I want to vote for Labour - but here's why I won't
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I am a terrible cynic. A loveless and bitter sort of chap, I find I am seldom enthused by anything except the prospect for schadenfreude, the chance to laugh at other peoples’ misfortunes. So, paradoxically, I am often in good humour. But when the draft Labour manifesto was leaked to the press, something peculiar happened. I experienced a brief fit of warmth and fuzziness, and upon reflection was alarmed to conclude that I had just suffered my first relapse into happiness and excitement since… well, who can say? January of last year, I think. (I was so taken in by it that I didn’t even stop to chuckle at the news that Jeremy Corbyn had run over a BBC cameraman, something I’m sure he’s wanted to do for a very long time. ‘Good for him,’ I thought, and returned to the manifesto.) The draft is not perfect, of course. Nothing is. I do not much care about the costing (or lack thereof), as political parties, advised as they are by economists, invariably get the economics wrong. New Labour, in ’97, had the right idea; their little sheets of vague, pleasant-sounding promises contained no pound signs, yet appealed so much to peoples’ aspirational sentimentality that huge numbers of voters happily strapped on their gimp masks and spent the next 13 years being royally shafted. Many people do still insist on believing in things. But I think it unwise to confer greater political power to union bosses. The principle of organised labour is, of course, a good one. But, as the measly turnout at the last Unite election shows (to say nothing of the awful way in which it was conducted), trades unions aren’t really the manifestation of organised labour anymore. Thatcher did not destroy unions physically, rather she caused them to rot from within. If there is no such thing as society, there is no such thing as collectivism. Ergo the spirit that once bound unions together is dead, or at least dormant. Until that is redressed, there can be no justification for increasing the power and influence granted to the well-paid crypto-politicians like Len McCluskey, feudal barons sitting on these dead thrones of the collective ideal. It looks as though Labour would keep our nuclear deterrent, which is as absurd as it is expensive and useless, and it was noticeably quiet on one or two other matters. It contains some fantastically woolly language about immigration, proposing to do away with income thresholds and instead telling incomers that they have ‘an obligation to survive without recourse to public funds’. (Presumably, if you have need of such recourse you might as well pack up and die.) And, yes, one can have serious doubts about Corbyn’s suitability, his beliefs, his friends, his record, his allotment… But as for the rest, what’s not to like? Scrapping tuition fees, nationalising the railways, a fairly radical rearrangement of our energy policy, £8bn for social care, building more council houses, reserving some for the homeless, reversing NHS privatisation, boosting workers’ rights, massive infrastructure spending, abandoning austerity, the National Education Service, and much more besides. That list would be quite remarkable in almost any election, yet it is made to seem particularly grand now because it has been thrust into a context of nothingness. It is a vision and a plan, not a soundbite. It invites you to ask the question: which do you prefer, 40 pages of bold ideas or some robot repeating the phrase ‘strong and stable leadership’ until you are battered into miserable submission? As I say, I could get behind it. I want to vote for it. But, alas, I fear I can’t.
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