Labour, Politics, UK

Few thoughts following 2019 General Election results

It has been a month since the disastrous election results came out on Friday the 13th December, a true day of horror that will haunt the UK for at least another five years. The loss hurt more this time because, after the encouraging results of 2017 GE, one would have expected Labour to go further. This was followed by a revolutionary manifesto. They had the youth voters, or the “youthquake” how they invented the term in the polling day. On Thursday as the news poured in on the social media that people queued up since morning to vote, the hopes soared. People were voting for a change then! They were indeed, but for a change that was unthinkable. First time in many years, at times in a century, the Labour seats were wiped out even at their safest heartlands. The euphoria that built up during the day, quickly evaporated at the pace of a burst balloon, when the exit poll showed the Tory landslide. There was no doubt that the predictions are not going to be far off, but there was a slither of hope that the marginal seats may swing to Labour. They didn’t.

It’s hard to explain how the next few days went. On the personal front, the Christmas was coming, my daughters were excited about the prospect, we were going away for a few days, and we were looking forward to spending a longer Christmas break this year. In the middle of all this excitement, the results left a big hollow inside me. I could not stop thinking about the results, could not think about the betrayal of the voters who would be the worst hit by the Tory austerity policies, I could not feel more angry about the media that brainwashed the gullible voters of an imaginary enemy, and I felt angry about Labour for not doing enough to convince people of the dangers of a Tory government. I looked up at various Labour member forums and the feeling was about the same across the board. Some started to smell a rat how postal vote counts were all messed up, how Laura Kuenssberg almost gave away that postal votes showed a Tory lead…but it was clear that no judicial steps would be taken. When it failed to nail the criminals spewing misinformation during Brexit campaign, these petty postal votes would not have mattered much to guarantee a thorough investigation. This post is mainly about the thoughts that were going through in my mind as the aftermath of Labour’s worst defeat in recent years.

First, I thought why on earth Labour agreed for the election before Christmas. I think I knew the answer straight away. The opposition in the parliament already had a strong position in the cabinet regarding Brexit debate. Labour probably thought if they can increase their seats, it will make it even difficult for Boris Johnson to get a deal with the EU. So I can anticipate that many inside Labour wanted Jeremy Corbyn to give in to the calls for a general election, possibly from the activist factions. It didn’t help the situation by the Libdem aka the Remain party, who expected all remainers will be voting for them. On the other side, the xenophobic and racists had already colluded so their votes don’t split. But on the progressive front, the disagreements continued that cost many seats in the end. It is commonplace on the left spectrum of politics, in the UK, in France, in the US — the left doesn’t come to a common ground and compromise on their principles. This was apparent in the Labour manifesto. Despite knowing how it will be accepted in the right-wing media that feeds the brain-fodder to the British electorate, Labour did not compromise on its offering. Nor did they run a campaign of fear and lies, as did the Tory campaign, led by the brash idiot. So, that would be something to take away from this campaign — a clean campaign and a brilliant and groundbreaking manifesto, only to be overshadowed by Brexit.

But thinking about the future was even more painful. I wondered if Labour would win any future election or will turn into the role of the main opposition, with a diminishing representation in the cabinet, with lesser influence on the divisive government policies. Part of me just wanted to give up on politics. Especially because during this election period I was involved a lot in the social media campaigns, debates, researches and carefully going through the manifesto of the two major parties to understand the fundamental differences between then. All my efforts were felt to be wasted on a lost cause. Also, the glimmer of hope for a Labour resurgence disappeared with the election results, knowing Jeremy Corbyn will have to go now, which would mean shifting into reverse gear in the socialist agenda for the party. The results were also an eye-opener to understand how deeply divided the country is. Probably it always was, but Brexit brought the division to the surface. And this made me feel resigned knowing the situation is only going to get worse with another five years of Tory government and they’ll use all means to spread their propaganda of fear. I just thought of stop thinking about politics, concentrate on family and life. But I knew the answer already why I won’t do that. I would become one of the millions of indifferent people who think their view doesn’t count. And then regret for years to come that I did nothing.

So that thought was soon changed into anger and a feeling of betrayal. Betrayal of the working class population against a manifesto that put their interest at the heart of it. And more you heard about them, more frustrated you got. Someone voting Tory because they like how Boris Johnson looks! He looks like a pig who has just been jet-washed! Then you have people in the north of England who are saying they wanted Brexit done, so they voted Tory only this time and will go back to Labour. Couldn’t help thinking it was not going to the cinema and deciding on sweet or salty popcorn. As most of the public services are at the breaking point, and poverty and inequality constantly on the rise, that idea seemed laughable and dangerous in equal proportions. I could not believe how gullible someone can be to make such a decision. And I thought for a moment — let them suffer. If they can’t spot the wolf in sheep’s skin, let them suffer and they’ll realise the hard way why on earth they voted in a Tory MP. But that stage of anger only lasted momentarily as I start to question if it was the gullibility of the people or was it desperation that drove them to make such a momentous decision? Perhaps they hoped for a Brexit will end all their misfortune. The vote was driven by desperation to get out of the mess we are in, except for the fact that they chose to rely on a hopeless and heartless party.

Finally, at the third stage, the pragmatism kicked in. Giving up taking part in politics or having an interest in politics was not an option. It’s one of the core principles that define me and I could not simply let go of the hopes I garnered since a long time ago. Turning my back to people who will suffer the most was also not an option. Fortunately or unfortunately my life is at a stage where until something else drastically change our situation, the election results will have little impact on our life. That’s not true for the millions, especially in the deprived north. This will also prolong a Labour recovery because the Tories will attempt to retain those seats irrespective of the Brexit outcomes. So money will be invested in the region from their magical money tree, and people will vote them again by seeing the initiative, which might mean another Tory rule in 2024! What they won’t realise is that the Conservatives’ main agenda is to deprive communities of investments, so they main appear to be investing but will surely take the money back from peoples’ pockets. So what I thought I will be doing, despite sounding cheesy and somewhat plucked from a B-rated film, is not to let the fire that’s burning within be extinguished. A loss is soul destroying but it only makes you resolute. I felt that it was high time to regroup for 2024. And work towards a Labour Party with a united front, a lot more concerned at the perils of people but also more visible, and vocal to debunk the lies and bias in the media.

So come 2020 and it’s business as usual for me now. 2019 is gone, and the era of Corbyn is over. It’s time to move on and choose a Labour leader who would live up to the legacy of Jeremy Corbyn, as well as win back the confidence of the perennial Labour voters who shunned them this time. It’s also time to give up on Brexit and consider that it will happen and ensure that the living conditions of the EU nationals in the UK and the UK citizens in the EU are not in any way compromised in the process. And finally, I would want to see the start of transformation from the grassroots level. It’s about participation in the local communities and interests where the fightback will need to begin, not in the social media or closed-door meetings. With the arrival of 2020, I was finally able to put the horror of the election behind, and feel hopeful that 2024 will be a different story. It will, but if we only start acting on it now.

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Labour, Politics, UK

A synopsis of Labour Manifesto for 2019 GE and a brief guide to Tactical voting

So, I have finally managed to read through the Labour Manifesto for the 2019 General Election. Needless to say that as a supporter for social justice and abolition of inequality, the Labour pledge presents an ideal proposition. There are questions that could be raised, and answers are not available in the document, but the document instills a fresh breath of hope for the voters who have felt stifled during last nine years of austerity, through which, the Tories only managed to double the National Debt. The 107 page long manifesto is divided into five broad categories and numerous sub-categories, and in the sections below, I have extracted a bullet point summary of the salient features for each section. Some sections are longer, but nevertheless, it is evident that the Labour proposal is definitely for the many, not for the few.

Green Industrial Revolution

Economy and Energy

  • One million climate jobs – To Deliver the Green revolution
  • £400bn national transformation fund to invest in meeting climate and environment targets
  • Net zero carbon energy by 2030
  • Zero carbon standard for all new homes
  • Immediately ban fracking permanently
  • Supply arms of big six into public ownership
  • 3% of GDP in R&D towards climate goal

Transport

  • Free bus travel under 25s
  • Reinstate 3000 bus routes – Bring back routes less used and discontinued by private bus operators
  • Railways into public ownership – hope this will make the rail ticket more affordable. Would have been better if this was made free for under 21s
  • End of combustion engines by 2030 – ten years sooner than Tory pledge

Environment

  • Maintain and improve on EU standards of environment regulations
  • New Clean air act with vehicle scrappage scheme and clean air zone
  • £5.6bn for flood defences
  • Net zero carbon food production by 2040

Animal Welfare

  • Prohibit sell of snares and glue traps – people still buy them?!
  • Ban badger cull
  • Campaign internationally to end commercial whaling
  • Ban import of trophies – would have liked to see trophy hunting a criminal offence even if carried out on foreign soil

Rebuild Public services

Funding

  • Reverse corporation tax cuts – to c.26%, level lower than 28% in 2010, but higher than 19% as present. Conservatives shelved the plan to bring it further down to 17% but they will.
  • Crackdown on tax avoidance – would have liked to see a process/proposal how this would be implemented.
  • £150bn social transformation fund to replace, upgrade and expand schools, hospitals, care homes and council houses – A big ask, again, but desperately needed. It would have been needed at the end of austerity, regardless of the party.

NHS

  • End and reverse privatisation
  • Halt sale of NHS land and assets
  • Free hospital parking for patients, visitors and staff
  • GP training for 27 million appointments more – Tories offered 50 million
  • £2bn to modernise hospitals for mental health patients
  • £1bn fund and 4500 more health visitors and school nurses
  • Training bursary for nurses and midwives
  • Establish generic drug company – this is huge! This can eliminate NHS paying high prices for branded medicine to meet the zero prescription charges
  • NHS fully excluded from any international deal
  • Abolish prescription charges in England
  • Support autistic patients in home

National education service

  • Reverse sure start cuts – this is desperately needed for parents since over a 1000 has been shut in last few years.
  • Paid maternity leave to 12 months
  • 2,3,4 year olds 30hr free preschool – this will help working parents to be back to work sooner. presently the provision is means-tested.
  • 150,000 early years staff more incl. SENCO
  • Arts Pupil Premium- to fund arts education to every student
  • Free school meal for all primary children
  • Close tax loopholes for elite schools
  • Free entitlement to training up to level 3
  • Abolish tuition fees for university education and reinstate maintenance grants

Police and Security

  • Re-establish neighbourhood policing
  • Eliminate institutional racial and gender bias
  • Constrain powers of PM to suppress committee reports – as presently Boris Johnson suppressed the publication of the report on influence of Russia in recent UK government
  • Security treaty with EU even if Brexit happens

Justice

  • Break poverty inequality crime triangle
  • Restore prison officer numbers to 2010 levels
  • PFI prisons to back in-house
  • Restore all early legal aids
  • Halt court closures
  • Decriminalise abortion
  • Public enquiry into blacklisting and Grenfell

Communities and Local government

  • Reinstate council spending to 2010 levels
  • Restore high street
  • Stop post office closures and bring Mail in-house
  • Reunite with Post office and create Post bank to fund green initiatives
  • National youth service for access to local work

Fire and rescue

  • 5000+ fire fighters

Digital, culture, media & sport

  • Broadband into public ownership
  • £1bn cultural capital fund for libraries, museums and galleries
  • Free entry to museums – At least they can be made free for under 25s.
  • Free TV license for over 75s
  • Premier league income spent in grassroots
  • Curb gambling ads – help prevent gambling addiction

Tackle Poverty and Inequality

Work

  • Eradicate in work poverty – for families with not enough income to meet the expenses
  • Living wage £10 for all over 16 – not the cop out £10.50 for over 25s
  • Universal basic income pilot – it will be interesting to see the outcome, preferably used on the lowest income areas first
  • Ban zero hour contracts
  • Right to flexible working for all
  • Paternity leave to 4 weeks and increasing statutory pay
  • Introduce statutory bereavement leave
  • 4 new bank holidays – 4 holidays…yay! Selecting the patron Saints’ days possibly an easy win rather than celebrate significant days in British history instead.
  • Eliminate gender pay gap and pay discrimination
  • Ban unpaid internships – why would an intern do all the donkey work without any payment anyway?
  • Remove restrictions on trade unions
  • Repeal trade union act 2016
  • Align UK law in line with ILO
  • Reduce full time working hour to 32 in a decade
  • Ending opt out option for EU working time directive
  • New labour courts
  • Amend companies act – for companies to prioritise long term growth

Women and equalities

  • New Department for women and equalities
  • Close gender gap by 2030
  • Ban dismissal of pregnant women
  • 10 days paid leave for victims of domestic abuse
  • Misogyny will be hate crime
  • Educate about migration and colonialism

Migration

  • Scrap 2014 immigration act
  • End indefinite detention and inhumane condition
  • £20m to survivors of modern slavery
  • Free movement for EU workers
  • End deportation of family members – of people with rights to stay in the UK
  • End minimum income for migrants
  • Safe asylum process

Social Security

  • Scrap universal credit
  • Scrap benefit cap and two child limit
  • Payment 2 weekly, rent direct to landlords
  • End digital only, +5000 advisors
  • Scrap bedroom tax
  • Increase local housing allowance
  • Assessments in house for disabled people
  • No increase in state pension over age of 66

Housing

  • £1bn fire safety fund for fire safety in all high rise council houses
  • More than a million homes by 2030
  • Scrap definition of affordable homes – Definition linked to local incomes
  • Stop social cleansing – All residents offered a new place in the same development
  • Levy on overseas companies buying houses
  • End leasehold properties
  • New minimum standards for renting
  • End rough sleeping
  • National levy on second holiday home

Constitutional issues

  • End hereditary principle of House of Lords
  • Abolish House of Lords – replaced by Senate of Nations and Regions
  • Voting age 16
  • Ban funding from tax avoiders
  • Repeal lobbying act 2014
  • Women access to abortion in NI
  • No hard border in Ireland
  • Scotland £100bn. 120000 homes.

Brexit

  • Brexit 3 months to a deal. Six months to referendum
  • UK wide customs union
  • close alignment with single market
  • Consumers, environment rights to be at least at pace with EU
  • Close cooperation with security arrangements
  • Scrap existing Brexit legislation
  • EU nationals automatic right to stay

A New Internationalism

A New Internationalism

  • Introduce war powers act, no PM can bypass parliament
  • Audit impact of colonialism

Effective Diplomacy

  • Judge led enquiry into torture and secret court
  • Issue formal apology for Jalianwala Bag
  • Stop arms deal with Saudi and Israel
  • Seek justice for breaches of human rights across the world
  • Support two state solution

Defence and Security

  • £100m to UN peacekeeping missions
  • Support Trident – that’s an about turn! Why would one support Trident?

International Solidatity and Social Justice

  • Department for International development
  • support UN process of binding business and human right
  • International climate finance £4bn/year
  • Aid-funded Food Sovereignty Fund for Global South

There are many more policies through which the government proposes to put an end to austerity. A number of financial analyses were run on Labour’s policies and the general view is that it is achievable, but possibly unrealistic on timescale. However, desperate times need desperate actions. The austerity has split the country – not just into North-South divide but the entire society is divided. What’s worrying is the inequality is widening rapidly and for their vested interests, the Tory government is unwilling to stop the austerity.

The increasing pay gap between the richest and poorest areas in the UK, and a comparison with other countries
Source: Economist

Clearly the Labour manifesto touches life of the many and not for the few who usurp the system with the help of their Tory elitist pals. It gives people hope, reinstates faith in the role of the state and shows a way how the government can embrace the climate concerns and the social, economic and political reforms can all pivot around the climate policies. It also shows that governance doesn’t have to be top-down like authoritarian regimes, but a bottom-up approach is equally viable, where local communities and people are given the powers to make the governance happen.

Amid all the euphoria, few things stand out, that is no clear execution plan, with a timeline. I have browsed through the Tory manifesto as well, notwithstanding the fact that most of it will be lies. What I found easily accessible is their costing report, where they show how they propose to fund any additional investments year on year, and how they are planning to earn the revenue. The Labour manifesto showed the revenue at the end of 2023/4 but the division was not presented on yearly basis. However, some additional information was presented in the detail analysis later on, although for most of the readers, that information would go amiss if they are only looking at the summary revenue and expenses sheet. Also, it was curious how both parties show a completely balanced sheet with revenues equal to expenses. Chances of that happening is slim. I would have also liked to see a detailed timeline of when exactly some of the policies will be implemented. Kudos to them for areas where a clear deadline was provided, such as three months to reach a deal with the EU and six months to the new referendum. But it would have been useful to know what else will be happening in first six months, one year, two years…But I guess it’s a difficult ask for an ambitious plan. If you offered tumbleweed, you can come up with elaborate plans to make it look massive, but the opposite is not easy to make it both credible and lucrative to all stakeholders. My final observation is about the recipient of the manifesto document. I know it needs to serve the interests of the complete demographics, but in my view, Labour’s manifesto should be about the unheard voices – the people who are left behind by the Tories with their austerity. Apart from the manifesto, there should have been templates for what the Labor pledge meant for e.g. Nurses, Police, Firefighters, Social workers, Pensioners, Disabled persons, Teachers, EU migrants, single mothers etc. Perhaps there are videos and other resources, but the people who are so hard pressed to make ends meet are not expected to go through the wordy manifesto. Oh and on Page 63, there was a typo “introducenew” with space missing. At least it’s only a space, unlike missing truth or integrity like the Conservative party.

I wouldn’t expand much on the catalogue of lies spewed by the Tories, as this will become a very long post. I would leave at the fact that they lied on the first day of the campaign by publishing a doctored video of Keir Starmer, then they changed their Tweeter handle to FactCheck spreading lies about Labour campaign, then lied about the number of nurses to be recruited…to top it off, the social media ads are 88% lies or at best misleading. If lying was not vile enough, the Tories have ramped up the hate campaign against the immigrants again to blow the Brexit trumpet, holding the EU nationals and other migrants accountable for everything they failed to deliver. The latest of the hateful rhetoric came from the PM himself, where he claimed that he’ll curb the immigration from EU as they treat this country like their own. They stooped even lower to use the death of Jo Cox and Jack Merritt to foment the anti-immigrant hatred. They have been openly criticised by the bereaved families, but the Conservative Party has no shame, so I can imagine the criticisms and appeals to show some integrity have fallen into empty ears. Not that it’s surprising. Note the Tory election campaign leaflet in 1964 at Smethwick, how divisive they can be to retain power. This is happening again – and they still are equally blatant.

Smethwick election campaign leaflet from the Conservative Party, 1964

So, with a fantastic manifesto, my vote goes to Labour. I don’t mind paying additional taxes or taking some extra burden if that brings even one person out of poverty. But what’s needed to bring Labour in power? There are many marginal seats and they hold the key to swing towards a labour victory. Tactical voting does work and it probably bothers the loyal voters of Labour/LibDem/Green to vote another candidate, but this is the last chance to get rid of vile Boris Johnson and his cabinet of liars, thieves and hatemongers. Here is a rough outline of how to vote tactically –

  1. Find if you are in a marginal seat from this Guardian guide
  2. Find the trend in your local area – GE2017, or even the local elections to see which Tory opposition is gaining more support. Be careful if you use the local elections though, because of the appalling turnout.
  3. Use your social sphere to influence opinions of the floating voters. If you canvas, even better.
  4. Join any last minute local events to bolster the confidence of the people who would like to vote tactically but undecided if that will work.
  5. Vote…go out and bloody vote if you can. There is no point suffering another Tory regime when you have the chance to make the change happen.
Some more links regarding analyses on labour manifesto:

1. https://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/BN271-Labour%27s-nationalisation-policy.pdf
2. https://www.ifs.org.uk/election/2019/article/what-do-the-election-manifestos-mean-for-local-government-funding
3. https://www.ifs.org.uk/election/2019/manifestos
4. https://www.ifs.org.uk/election/2019/article/reducing-in-work-poverty-the-role-of-minimum-wages-and-benefits
5. https://www.ifs.org.uk/election/2019/article/how-high-are-our-taxes-and-where-does-the-money-come-from
6. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/28/ifs-manifesto-labour-economy-investment
7. https://friendsoftheearth.uk/general-election/election-manifestos-labour-tops-friends-earths-climate-and-nature-league-table
8. http://newingtoncomms.co.uk/analysis-labour-manifesto
9. https://fullfact.org/election-2019/labour-manifesto-2019/
10. https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/our-campaigns/believe-better-society/liberty-analysis-labour-party-manifesto
11. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/nov/28/ifs-manifesto-verdict-neither-tories-nor-labour-have-credible-spending-plan?fbclid=IwAR29h2hL_p1p52AYmA7mpmvXzqY4vHrE8ldsm4P9JR265J7PRCEEzPV-0es
12. https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/manifesto-tracker?fbclid=IwAR2FiKAZ4oPu2X8gL-imC2jkK5lgZJeX2o_2EXZQg_jsWaLc5QsAMS_JVkY
13. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/dec/09/numbers-public-ownership-uk-utilities-nationalisation?CMP=fb_gu&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR1jWbWUEjtZKd2IgjbZnfNt6971vCE1QCZd9LwQAAcuiaizvXWwjLwQ5Kw#Echobox=1575909790

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