I want to live in a country (I want to live in a world) where everyone gets the healthcare they need, when they need it, and without paying for it at the point of need; where no one goes homeless, or hungry, because they can’t afford shelter or food; where access to education, from nursery school to university, is based on ability and inclination, not on parental income or inherited wealth; where no one gets forced into a job that will damage their health or may kill them, because they have no other choice if they want to work at all.
I want to live in a country (I want to live in a world) where everyone can work if they’re able to, where people who are currently out of work get the financial support they need to live and to find another job without being shamed for it, where people get paid a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, where no one gets forced into doing a job that’s ethically abhorrent to them, and where people who can’t work get the help and support they need to live ordinary, decent lives.
I want to live in a country (I want to live in a world) where we strive to be decent to each other: where discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, religious belief or lack of it, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, or poverty, is just not tolerated – not legally, not socially, not by the customs and traditions of statutory bodies and social associations.
Why have I been a Labour voter?
Every three or four years, however, I have to reduce the complexities of belief down to a pinpoint decision to actually cast a vote for one party’s candidate or another. And mostly, I’ve voted Labour. Because for most of my life, Labour was the party that seemed to best express, in an imperfect world, what I wanted to vote for.
Because of Labour’s support for the Iraq war, in both May 2005 and May 2010 I voted for the Scottish Green candidate – but was pleased, both times, that the Labour incumbent won – Mark Lazarowicz – a good man, I believe, certainly a good hard-working constituency MP. (And a rebel on Iraq.)
But in May 2011, I voted Labour. (My list vote went to the Scottish Greens, but they weren’t running a constituency candidate.) I did so after considerable mental argument with myself. There was Shirley-Ann Somerville, whom I like and respect, standing as the constituency MSP – and I’m all in favour of getting more women into Parliament. Of the four party options I had to vote for in May 2011, Labour and the SNP were the only two I was considering, and in the end, I voted for Malcolm Chisholm. He’s a man you can trust to do the right thing even when he’s in government (what other MP or MSP would get 724,000 hits on google for Malcolm Chisholm resigns from government? He’s done it four times now…) He was a good constituency MP and is a good constituency MSP. His character and his track record won me over his party. And I was influenced in voting for him that this wasn’t a vote for the Westminster Labour party, which (not just for the Iraq war) I’ve grown to trust less and less.) Chisholm is no Blairite, no New Labour careerist. He has principles, he stands by them, and those principles are ones I can support.
But Malcolm Chisholm just barely scraped by with a paper-thin majority of a few hundred votes against the SNP candidate: in what’s widely regarded as a safe Labour constituency, the Labour MSP won on character, not on party.
There will be another General Election in May 2015, and not before – unless the LibDem MPs have a collective crisis of conscience and end the coalition, pushing the Tories into minority rule, or unless David Cameron decides to sacrifice a year of Conservative government for the sake of preserving the Union and calls a General Election before autumn 2014 in the hope of a Labour win – neither of which strike me as particularly likely possibilities.
Why should I vote Labour in 2015?
Ed Balls seems to want to make the Labour party just like the Tories:
“My starting point is, I am afraid, we are going to have keep all these cuts. There is a big squeeze happening on budgets across the piece. The squeeze on defence spending, for instance, is £15bn by 2015. We are going to have to start from that being the baseline. At this stage, we can make no commitments to reverse any of that, on spending or on tax. So I am being absolutely clear about that.”
Balls suggested it might take beyond 2012 for Labour to win back economic trust, and says he always expected the electorate to start to listen to the party around this stage of the parliament. “If we are seen as the people that are short-term, soft touch, give into vested interests, throw money at every problem of course we are never going to succeed.”
He said Rachel Reeves, the shadow chief secretary, was looking at how waste can be rooted out in public spending; and that the shadow work and pensions secretary, Liam Byrne, was working hard on tough decisions with announcements soon on welfare.
Accepting the Tory cuts as a given indeed makes the Labour Party look like “the people that are short-term, soft touch, give into vested interests”. I’ve heard Liam Byrne before on welfare. It’s ugly and despicable. Listening to Ed Balls explain that he’s going to revive the economy by making sure public sector workers can spend less money and that services the Tories cut stay cut – well, that’s bollocks.
I want to hear sense, compassion, and long-term thinking from Labour’s Shadow Chancellor. I want to hear him opposing the Tory cuts, not spinelessly buying in to the Conservative Party’s big lie that cutting spending is good for the economy. Right now the Conservative Party is probably more like the American Democratic Party, even if some of the Tory MPs are clearly in Republican la-la land: but more and more, Conservative Party policies are founded on the three Republican Party principles of:
- Cares solely and exclusively about its rich contributors;
- Worship at the altar of Mars;
- Give me that old time religion.
The Conservative Party is 50% funded by City financiers. In a time of recession when we need every penny, where most of us need all the help we can get, the Tories have helped the rich and cut services, pensions, and employment for the rest of us. I want to see the Labour Party opposing this. Not half-heartedly but fiercely. When even peers of the realm can see that it’s vile what the Tories want to do, when all the rest of us are angry at what the Tories are doing to us – Why isn’t the Labour Party angry? Why are we getting this kind of milk-and-water pap from Labour Party apparatchiks who think that because Labour lost in 2010 it’s time to go Tory?
Give me a reason to vote Labour in 2015 and I will.
Give me a party to vote for that has policies which support the kind of country and the world I want to live in – and that’s where my vote goes.
By what Edward Miliband and Ed Balls and Liam Byrnes are telling me, that’s not going to be Labour.