Politics

All Together Now!

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A little over a month ago Theresa May announced that there would be a snap general election held on June 8th. If you’d asked anyone then what Labour’s chances of winning that election were the answer would have been “next to no chance at all”. Some may still hold that view but things have changed greatly between then and now.

Labour was polling in the low-20s when the election was called with the Tories somewhere in the mid to late-40s. In that time (in fact, in the last week) the Tories’ lead has been halved. They’re scraping the low- to mid-40s now, with Labour closing fast somewhere around the mid-30s. Today, polling shows that, in Wales, Labour are ten points ahead of the Tories, who just two weeks ago were in lead. The tide is turning and it’s not all to do with the excellent policies and dedicated activists Labour have under their belt.

When the Conservative manifesto was published just five days ago it contained a Social Care policy proposal that was so universally disagreeable, so fundamentally toxic, that even some Tory MPs distanced themselves from it. Today, less than a week later, Theresa May went on TV and had a breakdown, rolling back on the policy details. The cap on care costs that was rejected on live TV by Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt as being “unfair and unnecessary”. Today that cap has been pencilled into the margins of the manifesto.

Theresa May’s dreadful performance, on both the podium of her own press conference and her interview with Andrew Neil, proved definitively that she is less Strong and Stable and more Weak and Wobbly. “Nothing has changed!!” she yelled, but that’s not true. And the lies just keep on coming. The Conservatives’ Twitter account claimed that a Labour government would raise the income tax rate to 25p for working families – a blatant untruth. Why are they lying? Because they’re losing.

I fully expect the poll surge Labour are seeing continue. I fully expect to see Theresa May’s personal approval ratings plummet. Can Labour win this election? If we continue to put pressure on the Tories, calling out their lies and revealing their cruelty, and I think it can. It still won’t be easy, but it is doable. Things feel as though they’re changing. I’m feeling hopeful. Even if Labour do not win the election, I think it’s going to be much, much closer than the Tories think.

I’ve been wrong in the past and there’s a while to go yet. But I’m out there every day, fighting for my party. Please also do what you can – spread the word about Labour’s policies and have as many conversations as you can with anyone you can. We can do this. We really can.

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If We Want To Win We Need To Be Better Than Those We Seek To Beat

The last few years have seen some of the strangest political developments of modern times. You’d be forgiven for assuming we were part of an elaborate reality TV show if you didn’t know better. But somewhere along the line, alongside the cartoonish political climate, political argument has also turned into a caricature of itself. I’m not one to shy away from attacking my political opponent on any and all issues that present themselves; I’m forever retweeting this cutting remark on Twitter or sharing that damning expose on Facebook. But let’s switch that camera phone to selfie mode for a second…

Why do we (on the Left, if you like) have to resort to petty name calling and personal insults? Don’t we have enough ammunition to use against our political opponents based on their politics alone, without resorting to what essentially amounts to bullying? I first started thinking about this when Trump was running for President. Of course, there was a noise made about his abhorrent views on race and the lies told throughout his campaign, but there were even more “hot takes” about his hair and his tan. Even those articles criticising his politics were usually host to sentences like “wiggy wotsit Trump” or “Trump, looking like an albino Oompa Loompa” etc, etc. Are we not above that kind of attack, based on personal appearance? The dude has silly hair, sure. Now, about his proposed ban on Muslims entering the USA…

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I got really angry earlier this week when a photograph that was doing the rounds appeared to show White House Spokesperson Sean Spicer wearing odd shoes, one black and one brown. “Look at this idiot!” people roared, “He can’t even get dressed properly!!” And on and on it went, people – sensible people, who KNOW that if you want to criticise Spicer there are a lot of things to pick at – shared and laughed and mocked and didn’t for one moment consider whether there could be a reason for the odd shoes.

Two minutes on Google and I’d discovered that the photograph wasn’t a recent one. It was months old. And the reason Spicer was wearing odd shoes was because he has a problem with his ankle. He was wearing an orthopaedic boot. What was actually happening was outrageous. Progressive, sensible, lovely people I knew were sharing the image, mocking his shoes. I explained that a) the photo was an old one and b) they were mocking a man’s disability. “Can’t we just have some fun?!” asked someone I consider to be one of the kindest, most generous and progressive men I know. Others, too, seemed not to care for the truth as long as they could have a dig about Spicer’s boot. Really? Facts don’t matter when it’s us doing the name calling?

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Remember when Boris Johnson called Jeremy Corbyn a “mutton-headed old mugwump”? CLASSIC Boris, right? Floppy-haired buffoon Boris, right? Or shall we withhold our ire at his hair style and concentrate our efforts in attacking his dangerous views? When you use personal appearance as means of attack, you distract from the real issues. You risk turning your target into a sympathetic figure – I felt extremely sorry for Spicer after his disability was mocked by my friends. And I fucking hate the guy.

Following the “mugwump” furore, Jeremy Corbyn reacted in an adult way. He said of Boris “if he’s resorting to name calling and personal insults this early [in the general election campaign] it shows how desperate [he must be] and how lacking in substance their argument really is”. Classy, I thought. Corbyn stayed above the pathetic tittle-tattle and took the moral high ground. Of course, as always, his party soon stuck a pin in its leader’s reasoned and grown up approach by briefing that Tom Watson was to make a retaliatory attack on Boris in a newspaper article the next day. “He’s going to call Boris a ‘cheese-headed fopdoodle’!” we were told. And in just a few words, we were back in the gutter. I could have cried.

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And remember the outrage from us on the left when that photo of Ed Miliband eating a bacon sandwich did the rounds? “Pathetic! How can you possibly expect people to fall for your attack on the guy, not based on his policies but on one photo of him eating a sandwich a bit oddly!” we screamed. It was unbelievable! The likes of the Daily Mail were using “Sandwichgate” as a proxy for Ed’s apparent incompetence; surely nobody would fall for that nonsense?! And then what happened? A photo emerged of Theresa May eating chips. Suddenly the photo was everywhere, proof that she’s so out of touch that she doesn’t even know how to eat chips from a cone. My political contemporaries laughed and shared and mocked and meme’d… Had they forgotten their opinion on using such desperate personal attacks when they were against Miliband? Or is okay to resort to tit-for-tat bullying when it’s against the person you’re against?

Aren’t the left, in mocking the May chips photo, doing just what they criticised the right for doing in 2015? Are we really this hypocritical? “Well, if they can do it…” some may say. But that’s no good! We can’t just do the stuff we criticise our opponents for doing because “well, they did it so why can’t we?”! We need to be better than them. We need to position ourselves above the kind of cheap smears levelled against us and show that it’s the policies, not the personalities, that matter most. I couldn’t give a shit what the Prime Minister looks like eating chips or sandwiches as long as the policies they enact have the interests of the people at their heart.

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If Labour wants to win the general election – if the Left want to achieve anything at all going forward – it is essential, I think, for us to position ourselves above our opponents. Leave the “fake news” them. Bust it with facts where you can. Try not to resort to personal attacks on appearance or disability when there are myriad political issues to pick at. Don’t humanise the despots by mocking their funny hair, gammy leg, their weight or (for fuck sake) their race or gender. Concentrate on their views, the damage they do when their views influence their policy and the incompetence they display when they run our countries to the ground.

Be better than those you wish to beat. Show them to be the childish, desperate individuals they are by not joining in their petty games. Argue with honesty, using facts. Research your own points before throwing them out there – it’ll benefit you to be unassailably correct when your opponent is grasping at straws to bring your argument down. The right is wreaking havoc on both sides of the pond, so don’t mock their appearance but speak against their politics. And speak with an eloquence, honesty and factual basis that they do not. We have history on our side right now, so let’s not trivialise the issues that future generations will judge us on.

Labour’s 2017 Manifesto Has Been Leaked, And It Is BRILLIANT!

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Last night an entire late-draft of Labour’s 2017 General Election manifesto was leaked to various news outlets by persons unknown. While the details within it were not finalised, it seems that we can expect pretty much all that was leaked to appear in the final manifesto when it is published next week. Today, at a joint Shadow Cabinet/NEC “Clause V” meeting, the completed manifesto was unanimously agreed upon, with only minor “wording” changes made to the leaked draft.

So what’s in there? Well, below are the main points – grouped by topic – that are fully expected to appear in the document when its final draft is released. The following policies are fully costed, so don’t believe any news outlet or individual who tries to tell you that the Labour party is making promises they cannot keep.

RAIL

  • Bring railways into public ownership when private franchises end
  • Freeze rail fares when railways are nationalised
  • End driver-only train services
  • Free Wifi on all rail services

HEALTH

  • £6 billion extra for NHS investment
  • Ringfence mental health budget
  • Scrap NHS workers’ pay cap
  • Protect EU NHS workers’ rights

EDUCATION

  • Free school meals for all primary school children
  • Abolition of tuition fees and reintroduction of maintenance grants

HOUSING

  • 1 million new homes, including 100,000 council/housing association homes
  • Cap rents in line with inflation
  • 4,000 homes available for those sleeping rough

ENERGY

  • Create a nationalised energy company to compete with the Big Six
  • Bring energy grid and infrastructure network under government control

BREXIT

  • Retain close partnerships with the EU
  • Retain benefits of the single market customs unions
  • Guarantee existing rights of EU nationals in the UK
  • Secure reciprocal rights for UK nationals in EU countries
  • Bring an end to the “No Deal” options in Brexit negotiations

Jeremy Corbyn Launches The Labour Party's General Election Campaign

IMMIGRATION

  • Make no “false promises” on immigration figures, accepting that migration is a net benefit to the UK economy
  • Create a “Migrant Impact  Fund” to support public services in host communities

CARE

  • Move towards creating a National Care Service
  • Invest £8 billion in services over the next parliament, with £1 billion spent in year 1
  • Improve care workers’ conditions
  • Scrap 15-minute care visit restrictions and increase carers’ allowance

WORKERS’ RIGHTS

  • Create a Ministry Of Labour to invest in enforcing workers’ right for all
  • Repeal the Tories’ Trades Union Act
  • Ban zero-hour contracts and unpaid internships
  • Bring the minimum wage in line with the living wage (£10 by 2020)
  • Double paternity leave period to 4 weeks and increase pay
  • Strengthen maternity leave protections
  • Create 4 new public holidays

EXECUTIVE PAY

  • Put in place a 20:1 limit on the gap between the highest and lowest paid employees in companies with government contracts
  • Reduce pay inequality through legislation

TAX

  • No income tax rises for anyone earning below £80,000 a year
  • Large corporations will pay “a little more” tax while remaining competitive, with monies raised going into the education and skills budget

PENSIONS

  • Keep the triple-lock guarantee on pensions
  • Keep winter fuel allowance and free bus passes as universal benefits
  • Provide WASPI women with compensation

WELFARE

  • Scrap the “bedroom tax” and reinstate housing benefits for under-21s
  • Review Universal Credit cuts and 2 child Child Allowance restrictions

INFRASTRUCTURE

  • Borrow £250 billion over ten years to invest in energy, transport and digital infrastructure
  • Improve 4G mobile coverage country-wide and invest in 5G coverage rollout in urban areas and on motorway and rail routes

DEMOCRACY

  • Lower the voting age to 16 to give young people a voice

DEFENCE

  • Support the renewal of Trident
  • Keep defence spending at 2% of GDP

CRIME

  • Employ 10,000 extra police officers for local beats
  • Major review of the controversial “Prevent” counter-terror program

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While some media outlets will have you believe that the changes promised are left-wing lunacy, the truth is that this manifesto isn’t half as “radical” as it appears. The policies put forward are, according to almost every poll taken, very popular with the vast majority of the country. The Labour party manifesto is also fully-costed, remember, with reversal of corporation tax breaks paying for much of it. Full costing details will be released when the manifesto itself is officially launched. Until then, here’s a summary from Eoin Clarke on Twitter:

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There has never been a manifesto so purely aimed at bettering the lives of the people of this country – and through fairly straightforward changes, too. The challenge now is to make sure that voters everywhere are aware of exactly what Labour are offering. It is our duty to make sure the word spreads.

When you compare the excellent policies of the Labour manifesto with the handful of policies released already by the Conservative party – bringing back fox hunting being the biggest one so far – I find it hard to believe how anyone could consider giving their vote to any other party but Labour. This is a manifesto for the people which promises to make things better for the many, not the few. I’ll be sharing links to the completed manifesto when it is published next week so you can read for yourselves how Labour plan to make all of our lives better over the next five years and beyond. But to do so they need us to vote Labour!

There has never been a clearer choice in an election in my lifetime: more cuts, privatisation of public services and tax breaks for the rich (with some animal cruelty thrown in for good measure) in a country run in the interests of the donors of the governing elite under the Tories, or a return to a country that is run in the interests of its people, with public services supported and the greed of big business curtailed with Labour. On June 8th there is only one thing to do: VOTE LABOUR!

Policy summary based on ITV News/BBC News articles