Do you like the Buzzfeed style title? I thought it might increase the excitement a bit. Today is the last day of campaigning for the general election. Tomorrow we vote (well actually I’ve already postal voted as I’m in Norway running a workshop tomorrow, but the rest of the country votes). So, now is the time to put our cards on the table and make up our minds if they aren’t made up already.
Of course if you’ve been following my social media output, my blog, my wider writing, if you know me or even if you’ve looked at the picture that accompanies this blog then how I’m voting won’t be any kind of surprise. My vote is my decision and any one reading this might feel that they want to make a completely different decision. That is fine, but I present my reasons here in case they are of interest to you.
Moral and ethical reasons. I’ve written already this campaign about my concern about homelessness, I also feel ashamed to live in a country where food banks are so prevalent and where our cities are such a mess. My journey to work in the morning is on potholed roads and past piles of rubbish. I feel that the social fabric and the public realm are stretched after almost ten years of Conservative government and that it must be time for a change. It upsets me that the policy of austerity was essentially a way to make the poorest and most vulnerable people in society pay for flaws in the global financial system.
Professional reasons. I’ve analysed the policies of the main parties in relation to education, careers and employment policy. None of the parties are quite doing what I want (see the manifestos from the careers sector and the ISE if you want so see some more detail in manifestos that I’ve worked on). Nonetheless, the Labour manifesto offers the strongest set of policies available in the areas that I work in. The creation of a National Education Service to revitalise learning across the life course, an all age careers service, increased funding for Union Learn, and turning away from league tables and punitive inspections in education. These are all things that I have campaigned for professionally and that I believe will transform the careers system in the UK.
Personal reasons. There is a small possibility that under a Labour government with a more progressive taxation system that I might pay slightly more tax. I’m not worried about this if as a result I see investment in public services. My children are in state school, I rely on the NHS for health care, I worry about my pension, I have concerns about the way in which the under-investment in youth, social work, probation and policing services is ushering a greater number of people into crime, I’m fed up with travelling on broken roads, terrible bus services and expensive railways and my broadband is shitty and overpriced. Labour have policies to address all of these things. They are literally promising to make my life better. On the other side all we hear is that they are going to ‘get Brexit done’. This is a nonsense, and one which I think will actually make my life more difficult and worse.
Environmental reasons. I’ve already written about way the climate is a key issue that politics and education has to take seriously. My children are active in the climate strike movement. For them the environment is both the most important political issue and also one which causes them genuine personal worry about their future. In all of my discussions with them about post-secondary education and work they keep coming back to what state the planet will be in. Will the world be recognisable for them to live in if the environment continues to deteriorate? The Labour Party are finally taking this seriously and have proposed a Green Industrial Revolution which sets out an ambitious, but realistic, plan to address this crisis. The Conservatives are just going to ‘get Brexit done’…
Economic reasons. I have the privilege to live in one of the biggest economies in the world. We are probably the fifth or sixth richest country in the world. However, we invest a much lower proportion of this wealth into public services than many other countries. While (according to the OECD) the UK spends 42% of its GDP on public services, Finland spends 57%, Denmark 55% and Sweden and Norway 49%. I spend a lot of time in the Nordic countries (indeed I’m heading there today). When I’m there I always think that these countries are really like Britain, but that they work a bit better. People are happier, the cities are cleaner, people work less hours for more pay and things (both publicly and privately run) work. In Britain it feels like we haven’t got the hang of being a rich country. We always seem to want to penny pinch and undercut. We always allow money to float up to the top rather than spreading it around. As a result we spend all of our time dealing with social and economic problems caused by under-investment and social division. We need to change this story and create a society and an economy that is capable of dealing with the challenges of the future (global instability, automation, environmental change, mass migration and big data) in a way that serves the interests of the majority of people. This is about creating a more democratic economy which turns away from the model of financialization that we have seen over recent years. This is going to require investment, industrial strategy and a willingness to be brave and shake things up. The Labour manifesto signals the party’s willingness to take all of this on.
Tactical reasons. The polls are suggesting that there is going to be a Conservative government. The margin narrowed again this morning, putting a hung parliament back in play, but Conservative victory remains the most likely outcome. I really don’t want to see a Boris Johnson led, right-wing government propel the country into a hard Brexit with no checks on their power for five years. I hope that people vote Labour, but I also hope that we see the emergence of an anti-Tory vote (see The Guardian’s guide to tactical voting). I worry that a split opposition will hand the Conservative Party far more power than they deserve and leave us with an unrepresentative government enacting extremely radical and detrimental policies. The Conservative manifesto is notoriously vague, but underneath its imprecision and dullness, it actually promises some radical remaking of the country in the wake of Brexit. I fear what that remaking will look like and don’t want to give the Tories a blank cheque.
So there are some of my reasons for how I’m going to vote. I’ve enjoyed listening to Chris Biggs and Gill Frigerio share their thoughts over the last couple of days. If any one else wants to share theirs, I’d suggest you add it as comments to this post. It would be nice to break out of my bubble and hear thoughts from people from all parties.
Although this election campaign has had its problems, we have at least been taking about exciting and distinct visions for our country. There is a real decision to make, which will make a real difference to our country and to all of our lives. In two days time we will have made this decision together. I hope that we make the right one.