Thursday, 8 June 2017

I Vote Labour

I voted Labour today, and I was given a boiled sweet at the polling station.  The not-quite-humbug was given unconditionally. 'Why?'  I asked the polling officer.  'Because you might need a sugar rush to make up your mind,' she answered.  I didn't, but I took the humbug anyway.

Yesterday evening, I sent my brother a text to wish him good luck.  He is standing for re-election as a Conservative MP.  My good wishes were genuine - he's my brother, he's full of talent, and I like and admire him as a person.  He has a solid reputation as a constituency MP who cares and works hard for his constituents.  His job isn't easy, and he faces abuse, particularly around election times.  I don't agree with most of his political views, but I love him.

The problem with party politics is that it's not nuanced.  It doesn't easily allow for liking and respecting people with different views: those whose intentions are genuine and who are honest and trustworthy.  It doesn't allow for wanting a part of the Green Party manifesto to be bolted onto the Labour manifesto, or for the Liberal Democrats' clearer ideas about Brexit to be taken into consideration.  It doesn't allow for the fact that whilst I voted Labour, I would have preferred a candidate who lives in her constituency.

But I voted Labour because I see the current Labour Party manifesto's promises as containing the greatest number of smaller and larger beacons of hope in the bleak and troubled social, economic and political landscape of 2010s UK.

I work at a university.  I have seen the way that the increasing commodification of higher education has gradually eroded the sense that learning is both a right and a privilege: an opportunity for exploration and personal growth, for development of tolerance and a love of thinking. The Labour Party's bold promise of an end to tuition fees sends a flurry of excitement and hope through my heart and mind.

Growing up in Islington North, I first voted in the 1983 General Election when Jeremy Corbyn was the new candidate for Labour.  I didn't vote for him.  I was brought up to mistrust the radical left-wing approach of Islington council, to be fearful of its progressive moves, particularly in the area of gay rights.  I was brought up to think that Christian values = Conservative politics.  I was brought up not to think for myself.  These are not my excuses - they are my explanations.

I've come to voting Labour today via talking with Gary, a retired miner my LSF and I lived opposite in Durham during the 1980s miners' strike.  I've come to voting Labour via discussions with numerous other friends of all persuasions, via reading, via experience.  Most of all, I've come to vote for Labour via working with people like Emmett, Nathan and many others who, because of the stigmatisation of people with disabilities or mental illness, because of the marginalisation of people who are older, or in the care of the local authority, because of the oppression of people at the margins of society, live in fear of further dispossession, of social isolation, of cuts to their benefits, of loss of independence, dignity and meaning.

What I saw when I read the Labour manifesto for this election was an opportunity for me to express my support for policies of respect and hope for making a society in which people can live less fearfully, and in greater trust of each other.

Because I love my brother, I don't want him to lose his seat tonight, and because I love the people I know who are struggling within the NHS, education and other public services, I don't want him to win it.  Living with contradiction is a life's work, but in the end, I have voted Labour.  Democratic principles allow me to be true to myself, and still love people with whom I disagree. 

In the end, when we vote, most of us are simply people doing what we think is best at a particular moment in history.  Most of the rest: all the ridicule, name-calling and shaming of each other - behaviour which the best and wisest politicians avoid - is humbug.

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