With just over three weeks to go until the general election it’s obvious now, if it wasn’t before, that the country will be faced with a clear choice on 8 June. Don’t let anyone tell you all politicians are the same or that it doesn’t matter who you vote for.
I’ve been a trade union leader for 15 years. I worked at Royal Mail from the age of 16 and raised my family on a council estate in Lambeth, south London. I’ve spent my life not in politics and Westminster, but in workplaces across the country – and for members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), for which I’m the general secretary, this is the most important election I can remember.
I’m struck by the contrast in the expectations I had when I started out and those of young people today. I listen not to the slogans casually being thrown around by Tory politicians who have never known what it’s like to have skin in the game, but what our members are saying around the country.
So while Theresa May stands in front of the television cameras to announce that the Conservatives will build a country that “works for everyone”, I wonder what she’d tell our young members who say they’ll have to wait for their parents to die to ever be able to afford their own home. Perhaps “strong and stable” wouldn’t really cut it with them.
Because let’s be clear about it, this is the country that her party has built in the past seven years: zero-hours contracts, food banks, in-work poverty. Things that were the exception a decade ago have become part of normal life. The headlines I last remember from 20 years ago about patients being stuck on trolleys in hospital corridors waiting to be seen are once again leading the news.
But this isn’t life for everyone in Britain today. The Tory mantra of “open for business” works out very nicely for some when it means little more than “up for sale”.
The houses our children can’t afford serve as hedge funds for the super-rich. The public services we pay hand over fist for end up in the hands of foreign governments. The companies putting frontline staff under ever greater pressure to work harder and faster for less just keep ramping up the handsome rewards for those at the top.
When the government that has presided over all of this – and has spent years telling us this is the necessary way of things – now promises it will “take back control” on our behalf, they must think we’re all idiots.
Only the Conservatives could have started the week announcing a “bold” move on employment rights, which actually meant the minimum wage would rise more slowly than planned by no less a revolutionary than George Osborne. Only the rightwing press could cover this as if May had turned into Che Guevara.
This week Labour announced an agenda for government that will deliver fundamental change – about time. So I make no apologies for backing the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn in the election.
A national education service; 100,000 council homes a year; renationalising mail, rail and energy; £6bn extra for the NHS; investment to grow the economy outside London; a crackdown on a labour market that operates like the wild west. These are proposals that make me believe my children might have a better future than my generation – a sense of optimism few of us have had much reason to feel in recent years.
So one thing is clear from the pledges we’ve seen this week. We do face a definite choice between more of the same under the Tories and a positive vision for the future under Labour.
They say it’s the hope that kills you. I disagree – it’s the lack of it that proves terminal in the end. So on 8 June there is only one option – vote Labour for the country and our children’s future.