Looking in The Guardian‘s comment section is never a good thing for the blood pressure of a rational human being.
Upon one commenter urging fellow Guardianistas to vote Green, another pointed out the only effect that would have is a Tory government.
The commenter’s reply?
“So what? In 2015, whoever wins the election, we get a neoliberal Government imposing austerity on us.”
Tbh, what a middle class tosser.
I’m gonna speak frankly and anecdotally.
It seems incomprehensible that anyone could be so nonchalant about ‘liblabcon’ when these past 5 years have pushed me into premature, severe money anxieties and insecurity at as young an age of 15 (a year after the election) as a direct consequence of this government; its shredding of the public sector, it’s freeze on wages, it’s intrinsic and cosy links with payday lenders who have congregated on my community’s high street like hyenas to carrion, its cosy links to energy firms, its cuts to ESA, JSA, its dropping of EMA and hike in tuition. This government has had a direct influence on my most formative years, resulting in nights where I would lie awake thinking about my future, after overhearing horror stories I wasn’t supposed to hear of what could be, of being on the verge of repossession and defaulting on debts, and even as I went on to university, overwhelmed with financial security in two lives -the insecure home I would eventually have to return to, and the high-rent, compromise-on-food life at uni, knowing I could not -would not- turn to my mother for help.
All of those experiences -intimate, personal- were, directly and indirectly, because of this government. They didn’t happen under Labour. In the 13 years that I grew up under New Labour -for as despised as they became and as much as I myself dislike Blairism- financial ruin didn’t ever seem as immediate as it does now.
These recent development also weren’t a consequence of Labour spending money on schools and hospitals, but rather a banking crisis through no fault of our own which now unfairly burdened us with its consequences by a government that outright refused to ask the very richest to contribute to a recovery and instead blamed public services at a time when they were needed most.
Labour were, for my generation, the natural party of government. Before 2010, I had never truly known a Tory government except for the 2 years of Major when I was crying and dribbling on a bib. So, trust me when I tell you, I felt an immediate chasm between the government I grew up with and even despised and the Tory-led government that has had such an immense impact on my subsequent adolescence and venture into adulthood these past 5 years.
This isn’t a pity party I’m trying to invoke, but instead I use anecdotes to point out that while these people who declare the outcome of this election to be irrelevant to their lives can seperate themselves from politics outside of the odd remark about simplified, abstract, far away (for them) concepts like neoliberalism, for many of us politics is personal and deeply causal and entrenched in day-to-day life.
And even then, my experiences are extremely mild, privileged in fact, compared to some of the travesties of this government.
871,000 people have been hit by benefit sanctions, forced on zero income and pushed into food poverty in 21st century Britain. Thousands have died as a result.
1 million people have been pushed into foodbank use, mostly workers. Wages are at their relative lowest since the 1870s. 522,000 hit by bedroom tax. Homelessness has increased by 26%, and child poverty by 13% while it was halved under Labour. 21st Century Britain is wrought with poverty. This government has overseen the greatest fall in living standards in over 100 years.
And now looking into the future. I don’t need anecdotes to tell you that saying ‘so what if we get a Tory or Labour government, they’re all the same’ is reductive at best and destructive at worst. Nah, I have facts instead.
The IFS, and The Guardian’s and the New Stateman’s analyses of their spending reviews can do that job for me. But in brief, George Osborne is planning a fundamental rethink to the role of state. Some are forcasting upward of £50bn in cuts (while still arguing they have the money to fund tax cuts for the rich!). Compare this to Labour, who are instead proposing £7bn of cuts in twice the time, with £25bn in borrowing for public investment and reducing the deficit by other means -taxing the rich, and more importantly, tackling the disastrous conditions of the poorest in society; the workers on zero hours and abysmal wages of whom the state has to subsidise thus increasing the welfare bill (which government then cuts instead of addressing why people are using welfare) while tax receipts go down. It is that latter point that for us affected by low pay and insecurity -usually single mothers like my own- that is the most important distinctions between the parties. The Conservatives would rather merely cut -colossally, while Labour would address the state subsidising poverty at the expense of the deficit.
I’m not saying that Labour couldn’t do more -they could, and I wish they would be more courageous even in the face of the greatest adversity from the press, tax-dodging businessmen, and Tory donors- and perhaps it’s their fault for not publicising these differences more efficiently. But my GOD, the difference is startling this election. Absolutely startling. For anyone that relies on the welfare state, everything is truly on the brink.
But even then, I don’t need this study to know the difference. I’ve lived it.
More importantly, others have lived with far more destructive policies than I have, and I doubt they need the IFS to realise what is at stake in 2015.
I get anti-politics fervor. For many on the left, Labour isn’t radical enough. That’s true for me too. But it is utterly bitter and saddening to hear middle class people saying that it doesn’t matter if we have a Tory or Labour government come May. To so, so many of your poorer countrymen and women, those two options herald very, very different worlds. It may be hard for you to see it, but there are people that live the differences you say do not exist.