I have a confession to make. I have never actually voted in a general election in my life.
Despite being involved in overtly political activity since primary school (my parents took me to more demos than I care to remember) I have never yet crossed a ballot.
I can hear the voices of disapproval passing their judgments from across the web, please don’t bother; it has been a conscious choice. Many people have been trained to see the Houses of Parliament as the only site of political activity and their vote as their only, or at least, primary political activity/obligation. I was, thankfully, not raised with such a narrow view of political engagement.
However, I will be voting in a general election for the first time on June the 8th and I will – I am shocked to be typing this myself – be voting Labour.
I am not a Labour supporter; I do not share the romanticism of many that the Labour party was ever as radical an alternative as some would like to think. Labour – despite building the welfare state/NHS – has been an imperialist party from Atlee to Wilson to Blair, thus for a ‘third world’ internationalist such as myself, I have never been able to cast a vote for them.
In truth, of the options available, my politics are closer, at present, to the Green party.
Regardless, in the years since I have been an adult, neo-liberal New Labour has basically been a Tory Party anyway, so I, by virtue of my age, missed any point in history where Labour could have even been argued to have been any sort of real political alternative.
So why will I be voting now?
The answer will surprise none of you; Jeremy Corbyn.
It’s not that I am naïve enough to believe that one man (who is, of course, powerless without the people that support him) can fundamentally alter the nature of British politics, or that I think that if he/Labour win that the UK will suddenly reflect his personal political convictions, or even that I believe that the prime minister actually runs the country.
I also recognise that Mr Corbyn is a human and as such is an imperfect ‘leader’.
He was abysmal during the Brexit campaign, for example, and this whole sense that a left wing exit from the EU was possible via a campaign led by anti-immigrant fervour is to my mind ridiculous.
It seems that around this issue Corbyn was more committed to an ideology than reality and how that reality would affect real people. He is a politician, he will make more mistakes, or at least what I deem to be ‘mistakes’.
(In case you are confused that I am simply pro or anti-EU you can read what I wrote at the time on my blog.)
We do not need perfect politicians because we are not perfect people ourselves.
However, for the first time in my adult life and perhaps for the first time in British history, someone I would consider being a fundamentally decent human being – that is, someone who does not want to kill the poor and does not routinely make a habit of rationalising the bombing and invasion of other people’s countries under the rubric of humanitarianism – has a chance of being elected.
As well as his historical stances on Apartheid and other issues, Mr Corbyn has consistently voted against the UK’s worst acts of foreign aggression, including being one of only 13 MP’s to vote against NATO’s horrific intervention in Libya in 2011 – an intervention that has played no small part in the ‘refugee crisis’ and the direct spreading of terrorism.
Because of his anti-war (war is very profitable) and anti-austerity (austerity is also very profitable for many) stance the mainstream press and the Tories speak about him as if he were the king of Saudi Arabia, well they love the House of Saud so that’s perhaps not a good comparison but you get my point.
We keep being told Corbyn is unelectable, in a country that gave three terms
to Tony Blair and in the world of Donald Trump. Think about that.
We were also told that he would not win the Labour leadership, twice and certainly not that under his tenure Labour would become the largest party in Western Europe in terms of membership.
Whilst the local elections were hardly that encouraging, clearly, there is, as usual, a difference between the blatant misinformation pushed by the corporate media and the actual feelings/understandings of people.
Incidentally, Britain dropped to 40th in the world rankings for press freedom recently – we were 38th in 2016 – just to give you a sense of how full of sh*t our claims on uniquely ‘British’ freedoms of the press are.
Corbyn may not have the ‘electric’ personality that electorates are concerned about in these days of celebrity culture, but politics is not – primarily – about personalities, it’s about policies.
Bill ‘three-strikes-bombing of Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory’ Clinton and Barrack ‘I am going to close Guantanamo, oh no I’ll bomb Libya instead’ Obama are probably the most charismatic English-speaking politicians of my lifetime, but their actual policies were horrendous.
The simple fact is, if enough people vote for Corbyn/Labour they will win
In fact, there are enough people that did not vote at all in the last election to tip the scales decidedly. A Britain led by the SNP and Corbyn’s Labor would be drastically different – though still far from utopian, whatever that means – to what the Tories have in mind and have clearly told us they intend.
Despite the SNP’s many limitations, their status on war, asylum, immigration, Trident, and the maintenance of the NHS are all light years away from the Tories.
Under those two parties, life for the average citizen would be significantly better than under more years of Toryism and spaces would open up for those of us that want to organise outside of the confines of the system that the Tories will certainly drastically limit and even shut down.
I understand that for much of the UK electorate British foreign policy is not a priority. Out of sight, out of mind and all that, (or even worse Empire nostalgia) but for those of us that literally still have family in the global south and/or have political worldviews shaped by ideas of human solidarity, this is a primary concern. The recent lessons and reasons should be obvious.
A little thought experiment though if you’ll indulge me…
What would happen if in some future time the Jamaican (or any other global south) government decided to nationalise what little bauxite (or another commodity) it has left, or to default on its IMF repayments?
What would be the Yankee response? Blockade? Invasion?
Would Jamaica’s homophobia and police brutality suddenly get bumped up into the ‘human rights issues’ club?
Would the positive trends in Jamaican society (such as ranking 28 places above the UK for press freedom or being one of only 3 countries on earth where your boss is more likely to be a woman) be ignored by the media so that a one-dimensional, despotic, draconian vision of the country could be drilled into the global psyche in preparation for invasion?
Would Britain berate its American ally for its aggressions and force it to seek a peaceful solution to a problem in a ‘Commonwealth’ country?
Maybe ask the Grenadians.
We could ask the same of much more powerful countries, say India; could the treatment of Sikhs, Adivasis, the issues in Kashmir and what Modi himself oversaw in Gujarat be manipulated to justify war should India disobey global corporate power? Certainly.
Anyway, some British Indians (and Caribbean’s for that matter) under the illusion that India’s wealth will protect her indefinitely will still vote for the party of warmongers.
It seems increasingly clear that America is preparing for war with DPRK (again; see Nick Turse Kill Anything That Moves) and make no mistake about it, if the Tories get their mandate, our taxes will be right there with them.
These scenarios may seem far-fetched to some, but when we hear these revisionist imperial morons chanting about Empire 2.0 like it’s a new flavour of sugar-free drink, what are we to think?
There are many other great progressive policies – outlined in links below – that make Corbyn a genuinely different candidate from what we have seen before but another very key area – of literally life and death – is the NHS.
If you want to see what privatised health care looks like, just ask any poor American.
There are countless American families mired in a lifetime of debt for basic health care that citizens of every other industrial country (and Cuba) receive as standard from public money.
When I was five-years-old, I got the measles and nearly died. If I was an American child born into a similarly poor family, I would either likely be dead now or my family would still be paying off the bill.
When I was 10, my mum got cancer, same story.
The idea and reality of an NHS are one of the most democratic ideas ever invented, it must be protected at all costs.
The Tories have made their intentions in this area quite plain – as has Corbyn.
If you are so busy hating those pesky ‘immigrants’ (you know the same darkies and foreign nationals that overwhelmingly staff your NHS) that you can’t see that the Trump worshipping Tories are callous enough to condemn millions of ‘their own’ people to slow and early death because they are poor and because it’s profitable, (as the Republicans just have) then you are unlikely to be reading this anyway, but if you have such people in your family (as I do) please try and talk some sense into them, for their own good.
Let’s be quite clear though, I am not suggesting that we cease any other sort of progressive political activity.
I do not think we should swallow the Labour party – many of whom oppose Mr Corbyn obviously – and their nonsense.
I simply think we cannot afford, in this very particular set of circumstances, to not vote.
Our brothers and sisters in America were not given an alternative, their options were one war-mongering lunatic vs. another and many of them (almost half the US electorate did not vote at all), quite understandably could not bring themselves to vote for Hilary Clinton, despite the threat of Mr Trump, were I an American I must confess I would have done the same.
We, however, do have a chance for the first time to vote for the lesser of two evils, not because Mr Corbyn is evil, clearly he is not, but because however good his intentions are, there is a very limited impact that a prime minister, especially one violently opposed by much of his own party, can have.
I also, of course, think that it is our duty to hold Mr Corbyn to account like we would any other politician should he betray his principles after victory.
However, it would be irresponsible of me to suggest that the UK, led by Mr Corbyn, is ‘pretty much the same’ as one led by Theresa ‘I won’t do any live debates’ May.
The very fact that she won’t debate Corbyn publicly, to me at least, renders her the one that is ‘unelectable’, in any democratic sense, regardless of what I think about her stinking politics.
Aside from their positions on foreign policy, there are the obvious differences around austerity, the welfare state, the NHS and the view of Britain’s imperial legacies et al that make a tangible difference in millions of peoples lives.
With all the usual reservations and scepticism that we should have when approaching politics, I will be voting on June 8th and I’ll be voting for Corbyn’s Labour.
I know many people reading this possibly still believe he has no chance of winning and therefore it is pointless. I disagree. Even if Corbyn can register a more impressive result than Miliband on a significantly more progressive ticket, it would be something to build on, though of course, the aim is to win.
Going forward, however, there is the larger question of a deep need for electoral reform – videos below – and the abolition of such out-of-date semi-feudal enterprises as The House Of Lords, but these questions are well beyond the scope of this election.
- Register to vote
- Corbyn was one of only 13 MP’s that voted against Nato’s disgusting Libya debacle in 2011
- Jeremy Corbyn on Britain’s colonial legacy in Jamaica
- Policy questions
- Energy, environment, homes NHS etc.
- Some voting demographics info
- 10 reasons to vote Corbyn (I don’t agree with the wording of all of them but useful nonetheless)
- The problem with first past the post voting
- Mixed member proportional representation
- Tactical voting to stop the Tories?