Your politics isn’t broken – vote!

In Suzanne Moore’s latest (and frankly, slightly incoherent) article for the Guardian she writes that young people are not engaged with politics and fail to vote. She endorses an alternative but doesn’t suggest what that might be: a vague wave at the Greek election (with no evidence cited about amounts of young people voting) and a careless mention of the Scottish referendum (which saw a record turn out, which naturally means that more young people voted, but…). It’s the latest in a long line of articles, posts and news items that seem to suggest that politics is broken, voting is pointless and that another useless government like the current one is somehow inevitable. I guess that people got excited about Russell Brand’s contribution because, unlike the current narrative wallpaper, he actually had a few positive things to say.

In the land of “below the line”, virtually everyone seems to believe that politicians are all the same: corrupt, useless, out-of-touch wonks – if you took it all seriously you’d be a bit depressed. As a former member of the Labour party and one time local government rep, I don’t. I know that if you go out and canvass you’ll find people who believe in voting and who still accept that if you don’t get involved, your voice won’t be heard. In General Elections, the majority still vote – despite what you might hear in the press. The thing is, if you keep on hearing that politics is dead and politicians are useless, you might indeed decide that voting is equally pointless, especially if a quick look around suggests to you that your vote – that is, the vote of a young person for example, is not as important as say, an elderly person with a healthy bank balance and UKIP-ready prejudices about ‘the country going to hell in a handcart’.

If you are young you are likely to be poorer than average (and we know that the Tories are not interested in the poor), you may be in further education (which was viewed by the Tories as a cash cow – hence the rise in fees and the plans to sell of the student debt book..which didn’t work out for them, but hey, most of their policies have been rubbish),or you are in a low status, low security job (so not on Diddy Dave’s radar at all) and you won’t have your own house….so this government won’t court you. But instead of garnering your news from the half a dozen red-top Tory-owned/ran newspapers, the Tory inspired BBC/ITV/Sky News and Britain First on Facebook, if you actually talked to one another or had a word with your parents, teachers, work associates etc you’d find that nobody is feeling very loved by this current government and that their assertion that “we’re” all in it “together” is just so much bullshit. Ask the same set of people how comfortable they felt under Labour and you might just get a feeling that all governments aren’t the same.

The last Labour government, for all its faults, kept your local services going (so you could visit the library, use the sports and recreation facilities, take a stroll in your litter free park), they provided money for Children’s centres, they made some steps towards decreasing child poverty (rather than wilfully increasing it), they paid 16-18 year olds some money to help them stay in school for A levels, they didn’t penalise disabled people, and benefit sanctions, food banks and the spare bedroom tax were all things that hadn’t happened yet.

Going to war in Iraq was dumb and near criminal, the inability to foresee the economic meltdown was tragic (although I don’t recall David Cameron’s crew being any more insightful) and there were hosts of things that the Labour party didn’t do that I wished they’d done. However, I would say that sometimes it’s sins of commission that are more important than omission: the coalition has torn away many of the good things that Labour did, and has simply tossed taxpayer’s money to the rich instead. Tell me, what personal benefit have you accrued during this government? Does it really help to think that a few ‘scroungers’ are worse off (especially when you know that many unfortunate innocents have also been crushed by unfair changes). How do you know that the country is better off now than it would have been under Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling – because the Tories tell you? As someone once said, “well they would wouldn’t they?”

Oh, I know that this has probably been as incoherent as Suzanne Moore’s offering, but just please, please, don’t vote for the Tories without thinking about it first, don’t stay home on the day of the election without considering whether you have a right to a view, if you don’t join in, and keep on saying to yourself, do I feel better off with this crew? If the answers “No”, well you know that there is an answer – it’s at the ballot box, and it’s not coloured purple, blue, orange or green.

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Hope

Greece has now got a fresh government and I hope that the new found optimism for the future doesn’t get crushed under the weight of pro-capitalist stuff and nonsense coming from the big wigs in the European money markets, their poodles in the press and the champions of austerity policy in various governments (Germany and the UK for example). The surge of hope that this has generated has thunderous echoes in Spain and it may well be that before too long, we’ll have a Spanish leader with a pony tail… something I never thought I’d see.

Meanwhile the UK election campaign rattles on and it’s a depressing spectacle. The Labour party (which I support, despite its faults) has lots of grassroots support but no money, the Tories have heaps of cash for shiny media and a largely supine press and TV on its side. “Supine” at best,as mostly the TV seems to rattle out straightforward establishment propaganda. And if you think I’m biased have a look at the work of the Glasgow Media Group – I am biased but it’s not my job to be otherwise, unlike say, the BBC.

The Tories seem to have decided that ridiculing Ed Miliband is their main tactic and any fluff that he or Ed Balls makes is analysed in the press as symptomatic of well, something far more significant than a simple mistake. Even the once proud Liberal newspaper – the Guardian, seems to be no more than a forum for one section of the establishment talking to the others. The costs of another Tory government to the vast majority of the population seems to have escaped their attention.

I pay too much attention to below the line comments: there you see that the level of debate has descended into insults and bluster… again, at best, because often they don’t even aspire to that majestic level of discussion. Pity a man called Balls this close to an election, with the internet-erati assuming that it’s ok to have a ‘go’ at someone in the foulest possible terms, just because you have the ability to remain anonymous.

Hope is needed – instead of threatening dire consequences of another Tory government, perhaps the Labour party needs to ask us to get involved in a project that will benefit the majority: living wages, re-nationalising utilities, wealth taxes, social housing building, respect for the NHS and its achievements, freedom from student fees, public sector cash (for the local services that people need but don’t tend to notice) and devolution of power to the regions. It might be pie in the sky, but at least it’s a message of aspiration. Not a dreary trudge to an uncertain finishing line.