THE BLOG

On 8 June This Country Can Really Change - But Only If You Force It To

06/06/2017 11:56

This article is for a particular sort of person (if it's not you, then share it with someone who fits the bill). It's for those that don't vote, or don't much like 'politics', or are perhaps cautiously watching this election from a distance... but are deeply frustrated with how this country works. It's for those that see or even live through crippling poverty and know something has to change. It's for those that witness glaring inequality and the almost unprecedented opulence of a few and know this can't be right. It's for those that worry about environmental catastrophe, the growing power of the rich and the erosion of our democracy, but for whatever reason, haven't felt able to do much about it. But this article isn't going to patronise or chastise: it's going to ask for your help.

I'm not a natural Labour voter: indeed, for most of my life I haven't considered myself naturally 'political' at all. I did a bit of missionary and voluntary work when I was younger, trying in some way to make a small, positive difference, as most people do. Yet I grew increasingly frustrated with the problems our world faces- inequality, poverty, corruption- stubbornly remaining. So often it felt like so much good work by so many was barely scratching the surface, dealing with the consequences of bad decisions made elsewhere.

Slowly, begrudgingly (I didn't have favourable opinions of politicians at the time) I came to accept that, whilst the work of many missionary groups, charities and NGO's is vital, to truly solve issues, we have to engage with the political system too (as indeed some of these groups do). So much of what goes wrong in the world stems from how we're governed, from who is making the decisions that impact our lives.

Eventually, being aware of the corruption, the failed promises and even the at times mind-numbing dullness of Westminster reinforced, rather than diminished, my sense of having to start to engage with the political. If we accept that politics is broken and that this leads to broken societies, then we have to accept the reverse: fixing our politics can genuinely improve the lives of many.

For a few years for me this meant joining the Green Party, a time in which I grew in my political understanding and campaigning ability. Over the past year, however, I have joined the Labour Party and believe something is beginning to happen in this country, in this election, that could be transformative.

If we, along with the other major developed countries around the world, fail to reduce the vast majority of fossil fuels we emit in the next couple of decades, by the end of the century society as we know it will become unworkable- food prices will soar, freak weather events become more frequent, thousands globally each year will die with many more displaced. If we fail to take redistributive measures in our economy, the power of a wealthy few, already immense, will stifle the last vestiges of democracy and opportunity in our society. If we fail to adapt our political systems so they become more representative, accessible and democratic, the growing disillusionment will only get worse. Automation looks set to replace more and more jobs and exacerbate inequality, globally growth is sluggish and economies crisis prone and our public services are woefully under-resourced.

On these, as on so many other issues, we are close to crisis point. Labour have the beginnings of a way out of this madness, by investing in infrastructure and job creation, by supporting renewable energy, by ensuring union rights and a £10 an hour living wage, by being unafraid to tax the rich more to fund vital public services and by placing some key industries under democratic control.

The point isn't that Corbyn is a panacea or a messiah, but that he and his supporters have opened up a crack that it is our job to widen. Corbyn has obviously played a crucial role in transforming the Labour Party into what it is now, but so have thousands of ordinary members, who kept the flame of radical, progressive politics alive within the party since long before I knew my Karl Marx from my Margaret Thatcher, and many that have joined since have played a key role too, and this is important. It shows that ordinary people can change the political establishment, even in the teeth of fierce resistance from the political elite, if they try hard enough. Labour is once more offering real solutions to the problems we face.

In a system that has for too long failed to deliver, failed to sufficiently address the real problems our society faces, we finally have a party that talks and will act differently, that is willing to challenge the 'no alternatives' mantra. The job is only half-finished though- all of us, having watched on the sidelines cautiously, or having disengaged from the process out of anger and frustration, need to make a surging party into an effective government.

Perhaps you've never gotten involved in party politics or campaigning before. Perhaps you feel like you don't know enough. Perhaps you don't know where to start. It's easy to feel like a small political act here and there is like shouting into a void: the problems are too big, our world too broken for one person to make a difference, but this isn't true. Every single, small act matters- indeed, they shape the course of history. As the late, great historian Howard Zinn taught, forget presidents, kings and generals- it's the millions of unknown acts by ordinary people that determine history, from union strikes to student protests to political party canvassers to you, chatting to a friend or putting up a poster... nothing changes without people standing up and fighting for it to.

In the final few days of this election, the time to be an observer is over. The time for cautiousness, for treading carefully or for uncertainty is gone- this country desperately needs a new approach to politics and economics and all of us who sense even just a part of the deep malaise facing our society today need to act to make this change a reality. Every conversation had, leaflet delivered and door knocked matters. Contact your local Labour party and get involved, or do your own thing- convince your friends and family, write an article, song or poem, share some facts on social media and message some friends online, put up a poster and convince your work to do the same... and above all make sure you vote on Thursday. Let's create a million individual acts that transform a broken and failing political and economic system. Even if it feels like you are, you won't be acting alone, and added together, our actions are powerful.

Despite my chosen title, this energy, this deep-rooted frustration with the status quo, needs to endure far beyond June 8th and to translate into real, sustained action. Whether we wake up (or go to sleep, depending on your election night commitment) to news of a Corbyn or May-led government, our response has to be action. As I said, I've learnt a lot over the past few years campaigning, but perhaps the key thing I learnt was something no one ever tells us, because if really taken to heart the country would change overnight: you don't need to be knowledgeable, charismatic, ruthless or rich to be 'political': you just need to be angry.

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