Voting Labour

No one likes being told how they should vote. Instead, I’ll share a few reasons why I’m voting Labour.

Critically, I want to emphasise that in the UK General Election 2019 I have a choice to vote for something that I value, that resonates with me, that feels urgent and necessary, and charts a path forwards through the many challenges faced by the UK and our entire civilization (if you feel this is melodramatic, I feel you are not paying attention). This is a stark contrast with GEs prior to 2017, which for me were typically sordid exercises in lesser-evilism. But I don’t want to talk about lesser evils, or reasons not to vote for other parties. I want to talk about reasons for voting Labour, today.

Economically, Britain needs to both end austerity and take proactive steps to address rampant inequality. There are powerful moral arguments to be made for both, but also economic arguments. Austerity has been a clear failure via whatever metric you choose, having neither reduced the national debt nor produced significant economic growth. Inequality concentrates wealth and those who do not benefit do not spend; low spending and hoarding of capital suffocate economic growth. Labour proposes to address both with a progressive tax on the country’s highest earners, the introduction of a superior living wage and the scrapping of austerity schemes like Universal Credit. A modest raise in corporation tax will also help here, and may even result in companies choosing to invest in R&D rather than continue to bung cash to shareholders. This is extremely basic economics.

The NHS is one of Britain’s most beloved and fiercely defended institutions, for all the negative headlines and scandals. Labour intend to deliver the investment the NHS needs to address crumbling infrastructure and take steps to reverse privatisation of and marketisation within the NHS. Other services, like rail, energy, mail and water will return to public ownership. You may have heard arguments about historical problems these services had when under centralised public ownership. To that I reply that their performance under private ownership has a track record of worse services and higher costs both to users and to the state.

In addition Labour, uniquely among UK political parties, are exploring alternative models of ownership that decentralise control and support people getting involved in the services that they rely upon. This is one way in which the 2019 manifesto marks the start of a potential journey – one that indicates the sincerity and seriousness of Corbynism when it comes to engaging with the problems we face.

The housing crisis in the UK is no secret, unless you’re lucky enough to be a homeowner. Living in Brighton & Hove I was very familiar with my partner and I paying well over half of our income to subsidise the mortgages of buy-to-let landlords and live in sub-standard, poorly-maintained properties whilst getting hit with arbitrary fees from lettings agents. Meanwhile new homes have been constructed at a pitiful rate for years; as any stan for capitalism will tell you, the whole edifice is driven by companies pursuing their self-interest, and for the majority of big construction firms increasing supply by constructing large numbers of houses would undercut the prices they’re able to charge for a more limited supply. This is basic market forces. Combining a rent cap with large-scale construction of new council homes will significantly alleviate the mounting pressures on those seeking stability and security in their home.

I’m frankly exhausted by Brexit, so I will simply say that for several years now it’s been evident that Labour’s policy on the subject has never been complicated, except in comparison with tedious ultras to whom “cancel it entirely” or “enact the worst form of it” are the only two options on the table. Don’t @ me.

Last but certainly not least, on the environment Labour’s policy is more radical than even the Green Party might offer. Committing to net zero carbon emissions by 2030 is a titanic and challenging commitment, but also one that is absolutely necessary given the scale of the problems we face today. Between this and a Green New Deal backed by a National Investment Bank, Britain could become a leading nation in combating the unfolding climate crisis, and in mitigating those effects which are already inevitable. This is the world we live in now, and of all the major UK parties only Labour is taking this seriously.

A lot of these policies came out of the Labour Party Conference earlier this year, some with unanimous support. Labour over the last few years has transformed into an admirably (if messily!) democratic party, with rank and file members offered more of a say and more influence on policy than at any point in the party’s history. I’m proud to have joined the party in 2017 and to have played a tiny part in its transformation from a rudderless vehicle for failed politics to the dynamic force for positive change that it is today.

Perhaps another day I’ll address why I will not vote Liberal Democrat, or – ha ha – Conservative. But for today, this is about hope: for real progress and positive change. The dream of electoral democracy is that it can offer us the vision of a path toward a better future. I invite you to join me in voting for hope.

Aphelion excerpt #1

When Hal awakes, a woman is sitting beside him. It takes him a moment to realise it is not the woman from his nightmare, but Miranda, another technician from his team. She looks up from the tablet she’s reading when she notices his weak movements.

“Hal,” she says. “I’m glad you’re awake.”

How long was I out? Hal wants to ask. “But it’s meaningless,” he mumbles, groggily. “I don’t remember…”

“I’m not surprised,” Miranda tells him. “Mild concussion from the crash couch. It could have been a lot worse. You probably saw what was left of Argento.”

Hal remembers the dark room he was trapped in, and the bloodstain around the wrecked pod. He shudders, feeling nauseous again.

“Try not to move too much. You’ve got some recovering to do.”

He nods, numbly.

“First things first. Do you remember your name?”

“Hal,” he replies. “You… called me by it less than a minute ago.”

“Excellent. Either your short term or long term memory is functioning fine. I’m slightly worried by the sarcasm deficit in your response, but we’ll chalk that up to having survived an interstellar starship crash.”

“Try not to give me too much credit,” Hal groans, his voice sounding weak to his own ears. “I might not have figured that one out.”

“There we go. Much better.”

Hal shuffles his arms, making to try and sit up, but his limbs feel weak and he quickly gives up. “So… what the hell happened, Mir?”

“Great, you remember me. I wasn’t sure if you were just being rude. So we carved you out of that room with cutting torches. One of our spidermechs – we lost more than a few, but enough are still functional – carried you through the ship. Now you’re here, in the infirmary, with all the other wounded we’ve recovered so far.”

Hal looks around. The pallet he’s lying on is surrounded by towering high shelves stacked with metal and plastic crates of uniform dimensions, each with neatly printed labels. Miranda shrugs.

“Infirmary, cargo bay, whatever. We’re making do here, Hal.”

“How bad was the crash?”

“Bad enough. The Gaia came down hard. It’s a real big ship, and it’s not designed to so much as kiss atmosphere.”

“Skip the obvious stuff, Mir. My brain isn’t leaking out my ears, is it?”

She shrugs again. “No more than usual, chief. Look, we don’t really know how hard she hit. The primary network is offline. We don’t even know how many people are online. The rescue parties are literally making lists as they find people.” She looks down at her tablet and frowns. “There’s the good list, and the bad list. You’re on the good one. The other one makes depressing reading.”

“How… many?”

“About six hundred alive so far. About half of us are injured, maybe fifty incapacitated.”

“Six hundred?” said Hal. “Jesus Christ.”

“Yeah,” replied Mir. They were silent for time. The Gaia’s Disquiet had a crew complement of more than six hundred, and had been carrying thousands more passengers.

“It’s slow going,” she continued, eventually. “There’s a lot of structural damage. A lot of doors auto-sealed during the crash, and pretty much every single one needs cutting through. We’re trying to get the primary network back online, but whatever got fucked up is sufficiently fucked up that we need to take a look at the actual hardware.”

“And we’re at the wrong end of the ship for that?” guessed Hal.

“We’re at the wrong end of the ship for that.”

“So what’s our plan of action?” said Hal. “Rescuing survivors… sure. What about after that? Where are we? I don’t even remember where we were when… well, I don’t remember much. Working. Then the orders to get my arse into a crash couch.”

“Yeah… a plan. About that.” Miranda put a hand on his shoulder. “How are you feeling? Up for a short walk?”

[This is an early scene from a novel I am (slowly) working on. The setting is actually shared with several vignettes I’ve posted here in the past.]

Vignette #12

Gloria’s hand is warm in his, feeling alive and vibrant against the sharp cold gusts of wind that carry across the seafront. They stand side by side, looking out at the waves, which glisten and shine in dappled sunlight.

“It’s beautiful,” he says. He steals a glance sideways, drinking in her face in portrait, glowing radiant in the bright light. “You’re beautiful.”

She laughs, tilting her head back as he admires her. “Stan, you’re too pure for this world.”

“I prefer to think of myself as a dedicated observer of universal truths.”

She looks at him and smiles. Their gazes meet, her brown eyes sparkling. “A speaker of universal cliche, more like.”

“Classics, not cliche,” he challenges. He sweeps his free hand toward the vista before them. “Is the sea cliche? Has it been done too many times?”

“We could have gone to the dump instead. Picked through some romantic detritus.”

He shakes his head. “No, I took you around the second hand shops yesterday. It’s been done.”

She laughs again and shoves him gently. He leans back, putting his weight gently against the counterbalance of her grip, still soft and warm, then pulls gently back. He almost leans in for a kiss, but she has turned her face back to the sea.

“You could have found the beauty in broken old toasters and rusted bicycles,” she tells him. He looks out at the sea once more, hunching his shoulders against the cool wind, and explores what lies before him.

“I’d rather find it in mottled seagulls and discarded instant barbeques. The true icons of the British seaside.”

“No, the over-priced pubs and fish and chips are the true hallmarks of the seaside.”

“The former is why people eat barbeque, and the latter is why the seagulls mass here. QED.”

“For a foreigner, you really have grasped British culture quite well.”

“I don’t understand,” he says, looking at her again, eager to gauge her reaction. “No one here is watching reality television.”

She laughs once more, and looks at him again. Her skin glows in the sunlight, surrounded by loose hairs that wave in the wind. “I love you, Stan, you romantic idiot.”

[This was a writing exercise, challenging me to match setting and mood in a scene of dialogue.]