(2012: Thousands take to the streets of London to protest Coalition austerity measures)
The same stale faces, the same dusty policies. The main political parties are all but united under the banner of austerity, and are vying for your votes this election with predictable talk of deficit reduction, protecting the NHS, condemning benefit claimants, and putting people back to work. They all claim to want the same things, they all appeal to similar prejudices, and they all have absolutely no idea about the way to send our nation forward into the future.
The parties on the right are a complete lost cause. The Tories won’t rest until every benefit claimant is either in a low paid job or dead in the gutter, while UKIP plan to embark on a campaign of Christian intolerance towards migrants, LGBT people, and ethnic minorities. But the parties of the left don’t fare much better.
The Lib Dems have propped up and supported five years of cruelty and human rights abuse, and the only party with the means to change things, Labour, has completely lost its way. “I’m the first Labour leader in history to announce a reduction in spending”, Ed Miliband declares in front of a live audience, as if that’s something to be proud of.
At a time when we so desperately need a public spending increase to combat the misery and poverty caused by cuts, Labour are point-blank refusing to budge, and are ruling out a coalition with the SNP, the only powerful party calling for spending increases. Labour has sacrificed its soul at the altar of austerity, and now worships the deficit Gods. Instead of combating the misinformation, tackling myths about deficits, and attempting to educate the economically illiterate public, Labour has completely given in. We progressives have lost, and Labour has abandoned us.
“Conservatives like to use the alleged dangers of debt and deficits as clubs with which to beat the welfare state and justify cuts in benefits […] Labour, sad to say, are echoing that position. So both major parties are in effect promising a new round of austerity that might well hold back a recovery that has, so far, come nowhere near to making up the ground lost during the recession and the initial phase of austerity”
– Nobel Prize winner and economist Paul Krugman.
The infestation of austerity in Labour is even more bleak than Krugman demonstrates in his piece for The Guardian. Labour will not abolish unpaid internships, will not uncap child benefits, will not abolish tuition fees, and will not combat prejudice about migrants. Worst of all, Labour officials have stated that housing benefit recipients who turn down the chance to move to a smaller home should have their benefits cut. That’s the bedroom tax under a different name.
Key Labour acolytes are practically indistinguishable from the Tories in their economic outlook, as are a majority of their MPs. Take the recent vote to implement George Osborne’s Charter for Budget Responsibility, which sought to slash another £30 billion from public spending. It passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, and was only rejected by 5 out of 257 Labour MPs. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls promises that he will not change a single thing in the Tories’ budget, while Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves say her party doesn’t want to represent people out of work, and promises to be “even harsher” on benefit claimants than the Tories.
What we can gather from this is that if you vote Labour, you’re kicking out the Tories, and replacing them with a more marketable, slightly less cruel version. The lesser of two evils is still evil, is it not?
Domestics aside, Labour’s foreign policy fares little better. The party is not remotely in favour of boycotting or sanctioning Israel for its ethnic cleansing and apartheid, and the most we can squeeze out of self-described “friend of Israel” Ed Miliband is that he wants a peaceful solution. No recognition of Israel’s crimes, no calls for the right of return, just a peaceful solution that appeases Israeli mass murderers. His party also claims to have learnt its lessons from the Iraq War (which has claimed the lives of nearly a million people), but they are content to continue the bombing campaign against ISIS, no matter what the civilian death toll may be, and act as America’s European watchdog when it comes to NATO and Russia.
Right now there’s a half-decent chance you’re screaming at your computer screen, telling me that Labour are nothing like the Tories, and are the only ones capable of getting rid of David Cameron. But that’s not entirely true either, is it?
In the final leaders debate before the election, Miliband not only ruled out a coalition agreement with the SNP, but quite openly stated that he’d rather lose the election than do a deal with Nicola Sturgeon. The leader of the second-largest party would rather see his enemies back in power than form a coalition with a party that wants to increase spending. So much for that viable, left-wing alternative. Vote Labour, get Tory?
I am not so cynical as Miliband. I choose to believe that the SNP are not rabid haggis-weilding nationalists who want to “break up” the country (presumably by way of an elaborate sawing and drilling exercise at the border). I choose to believe that our vote must count for more than some second-rate “friend of Israel” party that appeals to economic prejudices and refuses to hear the people of Scotland. That’s why I’m voting Green, and that’s why I urge you to as well.
Activists and anti-austerity voices within Labour will tell you that it’s a process. They admit that Labour has lost its way, but it can be salvaged, its collision course avoided. Change comes from within Labour, according to activists like Owen Jones.
But Labour’s car-crash experiment with neoliberalism and austerity precedes Miliband’s rule by decades. After overwhelming support for Thatcher’s cruelty and misanthropy in the 80’s, Labour decided it needed to abandon its working class cause and get with the times. Blair was a neoliberal, Brown after him, and now their dear love-child Ed is continuing the legacy. Poverty be damned, we’ve got a deficit to deal with. How and why Labour would claw its way back from these dark days is anybody’s guess. The best Labour activists have left is to say gee I hope it’ll be different this time! It’s easy to predict that these same activists will be saying the same things about rescuing Labour in five, ten, or fifteen years time. I would put money on it.
It’s time to move to a party that doesn’t need years of exhaustive grassroots activism to get back on track. The Green party is ready and waiting to deliver the progressive change we so desperately need, to combat prejudice and misinformation, to give progressives something to believe in. The more we flinch and panic about the deficit, the more people get plunged into poverty. Only the Greens have a plan to eradicate poverty. Only the Greens have the will and the desire to take on the ultra-rich. Labour had its chance to be this party, and it squandered it time and time again.
“[People are] fed up of voting with a nose peg over their noses and when they take that nose peg off, there’s a pretty nasty smell around and that’s because they haven’t voted for what they believe in”
– Green MP Caroline Lucas.
In a time of increasing uncertainty about the outcome of elections, no longer is it right to settle for this back and forth Labour-Tory-Labour-Tory system. No longer is it fair to demand that people vote tactically to keep the worst party out of government. The polls show that no one party is coming out on top, and it’s anybody’s guess what kind of coalition we may be looking at come May. Labour may even forfeit the election just to avoid dealing with the Scots, which is frankly a disgrace.
People used to say UKIP were a fringe party, now they’re the third-highest polling party in the country and are dominating the conversation around immigration (albeit through racial prejudice). People used to say the SNP were a fringe party, now they’re running Scotland’s government and are set to win every single seat they’re standing in.
The political landscape is shifting beneath our very feet, and we have two choices in this election – we can either tie ourselves to further misery, austerity and struggle just to keep the worst of the worst out, or we can simply decide to have hope. On Thursday, I will vote Green, and my conscience will be clear.
You cannot morally abstain from your vote. You are, in a way, responsible for the actions of the people you elect. Given that Labour has become infested with neoliberalism and austerity, will you take responsibility for putting them back in power?