Finally, the election is upon us. I am desperate for a Labour win. My feelings can be summed up by a phrase a friend used recently about the situation – “I can handle despair, it’s the hope that’s killing me!”
Seriously, my nerves are shot. It was one thing when MayBot announced the election and the feeling was that, with the state of the opinion polls, a Tory victory appeared almost certain. Now those numbers for the Tories have all but evaporated, and it’s too close to call.
I don’t think mainstream electoral politics has been this inspiring sine the mid 90s. Yes, it might have been Blair, and we all know what followed. But at the time of the 97 election the Tories were hated and falling apart. Blair had a broad appeal to the middle ground, and particularly women voters. At the same time people knew that change was actually possible.
That first Labour government brought on the bulk of good measures that Labour ever managed in their entire time in office, including the minimum wage. But then the shit policies started: introducing tuition fees, pushing through privatisation of services that not even Thatcher attempted, and then the cherry sitting atop the turd – the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
However bad they were though, they were still better than the Tories. Let’s be clear, that is always the case. Blair’s Labour, even Brown’s Labour – they will always be a better choice for working people than the Tories. Always.
We can and should still be critical of that time though. It’s also a shame that the Labour party was allowed to continue to turn ever more negative in its politics and policies as time went on.
Don’t forget, when they won in 97 there was a large membership of the party. A large number of people out canvassing and arguing for a Labour vote. As I said, people were inspired. I even remember debates taking place in the letters page of NME. It was getting everywhere.
Young people were interested, people were inspired because the Tory beast was ready for the kill. Blair courting the swing voters did help maximise the Labour majority, there is no doubt about that. But it wasn’t the only thing that won the election, it was also the hope and the willingness of people to strive for change.
But after that the membership started to drop off as unpopular, and unnecessary, policies were introduced. The only thing that kept the bulk of those that remained going was the fear that the Tories could get back in. They weren’t inspired, they were afraid.
At the heart of Labour professional MPs understood the strength of Blair going for the middle ground, but they treated it as the only lesson to take from that victory, as if that was all it took to win elections.
That is why, since then, elections have been dull and uninspiring. People, young and old, complained that “they’re all the same”. You could argue the toss, but you would have to use some very specific arguments. Labour had made it so they didn’t stand out on purpose, because to be different was to lose elections.
Now though, Corbyn, and the activist base around him, have created a vision for the party where inspiration is at the heart of it. HEART is at the heart of it.
If elected, a Labour government would make such a difference. Build affordable houses, fight for better rights and conditions for workers (including a genuine living wage!!), the list goes on and on.
They have made these pledges, and they have been costed. Labour now are presenting an argument that makes clear that austerity isn’t an unfortunate necessity – it is a political choice. And a choice with an alternative.
Heartbreak or elation, we will know by Friday morning. But I can’t take the wait by doing nothing.
I have volunteered to help campaign in a key marginal seat on Thursday, election day. Over in Bolton West, where I used to live, to help get the Labour candidate back in as an MP after being unseated by the Tories last time around. They only have a majority of 800, they can be pushed back.
We could end up with another Tory government with an increased majority, I know that. But there’s still enough of a chance that Labour could get in. All I know is, I don’t want to give in without a fight.
To help in a key marginal where you live, visit this website – mynearestmarginal.com
Whatever we find on Friday morning, we must continue to fight for a better world. The ideas of Hope are back in fashion.