If you could imagine a better life for yourself, what would it involve?
I’d like to be able to visit my family, who live in a different city, more often. I’d like to feel less terrified about the future, and about the fact that nobody in power seems to be doing anything about climate change. I’d like to have the opportunity to learn again, even though I am in full-time work. I would like more time for living.
It’s easy to slip into a mindset in which these things are considered luxuries. I was 16 when the Conservative party came to govern the UK in 2010, and so have spent my entire adult life living under an austere political system that paints concepts like reduced working hours, cheaper travel, free-of-charge adult education, and more leisure time as fantastical. In fact, they are easily achievable. I, and you, can have all of them. All it takes is registering to vote, and using your vote to put the Labour party in government on Thursday the 12th of December.
The Labour party’s manifesto launched today, and it presents their vision for the UK. It is full of policy promises – from guaranteed investment in the NHS, to commitments to nationalising railways and the internet, making both more accessible in order to genuinely connect people in Britain on a never-before-seen scale. Taken as a whole, the most striking things about Labour’s vision are its humanity and its positivity. It does not wring its hands over what we cannot have. Instead, it is a resounding statement: your life – your everyday reality – can be so much better.
This starts with things as simple as not having to pay for your prescriptions, or to go to the dentist for a check-up (these, and many other essentials, will be covered by tax payments, which will not increase if you earn less than £80,000, Labour say.) It levels up into promises as empowering and transformative as all workers being paid at least £10 per hour in exchange for their labour, and rent control, so that we can afford to make our flats and houses into homes, and so that landlords’ naked greed can no longer leech from us.
It is, of course, understandable to instinctively dismiss political pledges as empty ones: we have received enough of them in the past. But it is important to remember, I think, that things have not always been as miserable as they are now. What Labour are proposing is totally possible: before 1998, for example, university degrees in England were free of charge, and there’s data to show that before the Conservatives introduced austerity measures, various branches of the NHS were treating people more effectively.
What I’m trying to say here is not complicated. I just want to point out that things can be better. Recently, I was scrolling Twitter when I saw a post by the artist Jake Roberts, who has designed some alternative Labour campaign posters. They say things like “DEMAND MORE FROM LIFE” and “DO YOU REALLY WANT MORE OF THE SAME?”. Roberts wrote that in making them, he wanted to speak to the “gut feelings of exasperation, anger, and depression that result from the relentless grind of living under this system every single fucking day.” I think this is how we should approach the choice which is currently being put to us.
I also think you should vote in this election. And I think your decision about who you vote for should be based on something very simple. You are the one who has to wake up in your life every day. What do you want it to look like in the future?
For me, the answer is simple. I just want to live in a country where it feels possible for us to love each other. Disabled people do not have to die because they have been denied the state support they deserve; teachers do not have to use their own money to feed hungry children in their classes. These horrors are not ‘just how things are.’ They are the result of choices made by Conservative leaders, who will continue to make them if we do not explicitly tell them that we have had enough, and remove the power from under them. That is our right, and yet they are so arrogant as to bank on many of us being so beaten down by their last ten years in government that we will think it pointless to mobilise it.
So, let’s show them. You are entitled to so much that a Labour government wants to give to you. Life with dignity – away from landlords hiking your rent to live in shitholes, from demeaning benefits assessments, from your grandparents denied the free personal care they desperately require – is available. We simply have to have a bit of imagination, in order to conceive of a life outside of the doldrums of the last decade. Hope is possible. Another way is within our reach. On the 12th of December, let’s grab it with both hands.