I've voted Labour all my life. This time out, I could not justify it, for various reasons. This is why.
In every election since turning 18, I’ve voted for Labour. I grew up in a pub, reading copies of the Daily Mirror, which had a huge influence on my worldview. Stories of the miners, of the impact Conservative governments had on people, the way they sacrifice those at the bottom to enrich themselves and others who are already rich enough; I decided very early on that they were a party I could never vote for. Given the electoral system in the UK, there was only one party worth voting for: Labour.
In 1997, I was too young to vote, but I celebrated on holiday when Tony Blair’s Labour were elected to office. Throughout the course of the Labour government, I became eligible to vote, and the cross in my box went for the Labour candidate, almost without any thought. Yes, they’d got Iraq horribly wrong, but I couldn’t vote for anyone else – the risk of a Conservative government was just too great. I repeated the cycle in 2010, 2015 and 2017. I didn’t even have to think about it; the choice was Labour or Conservative, and the answer was always Labour. However, in 2017, something was different. While I’d voted almost automatically every time, I did believe Labour were the best choice. Over the previous years, as my knowledge and experience of politics grew, I was starting to believe this less.
Following Ed Miliband’s failure in 2015, I joined the Labour party. I’d never felt the need to join Labour, despite my belief they needed to be elected. What changed was my friend, Jamie ‘Jeeves’ Ayers, had become very political – annoyingly so – and had stood to be the Labour party’s candidate for election in Penrith and the Border, my constituency. While his political righteousness was difficult to listen to at times, it was clear he was well-read on the subject and, most importantly, he was very passionate about improving things in the constituency. He lost out in the candidacy race by just three votes, to a man called Lee Rushworth. This was infuriating, as Rushworth had only ever visited the constituency to visit Labour meetings, having been imposed upon the constituency by the national party in order to ‘gain experience,’ with the idea being that, in the future, he’d be able to run for a winnable constituency.
Now, this whole process is just barmy to me. While Penrith and the Border is one of the safest seats in the country, with 60.4% of people voting Conservative and the constituency having only ever elected Conservatives, the idea that Labour would just dismiss it as a practice seat infuriated me. What made it worse was knowing that, despite the national party’s impositions, my friend had missed out by just three votes. Now, it’s unlikely he would have won, but Rushworth, this clown, he never even intended to win. If me and three mates had been Labour party members, Jeeves would've been the candidate, and would've had the opportunity, however slim, to use his passion to improve our constituency. I didn’t want that situation to repeat itself, so I joined the Labour party, hoping that, next time out, Jeeves would have at least one extra vote in the bag.
I went to a constituency meeting, and I was quite excited by the prospect. It felt like joining a group that wanted to make a difference. Miliband had failed, but we needed to come together to ensure a Labour victory next time. Once there, I found the meeting a bit dull, if I’m honest. It didn’t really have the vibe I’d anticipated beforehand; if anything, it felt like a bunch of people going through the motions, more like an elderly social club than a group of potential world-changers. Still, it was my first meeting, we’d just lost an election; it was bound to be a bit downcast. Then, it happened. One of the people leading the meeting, either the local party leader or the secretary, I forget which, stood up during a discussion. He made a statement that I just could not believe.
‘In the future, you lot can waste your time campaigning around here if you want. I’m not going to bother. I’m going to spend my time in Carlisle, where it actually matters.’
I never went back to another Labour meeting. I’d paid for a year’s membership, but once that year was up, I allowed my membership to lapse. In the 2017 election, I still voted for the Labour candidate, out of a sense of duty rather than any real conviction, but I knew it was pointless. Labour don’t care about Penrith and the Border. We’re sacrificed, designated as a practice constituency before the candidates attempt to stand somewhere the party deem more worthy.
Before sending off my postal vote, I actually thought about who to endorse. Pragmatically, I know that it is a straight choice between a Jeremy Corbyn government or a Boris Johnson government. Labour came second in the constituency last time out, so they remain the choice for those who vote tactically. But, this time out, they do not have my vote. Quite frankly, the party is a joke.
Labour go on about establishment stitch-ups, yet, it was Corbyn who awarded a lifetime peerage to Shami Chakrabarti days after she completed an enquiry into antisemitism within the party – the only Labour appointment to the House of Lords that year. Farcical. Labour want to retain Trident, while openly stating they will never use it. Laughable. If you don’t want it, get rid of it, and put the money elsewhere. Labour, the alleged home of ‘Straight-talking, honest politics,’ are refusing to take a position on Brexit, one of the most important political issues of our lifetime. Embarrassing. Corbyn has positioned his ex-girlfriend, who can’t get her sums right and who flounces around in a tantrum whenever anyone disagrees with her on Question Time, as his potential Home Secretary. Cronyism.
Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t want to be Prime Minister. He isn’t a leader, he’s a career protestor, who would rather be in opposition arguing why the government are wrong than in power making decisions. They argue he’s being democratic, letting everyone else decide the policies while he is their voice, but how can a man unable to make decisions for himself be Prime Minister? No opinion on Brexit, pump billions into Trident with no intention of using it, peerages for people days after conclusions of investigations into the party, top jobs for his mates – this is not the approach of a man serious about leading the country. That he is still Labour leader after already losing a general election - losing to the joke that was Theresa May, nonetheless – shows that the party are not serious about winning a general election. The man has already been rejected by the electorate once, and it won't be different this time. Despite being a lying, manipulative, cheating, abusive, duplicitous prick, who preys on the populace that votes for him and makes their lives worse to improve his own, Boris Johnson will waltz into Downing Street next week. It could even be a landslide. And it would have been so easily avoided, had Corbyn been replaced by someone even semi-competent, like everyone with any sense has told them to for years. The arrogance of the Labour party will cost so many people so much, and they’ll blame it on the media, and they’ll insult the electorate, rather than look at themselves.
It’s not easy for me to vote against Labour. Even now, days after sending off my postal vote, I feel like I’ve done something wrong. I’m hearing the voices of so many people in my head, calling me a Tory-enabler, saying I’ll be to blame for Boris. But I’m not, and I won’t be. This Labour party are the Tory-enablers, not me. They’ll be the ones to blame.
The simple truth is my vote, like so many others, simply doesn’t count, by virtue of the electoral system in this country. So, if it doesn’t count, why on earth should I vote pragmatically? Why should I vote out of a sense of duty, rather than for the policies I believe in? If people always vote the way they have always done, nothing will ever change. They will say it is impossible, but it isn’t. You can look at Scotland, and how the SNP wiped-out Labour in 2015, to see how things can change. What are the most important issues to me? Sorting out the environment, which is going to end up having a far greater impact than even Brexit, and the introduction of Universal Basic Income, which I feel is an absolute necessity in the next few years. One party satisfies both these needs, as well as having favourable positions on issues that matter to me. On https://voteforpolicies.org.uk/, I took their survey, and my results were 13.3% Liberal Democrats, 20% Labour, and 66.7% for the Green Party. So, this time out, rather than voting against something I despise, I voted for what I believe in. I voted for the Green Party.
I’m not going to tell you to do the same. The thought of a Boris Johnson government scares me, not least because of the thought of paying American-style healthcare fees becomes very real under him. If your priority is ensuring he does not become Prime Minister, then vote Labour. Politics is most often about pragmatism, after all. But I will not vote for a party that does not take my seat seriously, who have sent someone up from Tottenham for a practice campaign, and who have no intention of winning the seat. This time out, I’m voting with my heart, not my head, and that’s why the Greens got my vote. Maybe if more people started voting with their hearts, we’d end up with a politics that we could start being proud of.