Dems, it’s Labour’s position on Europe. Ironically for many in the Labour party the dividing lines in supporting Corbyn is his position on Europe. Personally, I’m immensely disappointed by Labour’s policy to accept Brexit for what it is, and given that Labour supporters voted 65% to remain, a significant majority in the party must, at some level, be feeling the same resentment. Tactically it hasn’t paid off either, losing a lot of Remain voters to other parties, and lots of Leave voters to the Conservatives. So what’s the point in pretending Labour want to accept the Brexit result, when it’s neither honest nor tactically useful. At least in a progressive alliance, many in the Labour party would feel quite comfortable compromising for another vote on a Brexit deal, or at least staying in the Single Market.
For us in Labour, I would press the Liberals to fully endorse an anti-austerity program. From my experience Liberals are far more radical than the public notice, it’s always the hierarchy who caution patience, a cowardly tactical ploy to always appear in a mythical center ground, defining themselves from the other parties instead of focusing on their own beliefs. I cannot understand why re-nationalizing natural monopolies is not just a socialist ideal, but always a liberal one? You cannot empower people without taking them out of poverty either, so the Liberals should be far more on board with an anti-austerity program. Again if Labour compromised on Europe, something the party naturally wants, surely the Liberals can compromise by backing up a strong investment package? Which the party naturally wants!?
Now for many politically active, pro-European, Liberal Lefties, such as myself, I feel completely at odds and impotent In doing anything in this election. This tribalism is completely toxic for all people involved. Politics should be about values, policies, principles and morals, It shouldn’t be treated as religious, as many left of the Conservatives are doing now. Yes Corbyn is fantastic, but so is Caroline Lucas, and Farron’s defense of internationalism, refugees and civil rights, is equally inspiring. Nicola Sturgeon is also one of the biggest thorns in the current Conservative government . I see all these people as great politicians, but I must only support one, otherwise I’m a traitor to my cause. Not because I am against the policies, but because I don’t don my red rosette and demonize all the other progressive political parties simply because they are not Labour.
If you are truly inclusive, accepting of diversity, and passionately democratic, you cannot put all your hopes for a progressive future in one party. Under Blair, Cameron and May, every MP received their marching orders. You do as your told, or face sitting on the backbenches for the rest of your term. How can you defend a system which is effectively a democratic dictatorship? At least in coalition, people had to work to convince each other to vote for policies. You didn’t just have to turn up, vote with the whip, claim your expenses and salary, then go home again. Bearing in mind that over two thirds of European countries have proportional systems and continuous coalitions, and a reminder for the socialists in this country, that Corbyn’s type of politics is most prevalent in European countries where there is proportional voting.
It’s far too late to ask candidates to withdraw, or have open talks with other parties. I ask as a passionate Labour supporter, to understand that by simply being in the Labour party doesn’t qualify you as morally superior, or politically more competent. That other progressive parties care as much about fixing social injustice and inequality as we do, with slightly different solutions to how to solve It. We can’t change what will happen this general election, but unless by some miracle we beat the Conservatives, we have to grow out of this primitive tribal politics, acknowledge the elephant in the room, and do something about the voting system if you care about the future of this country.