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Five Questions To Ask Before You Vote

06/06/2017 11:51
Jack Taylor via Getty Images

1. WHO FUNDS THE PARTIES?

The Conservatives are heavily funded by wealthy business owners and bankers.[1a, 1b] Many of their donors use tax avoidance schemes and maintain their wealth in offshore tax havens.[2a, 2b] This is one of the main reasons why the Conservatives haven't tackled the £119bn lost per year to tax evasion, tax avoidance and uncollected tax.[3]

The stealth privatisation of the NHS can partly be explained by the large figures the Conservatives receive from private healthcare companies.[4] Many Conservative MPs have stakes in these companies and stand to benefit hugely from NHS privatisation.[5a, 5b] Theresa May herself 'fully backs the Naylor Report', which is a plan to sell off land and buildings that are currently part of the NHS.[6]

Just a handful of billionaires (most of whom pay no tax) own 80% of the UK media, so it is in their interests to amplify and promote the Conservative agenda.[7a, 7b] This explains why they have worked so relentlessly to discredit Corbyn and his ideas which, of course, include a plan to raise taxes (slightly) on the top 5% of earners.[8a, 8b]

Labour's campaign has been largely funded by trade unions, which represent working people, and smaller individual donations averaging £22.[9] Why aren't millionaire donors backing Labour? Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to address rising inequality by closing tax loopholes, raise corporation tax for large companies in line with the European average, and introduce a living wage of £10 per hour by 2020. In other words, Labour are putting the interests of ordinary people first. They have also pledged no tax increases for 95% of earners (unlike the Conservatives).[10]

The difference between the parties is clear. You don't even have to listen to the words of May or Corbyn, just follow the money.

2. WHO WILL RUN THE ECONOMY MORE RESPONSIBLY?

It's a common assumption that Labour are the party who borrow more than the Conservatives but a report by Tax Justice UK shows that it's actually the Conservative Party who have borrowed more over the last seventy years [11]: Labour have consistently borrowed less and paid back more than the Conservatives.

In 2015, despite imposing harsh austerity measures, the Conservatives increased UK debt by 50% to £1.5tn.[12] It now stands at £1.8tn.[13] Two years ago, a majority of eminent economists said they believed the coalition's austerity policies had harmed the economy.[14] The Oxford Professor, Simon Wren-Lewis, estimated that government cuts had cost the UK economy £100 billion.[15] The IMF released a study in 2016 which 'rejected the notion that austerity could be good for growth by boosting the confidence of the private sector to invest.' Indeed, according to scholars of economic history, there is not a single example which shows that austerity can kick-start growth.[16]

In 2014/15, only 17% of benefits were spent on unemployed people, with a much larger percentage of benefits paid to people in work.[17] The state has been subsidising a culture of low wages, allowing big business to pay peanuts while reaping great financial rewards. Economist James Meadway estimates the cost to the taxpayer at £11 billion per year.[18] We are often told that higher wages lead to higher unemployment, but various studies contradict this claim, as Robert Reich (former Secretary of Labor to Bill Clinton) has pointed out.[19]

Jeremy Corbyn has pledged UK-wide investment to trigger more growth. His policies have been backed by 129 economists who believe they are preferable to austerity.[20] They claim 'Labour's manifesto proposals are much better designed to strengthen and develop the economy and ensure that its benefits are more fairly shared and sustainable, as well as being fiscally responsible and based on sound estimations.'

Why pursue austerity if it has lost the UK billions? In 2013, David Cameron let the cat out of the bag, when he said that spending cuts were ultimately about 'building a leaner, more efficient state... Not just now, but permanently.'[21] There lies the real reason behind the Conservative's devotion to austerity: it's ideological and allows them to cut public services, accelerate privatisation and dismantle the welfare state, which benefits businesses and corporations that stand to make a fortune out of it. (Five years after austerity began, the wealth of the richest people in the UK was doubled.[22]) So, the Conservatives are 'good for the economy' only if you're part of the 1%.

3. WHAT IS THE VOTING RECORD OF THERESA MAY AND JEREMY CORBYN?

Politicians often say anything to get our vote, so it can be hard to trust them. That's why voting records matter. Theresa May has repeatedly voted against workers' rights, gay rights and human rights, whereas Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly voted for them. May has voted for tax-breaks for the rich, benefit cuts to the most vulnerable, and military interventions: Corbyn has consistently voted against them.[23, 24]

Jeremy Corbyn has a long history of voting in the interests of working people and minority groups. His commitment is evident in his voting record and in tireless campaigning in his free time at rallies, on demos, and public platforms.[25] In 2013, when I fronted the War On Welfare petition for a group of disabled people and carers whose lives were being destroyed by the cuts, it was Corbyn and John McDonnell who attended their tiny demos, who consistently supported us by phone and email, and who backed the petition in Parliament over the course of two years.

Think carefully about who you put your trust in with your vote. Words are cheap, but a politician's true character is revealed in their voting history and political deeds.

4. WHICH PARTY WILL MAKE THE UK A SAFER PLACE?

Theresa May has claimed to be 'strong and stable', best placed to deal with the threats of this dangerous world, but what is her track record on security? As Home Secretary, she oversaw a cut of 20,000 police officers and 1,000 border police.[26] She's also made cuts to fire services and intelligence services.[27] So severe have these cuts been that Steve Hilton, David Cameron's former Head of Strategy, has just called for her resignation over her 'terrorism failures'.[28]

Most worrying is May's recent £3.2bn arms sale to Saudi Arabia at a time when there is growing evidence that the Saudis are supporting ISIS.[29] Many people are rightly questioning the deal at a time when the UK is facing multiple terror attacks. On the BBC Leader's Debate last Wednesday, Caroline Lucas asked Amber Rudd about the wisdom of May's arms sale to Saudi Arabia, only to be told it was 'good for industry'. Morality aside, Rudd's answer shows that her party prefers financial gain over UK security.

Two days later, Rudd appeared at a hustings, and asked for the microphone to be taken off an Independent Candidate in the middle of his speech about the links between Saudi Arabia and ISIS.[30] The blatant unwillingness to explore and respond to this emerging connection shows a dangerous disregard for mounting evidence and a worryingly casual attitude to our collective safety.

Corbyn has pledged to stop future arms deals immediately with the Saudi's - as well as with other dangerous regimes [31] - and has promised to cut off channels of funding and support for ISIS. These policies are supported by a group of volunteers who are currently fighting ISIS in Syria, who said this week, 'Only Jeremy Corbyn knows the way to stop Isis - through a foreign policy that cuts off their funding and supplies at the source...The longer Theresa May is Prime Minister, the less safe everybody is, both here in Syria and back home in the UK.'[32]

At home, Labour has pledged 10,000 more police officers, 1,000 more intelligence officers and extra money for the under-funded public services that we all depend on when an attack occurs.

The Conservatives and their media allies have branded Corbyn a 'terrorist-sympathiser' for speaking to Sinn Fein as part of efforts to bring an end to the Troubles (even though the UK government did the same thing in secret from 1972 [33], and even though Corbyn was also speaking to the Loyalists), but Corbyn is one of the few politicians in Parliament who has continuously advocated peaceful negotiation over conflict.

It's hard to fault his words: 'you can't achieve peace without talking to people you disagree with'. In 2013, Corbyn was awarded the Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award for his commitment to the values of social justice and non-violence.[34]

In broader terms, Corbyn wants to shift UK foreign policy to one of peace, diplomacy and human rights. This is hugely important in relation to our own security. There were repeated warnings that our recent wars in the Middle East would increase the UK terror threat. While May voted for these wars, Corbyn voted against them, often citing the likelihood of increased terrorism as one of his reasons for doing so.[35] It is this foresight and reluctance to rush headlong into global conflicts that shows a serious commitment to peace and security, here and abroad. The more countries left ravaged by war, division and conflict, the more ungoverned spaces will be created - and these provide breeding grounds for hate and extremism.

Lasting peace will only be possible through promoting dialogue, diplomacy, and education, and addressing inequality, poverty and human suffering. Corbyn has worked all his life for these ideals, and is well-placed to tackle not just global and domestic conflicts, but the root causes of those conflicts.

5. WHAT KIND OF WORLD DO I WANT TO LIVE IN?

Under the Conservative government, we've seen homelessness double, with five families every hour losing their home, child poverty rising by 400,000, foodbank use exceeding one million, inequality soaring (the UK is now one of the most unequal nations in the world), thousands of disabled people dying after benefit cuts, public services slashed and the NHS on its knees. That is their legacy. In the sixth richest country in the world.

Yet these are the logical consequences of a political ideology that puts the interests of the wealthy and corporations before all else. You cannot achieve an equal, cohesive and flourishing society if your main priority is to make the rich richer. They are incompatible aims.

In a 2016 study commissioned by the UN, most of the top ten happiest countries in the world have embraced similar policies to Corbyn's: 'They have very low levels of inequality by world standards. They almost all have strong welfare systems and good healthcare... And they tend to have higher taxes.'[36] These findings strongly suggest that the fully-costed manifesto that Corbyn is promoting is, far from being fantastical, actually an integral part of increasing societal wellbeing and happiness.

If we want a kinder, fairer world, we have to start electing kinder, fairer people, who will implement kinder, fairer policies. Intelligence without morality is not enough.

We've seen Corbyn attacked and demonised since he became leader, by an establishment intent on destroying him, terrified that he won't play the game if he attains power and serve their interests.

On Thursday we have a chance to upset the status quo, to reclaim our democracy for the common good, and build a brighter future. Progressive politics always requires a battle. The human rights we enjoy today were not won without a long struggle. Those in power never give anything away without a fight. The old power struggle between the many and the few has been played out repeatedly over history. This is that fight. A party controlled by a wealthy elite can never bring about a happy, equal and thriving society. A fairer, more beautiful, more productive and fulfilling world is possible if enough of us vote for it.

This may be the most important election of our lifetime. Be part of the change on Thursday.

LINKS

[1a] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/mega-rich-donors-helping-tories-10447619
[1b] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tory-donations-money-raised-hedge-funds-bankers-analysis-general-election-2017-a7771346.html
[2a] https://www.thecanary.co/2017/06/01/list-dodgy-millionaire-donors-theresa-may-wont-want-see/
[2b] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3525631/Five-donors-handed-16million-Tories-named-tax-haven-leak-including-billionaire-former-party-treasurer-JCB-heir-shady-financier-property-developer.html
[3] http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2014/09/22/new-report-the-tax-gap-is-119-4-billion-and-rising/
[4] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/fury-tory-party-donors-handed-3123469
[5a] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/selling-nhs-profit-full-list-4646154
[5b] http://nhap.org/what-you-can-do/facts-fingertips/links-between-mps-lords-and-private-healthcare/
[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tx3hrpDCct8
[7a] http://www.mediareform.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Who_owns_the_UK_media-report_plus_appendix1.pdf
[7b] http://thewordmedia.org.uk/uncategorized/the-media-propaganda-wall/
[8a] http://www.mediareform.org.uk/press-ethics-and-regulation/the-medias-attack-on-corbyn-research-shows-barrage-of-negative-coverage
[8b] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-theresa-may-reporting-bias-general-election-2017-labour-conservative-a7745401.html
[9] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/03/22-donations-fuel-labour-campaign-grassroots-funding-drive-pays/
[10] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/22/theresa-may-fails-rule-tax-rises/
[11] http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2016/03/13/the-conservatives-have-been-the-biggest-borrowers-over-the-last-70-years/
[12] https://fullfact.org/economy/has-uks-debt-doubled/
[13] http://www.nationaldebtclock.co.uk/
[14] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/two-thirds-of-economists-say-coalition-austerity-harmed-the-economy-10149410.html
[15] https://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n04/simon-wren-lewis/the-austerity-con
[16] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jun/04/austerity-policy-eurozone-crisis
[17] http://visual.ons.gov.uk/welfare-spending/
[18] https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/apr/20/taxpayers-spend-11bn-to-top-up-low-wages-paid-by-uk-companies
[19] http://www.alternet.org/economy/robert-reich-seattle-got-it-right-minimum-wage
[20] https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/jun/03/the-big-issue-labour-manifesto-what-economy-needs
[21] http://novaramedia.com/2017/06/03/austerity-has-been-an-economic-disaster/
[22] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/apr/26/recession-rich-britains-wealthiest-double-net-worth-since-crisis
[23] https://www.reddit.com/r/LabourUK/comments/682hul/corbyn_vs_may_voting_record/
[24] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/theresa-may-prime-minister-andrea-leadsom-policies-voting-record-human-rights-what-did-she-mean-a7130961.html
[25] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/16/jeremy-corbyn-leadership-david-cameron-libya-labour
[26] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/18/border-force-funding-cut-by-quarter-per-person-arriving-to-uk/
[27] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/05/karen-bradley-police-cuts-armed-officers-bbc-today-programme-london-bridge-attack
[28] http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/steve-hilton-david-camerons-former-strategy-chief-tells-theresa-may-to-quit-over-terrorism-failures-a3556811.html
[29] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/hillary-clinton-wikileaks-email-isis-saudi-arabia-qatar-us-allies-funding-barack-obama-knew-all-a7362071.html
[30] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEcMW6RmC_w
[31] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-party-british-weapons-sales-saudi-arabia-jeremy-corbyn-yemen-war-bae-systems-cluster-bombs-a7709076.html
[32] https://www.indy100.com/article/british-fighters-syria-isis-kurds-ypg-jeremy-corbyn-vote-labour-election-2017-7771246
[33] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/2601875.stm
[34] https://gandhifoundation.org/2014/01/09/the-gandhi-foundation-international-peace-award-2013/
[35] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/jeremy-corbyn-2003-anti-iraq-war-speech-labour-leader-ahead-of-his-time_uk_577bbbe8e4b0f7b55795fa0a
[36] https://www.clubofrome.org/what-do-the-happiest-countries-in-the-world-have-in-common/

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