Now I don’t usually talk much politics these days, but this is important. Here’s an urgent appeal to all my friends in the UK for tomorrow: please, take your all-important right to vote seriously, go to your polling station and vote – anything that will weaken the Conservative Party’s iron grip on our country. Don’t think ‘it’s only a local election’ – it’s local politics that deal with most things that directly influence our lives.
Think about what you want for yourselves, your family and everybody else you know and love in your community, and carefully study the material the various parties have been throwing through your mailbox; just bear in mind that NOT all politicians are the same: some are honest (believe it or not), while others are deceptive and cunning. And if you’ve been following politics at least vaguely on TV, in newspapers or online, you’ll probably already have a hunch about who the biggest deceivers are – unfortunately, it’s the party that’s been in power for the last decade, and indeed for most of the history of modern Britain.
Being a historian, I’ve always had a keen interest in politics, political parties and ideologies – they’re what defines and changes a country, a people; and ever since we’ve all had the right to vote, we’re also responsible for what and if we vote (staying at home certainly doesn’t help: indifferent non-voters are a godsend for the ruling class!), so we’d better get interested a bit so that we know what we’re doing on election day.
Now I’m not going to beat about the bush: I’m going to vote Labour. Mind, I’m not a blind supporter (nobody should be, we should always look at things in an unbiased way), I’m not hiding the fact that I’m not 100% sure about Keir Starmer; he’s not a patch on Jeremy Corbyn, and the way he got rid of him and other members of Labour’s left wing was a bit obvious. Still, he’s the only feasible alternative at the moment to more Tory mismanagement – Labour has got a history of making things better for the people every time they manage to win an election…
After the end of the Second World War, British voters very rightly decided that Churchill wouldn’t be the best option for a peacetime Britain, and elected Clement Attlee – the first Labour Prime Minister since Ramsay MacDonald in 1929. Attlee indeed did a great lot for the country during his 5 year term: he installed a welfare state that took care of all people and gave them social security with public housing, decent wages and pensions, free school meals – and his Minister for Health, Welshman Aneurin Bevan, created one of the greatest treasures this country has: the NHS. It has been badly battered by Tory governments over the decades, but it’s still there, and it’s what’s giving us this decisive advantage in Coronavirus vaccination over other countries right this moment.
Then, after another long spell of Tory rule, Harold Wilson became Prime Minister in the 1960s – and made more changes that made a big difference for British people: comprehensive schools and Open Universities, battle against unemployment, more rights for workers and trade unions, and a large-scale council housing programme. (Needless to say that most of those achievements were bulldozed just a few years later by the most horrific of all Tory Prime Ministers, Margaret Thatcher.)
Now, let’s not dwell on Tony Blair’s government for too long; his ‘New Labour’ policies, as he called them, had hardly anything in common with the true ideals and goals of the Labour Party, they were much closer to those of a liberal or even a conservative party, promoting business and finance and instead reducing benefits and introducing tuition fees. Since then, Labour has changed back to its old left-wing course – as I’ve mentioned before, Corbyn was truer to this course than Starmer, but at least the general aim is still there: for the many, not the few. Don’t vote your own class enemy!
For those of you who still believe that the Conservatives are a ‘people’s party’, let me explain why they are NOT: they don’t care about the average people, the hard-working people living in flats or houses at horrendous rents or with burdening mortgages; they don’t even know HOW most of us live. They don’t have any idea about the price of milk or bread or toilet paper, they don’t have to worry about how to feed, clothe and educate their children or how to survive on a meagre pension, they live in a different world together with their rich friends in business and finance; their only clientele are the 5% of the population that owns 90% of Britain’s wealth.
This is not a general election, so if you don’t agree with Labour you can send a message: there is a big choice of smaller parties of various directions and descriptions, so if one of them appeals to you, you can do damage to a local Tory government this way as well, and at the same time make life in your constituency better for everybody.
For those of us who, like me and my darling husband, live in one of the devolved nations of the UK with a separate Parliament, this election is more serious, though, because we basically elect our own national government. I’m very privileged to be able to vote for the Welsh Senedd, both being a foreigner and having only lived here in Wales for a few months. So, Ian and me are going to split our votes between Labour and Plaid Cymru, hoping that evolving from these elections will be a Welsh government of one of them or even a coalition of both. A socialist Wales will be able to perform great things!
Whatever you do, dear friends, don’t forget that your right to vote is immensely important, and you should be proud of contributing something to this country’s future with it. We CAN change things if we really want to!