Political Rants

I have never voted for Labour. Today, that changes.

Yes. My big 2017 snap election secret is out. It still feels very weird to say, but hear me out.

My polling history has been sketchy at best, I have got to admit. I have had a huge overhaul in ideals and priorities in the last 5 years, which has resulted in my political standpoint moving more and more towards the left hand side of the spectrum.

My original party of choice was the Conservatives. Yes, I know. Again, hear me out.

They were something different, in a world where my views were slowly developing and growing, a disillusioned teen viewing the end of the Labour years, the financial crash, and the beginning of the end of New Labour. I had witnessed war in Iraq, terror in London, and a significant amount of struggle from people facing the brunt of poorly regulated banking systems and poor investment.

David Cameron and his new form of Conservative Party was a breath of fresh air, or so it seemed at the time, and I, like many others, was caught up in it. The 2010 election, the Conservative-LibDem coalition.

Despite being too young to vote at the time, I supported the Conservative campaign, I was a blue, a Tory, to the utter despair of people I knew, die-hard Labour supporters, friends. I went along with it all, I supported austerity cuts, because we needed to cut the deficit, we needed to get the budget back on track and reduce spending. It all made sense, but it didn’t play out that way.

It is bizarre to consider that, if the Tories were successful in their austerity, and removed the deficit by the 2015 election, I, and many others, may have had a soft spot for the government – maybe even praising them. But that didn’t happen.

The deadline kept on extending, and extending, and extending, and now we have moved on from a 2015 goal to end the deficit to a 2025 goal to end the deficit.

With the goalposts constantly moving further and further away, it became less and less possible to justify the cuts that the Conservatives were, and still are, making. They have made serious and damaging cuts to the NHS, started the privatisation of Royal Mail, cut funding for poor students, and a significant amount of other cuts that hurt the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and the young. How can someone still have faith in a party that has done nothing but take, and provide tax relief for the rich? Give or take a universally approved marriage equality bill, of course.

With all of this in mind, I made my switch to the Liberal Democrats. I voted for them the first time in the general election in 2015. I had seen through the unfair press they were getting as the minority party in the coalition. They made hard decisions and restrained a much more vicious Tory party than what we were expecting. They provided balance and security, and paid the price for it, as the Tories blamed them for the poor results and took the positive ones for themselves, something that they still do now.

Since then, I have been a Liberal Democrat. To my knowledge, I am still a Liberal Democrat. I have been a member of the party for over 2 years now, and very much defend the party and its core values. It holds a very major part of my political identity, with key figures such as Nick Clegg, Norman Lamb, and, possibly controversially, Tim Farron all inspiring me to be more involved in politics and form my liberal identity.

However, the 2017 election is unlike anything we’ve witnessed before on a political front. Half of the country is still reeling from the Brexit result, and the concept of a Tory Hard Brexit seemed inevitable until the election was called. The snap election that was, in my opinion, just a tool to take advantage of a fractured opposition and gain more seats. The Copeland by-election, the constituency next to mine, most certainly played a major part in this election being called. The Tories took an old Labour stronghold, an ex-Shadow Cabinet’s constituency, almost out of nowhere. Theresa May is intending on having that trend stretch further into Labour’s turf, gaining an even stronger government to have full and comfortable control over the Commons.

This is where strategic voting comes into play.

My local constituency has been a Labour stronghold for years. Tony Cunningham was the MP for 14 years before Sue Hayman took over in 2015, and Dale Campbell-Savours held the seat for an incredible 22 years before that between 1979 and 2001. For the first time in decades, that seat is at its most vulnerable, with the Conservatives trying its hardest to extend its support in the North.

Let’s not get just put my decision down to strategic voting, either. Sue Hayman is a pretty great local representative for the constituency. She has fantastic values, has fought hard for local concerns in the Commons, and has worked tirelessly throughout the entire election campaign. I know, I subscribed to her email updates and her schedule has been airtight at times. She even took time to go door to door, and spoke with my grandparents, sending them correspondence with an update on their concerns afterwards, too. It’s a fantastic work ethic and shows off a person who cares deeply for her party and the people in her Workington constituency, whilst my local LibDem candidate has been mostly mute, with most of the LibDems in the area’s concern being on Farron’s seat in Westmorland and Lonsdale. I just don’t feel obliged to vote for my party’s candidate if there is a better one available that would keep the Tories out of the area at the same time.

I must admit, too, that it goes beyond my local MP. The Labour manifesto very much speaks to me, and appeals to me in a lot of ways, sharing my views with a significant amount of their policies. I like Jeremy Corbyn, I think he is a breath of fresh air in modern politics, a man who has stuck to his guns through hardship and prosperity. I am not scared of him, far from it. He is not a man deserving of fear, unless your ideals are against a progressive, liberal movement, he is a man who has not let public opinions define him. He has done the dirty work when he has needed to, negotiating with the IRA to try and resolve the issues going on at the time. Having a discussion with terrorists doesn’t make him a terrorist sympathiser, it makes him better than the terrorists, he hasn’t resorted to violence to achieve a goal. This is the exact type of man who should be in charge of international conflict, whether political or military.

I do not have entire faith in the Labour manifesto, however. I do not think all the aims are achievable in one term, or at least not fully. Restructuring funding for the NHS, buying back the Royal Mail, and setting up a public energy company to drive down prices would take a hell of a lot of effort alone, never mind entirely scrapping tuition fees and reorganising them to a structure that works.

However, I’d very much rather a Labour manifesto that meets most of its goals, as opposed to a Tory government that is allowed to enact their manifesto in its entirety.

I feel like that is enough from me right now. I will be posting as the election day continues. But I feel like I have said enough for now.

If you are registered, go out and vote. I’d rather you didn’t go for a Tory option, but regardless of who you would vote for, exercise your right to vote. It’s important.

Happy Election Day, everyone.

Corey x

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The Introduction of the National Living Wage.

In 2015, George Osborne announced in his budget that the UK were going to make sure that, by 2020, we would be on £9 an hour, well deserving of the title “the National Living Wage”.

However, despite the fact that inflation by 2020 would arguably make £9 an hour less impressive (seeing that the Living wage rose by 40p in November), there is also a catch. At the moment, the only changes are going to be for people aged 25 and over.

The justification of this by the government is that it will allow young people to “secure work and gain experience” as well as to “maximise the opportunities” available to them.

Now, this seems fine and well, apart from the fact that this is pretty much going to screw over young people AND people over 25.

Just think about it. At this moment in time, the national minimum wage is £6.70 an hour. This applies (currently) to anyone over the age of 21, with the minimum wage for 18-20 year old workers being £5.30 an hour, and a staggeringly low £3.87 for people under 18. This means that, BEFORE the changes, people over 21 are earning £2.83 an hour more than under 18s (and £1.40 more for people aged 18-20) for just being older. Say what you want about ‘gaining experience’, they are doing exactly the same work as someone who is 21+, and it’s not that fair.

From April 2016, the situation is going to be even more clouded. This is due to the government’s 2020 “living wage” plan making its first progress, boosting the wage from £6.70 an hour to £7.20 an hour for people aged 25 and over. This means that, especially people who are working in shops and other customer service industries (as well as other employment that works on a minimum wage payment), the wage gap between 17 year olds and 25 year olds is going to be an incredible £3.33 an hour. Simply for being older, 25 year olds are going to be paid almost DOUBLE the wage of someone under 18.

You might, however, argue that 16-18 year olds “don’t need the money as much as 25 year olds”, because they spend it on unimportant things like university funding, or even a car or driving lessons. Whatever arguments you say about teenage spending, there are adults that spend their wage on pretty much similar things, whether it be video games, alcohol, or trying to avoid getting £50,000+ in debt to study at university. It doesn’t mean that their work is less valuable, or that they put in less effort.

Look at 18-20 year olds, if you want another side of the argument (I’ll be getting on to my current age bracket, 21-24, soon). They are getting paid £1.90 less despite being legally classed as an adult. At that age, finding work isn’t about getting some extra pocket money, it’s either finding work to complement further education or as a full time job, and, therefore, trying to save up to move out and become independent (seeing that they legally have to pay council tax anyway).

This becomes even muddier when it comes to the 21-24 year old workers. This is pretty much consisting of graduates and the independent adults from the 18-20 section, with some mature students thrown into the mix. This group has all the responsibilities as people 25+. If you have a person working in a shop that’s full time (I’ve classed this as 40 hours, but some companies differ) and 24, and another person that’s full time and 25, there shouldn’t be a £20 per week difference in their wage. The only reason they are being paid £20 more a week is because of their age. When you are doing something like retail, having 1 year more experience or being 1 year older doesn’t make a fucking difference. Being 24 as opposed to 25 doesn’t make your bills, your council tax, or your mortgage repayments (okay, with this government, this example is stretching it a bit far) any cheaper. It’s exactly the same financial responsibility as an 18 year old would have, so why do people 25 and older get placed on a minimum-wage significantly higher than people that have the same responsibilities financially? £2o may not seem like much per week, but it adds up to an extra £1,020 a year just for being a year older, which is just simply ridiculous. If you were working 40 hours a week at 18 years old, someone aged 25 and over would be earning £3,952 more a year from April. The exact same job, the exact same responsibilities, but your age (and the concept of experience, we mustn’t forget about that) means you earn nearly four grand less a year, because fuck you, 18-20 year olds – lots of love, George Osborne.

The Living wage issue doesn’t just affect people under 25, though. Seeing that 1 in 20 (or 5% of the population, roughly 3,250,000 people) are on minimum wage at the moment, and the suggestion of it increasing to 1 in 9 by 2020, people over 25 will more than likely find themselves too valuable for businesses to employ them. Significant amounts of high street companies hire 16-20 year olds already because of their lower wage cost, but increasing 25 y/o+ workers’ wages by 50p an hour (and steadily rising in the future) will just make the cheaper, more affordable teenagers even more worthwhile. Sure, they will earning more, but they will most certainly see doors close in the future because of their extra expense.

The living wage is being heralded as a “masterstroke“, but without other increases to the minimum wage for younger people, it’s quite simply adding another tier to the minimum wage and rebranding it as “living”. All it is doing is making a clear statement that people 25 and over apparently work harder than people under 25, and that they deserve to be paid more because of it. I’m sorry, George Osborne, but as someone that has suffered through the minimum wage tiers and austerity cuts, and not had a rich family to bail me out whenever I needed it, I know when I’m being served shit despite being told that it’s champagne.

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