Stop Blogging and 'Liking' Things - Vote Labour Instead

A vote for Labour, as even Russell Brand is now pointing out, is not the end of the process. It is the start of process whereby that old socialist principle - thatare the most valuable thing - can be given breathing space for the first time in many decades.

Hello, fellow young people. I think I saw some of you at the annual Young People's International Conference last month, where we decided on all the new acronyms to use on Twitter to confuse users over the age of 35. It was totally NQSFT((@£*). Your friends on Facebook have been posting the occasional thing about this election, along with their usual entries like "*sigh*, just when you think you're going to quit your job you're offered a two grand pay rise, FML".

After 2010, when half of us didn't vote, there's no reason to think why another vaguely satirical post from me about David Cameron is going to encourage anyone reading this to vote this time around. So instead I want to seriously try and convince you to vote, and to vote Labour, rather than spend another five years 'liking' the occasional article about why food banks are a bad thing.

I'm sceptical about 'party loyalty'. Of people who identify so strongly with a party political viewpoint that they'll twist any fact in favour of "their" team and who are blind to the growing anger amongst many that the political system is a constant process of frustration and betrayal. Like a game of Whack-a-Mole where you get kicked in the groin when you win.

But I think there is a powerful reason to vote for Ed Miliband this time around, and it involves dispelling two myths: firstly, that Labour and by implication socialist ideas are economically dangerous. And secondly, about what the most important effect of electing a socialist government would be.

First, there's this whole "Labour crashed the economy" stuff. We have a foggy image, don't we, of Gordon Brown spending so much money on, like, the Millennium Dome or something, that the crash happened and now the Tories are the boring but sensible clean up team. As Channel 4's Factcheck points out, our debt was lower in 2007 than when Blair took power in 1997. It also observes that before the crash the Conservatives were planning to match the spending of the Labour party if it won power. Cameron is keen to paint Labour as profligate spenders, but he wanted to match Labour pound for pound before the crash. It's like someone at a party encouraging you to do your ethically questionable but objectively hilarious impression of Kofi Annan and after you do saying "that's a bit much actually, mate".

Then the crash came. I don't know how Labour's reinvestment in public services was responsible for a global financial crisis that had its genesis in sub-prime mortgages in Florida, but the Conservatives have successfully suggested as much. Where New Labour did go wrong was not having smarter regulation on the British financial system, which Ed Miliband has repeatedly acknowledged, marking a sharp shift in ideology from New Labour. But before the crash, Cameron wanted less financial regulation: "As a free-marketeer by conviction, it will not surprise you to hear me say that a significant part of Labour's economic failure has been the excessive bureaucratic interventionism of the past decade too much tax, too much regulation" (Cameron, March 2008). And where did most of the debt come from once the recession hit? It came because the government received less tax revenue, because a lot of people lost jobs.

The reason I mention the crash again is not just because Cameron is using "Labour's mess" as a political weapon at every opportunity. It's a bigger point, which leads me to the most powerful reason to back Labour in every way possible. The party in government has a huge power to set the national conversation. Since having his hands on the government loudhailer (combined with an embarrassingly compliant Murdoch press), Cameron has very successfully equated Labour with spending "too much" on public services, and his own freemarket approach with good economic sense.

The old Thatcherite anti-public service ideology has reappeared as purely practical economics. Disagreeing with it is the same as being economically illiterate. This process of controlling the grammar of political discourse is one of the main reasons to vote for a change of government. Another five years of the Conservatives will solidify a narrative that much as it'd be lovely to fund libraries, universities, the police, fire services, social workers etc it would just cause another global crash. We'll have revived the 1980s, but with smaller haircuts and no The Smiths.

By electing a left wing government, the conversational centre of gravity can shift. The Labour party have deliberately made living standards and the inequality gap the centrepiece of their campaign. That is the mandate they would have, that is the challenge they have set themselves. Labour have gone from being "intensely relaxed" about growing inequality to making the distribution of economic growth their central theme.

That's big. Not since Thatcher won the national conversation in favour of stripping and humiliating public services has the Labour party been as committed to social justice. If we fail to get Labour elected this time, it is highly likely that those who prefer David Miliband's "Next Labour" approach will reclaim the party. If you read the speech David Miliband intended to give to the Labour conference on being crowned leader, you will see how "lean government" was his central theme. We know what that means - privatisation of public services. An acceptance of the grammar of the freemarket. A submission to rightwing language.

Instead, his brother took to the stage. And spent five years proudly calling himself a "social democrat", and putting progressive taxes back on the agenda. Talking about allowing the public sector to bid for rail contracts. Of having more German-style rent controls. Of making sure the cabal of the six energy companies will charge people fairly. Of using capital expenditure to boost growth, as any Keynesian would agree with.

If we're not there for Labour now, we take the loudhailer from the left and leave it for the right to pick up. Our votes may trickle to Greens or Lib Dems, and make a Labour government less likely. All that can do is let the Conservatives set the logic of political discourse, driven to the right by UKIP. We already know that the Tories would spend the next five years justifying more welfare cuts and attempting to get us out of the EU. A Conservative national agenda, helped by a reborn and electorally chastened New Labour party. That's the conversation we could have for the next five years.

Or we could have a different one. A vote for Labour, as even Russell Brand is now pointing out, is not the end of the process. It is the start of process whereby that old socialist principle - that people are the most valuable thing - can be given breathing space for the first time in many decades.


What's Hot