This one is probably for those readers interested in politics.
With UK election time looming, I’ve been thinking about the party that would once have automatically received my vote. Labour.
We live in Essex’s Saffron Walden constituency. Where, if the Conservative Party stood Micky Mouse as a candidate it would still win. The Tories could promise to increase global warming and dump more plastic in the sea: and they would still get votes. The last three general elections have seen anywhere between 55% and 62% of the Saffron Walden votes pledged to the blue side. It’s rare for any other party to capture even 25% of the vote, although the Lib-Dems have managed 27-28% a couple of times.
That’s just how it is. People vote for their own reasons. Most people stick with the ‘team’ of their younger days. Like football, and newspapers, few change teams.
If this seat was borderline, I would vote Labour. But in a sea of blue, is there any point? I am tempted to spoil my ballot paper, not for the first time.
I have tried the Labour ‘tactic’ of voting Lib-Dem to oust the Tory candidate, but Nick Clegg showed where that leads in his time as Deputy PM in the 2010-15 Coalition government.
Now we have Jo Swinson at the Lib-Dem helm. I think of her as ‘the hollow woman’. I could find other words. All contemptuous.
In those five Coalition years she consistently voted to reduce welfare and benefits, including cutting payments for people with illnesses or disabilities. She also voted to cut the Educational Maintenance Allowance for 16-to-19-year-olds. She helped to raise university tuition fees, despite promising not to as one of the key policies that helped elect many Lib-Dem MPs in 2010. Her track record on environmental issues shows support for the badger cull, fracking and HS2. Swinson also voted for the Bedroom tax, and for a cap on public sector pay rises. She used her role as a Minister to oppose increases in the minimum wage, lauded zero-hour contracts, and helped hike up the fees for employment tribunals. That placed justice out of reach for thousands of workers.
Good luck to anyone who votes for Swinson. You will have to live with yourself.
I have voted Green before. The party does have a candidate in our constituency. But again, it makes no difference to the imminent blue win. That tide will come in, every time.
Maureen and I wondered why, earlier today. Why do people around here prefer a party that, to quote my mate John Madden, “achieve nothing for 10 years but social inequality and division, yet people want more.”
Maybe one reason is the derision hurled by media at the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. For a Martian looking in, or a Tibetan monk scanning the global headlines, it would be easy to believe that JC is an anti-semitic communist. According to Sir Richard Dearlove, ex-chief of MI6, JC is a “present danger to our country”. (This, from the guy who headed the organisation that told the ruinous lies about Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, or WMDs. The lies that risked British lives, left swathes of our soldiers with PTSD, and left Iraq in ruins.)
John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, reacted by calling Sir Richard “a reactionary member of the establishment”. The more honest description of Dearlove begins with C and ends with T. The bloke is a complete clot.
I find it comforting that Jeremy Corbyn won’t be engaging in genocidal wars, if Labour get in. Generally, I like his emphasis on retaining the NHS, raising wages, and providing free broadband. Of renationalising an energy industry that sucks excessive amounts from ordinary people.
Yeah, I know. The cost of it all. Money must be borrowed. That is something that cannot be avoided. Or can it?
One of the lesser-known facts about Corbyn – that you are unlikely to see in the current campaigning – is that Jezza was one of just 5 MPs that signed the House of Commons Early Day Motion (EDM) in November 2013 to launch the centenary anniversary (1914-2014) of the Bradbury Pound. John McDonnell was another.
The EDM urged the UK Treasury “to follow John Bradbury’s model and address social, economic and political issues across party lines in one fell swoop and avoid wholly unnecessary austerity cuts.”
The Bradbury Pound was introduced by British Prime Minister Lloyd George in August 1914, to pre-empt any war-related run on UK banks. Critically, it shifted money creation away from the Bank of England’s interest-bearing notes to an interest- and debt-free currency printed by the Treasury. Named after Sir John Bradbury, the Treasury Secretary, some £300 million of Bradbury paper was issued in ten shilling and pound notes, which were used in the economy, by the government, to pay for goods and services.
It’s technical, I know. The bottom line is that Britain was, for a short period, able to create its own sovereign money, without needing to repay banks or bond markets, with interest added. Not building up debt that mortgaged the future. The model has been used around the world, intermittently, to the benefits of entire economies, until commercial money lenders elbowed their way back in. They hated not being able to cream off their customary margins.
Just the fact that Corbyn and McDonnell were astute enough to come out in favour of the Bradbury Pound encourages me that a different financial system is attainable.
In the toxic here and now, you are a million times more likely to see Corbyn painted as leader of an ‘anti-semitic’ party. One thing I have learned as a journalist is to ignore headlines and seek facts. I try to base everything I write on that model. Forget the media narratives, look at data or other clues.
Here is one. A 2017 Institute for Jewish Policy Research study found that 0.08% of the Labour Party’s 540,000-strong membership held anti-semitic views. That’s not even one in a thousand. Whereas 2.4% of the general population did hold those views, the study said.
It was with fascination that I watched Alastair Campbell recently interview former Commons Speaker John Bercow, on GQ, and ask about Labour’s anti-semitism. Bercow, a Jew, said he had never experienced anti-Semitism from a member of the Labour Party. He added that in 22 years of knowing Corbyn, he never had reason to believe Corbyn was anti-Semitic.
Bercow did say that Labour has a challenge to address, without specifying. My hunch is that the majority of that tiny 0.08% in the Labour Party were in fact critical of Israel, particularly that country’s illegal occupation and ongoing annihilation of Palestine. My opinion is that pointing out cold-blooded, state-sanctioned violence and murder is not anti-semitic. Feel free to disagree. Once we fear to hold reasoned opinions, we say hello to totalitarianism.
My last point links to the disappointment written across Campbell’s face when he heard Bercow’s answer. Campbell is the former Labour ‘spin-doctor’ who worked under Tony Blair. Spin-doctor being a term that came to displace more honestly stigmatic words: propagandist; slicker; trickster; liar. His ‘co-spinner’ was Peter Mandelson, who enjoyed the company of Jeffrey Epstein, among other dubious connections. Campbell has publicly spoken of his depressive moods. Yet he refuses to acknowledge his part in facilitating the 2003 invasion and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi adults and children. Bit of a clue there, Al.
These two jokers – and Blair – are still revered by Labour’s more ‘centrist’ MPs, and parts of the Establishment. The broad ‘Centre’ has persistently tried to undermine or discredit Corbyn, whose politics are clearly left of centre, and have attracted huge grassroots support. Two of our three kids joined Labour when Corbyn made it clear that he was taking the party back to its traditions, to what it still says on the tin.
Where my sympathy goes in the battle within Labour is a no-brainer.
But, unfortunately, I have long lost any belief that democracy works in the UK. I think that journey began on the day that lawyers warning Blair of the illegality of the Iraq War were ignored, in favour of the WMD ruse. And then witnessing the Coalition under David Cameron, butchering and chopping apart the Welfare State that looks after the neediest. Finally, in the calls to revisit the 2016 referendum result.
Hand on heart, ‘democracy’ seems to have become just another false narrative, rather than something that enables individuals to exert some kind of control, however minor, over their society. Maybe it was always that way. Maybe, as Mark Twain said, “if voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it”.
All I can say with any conviction is that while Corbyn may not be charismatic, or a born leader, he would try and lift everybody’s boats. And address basic human needs such as sufficient food and shelter. He won’t be wasting too much time mixing with financiers, or paedophiles.
The other choices in two weeks’ time are full of dark self-interest.