Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Why I'll be voting Labour

I've dithered about writing this post for a few days now having always preferred to keep this blog reasonably politics free, but I also feel like this election is a time for nailing colours to the mast, so here goes anyway.

I live in a traditionally safe Labour seat that has a decent (well spoken of, scandal free) MP (Jon Ashworth), so even if I was a floating voter it's probably the way I'd go round here. The main reason I'll be voting Labour though is that I don't trust the tories with the economy.

I work in retail, which is not on the whole a well paid, or particularly respected, sector. It's also food based retail (specifically drink) where I'm getting an excellent view of prices rising whilst wages remain broadly stagnant. Truthfully, I've done alright under the last government. I don't have children,  and an increased personal tax allowance means that despite earning less than I did a decade ago I'm actually taking home more money. Which worries me.

For now whilst my health is okay and non of my nearest or dearest need care it's fine. I earn a living wage, though not all of my colleagues do, can pay my bills, don't go hungry, and have organic shampoo, because there's enough money to have some nice things in my life. What I don't have are savings, there's not enough money coming in to provide a decent cushion against emergencies. But still, compared to plenty of others my situation is comfortable. As long as nothing goes wrong. On the whole I'd rather be paying a bit more tax and be confident that if things did go wrong there would be an NHS free at point of use, and a job seekers allowance that would still let me pay my bills and not go hungry to fall back in.

What worries me even more though is the number of people who are on low wages. I don't see how we can afford to pay people less than a living wage because somewhere along the line we're all going to pay for that. I'm surrounded by people who have no chance of getting a mortgage in the foreseeable future, people who are working well past retirement age because they can't afford not to, people who have families and can't afford posh shampoo, or to replace shoes which are falling apart. People who are told they're lucky to have a job.

I also see more and more people taken on, on 4, 6, or 8 hour contracts - which might as well be zero hour contracts. The theory is that they should be flexible and available for overtime when needed, I guess it's a cheaper way to employ people too. The reality isn't quite like that, and I can't see it ending well if we carry in down this path.

So for me the only answer is to vote for a party that looks likely to protect and improve the rights of the lowest paid and who are talking about raising the minimum wage to a living wage. Certainly the party that's trying to talk about it. From where I stand that looks like something which would basically be good for everybody.

I also accept that others will see this in a very different way, will see different answers to the same problems, or will have different priorities. I certainly hope that there's more than one answer to this particular issue, and definitely don't believe that anyone who thinks to the right (or indeed left)of my position is evil/selfish/stupid/deluded or whatever other offensive label is currently being thrown around.

In the end the most important thing is to vote, to hope for the best (whilst preparing for the worst), and to listen to what other people are saying. Mostly to vote though. Please vote.


  1. Your last paragraph -- the one about voting -- is the most important of the whole piece. Look at the mess we are in; you should be aware that in our 2016 presidential election only something like 59% of those who were eligible to vote actually did and there is a huge group of Americans (31.5 million) who are eligible to vote but not even registered. That is shameful.

    Hillary Clinton received almost 3 million MORE votes than Trump but the Electoral College vote was in his favor. If there had been about 80,000 votes over three states for Hillary rather than Trump, she would have won.

    Voting is a right, a privilege, and a duty. Get out the vote. President Obama was just quoted as saying that you get the politicians you voted for, and look at his successor.

    I just hope that Trump doesn't push the nuclear button before the 2018 mid term elections!

    1. Exactly. I spent a lot of time after the American election trying to make sense of why people, so many people, would vote for Trump, and had a couple of light bulb moments. Depressing, but helpful. The same with Brexit here (I still find it very hard to understand why, but you can't have a debate if you can't understand the other persons point of view). It really does come down to voting though, a huge source of frustration for me is how relatively few people are making these decisions. However I personally feel about the results, I would prefer that the margins were wider than 4%... a landslide victory where the voter turnout is under 30% (as in recent local elections here) doesn't feel like much to celebrate.

  2. I couldn't agree more. My votes go to the other side of the pond (long story) but I'm pretty sure trickle-up economics work better than trickle-down. People with living wages spend more.

    And now I've probably started an online argument so I'll quickly walk away.

    1. I agree, and it's certainly my experience that trickle down doesn't work particularly well. One reason I'm nervous about talking about politics here is that I think it's a turn off for a lot of people (and I don't want to preach either). I did it anyway,

    2. Just to put this in perspective.... 53% of white women who voted, voted for Trump. The question is: Why do women continue to vote against their own best interests.

    3. It's do hard to understand. Before the last election a colleague was willing me she and her husband would be voting conservative because they wanted to pay less tax as things were tight by the end of the month. Which would be fine if her children were being privately educated, and using private healthcare, but of course they're not, and when I asked how these, and all the other public services should be paid for it was blank incomprehension. I guess we all focus on specific things, talk to people who feel broadly the same, watch and read things that confirm those prejudices. Do we vote against our own best interests because, rightly or wrongly, we believe we're voting in the best interests of our family and friends?

    4. Writing about what is going on (politics in Washington, D.C. or BREXIT being cases in point) and how it affects us is a very important catharsis. If we all think that politics might be an unpleasant topic or we could lose a friend, one still needs to speak out. I could cite so many instances where folks didn't and look at the results. I won't get into specific instances because we all know the most egregious.

      However, as much as I was obsessed with politics and the debacle that is happening in Washington, I've throttled back (no TV but watch key news on the internet) on that and am back to a less obsessive interest but that was only because I cannot believe that anyone still gives credibility to Trump. And thanks for the statistic about 53% of the women voting for him..............shocking. Admittedly I did not like Hillary Clinton but at least she's thoughtful, reasoned, rational and competent. Oh yes, and experienced.

    5. I'm currently struggling with the apathy of some of my younger colleagues about voting. They keep complaining that they were never taught about it at school. I keep pointing out that they're in their twenties, adults, and perfectly capable of looking up the voting records of their MPs and the manifestos of all the major parties. I guess this is very much why they have horrendous student debts whilst their grandparents get free tv licences and bus passes.

  3. O.K. I admit it...drum roll, please...I'm voting Tory. I'm not rich, I'm not pro-hunting, I don't hate foreigners and I'm a social liberal so please don't hate me! There are many admirable plans in the Labour manifesto & many things about the Tory administration that worry me (benefit delays for example are criminal) BUT I cannot see how Labour are going to pay for their proposals. They seem to think that if you put up corporation tax and income tax, people are just going to say 'o.k. fair cop' and hand over the dosh. I don't know of any present or historical example (look at the reaction to Hollande's 70% tax rate for example) of people actually doing this. What will actually happen is that companies will move to Ireland, corporation tax less than half that proposed by Labour, & those that stay will put up prices &/or make staff redundant; wealthy individuals, as happened in France, will simply move elsewhere or emply accountants to ensure they don't have to pay the tax. We know that the top 5% of earners already pay 50% of tax collected (no, I'm not one of them) & history teaches that they won't pay more.

    However, I am open to persuasion and I very much respect the views of those who disagree with me. I hate the way so often one side demonises the other.

  4. I don't hate you! They're reasonable points, especially the corporation tax one. I believe currently we have quite a low rate compared to most of the rest of the Europe and America, but Ireland made the choice to go very low (with some success). It was also a threat around the Scottish referendum time that it would be a race to the bottom corporation tax wise if Scotland had voted Yes.

    I worry about how little tax I pay - less now than I did ten years ago so my take home pay is higher then it was simply because I'm paying less tax, gross I'm earning slightly less now than I did then. That seems fundamentally wrong to me, I want to be being payed more and pay more in for services I need to use, but I absolutely get why not everyone one agrees with that point of view.

    I have no idea why fox hunting is in the manifesto, it's not something I personally have strong feelings about either way, but a lot of people do and I think it could quietly have been left alone for now when we have much bigger things to worry about.

    For me it comes down to a choice between more austerity which doesn't seem to be working, or the labour manifesto which suggests an alternative I can get behind. I doubt all of it would be achievable, but certainly things like re nationalising trains, power, and post makes sense to me. Especially trains. I assume if Labour does get in that there will be a lot of compromise along the way. I definitely think a Labour government would make a better job of negotiating Brexit as the party doesn't have anything like the baggage that the tories do in that one.

    In the end though you have to vote as conscience dictates, for me head and heart say Labour, my partner sits on the other side of the fence (political discussion is not fun over dinner). Like you the way people demonise those who don't agree with them really annoys me.

  5. Hello, I've just spotted this post, good on you for starting a discussion! I have been keeping out of it because, after all, I don't live in Britain any more so it's not quite my business, even though those I love do and will be affected by whatever happens.

    Because of being an expat I don't usually vote in British elections - as I say, I think it's unfair of me to do so. But I have registered and have voted in this one, purely because we are still in Brexit territory that of course affects me very directly.

    I feel you make a very interesting point both about Brexit negotiations and about tax. I think the British have to accept that if they want all of the things, including a decent education system, the NHS, social care, even replacing Trident (though how you can be doing that when you're axing school budgets puzzles me, I wouldn't have thought it was a priority), then as you say they need to pay for them. Here in Belgium we pay a much higher rate of tax albeit all income-related, plus health insurance, and stuff works.

    Also good for the other Helen for giving her side of things. As you point out, we're all coming at this with good intentions and different ideas, there's no need for anger and hatred.

  6. I don't normally want to discuss politics here, but this election feels to important to stay on the fence about. I also think the most import thing is that people vote so we can at least get a decent idea of what it is the country actually wants and in what sort of proportions. I'm also quite conscious that I see things through my own little bubble of experience, both my mother and partner see things quite differently, which is fine. I don't agree with them, but can understand their points.

    I really do think if we don't get a grip on paying a living wage we'll be looking at a huge problem very quickly. It's one of the things I've found interesting about the furore over the 'dementia' tax - what I haven't really seen mentioned is that for people my age and a little older (40-50 for arguments sake) we're probably as a generation eyeing up our parents houses and maybe hoping that they'll clear our own mortgages, or pay our children's university fees, or prop up our rather less generous than the previous generations pensions. I'm not relying on being left anything, don't have children, and my parents care will always come first but my pension will be awful and I've heard plenty of my friends express the hope that their children get their fair share from grandparents wills. When you're kids come out of university maybe owing £60,000 or more and property prices the way they are it's an understandable attitude. We have to pay for social care somehow but this seems like a particularly cynical cash grab that only puts off the problem for a generation.

    1. Yes, I agree, nothing is simple, is it? For instance, I am rather more on the fence about the dementia tax than you are, and while I disagree with the philosophy of expecting people to pay for or part-pay for their own care, I don't actually think it's a cynical policy, though perhaps ill thought out especially in terms of the practicalities.

      The way I see it is this: I don't care for the divisive way of discussing the generations, but I do think it's fair to say that my parents' generation and indeed many in my generation have benefited from the post-war welfare state and the massive rise in house prices. If we decide that social care must be funded through tax, it will be paid for by current and future tax payers - my generation (fair enough) and the younger generation - not so fair enough since, as you point out, they have massive debt if they went to university and poorer expectations in terms of work and likelihood of owning property than us and our parents. Relying on inheritances to bail us out for one thing strikes me as equally short term, and for another entrenches social division - what about those who have no inheritance to help them?

      On the other hand, why 'punish' people for saving for their retirement, and maybe if the government gets its act together in terms of better working conditions, fair taxes, more house building and better terms for tenants, the future for our younger people won't be quite so bleak.

      In other words, it strikes me as very difficult, and not just a matter of a single policy :)

  7. It's interesting, I don't think it's particularly wrong to expect those who can pay to pay for some of their care, but I do feel sorry for a generation who have been comprehensively done over with student loans, high house prices, and stagnant wages. That so many people are stuck below a living wage terrifies me. I'm on the fence about inherited wealth ( I'm pretty sure if I was in line for some I'd approve of it though), but because house prices have gone up the way they have a lot of people who aren't especially wealthy will have assets that tip over the inheritance tax threshold. The genuinely well off will have the option to pass on money to their children in good time to avoid it being taxed (totally legally) but others will not, or won't realise they're affected, and that seems a bit unfair too.

    I don't know what the answer should be, but I don't think it's something that's discussed enough either. To me Labour's policies seem more constructive in terms of building a better future for the next generation but who knows what the world will look like in 5 years time or what the most pressing problems will be - it all feels very fluid at the moment. In the end I just hope people vote, and otherwise engage with the process.