Why you MUST vote in the 2019 General Election

In the last century, there has been two General Elections that have changed the course of British society forever. One of them led to the creation of our Welfare State – most notably our National Health Service. The other one led to the privatisation of our public services and the taming of the labour movement.

After one election, we all benefited. Though opinion polls favoured the Prime Minister that helped to fight the Nazis, the electorate took a chance on the party that wanted a clean break from the squalor. They wanted well-funded schools, modern homes and a party that would win the piece.

In the other election, a few spivs benefited. That party got a landslide, thanks to a few windy islands 7,943 miles away from Greater Manchester. With the majority, the PM and her bellicose acolytes wreaked havoc on the trade union movement. Then came ‘popular capitalism’ and the bogus trickle down factor. In later years, those well-funded schools became Academies. Our modern – publicly funded – homes, became homeowners’ homes through right-to-buy, or taken on by private tenants.

36 years and six months on from the 1983 General Election, Great Britain in its privatised, atomised form is in need of tender loving care. Swathes of the country have been deprived of investment; so much so that the benefits of previous schemes have been sticking plasters.

What are the answers? One party blames the previous government, in spite of being in government themselves for nearly a decade. Another one (and the first party) blames external influences across the English Channel from standing in the way of their ambitions. Another party blames the present government.

This year’s election may dwarf the 1945 and 1983 General Elections in terms of historical significance. A vote one way could see us being an outward looking European nation – whether we choose to stay in the European Union or otherwise. One vote another way could see us being the 51st State of America. Or a tiny island off the English Channel kicked about by Trump or Putin.

Some camps in the mainstream media are billing this year’s General Election as The Brexit Election. Each afternoon or evening news bulletin has seen vox pop interviews where interviewees have had no qualms about getting Brexit done at the expense of other more important issues. Important issues like:

  • Waiting six hours or more for a doctor in A&E with twenty-one other people. At 3am. On a Monday morning.
  • Being unable to travel from Stalybridge to Hyde by bus without changing in Ashton-under-Lyne after 6pm, thanks to departmental spending cuts affecting tendered bus services.
  • Having to wait five weeks or more for your first Universal Credit payment – and finding it isn’t the full amount because of sanctions or repayments from an advance payment you requested to cover the five weeks.

These are only a small number of everyday issues we may come across. Yet, some channels insist that Brexit is the only game in town. Our planet is facing record high temperatures, yet our incumbents’ heart lies in fracking the UK. All the money spent on getting Brexit done could have gone on more useful things like public libraries, bus services, or developing greener industries.

No-one in any civilised country, in genuine need of work or in-work benefits, should have to wait five weeks or more for their first payments. Nor should they be out of pocket for weeks over the slightest mistake in job hunting activities.

How important is this year’s General Election?

For anybody earning less than £100k a year, vastly important. Everybody, irrespective of financial standing benefits from well-funded public services. The present government has brazenly underfunded and unfunded our libraries, NHS, bus routes, schools and infrastructure.

Should they succeed in getting Brexit done, even the softest of Brexit varieties would undermine the economy. This of course would increase unemployment and mean more cutbacks to the public sector. Even the privatisation of our NHS to a full-on US style insurance-based system.

Why should I vote on the 12 December 2019?

There are several reasons why you should vote in this year’s General Election. Here’s a few others you might not have considered:

  • Constituency Boundaries: the present government has considered cutting the number of MPs from 650 to 600 by the 2020s. This could be the last General Election where your parliamentary candidate could be one of 650 MPs instead of 600.
  • Voter ID: if the present government is returned to office, you will need to bring photo ID to your polling station after this year’s General Election. If you do not have a passport or a driving licence, this year’s General Election could be your last chance to cast a vote!
  • The abolition of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act: one party has suggested the abolition of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act in their manifesto. Further into this paragraph on Page 48 (see Prospect Magazine‘s article), they would wish to give the PM further powers, which would undermine parliamentary representative democracy. Therefore, if they do get in, their present leader will have Absolute Power to abolish elections and override parliament via Henry VIII powers. At worst, this year could see Britain’s last ever General Election.

What if the present incumbents stay in Number 10?

In a nutshell, we are doomed. Seriously.

Let’s have a look at their interpretation of getting Brexit done. Their claim is that the EU is stopping Britain from reaching its full potential. Have we forgotten why we applied to join the EEC (as it was then known in the first place)? It was to boost trade between our immediate neighbours. As time progressed it became a political union as well as a powerful trading bloc – and one of the most powerful at that. Remember which party was in power when we joined in 1973? Yes, it was them.

Why do they want to leave the EU this time? Well, the European social democratic tradition of treating workers like sentient beings instead of profit centres is anathema to their line of thinking. The EU brought us the Working Time Directive, which ensured that nobody would be forced to work more than 48 hours a week. They also funded infrastructure projects in deprived areas, which our present incumbents would have lovingly left to rot.

In their favoured journals, the readers are told that leaving the EU means taking back control. It means trading with other nations we have (allegedly) been barred from trading with at all. In reality, it takes years to complete a trade deal. The benefits wouldn’t be as great as our nearest overseas trading partners could be hundreds or thousands of miles away instead of 22 miles from Dover.

Trade is the only thing on their mind. As for workers’ rights, forget about that. They will use our departure from the EU to get rid of your rights to fair treatment at work. Holiday entitlement will be cut; no-fault dismissals could be the norm; discrimination will be encouraged instead of discouraged. Apart from that, your lunch (if you get one) could be subject to more lax hygiene standards, all for the sake of profit.

As for your wage, forget about pay rises. Yes, they have been static in the last ten years, but the present government could help to lower them even further. The Living Wage could be lowered to Far Eastern levels; some bosses may be happy to join in their race to the bottom.

Try to imagine how your public services could be in five years time. “What public services?” could be an appropriate question as more councils in deprived areas will continue to bear the brunt of further spending cuts. Some might have to merge as running the most basic services becomes less affordable. There may be no libraries but a few potholes would have been fixed.

Try to imagine the NHS in five years time. In the present form, there might not be one. The present incumbents’ friends would be running health insurance schemes, fleecing their customers whilst refusing to pay out after having a heart attack. Reception areas will have chip and pin machines; “Have you got insurance?” might be the first question your friendly ambulance driver may ask.

Somehow, getting Brexit done should be the least of your worries. If it is your main concern, think again. Is the loss of properly funded services a worthy sacrifice for the sake of imposing border controls that could have been imposed already as EU members?

Brexit under present company will be dangerous, venal and brutish. At worst, they will use our exit from the European Union to turn Britain into an isolationist little group of islands. One where a blue passport wouldn’t guarantee travel from Workington to Dundee without a visa if Scottish independence looms. In short, totalitarianism with St. George’s flags, tea, scones and benefit sanctions.

Remember this: they are the party that chooses to cut the number of billionaires by turning them into trillionaires. They are the party that chooses to cut unemployment by killing them off through destitution.

What if the Leader of the Opposition’s party is elected?

Instead of being Trump’s turd or Putin’s poodle, Britain could be an outward looking European country. One that could regain its reputation for fair play irrespective of its status as an EU Member.

Let’s have a look at how the main opposition party would get Brexit done. Firstly, they favour a People’s Vote – once again, giving you a chance to favour remaining in or leaving the European Union. Though they understand that there may be job losses with the latter option, any withdrawal agreement will be centred around the electorate. Real people instead of hedge funds, Trump, Putin and billionaires.

Secondly, if the results of a People’s Vote favour staying in the EU, our existing benefits like Freedom of Movement will remain. We could look at the previous half decade as a bad dream, but one or two may be skriking because they didn’t get their Brexit for Christmas.

The opposition party’s interpretation of taking back control means the public ownership of our railways. Also a return to properly funded public services at least, in the first parliamentary term, to pre-2010 levels. In the workplace, ‘workers’ rights from day one’ instead of ‘workers’ rights gone’. Zero hour contracts could be outlawed. Universal Credit could be scrapped with an end to the five-week wait and the DWP’s sanctions regime.

Certainty of employment and a safety net in times of hardship: now that’s what you call taking back control at a personal level. Not the ‘taking back control’ of shifting power to unscrupulous bosses, hedge funds and a select few billionaires. That of ‘taking back control’ by means of encouraging trade union membership and enabling employees to have a stake in their company. Also the retention of holidays with pay and the aim of a four-day working week.

Halfway through the parliamentary term, Britain would probably be a happier place. A four-day working week could improve productivity and domestic tourism. The three-day weekend could boost our service industry, which has been in the doldrums for nearly a decade. The extra day away from work could be used by some people to learn a new skill, language, or set up their own business. Or added family time.

If we wish to take the bus or train, there’s a good chance that your services will be properly invested in and, in some areas, franchised and publicly controlled. Your trains may be in public ownership, putting to an end the franchisee’s cavalier attitude to rail operations.

In the long term, we could be a more compassionate and intelligent country. What is promised by the main opposition party are moderate policies that are far from extraordinary in Mainland Europe. Even America, noted for its free trade leanings, has publicly controlled buses and water boards.

With nearly ten years of austerity and the underfunding of our public services, real change could be the answer.

A few more things to consider…

  • Vote for policies not personalities: leave the personality contests for the reality television programmes, not the Polling Station. You don’t have to like the party leader if you feel his or her party’s policies make sense.
  • You are voting for the Member of Parliament in your constituency, not the party leader. Britain doesn’t have (as yet) a presidential system, it has a Representative Democracy. If you vote for Mr. Smith’s party, you are voting for Mr. Smith instead of the party leader. If Mr. Smith happens to be your favoured party’s leader, that is pure coincidence.
  • Forget about your own interests; think about which policies might work for the country as a whole. You might want to Get Brexit Done or yearn for real positive change. Try to picture Britain five years from now before you cast your vote next Thursday.

One more thing…

Get out and vote, as early as you can.

S.V., 05 December 2019.

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