In September 2016 I did something I never believed I would ever do. I joined the Labour Party. I’ve never voted Labour in my whole voting life. Apart from a very brief flirtation with the Liberal Party in the mid Seventies, my voting preference was for the Conservative Party.
I believed that a capitalist economic ethos was the best for us all. Trickle down economics looked like the way to let anyone who wanted to make money, do so. Over the years I’ve remained a capitalist with a small ‘c’ and a conservative also with a small ‘c’.
As I’ve gotten older and had children and now have grandchildren too I have felt elements of socialism creeping into my world view. Demonisation of the poorest in society has caused me to become increasingly uncomfortable with the way poverty and, dare I say it, class has been used to ensure that wealth remains firmly in the hands of the few whilst the rest of us scrape funds together.
Wages for the less skilled have effectively fallen whilst CEO remuneration has gone stratospheric. Ashley of Direct Sports fame is only one in a long line of bosses whose personal wealth has apparently come at the detriment of their staff and the curse of the zero hour contract which effectively bypasses Employment Laws across the board. In addition, many companies working in the so-called gig economy often expect workers to become self employed and thus save the company from providing all the benefits a proper employment contract would require them to do. At the same time these zero hour contract workers are in many cases, expected, not to take other work in case they are required. This effectively ties them to the company and, as many companies have found, the law has recently judged these workers to be employees and thus entitled to sick pay, holiday pay and pension benefits to name a few of the rights they have in law.
The Shareholder as the most important part of a business has a lot to answer for in this cut throat capitalism gone mad society we now live in.
It is quite pleasing to see the general public begin to wake up to the realities that rampant capitalism Ã la Marxism has wreaked on our young. Those who are under forty have much to be aggrieved about. Home ownership is almost beyond reach, renting is an expensive and not very secure way of getting a home, wages are not increasing at a reasonable rate and, in real terms, many younger workers have had pay cuts because inflation has eaten away at their buying power.
To cap it all many of them perceive their future is being further marred by the fallout from the referendum vote which is to take us out of Europe.
The last two years as a bona fide member of the Labour Party has brought some hope that things can change for the better. Corbyn has had a positive effect on the political scene despite those who have determinedly thrown mud at his leadership. It is claimed that there is no appetite to move the Party toward its roots in socialism. If this is true the question must be asked: why are people continuing to not only join the Party but actually remain in it? I believe that the Constituency Labour Party itself does want to return to its roots but it is in opposition to what the Parliamentary Labour Party believes the direction should be. Blairism has not seemed to have served the people well in many areas. The policies adopted during the period 1997-2010 were too right of centre and reflected much of what Thatcher had begun with her deregulation of the marketplace.
Of course this did allow money to be made but this ‘bonanza’ made its way upward rather than downward. The working man and woman saw very little benefit in real terms.
The introduction of Working Tax Benefit along with its unfathomable formula kept wages low and accustomed employers to the idea that wages could be kept artificially low because the government would make up the shortfall. In itself this policy could have brought more money into the government’s coffers because companies made more profit. However, clever accountancy and numerous loopholes meant that companies could significantly reduce their tax liability. Win win for companies but lose lose for low paid workers and tax coffers. Measures like these made the two biggest political parties much more alike in their policies and gave the electorate little real choice in how they were to be governed.
Since the 2010 Election which brought David Cameron and his Tory Party back from the wilderness we have seen more differentiation between the larger Parties. Labour’s shift back toward the left of centre was begun by Mr Milliband in his relatively short time as leader. Since his departure party members and some MPs have continued this move to the left. This move has been more than mirrored within the Conservative Party with an increased swing to the right under the premiership of Mrs May. How useful this polarisation will prove to be to the electorate remains to be seen. Certainly there appears to be a genuine desire by Mr Corbyn and his supporters to do more for those who work hard and have seen their wages stagnate. There is also a respect given to these workers by Labour which seems to be lacking within the Conservative party who refer to these people as ‘JAMs’. We have seen very little being done in real terms. There is ‘no magic money tree’ to help these workers but there is a ‘magic money tree’ to try and keep the Tories in power.
Will I ever be tempted to go back to Conservatism? At this stage, I would say it is highly unlikely. There is far too much selfishness and elitism amongst the Tory Old Guard who, for reasons of their own, want to move the country backwards rather than forwards, thereby maintaining significant divisions between the population.
Fortunately, for the rest of us there is a hope that through continuous exerted pressure and well-directed legal outrage, we can still influence change for a better future for everyone.
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This post was written by Susan Walpole