A Labour of Love
It has been a long time since I’ve been to a proper political rally. Sure, I’ve attended several protests to oppose the planned closure of Accident and Emergency services at my local hospital, Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, but those were not, per se, political. No, the last time was fifteen years ago when I was seventeen and outraged we were dropping bombs on Afghanistan.
And I have never been to a rally with a speech from a flesh-and-blood politician during an election campaign, let alone the Leader of the Opposition. Which begs the question: why now? Why Labour? Why listen to Jeremy Corbyn speak at Beaumont Park?
The answer is not necessarily simple, but here we go. In the last election, in 2015, I voted Green. In 2010 I voted Liberal Democrat. In 2005 I voted Labour. The centre-left has always attracted me; the policies resonate with me in a way that those of the centre-right never have. I do not believe in party loyalty — quite obviously, as I’ve switched allegiance four times between three different parties (yes, I will be voting Labour in the 2017 election). I believe that policies, not people, principles, not parties, should inform and help me decide who to vote for. In each election, my circumstances have been different. The national circumstances have been different. And this has helped form my decision for who to vote for.
This election, however, is slightly different. I’ll lay my cards on the table; I identify with the Green Party more than I do with Labour. If everything was equal, if things weren’t as they are now, I’d be voting for them. But as I get older, it becomes more difficult to reconcile principled voting with our electoral system, with a biased media and with voters who simply vote for a party because that is what they have always done.
The centre-left in the UK has five — FIVE! — political parties vying for our attention: the Liberal Democrats, Labour, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP. The centre-right only two — and one of those, UKIP, is (I sincerely hope) on its last legs. The Conservatives, especially now they have moved away from the more centrist policies of David Cameron, have little opposition when it comes to canvassing those who hold centre-right views.
And this is terrifying. Because the split in centre-left votes can almost guarantee a near-one-party state for Britain for the foreseeable future. No party in a supposed democracy should ever — ever — be unchallenged or unchallengeable in any way, shape or form.
But I’m digressing. I’ve paid more attention to Labour this time around precisely because certain media barons and political leaders and agitators would love to write them off. And I like their policies. I like their vision for the future of this country. And, because we have a first-past-the-post electoral system, rather than proportional representation, and because of voter psychology and loyalty, they represent the best chance to build a more progressive, inclusive and compassionate country. And that is something I have always wanted.
In other words: help me, Jeremy Corbyn; you’re my only hope!
At the rally today I was struck by the sheer diversity of people in attendance. Young and old. Male and female. Black and white and Asian and South-East Asian. Couples. People on their own. A young, black woman with dreadlocks. A thin, young, white man with a pink mohawk. An older, South-East Asian woman in a headscarf who proudly held up a Vote Labour placard. Men and women with bared, tattooed arms. School children in uniform who’d rushed from the school gates. An older black gentleman in a traditional Yorkshire flat cap. A smiling student wearing a rainbow Pride ribbon.
It was glorious. It was diverse. It was a melting pot that showed the Britain I know and love — a multicultural society where people can be brought together regardless of faith, creed, wealth, orientation, gender, etc. And so, so, unlike the stage-managed, colourless, lack-lustre affairs so far put on by the Conservatives. These were the real people, with real local press (who weren’t even locked in a cupboard but were actually encouraged to do their job), coming out to support a vision for a better country.
I couldn’t help but get swept up in the fervour.
There was a great deal of cheering, applause, and chanting as the speech progressed but the biggest support from the crowd was when Jeremy Corbyn spoke about the diversity of society, about bringing people from all backgrounds together. That, to me, spoke volumes. It wasn’t simply the policies that brought these people out. It was the vision — a vision of a better society not just for a few but for the many.
I didn’t need any convincing; I vote for hope rather than despair. And whilst that vote might be a tactical one, it’s being used to further a general aim, a general vision, shared by several different parties. And one that, I am afraid, I do not see being shared in the same way by the Conservatives. As much as I would love to vote Green, that is one less vote for Labour, and that really does constitute an own goal. From economics to LGBTQI issues, from mental health to education, the Conservatives fail to represent me, and millions like me. Labour are offering me everything the Conservatives are not. And until we have a fairer, more representative and more informed voting system, they are going to get my vote.
So, I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. The purpose of this was to explain my own decision in choosing to vote Labour. I only ask you to consider, alongside all the policies, amongst all the news — biased and unbiased — who best embodies your ideal for a better society for Britain. I know who I will be voting for on June 8th to hopefully accomplish this goal; go and have a look, have a think, make sure you’re registered and hopefully you’ll do the same.