It’s hard to know where to start, to put into writing why I will be voting Labour. I could write pages on austerity, inequality, the NHS, Brexit, Northern Ireland and myriad issues, but I would probably only be adding to the huge amount of noise already around you. You can already read volumes on all the issues if you want to. For the purpose of this post, I’d rather just explain how I personally vote, and to take a look at the ‘big picture’.
My starting point when it comes to voting is pretty well summed up by this quote from Hubert Humphrey, who served as Vice President under Lyndon B. Johnson.
‘The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped’
In other words, which party will most improve the lives of the worst off and most vulnerable people in our society.
When there are people living in terrible situations, surely the priority has to be with alleviating that suffering and until we’ve addressed that, policies aimed at making already comfortable lives a little more pleasurable really shouldn’t come into our decision making.
People can get quite unexpectedly philosophical about this, ‘With a strong economy, we will become wealthier in future, and the poorest will also benefit.’ Hang on, the UK is the fifth richest country in the world! How long do we wait? How could I, in my position of comfort, vote to perpetuate the most appalling circumstances on less fortunate people, for the sake of a vague hope of ‘a bigger pie to share’ in future. These are real people, suffering right now!
It isn’t hard to figure out which party will do the most to tackle very real and immediate poverty, it doesn’t take trawling through long manifestos or hours of media coverage. Just take a second to imagine how people working on the frontline, whether for charities, emergency services or welfare, would vote. That probably gives you your answer. Or just think, overall, what has the impact of the last decade of Conservative led government been on the people who are worst off in our society?
When David Cameron arrived at the door of 10 Downing Street in May 2010, his first remarks as Prime Minister were to say:
‘Before I talk about that new government, let me say something about the one that has just passed. Compared with a decade ago, this country is more open at home and more compassionate abroad and that is something we should all be grateful for and on behalf of the whole country I’d like to pay tribute to the outgoing prime minister for his long record of dedicated public service.’
Would those words ring true if spoken at the door of Number 10 in a few weeks time?
Step back from the blow-by-blow details of Brexit, step back from the non-stop news cycle and endless social media feeds. If you had to describe how our country has changed in the last 10 years, would it be good? For me, it feels like the country has become a harsher and more divided place. I think this was well captured by Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty, whose report on poverty in the UK said:
‘Much of the glue that has held British society together since the second world war has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos … British compassion has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited and often callous approach apparently designed to impose a rigid order on the lives of those least capable of coping.’
I really hope that all the short term buzz about Brexit doesn’t succeed in distracting people from voting on the government’s record for the past 10 years, and what it could do in the next 5 years.
Covering image details
The photograph shows the sculpture of a homeless Jesus, outside St Ann’s church in Manchester. Similar sculptures have been installed in cities around the world, but Manchester’s is the first in England. In contrast to the attitude shown in Manchester, a plan to install one of Schmalz’s Homeless Jesus figures outside Methodist Central Hall Westminster was blocked by Westminster Council.