Easy Choices

It is just under 2 weeks until the British general election, and for the second time in a year we come to a crossroads in the future of our country. After a year of what can only truly be described as chaos in terms of policy-making regarding the future of Britain and its relation to the rest of the world, we are given an election that is, more than any other in recent memory, a simple choice between only two alternatives. That choice is clear: remove the Conservative Party from government, or face another 5 years of austerity, cuts, and the cruelest, most dishonest and empty rhetoric-filled leader we have had in decades (at least three, anyway). I am not presenting this argument as a clear, balanced view of the two sides of this election, because there is no balance here. We have two dramatically different alternatives: a government with a complete disregard for the British public, or a leader who has time and time again shown his support for equality, diversity, and the rights and well-being of the general population.

The effects of immense cuts to the public sector are deep and dangerous. We are told repeatedly that Britain is suffering greatly, that our struggling economy (fifth largest in the world, according to most sources such as the IMF and the World Bank) requires austerity and only austerity. That the only way for us to improve as a country is to completely gut our public services and rely on that beautiful free-market capitalism. That every person should be able to (or rather, have to) pay for themselves and their own, that there is no reason for any support structures from the state. Our government has no care for the disabled; they believe education is a privilege, and would see higher education taken away from anybody not from a rich background. Despite repetitive promises in the past 3 elections, the Conservatives have been incapable of balancing the economy. Thankfully, we are far enough away from the last Labour government that they can no longer use this as an excuse (though that won’t stop them from trying, despite the 2008/9 crisis being a consequence of international and domestic neoliberal deregulatory market policy begun in the 1980s, but whatever). With any luck, we are seeing a breaking down of the image of the popular image on the Conservative Party as ‘responsible’ and strong on the economy. Similarly, their failures on hot public issues such as immigration (as abhorrent an issue that is) and terrorism (May’s sheer neglect of calls to stop the blood-draining of the police force) may highlight that the Conservative Party are not what many thought they were.

But it is not enough. Despite improvements in the polls, many of us are expecting another great disappointment from the upcoming election. It is truly remarkable that we have seen comparisons between Corbyn and the right-wing populists of the past two years from pundits. That people, journalists even, could show such blatant disregard for policy that they would compare a democratic-socialist who stands for re-distribution of wealth, diplomatic solutions to conflict, and total equality of opportunity through a strong and democratic welfare state, to somebody like Trump or Le Pen. Corbyn does have popular policies, even populist ones. But to compare him to Trump, Brexit etc. is a farce, used to instil fear in the general public of radical change, and to smear his personality in an attempt to manufacture an image of the man as a power-hungry, selfish, crazed radical politician. Anybody who has spoken to Corbyn, heard him speak, seen his record for the past few decades would know that his priorities are and only have been his beliefs, his values. Greater than anyone else, we can draw comparisons to Bernie Sanders of the U.S. During the U.S. election, I hoped he would learn from the public-speaking skills of Bernie (hopefully while Sanders learnt from the policy ideals of Corbyn). But not it is clear that even that would not be enough. It would not be enough to satisfy the centrists. Those who are so fearful of either radical change or the risk of putting forward a controversial candidate. That is what we have in the Labour Party, just as we saw in the Democratic Party in the U.S. Sanders lost because the party establishment (and subsequently enough of their supporters) feared his policies too radical, idealistic. They assumed someone like Bernie would be unable to appeal to the “average American”, that mythological everyman that would always rather vote for your traditional politician than something new and different. It is remarkable to me that Sanders’ failure at the Democratic primaries have been so obviously repeated within the Labour Party over the past two years. There are some who dispute this, pointing to Hillary’s qualifications, but in my eyes (and those of much of the U.S. and global population), Hillary was a bad candidate. Much like virtually all of the other candidates Labour have suggested against Corbyn, she was a candidate for the middle-class, and noone else. That Corbyn’s cosmopolitan beliefs and Islington roots have led to similar criticisms of him are a farce that neglect his enormous commitment to workers rights over the past decades. Hillary was a hawk, a neoliberal and virtually incapable of appealing to non-white working class voters, showing a complete disregard of movements like Black Lives Matter, and hoping to gain popularity through evident pandering (hot sauce). In the final Presidential debate, she missed a clear opportunity to highlight Trump’s absolute awfulness, electing instead to repeat a pre-prepared answer that she assumed would signify her commitment to African-Americans and POC. She was a bad candidate. She should’ve beaten Trump anyway, but she didn’t. Bernie would have, and attack me for that as you wish, I think it is ridiculous to believe otherwise. Many of those supporting Bernie in the States have backed Corbyn publicly, or at least defended him. May hides from the leadership debates because she knows should her policies come face to face with Corbyn’s, their callousness and lack of concern for the public will be revealed. She assumes that Corbyn’s existing lack of popularity amongst much of the electorate perpetuated by an endless smear campaign from publications ranging from Murdoch’s The Sun and Dacre’s Daily Mail to tax-haven Monaco residents the Barclay Brothers’ Telegraph will do enough to alienate the population from his policies. Most recently, these publications have presented Corbyn as a terrorist-loving traitor. Who would’ve thought media moguls and tax dodgers would have such a problem with a left-wing candidate ey?

 

Corbyn’s first few months were plagued with criticisms more of his appearance and composure than anything else; having a substantial effect in cultivating the now popular image of him as an “incompetent leader”, or even more ridiculously, a traitor to the country (one only has to remember the ludicrous stories on his lack of a tie, or the depth of his bow at ceremonies to see the foundations of this image). We are presented with a man who knows his values. A man who is passionate about social issues. And a man who can present policies in greater depth than a three-word soundbite.

Yet we are told endlessly by the Conservative Party and their allies in the media that Mrs. May is a strong leader. That only she can lead us to a good Brexit deal, despite her failures to do so as of yet. Over the past few months, we have seen her backtrack on various policies (not so strong and stable), and cause immense tension with Europe over significant issues such as Gibraltar, as though she seems to think it will be her Falklands (strong I suppose?, not quite so stable). She has refused to partake in televised debates, undoubtedly due to a combination of her fear of fucking things up, and an arrogance in her belief that this election will be an easy win. Should Corbyn maintain that he will not appear unless she does, this will be a significantly wasted opportunity and a incredibly poorly thought-through strategic move, a few of which he has indeed been capable of making. Public opinion has shown an increase in popularity of Labour under Corbyn – due largely to a strong and appealing manifesto, and the revelation apparently to much of the public over the past month or two that maybe the Conservative Party don’t actually have their best interests at heart. But there is still much to do. Ultimately, however, we come down to an easy choice. A government that has attempted to suck up to Trump, that has made a mess of our relationship with Europe, and that has wreaked havoc on our social service structure, worsening living conditions for the man. A government that cares not for the health, wellbeing and social cohesiveness of the population, but prioritises financial gain, attempting to capitalise on anti-Europe and anti-immigration sentiment by essentially becoming the mainstream party of UKIP. A party full of shamelessly power-hungry vultures, circling over the end of David Cameron’s career, including their now-literal-vulture-of-a-leader Theresa May. Or a party that, regardless of its flaws internally and externally, has displayed a clear interest in seeking the best for the British people. A potential leader that has on countless occasions advocated peace, equality and what is best for the British public.

Among centrists, Blairites, and really quite a substantial part of the population, we see a perhaps even more shameful opposition to Corbyn. As much as I criticised Hillary, when it came down to Trump vs. Clinton, it was obvious who we should back. This was not due to a blind allegiance to the Democratic party, but a clear acknowledgement of the choice presented. Regardless of my misgivings about her positions on social, economic, or foreign policy, it was evident that against the alternative, she was the only choice. In the Trump world we now live in, I have little-to-no respect for any of the Bernie followers that refused to support Hillary, all those that went as far to draw an equivalency between her and Trump. Theresa May is not Trump. She does not have the reckless ego, nor the overt hate-speech that normalises bullying, racism, sexism, and discrimination in all of its forms. But she still adopts hateful policies. She still uses the similar rhetoric of prioritising foreign policy, creating a “strong” Britain that doesn’t need help from anyone else (an ardent lie in the international society of today). She still adopts UKIP-esque policies on immigration. She still fails to assess the roots of terrorism, as inexcusable as individual acts are, and focus on foreign policy causes. Her government shows a complete disregard for the well-being of the many, much as Trump’s administration has done since coming into office. The current Conservative government is one that hopes to make Britain better for the few. Indeed, in her Brexit negotiations, she has even threatened to make the U.K. into a tax-haven, which as we know is so important for all those working- and middle-class voters desperate to find a safe place to put the money from their offshore accounts. Policies such as the Bedroom Tax, Dementia Tax etc. show a blatant disregard for the health and well-being of the public. She doesn’t care that nurses are having to resort to foodbanks to feed themselves, so long as she can make healthcare profitable. The fact that politicians like Blair and public figures like J.K. Rowling have the audacity to criticise Corbyn now, that they continue with their endless personality attacks on him, is to me inexcusable. To do so is to influence the population. To do so is to suggest that a Corbyn government would be worse than the hell-bent on austerity government that is at the root of all of British social problems at the moment. Regardless of your opinion on Corbyn’s personality, he is proposing a government for the people. To suggest otherwise, more than anything else, serves simply to make an easy choice complicated. This is not a complicated election. This is a choice between austerity and welfare. Between hate, division and fear; and unity, progress and change. Between money and morality. I implore you, whether you are a politician, a celebrity, or  an ordinary voter: make the right choice.

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