IF NOT NOW, THEN WHEN? – STUDENTS AND THE ELECTION #6

from a member of UEA Labour Students

In the midst of multiple crises faced by students, universities and schools, the outcome of the snap general election will be a major indicator of the future of the UK education sector. Each week until the vote we are featuring perspectives from our regular contributors and guests on what the election could mean for students.

Having resolved to sit down today and write this article, I’m struck by the appropriateness of my day. I caught the bus to UEA from outside one of the few remaining Sure Start centres, a public service provided by the last Labour government which has been decimated by the Conservatives (and Liberal Democrats) since 2010. My bus was 40 minutes late, the consequence of a privatised, under-funded service – and even the previously UEA-hosted launderette I went to had been privatised since I last used it. It served as a strong reminder of the power of Labour government to change lives for the better, which contrasts with the crumbling services and privatisation festival that has characterised the last 7 years of Conservative and ConDem government.

And yet despite what the pundits all said at the start of this campaign – that Theresa May would win a landslide majority – one poll out this week shows Labour cutting the Conservative lead nationally to just 1 percentage point, with others showing the lead at just 3 or 4 points. They show Labour pulling 11 points ahead in Wales; 17 points ahead in London; and, according to one seat projection model, pulling enough seats off the Tories to deprive Theresa May of her majority, and perhaps even make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister. What once seemed almost unthinkable has now become altogether possible. But it will only take the next step to reality if we all pull together and support it. Otherwise, we’ll be left staring at the exit poll in horror once more. And I, for one, never want to feel that way again.

Compared with the Tories’ hard-Brexit manifesto … Labour’s is a shining ray of light

In Norwich South, and across the country, the broad left/centre-left remains divided. One analysis of Norwich South showed Labour on 37%, the Tories on 36%, the Lib Dems on 16% and Greens on 11% – making a Tory MP for Norwich South a very real possibility despite the massive centre-left vote. Centre-left pro-Europeans still find themselves drawn to the Liberal Democrats; some left-wingers still stick by the Green Party; and though the vast majority of the left now stands with the Labour Party, there are still some who have doubts. But we cannot be divided anymore, and we cannot have doubts, because the 2017 general election is our one chance to roll back the years of Tory austerity and put a government in power that cares about the many, not the few.

Labour’s 2017 manifesto is a transformative document. It would dramatically expand the role of the state in the economy, pump billions of pounds into public services, liberate millions of people from poverty and struggle and make work easier and more secure for people across the country. Sky-high, endlessly-increasing rents would be a thing of the past under a Labour government. Low wages would be transformed into genuine living wages. Labour would protect the rights of EU citizens, defend all human rights, preserve our environment and defend the rights and liberties of people with disabilities. Compared with the Tories’ hard-Brexit manifesto, which promises another round of slash-and-burn for our public services and tax giveaways for the rich, Labour’s is a shining ray of light.

For people in Norwich South considering voting Liberal Democrat or Green – as I know many readers of the Radical do – I would urge you to set aside individual party preferences for this one election and help Labour fight for a progressive government. I make that plea in part because of Labour’s policies, but also because of Labour’s candidate in Norwich South, the exceptional Clive Lewis.

clive lewis

Credit: Kinversam

Clive has been in the news a fair bit over the past year, so many readers will probably have already heard of him. His biography reads like exactly the kind of ordinary, down-to-earth person you would want to see in Parliament – born on a council estate in Northampton, he was the first in his family to attend university, and went on to be elected a Vice-President for the National Union of Students. He’s been a journalist, a soldier, a school governor and now a rising star in the Labour Party. Clive has spent many years being a stalwart of the left and was a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn from the very beginning. But equally important are the policy stances he’s taken, always driven by careful consideration and a determination to do the right thing. Most famously, he resigned from the Shadow Cabinet to vote against Article 50, thus representing his constituents in Norwich South, who voted ‘Remain’ in the EU referendum – and he favours a second referendum on the eventual Brexit deal. Pro-EU voters in Norwich South have a pro-EU candidate in Clive Lewis; the Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, are not able to win in Norwich South. With Tim Farron’s party coming fourth in 2015 with just 14% of the vote, the only pro-EU candidate capable of beating the Tories here is Clive.

On June 8th, we have a choice between two visions of what our country should be. The Tory vision is clear – more cuts, more austerity, more attacks on our human rights and more division. Labour’s vision, however, is starkly different – a future where we are paid decent wages, where our public services work for everybody, where poverty is a thing of the past and where education is a right, not a privilege.

Only one of these visions will win out this week. Only one of two people will be Prime Minister on June 9th 2017: Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn. The latter possibility is real, but only if the UK left chooses to vote for it. Ultimately, the choice is in your hands. I urge you to choose Labour – and to vote for Clive Lewis on June 8th.


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